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[b "Speaking of treats,"] Harry reached to the shelf where their bags were and pulled down handfuls of sweets. [b "Promise kept."]
Ron quickly started picking through the small pile, ruffling through chocolate frogs and gummy candies. [i "All is forgiven,"] he sighed in relief, stuffing a frog in his mouth.
Harry stretched his legs out so his feet rested on the seat across from him, next to Hermione. He was glad for the topic change. Their new professor was something he'd thought about several times over the summer, no longer feeling confident in the selection process after the nightmare with Moody came to light. [b "I don't think we'll get anyone as good as Lupin. So far most of them have been absolutely nuts,"] he added his input.
The redhead nodded and plucked up another sweet. [i "So far, two have been working for You Know Who, one was a complete idiot, and the only one that was competent had to retire. Think it can get any worse than Mad Eye? I mean, even if it wasn't actually him. Seems the real one is just as intense as Crouch played him off."]
God, he hoped not. They had enough to worry about without panicking over a new professor. [b "All eyes will be on Dumbledore's decisions this year, after the mess of the Tournament. I can't imagine he'd take the situation lightly. Even if no one at the Ministry believes us."]
He glanced to Hermione. [b "What do you think? Can it actually get worse from the ones we've had?"]
The boy's words made her laugh a little bit. She knew he wasn't one to throw about hos fame and even hated it. But she also realized he was trying to make things as normal as possible, especially with both their slipping up. Ron was already almost practically breathing down her neck about her and Harry both acting so oddly. But mostly her.
[b "Twenty would work well enough if you know who to ask. But being stidents maybe five and treats is a good price?"] The bushy haired brunette asked as she pushed her hair back over her shoulder. She was trying to seem as normal as she could, but more than anything was just wanting the time on the train over. At this rate all she really wanted was her bed in the girl's dormitory to either read or to actuslly sleep since she hadn't much in the last couple of days.
[i "You're no help, Mione!"] Ron teased the girl as he then gave Harry a playful shove. [i "But she is righr, trading them for treats is a good idea."] It was obviois the redhead was thinking with his stomach again.
Hermione rolled her eyes and smiled at her two best friends. She then looked down at the book she had in her lap. [b "Who do you think will be our next Defense Against The Dark Arts professor? I mean after everything not many would be crazy enough."] She hoped getting the topic on class would seem more like her. And she hoped at least for a little while it would distract them until the train got to Hogsmeade Station and could get a carriage up to the school.
Harry had zero luck with resting, as the train lurched with every curve in the tracks. [b "A firewhiskey would probably be fantastic right now,"] he grumbled under his breath, wiggling to try and get comfortable.
The only thing that would make this day even remotely would be the feast waiting for them at Hogwarts. Harry practically salivated at the thought of steaks and roasts and potatoes lined on platters, ready to be devoured. He could stuff himself and then make a quick exit to bed with the excuse of being tired.
He heard the compartment door and kept as still as possible until he registered Ron and Hermione's whispers. [b "It's not polite to stare, you know,"] he joked dryly, raising his arm up to peak at them. [b "If you want my autograph, all you have to do is ask."]
[i "As if anyone could read your chicken scratch in the first place,"] Ron taunted back, shoving Harry's feet off the seat to make room for himself. [i "I bet it wouldn't even go for five galleons."]
Harry slapped a hand to his heart. [b "Betrayed by my best friend. How ever will I recover?"] His eyes turned to Hermione. [b "Don't you think an autograph would go for at least twenty galleons, Hermione?"]
If she picked up on his desperation for things to be normal, she didn't show it. He was making a light-hearted attempt at mending things to prevent further suspicion from Ron, but he was unsure if she'd be willing to play along.
The smile that Harry had forced to his lips that she was sure was meant to try and reassure her didn't serve its purpose. Instead it almost made her feel worse over them having to leave him. And when Ron had mentioned for Harry to try not to punch anytone while they were gone made her shoot the boy a glare. His words had not been funny or even called for. Espfcially since Malfoy had very much gotten under their best friend's skin and the two had nearly had a go.
[b "We'll be back as soon as we can. And do try and leave us some treats too."] The girl said with a smile. To anyone who didn't know her well, it could have passed for a real one but it did not reach her eyes. However, she didn't have much time to say anything else before Ron motioned she go first and both left Harry on his own.
[i "You really are acting weird, Hernione. And I mean weirder than usual. Going to tell me what's gotten into you? The BOTH of you?"] The red haired boy asked, giving her a pointed look.
A sigh slipped her lips as they walked the halls between compartments and checked on students. She had been trying to avoid talking to Ron or even looking at the boy for that matter. [b "It's just everything is changing this year, Ronald. And I just feel bad for everything Harry has already been through...And then Malfoy just.. he added to it."] The girl said quietly.
[i "I get you feeling bad for Harry. And the things changing, but how did Malfoy add anything? He was just being his usual self."] Ron said, with a raised brow.
The boy really was clueless it seemed. He had not seemed to get what Draco had implied. But did she dear say it? No because the previous year had been bad enough with all the scruitiny. And if anyone heard what she told Ron, IF she told him it would start again. Rita Skeeter had been right about her feelings towards The Boy Who Lived but she could never say it and for that it got her and Harry both into trouble.
[b "I just...He has more power and I don't like it going to his head.."] Those were her chosen words as she turned on her heel and made her way back to the compartment she and Ron had left Harry in. She was thankful Ron stopped and they were silent when they got back, taking their seats once more. The pair saw Harry sprawled out and figured he was asleep.
Harry nodded, sinking further in his seat. [b "I'll be fine. You two go on ahead. I'll get some snacks from the trolley and get some more sleep or something. Really, I'll be okay."]
Ron took his word for it and motioned for Hermione to go ahead of him. [i "We'll be back in a while. Try not to punch anyone while we're gone."]
Harry gave Hermione one last small smile to try and reassure before she left. He was almost positive that it did nothing of the sort. Once he was alone in the quiet compartment again, he huffed and kicked the seat, replaying Malfoy's taunts over in his head.
The last thing he and Hermione needed was Malfoy spreading more rumors about them. They'd already had a headache with it last year during the Tournament with Rita Skeeter running around. Then again, she hadn't exactly been wrong, at least on Harry's behalf. But still, he didn't want his best friend facing more scrutiny when she already got enough torment for being around him.
He stocked up on chocolate and pastries when the trolley came around. He ate through his anger but left some food for his friends for when they returned. Much like a child, he grew more tired after filling his stomach. This time, he stretched out along the entire seat and threw an arm over his eyes to block the light. He just wanted to get to school so he had something to think about other than how amazing Hermione Granger was.
At one point during the ride, Ginny attempted to come speak to him once more, but Harry faked sleeping until she finally left him alone. He could hear her grumbling to herself before the door slide shut, but he couldn't be bothered to get up to apologize. He was sick of having to justify his emotions to everyone. Harry Potter was allowed to have a bad mood, just like everyone else. Let them talk.
Her cheeks became a bright red as Malfoy had hinted at them. It stung because it was only a reminder of the conversation she and Harry had had and how she had pretty much lied to the her best friend. But before she could come back at the blonde, Harry was on his feet and shoving him. Hermione didn't have time to react and Ron soon had Harry pressed against the window to keep him from a fight with their annoying classmate.
[b "Just because you're a prefect doesn't mean you can abuse it."] The brunette said quietly, glaring after Malfoy and his two goons. She then once more took her seat and had her hands folded in her lap. Her eyes would not go to Ron who was in a sense scolding them and had asked what had happened. Instead she was thinking about what she wanted to say to Malfoy or wanting to slap him again like she had back in their third year.
Slowly when she knew the blush was gone from her cheeks and she was calm enough did she raise her eyes to look up at her two best friends. [b "He's being completely unfair and going to abuse his power. I'm sorry, but people like him are the worst sort and it gets under my skin."] Hermione whispered and then stood again.
[b "Will you be okay with Ron and I leaving you, Harry? We do still have to take our patrol..."] The girl said, biting on her lip.
Ron was still watching them and still very much confused. [i "So both of you are saying it had been wrong to leave Malfoy alone now? Blimey what really has gotten into you?"] He asked and then nodded slowly at the mention of their patrol, looking at Harry as if asking if he would be okay.
The mood was almost light again but of course for the trio, that kind of luck never lasted. Harry could practically smell the oil on Malfoy's head before he'd actually noticed he'd interrupted them. The hair on the back of his neck stood up in annoyance.
[b "Must be a nice weight off of your shoulders, Malfoy, knowing that you won't have to compete with me as prefect. I'm sure it gets tough losing all the time,"] Harry snapped back.
No sooner had the words left his mouth that Hermione was on her feet to defend him. Harry smirked in Malfoy's direction, but it disappeared as the blonde hinted at them. The boy-who-lived jumped up and shoved Malfoy before Ron grabbed his arms and pulled him back. [i "Do you really want detention before classes even start?"] Ron forced him against the window to keep him from a fight.
[i "Watch it this year, Potter. Wouldn't want to cross a prefect, would you?"] Malfoy straightened his clothes and stomped off, Crabbe and Goyle in his wake.
[i "Are you insane? He's actually got some power over you now with this title. You two are always on me to ignore Malfoy, and now you both let him under your skin. What's going on?"] Ron stepped back and shut the door before turning to face them.
[b "Maybe I've been wrong. Maybe I should have let you punch him every time he opens his stupid mouth,"] Harry grumbled, sitting down with his arms crossed over his chest.
The words she spoke about Harry being her best friend and nothing changing it had hurt and a lot for her to say. But what could she have said? That she had fallen in love with him and wanted so much more? That she wanted things to change between them? Definitely not and she wouldn't be saying it to him unless she knew how he felt. So until she knew, them being best friends would have to be the best that could be. Her own smile was forced and she even forced a laugh at his next words. [b "It being Sirius and him being as bored as he is has probably already started to do just that."] It had been meant to lighten things a bit, though after she said it she was sure it probably made things worse.
As much as she wanted to say something, Hermione could only nod. She had not been honest herself. And had in a sense tried to avoid him since King's Cross and being on the train. A small smile came to her lips as she held out her pinky and linked them for a moment. [b "And I promise at least when it comes to you to try and not take things personally.. Or at least to try and talk to you."] The words slipped from her lips as she slowly stepped back and suddenly did realize how close they were do to the small space around them.
Slowly she nodded. [b "Probably a good idea. We both know how Ron can be."] The girl said as the door was opened and she stepped out. Her eyes were on the ground as the pair walked bacl to the compartment and re-entered to a confused looking Ron. It seemed he didn't understand and seemed just as confused as he had when they left or even more so. She couldn't tell and managed to smile and shrugged.
[b "Dunno, Ron. You know we wouldn't dream of getting into trouble without you."] She said sweetly and took her seat once more. The girl was trying not to appear as if she were thinking about the conversation she and Harry had had.
After awhile, the compartment door slid open and there stood Malfoy. His smirk was as smug as ever. [i "Just came to tell Granger and Weasley it's their turn for patrolling. Pity, Potter, Granger I would expect but you were the one I thought would be the male Prefect. What happened, was it decided that the golden boy isn't so golden. Wouldn't surprise me with all the rumours going round"]. The blonde said. He was clearly trying to get under Harry's skin.
Brown eyes shot to Draco as he began and she stood. [b "Just because you're a prefect doesn't mean you get to abuse it, Malfoy."] The girl said, glaring at the blonde boy. Maybe she shouldn't have let him get under her skin but she hated that he was taunting Harry like he was.
As soon as the girl stood and spoke, glaring a smirk crossed Draco's lips. [i "Didn't see this coming. So you and Granger, hm Potter?"]
Harry hadn't been expecting a love confession, but he had to admit that it stung a bit to hear her emphasize their close friendship, and that 'nothing would change it'. He wanted many changes, and that was at the top of the list. But, he hadn't exactly spilled his feelings, so he couldn't fault her for anything. He forced a smile on his face and nodded. [b "I think we might have to. Wouldn't want him to start planning a wedding in a fit of boredom, would we?"]
He pressed his fingernails in to his palms to calm down. [b "I'm sorry I didn't say anything this morning. You're right. It would have been easier to just talk about it instead of letting it get to me."]
Problem was, now it was going to stick in his head for a lot longer now that she knew of the situation. [b "I solemnly swear that I will not avoid you from now on,"] he joked, holding his pinkie out as a promise.
The close proximity of the small washroom was abruptly obvious. [b "We should probably get back to our compartment. Ron will be wondering where we got off to. Wouldn't want him to think I'm stealing his job,"] he forced a laugh.
Harry opened the door to let her out, taking a deep breath before following. Ron looked just as confused at their return as he had at their departure. [i "Should I be worried?"] he looked between them.
[b "Of course not. When have we ever gotten in to any trouble without you around?"] Harry mussed the redhead's hair as he flopped beside him.
Speaking her words had not exactly been easy for her. She knew they would come across badly and possibly hurt the boy. Not at all what she had wanted to do, but he did need to know why she was acting the way she was. And having heard his words had not exactly helped much either. Why on earth had Sirius even said what he had the night before? It made facing the one person that came to mean so much to her rather difficult. And there was no way she could bring herself to tell Harry what Sirius had said to her when he had left them. How did someone bring that sort of a thing up?
Slowly she looked to the boy once more. Seeing how difficult this conversation was on him made her feel doubly bad for how she had behaved. [b "I've noticed that he seems to have no filter before speaking.. It's partly how he and Mrs.Weasley have been arguing all summer long...but I do wish you would have told me.. I would have understood better if you had.."] The girl whispered and then gave a weak smile.
[b "It does seem rather odd that he kept being the one we got caught by.. So it is only natural he might think that. You..you're my best friend, Harry and nothing is going to change that. He just...I can see why..."] Even Hermione was fumbling around her words. The girl was still picturing how blunt Sirius had been the night before when she had scolded the man. And she was also thinking how she could not tell Harry how she really felt either. Her crush on him was becoming unmanageable and harder to keep hidden.
[b "Maybe we should both talk to Sirius next we have the chance? And tell him the truth?"] The truth she meant was that they were close and best friends. And as much as she hated it, there was nothing going on btween them. How could there be? He was The Boy Who Lived and well she was one of several silly girls who had a thing for him. He was her best friend and as far as she knew he only saw her as a sister.
His eyes clenched shut. [b "You did nothing wrong. I didn't mean to make you feel that way."] God, he had been a terrible friend. [b "I just didn't know how to approach the situation."]
There was no way this was going to get easier to talk about. Harry took one look at her and saw the concern in her eyes, and he felt lightheaded. Was there an appropriate way to tell her that his godfather hoped that they would get together? No, definitely not. Maybe he could bend the truth just a smidge to make it less awkward to deal with. [i Right,] he told himself. [i Rip it off like a bandage.]
[b "Sirius just mentioned...it's uh..."] his foot began to bounce anxiously. [b "He noticed that we were spending a lot of time together."] Make eye contact, Harry. [b "He wondered if something was going on."]
There. It was out. Well, sort of. He managed to tell her what Sirius had hinted at without admitting that his godfather had noticed his almost painful crush on her. It would have to do for now.
[b "I got flustered and I didn't want to make things awkward for you. Sirius doesn't really have a filter before he speaks and the last thing I wanted to do was make you uncomfortable, so I thought it would be easier to avoid talking about it until I got less...flustered,"] he concluded like an idiot.
The girl was thankful for her hair which curtained around her face when she left the boys. She was trying so hard to not let tears fall that were threatening to fall. She honestly hated that she seemed so snippy and moody, but she couldn't much help it either. What hurt the most was that she was acting the way she was towards Harry. Ron she could handle doing it to because she was always mad at him, but not the Boy Who Lived.
Her hand came up to brush her hair back and she froze as she heard the steps coming after her. She hoped that maybe it was just someone who decided to roam, but that was a long shot in hell when Harry caught up to her and she heard his words. Did she really want to talk to him and in private? No, not at that moment but she hated being so angry and so followed after the boy. If they didn't try and at lwast sort things out the others would continue to press them both for what seemed to be the problem.
Brown eyes fell on the boy when the only place they were able to find was a washroom. It would not have been her own personal choice, but everywhere else had been full and being overheard at this rate was the last thing they needed. For a few moments she was silent and then looked down, a hand coming up and again pushing her bushy hair back. [b "I...Harry I'm sorry. But I just couldn't help getting hurt by it. All morning I've been trying to get your attention and to talk to you about.. What he did and said didn't help anything and I wanted to see if you were okay...but you wouldn't give me the chance and I just thought you were upset with me. I do hate being angry with you...and I'm sorry too."] As she spoke her eyes had gone to the floor and bit her lip.
Harry had jostled awake as Ron entered the compartment and sat on his feet. He shifted and dropped his hood, tugging his feet free and adjusting them to the floor. [b "Sorry,"] he murmured.
A risky glance towards Hermione told him all he needed to know. She was still hurt. He could tell by the way she was glaring at her book like she could make it explode with her eyes. It made his chest ache.
[i "Are the two of you okay?"] he heard Ron ask.
Her book snapped shut before Harry could answer. He watched her rise and exit the compartment, letting the door close a little more harshly than necessary. [i "Seriously, what's going on?"]
[b "Excuse me,"] Harry ignored the question and rose to follow her.
She was already halfway down the hall before he caught up to her. [b "I'm sorry,"] he blurted out.
There was a moment of silence. [b "Can we talk?"]
He wasn't sure she'd even look at him. [b "Somewhere private?"]
There are no free compartments with the amount of students on board, but he managed to find them an empty washroom. He slid the lock in place behind them and let his head hit the wood. [b "I shouldn't have ignored you. And I certainly didn't mean to upset you. I didn't sleep well, and Sirius got me a bit agitated so I haven't been myself today. I'm sorry,"] he repeated.
The girl sat with her knees pulled up and her head on her lap in the Prefect's Compartement with all the other prefects. She had tried to find a place where she didn't have to be close to them becauae her mind was on Harry and not the job. They had yet to be given their job descriptions and so she knew there was still time to let her mind roam.
When the seat beside her sank down the slightest bit her head slowly raised. Beside her sat Ron who had a brow raised and a bit of a concerned look on his face. He knew ahe had been moody, but seeing her not at all happy to be a prefect was clearly something the boy didn't understand. [i "Everything alright, Hermione? You seem like you don't want to be here...or more like your mind isn't here."] The Weasley boy said.
A sigh slipped from the girl's lips as she forced herself to smile. She would be damned to tell Ron anything that had happened. [b "I'm just tired, Ron. Couldn't sleep much last night because was anxious for school to be starting again and our new positions."] The girl said and then stood to move closer to the others. And when she did, all the others took their seats as well as their responsibilities were divided and explained to them.
Ron and she would be the last two doing patrols and so were free to wander the train. Slowly, Hermione walked with Ron, checking in compartments until they found Harry alone in one. Without even hesitating, Ron slid the door open and walked in, taking a seat. Hermione was a little slower to slip into the compartment and when she did, the girl took the seat opposite the boys and opened her book to read. She didn't even try to talk to them.
Ron blinked as he looked between Hermione and Harry. Usually the two would be talking or at least near the other. What had happened? [i "Are the two of you okay?"] The red haired boy asked.
Hermione's book snapped shut as she looked to the two boys. [b "I'm perfectly fine. If the two of you will excuse me...I am going to see if one of the others want to trade out for a little while."] She most certaintly was not okay and honestly was looking for an excuse to get away.
Harry watched her scurry off and had to stop himself from following her and apologizing. He knew his avoidance had upset her, and noticed the way she kept trying to catch his eye. He just needed to clear his head of the thoughts Sirius had placed there.
The boy was so lost in thought that he hadn't noticed Ginny come up beside him. It isn't until she nudged his arm and repeated her question that he acknowledged her. [b "I'm sorry, I'm not quite here this morning,"] Harry gestured to his head.
[i "That doesn't quite answer the question,"] Ginny pressed.
[b "It's kind of hard to explain,"] Harry continued to dodge the question, stepping off the platform and on to the train.
[i "Well we have a bit of a long train ride. Plenty of time to try, at least,"] the girl was determined.
Harry bit his tongue before he could say anything rude. He located an empty compartment and quickly claimed it for them. [b "It was just a conversation I had with Sirius last night, that's all. It's got me thinking."]
[i "And it has something to do with Hermione,"] she stated instead of questioning.
The boy sighed and let his head hit the seat behind him. [b "It's not something I want to particularly discuss, Ginny. I'm sorry."]
He felt guilty just referencing something about Hermione to Ginny. He knew that she nursed a crush on him a few years prior, and he would feel like a jerk for talking about fancying another girl in front of her. Still, she didn't seem angry. In fact, her expression was almost understanding. [i "Well, if you change your mind, I'll be a few compartments down. My friends are waiting."]
She softly closed the door behind her and Harry groaned. He'd upset his two close friends in less than twelve hours, and now had to sit alone for most of the ride. Harry turned sideways on the seat and drew his knees up to his chest with his back to the window. He tugged the hood of his sweater over his eyes and tried to relax, willing sleep to take him before his thoughts ran even more wild.
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