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Harry caught Hermione's eye across the table and mouthed 'thank you' with a grateful expression. He knew Ron meant well, but their red-headed friend could be rather thoughtless with his comments on occasion. It had caused many fights between himself and Hermione. But for the current conversation, it seemed that he was willing to drop it, and go back to eating.
Everything was so delicious that Harry went back for seconds, and then thirds. He couldn't remember the last time he had gotten to eat an actual meal, and not just the leftovers after the Dursleys had finished stuffing their faces.
The conversation during dinner was lax, with the most noise coming from the scraping of knives and forks on the plates. Whenever Harry made eye contact with someone from the Order, they would polite smile, and then immediately look down to their plate. It was beginning to drive him crazy.
[i "So Harry, would you care to give us your side of the story, about what happened with those Dementors?"] Sirius was the one to break the silence.
Swallowing his mouthful, Harry frowned. [b "They came out of nowhere, really. My cousin was giving me a hard time when I was at the park, and they just sort of appeared. We tried to get away, but they chased us until they got us cornered. I had no choice but to use my Patronus,"] he looked to the adults, hoping that he wasn't about to get a lecture.
It didn't take long for everything to be set out on the table and for those who stayed for dinner or even stayed in the old house to take their places at the table. Hermione was whispering something to Tonks, who sighed shaking her head and then began to change her face to make both her and Ginny laugh.
The girl was hardly paying attention to the details around the kitchen and was actually eating quickly herself. She wanted to get back up to the library and read a little more and she was also anxious as she could feel the tension between Sirius and Mrs. Weasley again. It was horrifying to see the tempers flare between the two and always sent everyone 'running for the hills'.
Hermione was getting so lost in her head that it took Ron's words about Harry being Seeker to pull her back to 'reality' and she nudged the redhead in the ribs. [b "Ronald, that's not THAT important... You know how he is treated and so let him enjoy it."] She almost said haughtily, earning snickers from Fred and George and a look from Ron which had her cheeks burn a bright red and she snapped her mouth shut, falling into silence as she ate.
Harry had to bite his lip to suppress a smirk that was begging to appear on his face. He knew well enough that Sirius would not cower to anyone, let alone Molly Weasley. All Harry had to do was wait a few hours, and then he could get Sirius alone to start asking questions. At the moment, however, he was only focused on the mounds of food appearing along the table.
Before long, a miniature mountain of potatoes was protruding from Harry's bowl of stew, and a plate sat waiting for him, piled with an assortment of goods from the rest of the dishes. He had begun scarfing it down quickly, but a raised eyebrow from Lupin made him cough, and slow his pace. [b "It's delicious,"] he offered a compliment to Molly.
[i "Eat more, please! You're far too thin for your age. By fifteen, Bill was already towering over the family. We'll get you there, too,"] she stepped up behind him, dropping some more slices of roast beef on to the plate.
[i "He can't get too big, Mum, he's the seeker! He needs speed,"] Ron interjected.
[b "I don't know. A little weight sounds nice. I'm sure my bones poked poor Hermione when we hugged earlier,"] Harry grinned lightly.
[b "We thought that they would have told you that. I mean it would have made you feel almost better instantly to know you would have someone on your side... Though..."] But before the girl could say much more, Molly Weasley called up to them, interrupting them.
Hermione wanted to tell Harry a little more about the house and some of what they had gotten Tonks to tell them, but she knew how the woman could be and so trailed after her two best friends. As soon as Harry said how he missed home cooked meals, a voice came from behind them, and it did make her jump as she would have thought that Srius would have still been in the kitchen. But she had learned when in the old house of Black to expect the unexpected.
So the girl pulled Ron to the side with her and the pair watched the exchange between Harry and Sirius. Watching them, almost gave her a sad feeling because it made her think back to their third year when he had almost been free. Back to where things could have been different, better for her best friend. But she had to quickly shake it off as the exchange between the other two had come to an end and they were motioned to follow into the dining room as well.
"Now Sirius, I expect you won't be saying anything will you? They are all too young and this is meant to be left to us." Molly was saying as she sent Hermione to help Ginny set the table and motioned Ron to sit and be out of the way as she was putting a pot of stew in the middle of the table.
[i "Wouldn't dream of it, Molly"] Sirius muttered with a roll of his eyes and then gave a wink to Harry. The man had no intentions of 'behaving'.
Harry guessed that it would be a plus to have Dumbledore, if anyone, on his side. He knew that the wise wizard believed him about Voldemort, and would do what he could to help him. [b "I guess it isn't all bad news, then. I hadn't heard that he would join me."]
They were interrupted by Ron's mother, and they knew better than to make her wait. The scent of the food greeted them the second they came within view of the dining hall. [b "I've missed homecooked meals,"] Harry spoke, his mouth watering.
[i "It's a good thing there is plenty for everyone,"] a new voice joined from behind him.
Turning, Harry came face to face with his smiling godfather. [b "Sirius!"]
Not caring that they were being watched, Harry threw his arms around Sirius, who graciously returned the hug. [b "What are you doing here?"]
[i "What do you mean 'what am I doing here'? Welcome to my humble abode,"] Sirius released him, gesturing to the house around them.
Harry glanced at his friends, before turning back to the man in front of him. [b "But I thought this was-"]
[i "Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix? It is, indeed. But, it is also known as Grimmauld Place, which is also known as the home of one Sirius Black. But, we can discuss that later. For now, we need to get some food in to that skinny body of yours,"] Sirius guided him through the door in to the dining room.
[i "Of course they won't be. You haven't seen half the stuff that's been printed about you and Dumbledore. And it just looks like they want to get you out of school. Dad told us what sort of letter was given, and it's not at all pretty."] Ron muttered, being blunt and actually letting Harry know a little more and trying not to keep him as in the dark as he had been. But of course not having the letter himself, Ron didn't take into account how nervous or much worse his words could make his friend feel.
The girl on the other hand groaned as Ron spoke out right. She had been trying to avoid it as she didn't want to make Harry feel worse about everything. But of course, Ron had ruined that and she sighed. [b "Sadly...Ron's right.. It seems that Fudge is more 'mad' than he's ever been. And as long as he can help it, the truth of the last year will be kept secret and played off as one of your 'well rehearsed stories'."] The girl quoted as she would not look to either boy.
[b "And yes..Ron's dad is meant to take you, but he won't really be there. You see he's got work...and well is only going to escort you there. Dumbledore will be the one who will be in your corner on this. So really, he'll be able to get you out of this. He always knows what to do."] And with that, a small smile did come to her lips and both Ron and Hermione nodded.
Of course she knew it wouldn't help much, but she had been trying to give him a little more confidence. Well anything that could make him feel a little bit better.
Before anything else could be said, Mrs.Weasley called up the stairs, letting them know that the meeting was over and that dinner was nearly done and to get down to the dining hall.
The reminder of the trial halted his hand on the table. With a groan, he dropped himself in to a seat. [b "I don't think they're going to be too concerned about technicalities that might get me out of this. The letter seemed pretty clear. They don't want me at Hogwarts anymore. All they have to do is make the expulsion official."]
A knot formed in Harry's stomach at the mere idea that he wouldn't be allowed to return to the only place he's ever considered his home. How would he even begin to function without Hogwarts? [b "If anyone could have found me a loophole, I trust that it would be you, Hermione, but I don't think it's going to make much of a difference. Fudge isn't exactly my number one fan, and the Ministry is still on the fence about whether they want to believe what happened last year."]
He appreciated the effort that his friend had gone through to try and help him, but it didn't seem like anything would be able to save his place at Hogwarts. [b "Ron's dad is going with me, so at least someone there will be on my side, right?"] Harry attempted a weak smile to try and lighten the mood.
The girl and boy weren't as interested in the house as Harry was because they had been there for the past few weeks. But when they came to an area with house elf heads, Hermione cringed and quickly looked away, keeping her eyes on the floor until they got past that particular area. As soon as they did, she looked up and offered Ron a weak smile as the boy gave her a look as if asking if she were okay. He knew how she felt about that particular place in the house, and she was glad Harry had no idea of her actions.
The two stayed silent as they followed Harry through the house as he seemed intrigued with the house. There were many rooms that wouldn't open and so much dust that they could have made a second house with it all. It was when Harry mentioned the owner of the house not taking care of it did Hermione and Ron share quick glances. Ron looked like he wanted to say something, but the bush haired girl gave a sharp shake of her head. It was NOT there place to tell Harry about the house or the owner. They didn't want to make him feel bad over indirectly insulting his godfather.
When a door did open FINALLY, Hermione's cheeks lit up. For the room that had opened was the library where she had spent the first three days. [b "It wasn't my fault! There were just so many books and they all seemed so interesting. Besides, how do you think I KNOW for fact that you didn't do anything wrong?"] The girl said almost huffily as her hands went to her hips and her eyes went between both Harry and Ron.
The manor was impressive, compared to the small constraining home of Privet Drive. Though it definitely was not being taken care of properly. Cobwebs decorated the ceiling, spiral in patterns too complex to comprehend. A thick layer of dust had grown over each piece of furniture along the hallways. Some of the doors Harry tried to pry open were locked, with rust built up over the knobs.
[b "Whoever owns this place doesn't seem to have much care for it,"] he theorized out loud to his companions.
Harry missed the look that Ron threw to Hermione. He was too busy looking at the empty frames that once held portraits, with bits of canvas still clinging to the edges. It was hard to see without much light, but they weren't able to use their wands outside of school yet.
The first door that finally opened for them opened to reveal a large library, fully stocked with thick volumes on the shelves. There are a few books stacked on the round center table, with one still open. [b "I assume Hermione found this room rather quickly,"] he questioned, raising a playful eyebrow.
[i "Bloody girl spent the first three days in here. We had to pry her away,"] Ron crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against the door frame.
The girl still felt REALLY bad that her cat had taken the ear off with him. But there honestly wasn't much she could do from where they all stood. And for a moment, the girl wondered if they didn't want Crookshanks near the thing, why didn't either Fred of George just apparate or something and get it away from him? But she was quick to shake that thought away as she knew the answer would be the annoying crack that would give them all away in an instant.
Her mind seemed to be running away slightly, so she didn't notice when Ginny, Fred, and George had left the three of them. What snapped her out of her thoughts was Harry's hand on her shoulder and soft words. A sad smile came to her lips and she nodded. [b "I know...but I still feel bad, and almost like everyone is mad at me. But looking at what you just said, I almost think I'm glad he took the ear... I mean none of us need to hear them fighting as we've heard A LOT of it as it is."] The girl said, looking to Ron, who still wore the look of total disgust and disappointment.
[i "Well it doesn't seem we've anything better to do since that stupid brute of hers took the ear... And you don't know much about this place.. So exploring and roaming the house would be good."] The red haired boy muttered, leaving Hermione to only nod as she knew if she said anything she and Ron would be getting into it as well, which at the moment was the last thing she wanted.
The others walked off, grumbling. [i "Stupid cat,"] the twins grumbled in unison.
Harry definitely felt disappointed, but not as much as the others. He felt confident that if he got Sirius alone, his godfather would not hesitate to give him some kind of information that was being withheld from him. The problem was, he hadn't had the chance to see Sirius at all, let alone speak with him privately.
Seeing that Hermione was growing upset, he placed a hand on her shoulder. [b "Don't mind them. It's fine. It's not like we won't get another chance."]
Glancing over the landing, they heard muffled voices yelling. [b "Besides, it doesn't sound like they're discussing much right now anyways. Who wants to hear them fight?"] he put a small smile on his face to show he wasn't angry, though he did feel mildly disappointed.
The twins and Ginny had disappeared somewhere in the house, leaving the trio alone. [b "I'm going to look around. You guys want to come?"] Harry looked between his friends.
[#2caaf6 "It always does. Mum and Sirius have been having yelling matches all summer long. The both of them can't seem to back down from an argument.. They are so much alike that it is kind of scary. Half the time the others have to drag them apart before they kill the other."] Ginny said, casting Harry a sideways glance as she explained what she and the others had been watching and hearing for a while now.
Hermione's eyes were on the door down below them and she cringed inwardly as she heard the words passed between Sirius and Molly. In their own right, the girl believed both had very good points, but she ALMOST agreed with Mrs.Weasley. It was when the loud thud was heard did she jump, letting out a soft yelp and look to the others, to see if them had had the same sort of reaction as she had.
But of course they hadn't. They all seemed almost fine. It was a couple seconds later was she nudged by Harry, who was making sounds to try and get Crookshanks' attention. As soon as she looked to her ginger cat, the girl gasped. [b "No, bad Crookshanks. Get away from the ear."] She also began to try and distract the cat, who by now looked up at them, but instead of listening bit onto the ear and pulled it off with him.
[b "He's a cat...he didn't mean any harm. He..he just wanted something to play with. I'm sorry."] Hermione said, biting on her lip as she looked to the others.
Harry knew his godfather could have a strong opinion, but he also knew that Molly would not back down from an argument. After having seven children of her own, her motherly instincts were bound to kick in quickly. [b "This could get very ugly very quickly,"] he murmured back.
[i "Of course I haven't forgotten, Molly. How could I with you reminding me every hour that I'm a wanted man?"] Sirius' voice snapped.
[i "Well if you wouldn't be so reckless all the time, I wouldn't have to bring it up. What good will it do Harry if you are found? Have you thought about him?"] Molly grew louder.
[i "All I think about is Harry's well-being!"] A fist slammed on the table, and Harry could only assume it was Sirius.
More voices joined in, and the conversation became muffled. Harry leaned forward over the railing to try and discern who was who, but an orange blob began waddling its way across the floor below. [b "Hermione!"] Harry whispered, tapping her arm and pointing.
Crookshanks took an immediate interest in the ear, pawing at it curiously. [b "Crookshanks, don't!"] he hissed, tapping the rail to try and distract the cat.
[i "Leave it alone, you stupid brute!"] Ron growled.
[b "Maybe the two of you have. But in something like this, I don't think wanting to know is such a bad thing. Besides, being here and knowing nothing can be quite a bother really."] Hermione whispered to Harry, a light pink in her cheeks as she spoke her words. It wasn't the best answer that she could give, but it was somewhat true as well.
The six teens stood huddled together on the landing as the twins slowly lowered the extendable ear. It seemed like the voices were hushed for a few moments, but then it seemed they got louder and louder to where the words spoken could actually be heard. As she listened, Hermione seemed to be holding in a breath, her eyebrows furrowing as they were speaking about the hearing that Harry would be forced to attend since he "broke the law".
[i "Why haven't I the right to go with him? He needs someone in his corner on this and I want to be able to give him moral support."] Sirius was saying and it seemed as if he was on the defensive side as he spoke.
"If you haven't forgotten, Sirius you are still a WANTED man and meant to be keeping as low a profile as you can. Besides, Arthur will be escorting him, and then Dumbledore with be taking it from there. Or have you forgotten?" Mrs. Weasley's voice was also seeming on the defensive as she spoke her words.
[b "Oh no...Seems they are about to get into another bout. They haven't been getting along very well since they've both been under the same roof."] The bushy haired girl whispered as she looked to the others, who nodded having pained looks as they two remembered the yelling matches and how it took quite awhile for the two adults to regain themselves.
Harry jumped and emitted a quick yell of fright as either twin appeared beside him. [b "Don't do that!"]
His heart hammered in his chest as they spoke. His green eyes landed on the fake ear that Fred held in his hands, feeling somewhat impressed that it wasn't as grotesque as he had originally anticipated. Truth be told, he had pictured the 'extendable ear' as one of their own ears just turning in to putty-like form and pulling it away from their heads.
While the twins bickered playfully with Hermione, Harry looked back up as they addressed him once more. [b "I'm hurt that you'd even have to ask. Where can we hear best from?"] For the first time since arriving, the Boy-Who-Lived had a smile on his face.
Huddled on the landing together, Harry watched as one of the twins lowered the ear down a few floors, outside of the room where the meeting was being held. He bit his lip nervously, only slightly afraid of what they might hear. [b "You barely put up a fuss about this. Perhaps Ron and I have corrupted you more than we'd thought,"] he murmured to Hermione, who was standing next to him.
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