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Harry gave her a sad smile. He could tell that she was more upset than she was willing to let on. He'd gotten to know Hermione well enough in their five years of friendship to see that she was doing her best to hold in her emotions. Ever the stubborn one. But he wouldn't push it. He'd respect her wishes.
He let out a soft breath, leaning his head back against the chair. [b "I'm happy to be here. I know I acted like a complete jerk earlier, and I'm sorry. I really am happy to see everyone again. I don't like being away from you and the others. You're my family."]
Harry grew quiet for a few moments, recalling the events of that summer. He'd gone to bed every night wishing that he'd be able to escape to the Burrow again. Grimmauld Place wasn't ideal, but at least he was with them. He shuddered at the thought of spending any longer with the Dursleys.
Her question drew him back to the conversation, and he offered her a tired smile. [b "I'm just nervous. And a bit angry, to be honest. Everyone is tiptoeing around me, as if they're afraid to let something slip. I don't want them to be secretive about all of this. We're not children. We need to know what is out there, so we can protect ourselves."]
His green eyes looked to her. [b "Do you think I'm being stupid?"]
The girl didn't mean to let Ronald once more get under her skin, but the boy just had a way of doing so. He never thought his words through, nor had he seemed to realize that she WAS a girl and sometimes wasn't as emotionally strong as he and some the others could be. And to top it off, it just seemed like he enjoyed making her irritable just to see how long she lasted. It almost seemed like a game, one she was getting so tired of playing and didn't know how much longer she could take it.
As all of that was spinning around in the girl's head, a few tears began to slip down her cheeks. She had been trying so hard not to let them, but this time the boy had gone too far. He had been doing this all summer and didn't seem to care. And what was worse was she just let it go and hod how she felt, or would just hide herself up in the library like she had chosen now. It was the only way she knew and the only comfort since she wasn't really incredibly close with anyone in the house, well aside from perhaps Tonks and Ginny but she didn't want to seek them out constantly.
[b "Um, hi Harry... I'm fine really, just wanted to do some 'light' reading.. Thank you for coming to check on me though..."] Hermione whispered, almost fighting the lump in her throat from her emotions starting to get to her as she slowly reached up and wiped a stray tear off her cheek.
Slowly, the girl marked the page she had been reading and closed the book. Her head titled a little and she gave a small smile. [b "It really is nice to have you here.. I mean.."] But for some reason she found herself tongue tied and once more got comfortable, just his presence almost being soothing.
[b "Are you okay?"] She couldn't help asking as she remembered dinner and how things had seemed. And the look he had been giving off and on. She did want to help if she could, and she was trying to distract herself from her emotions.
Harry could tell that Hermione was upset. He wondered how many times she and Ron had fought over the summer. [b "I'm going to go join Hermione. Thank you for dinner,"] Harry rose from his seat, excusing himself.
[i "Oh."] Was Ron's response, as the redhead looked at the plates of dessert that were being placed on the table, clearly torn between joining his friends, and stuffing his face.
[b "It's fine, Ron. You stay and eat. I'll find you later, and we'll play chess,"] Harry dismissed him.
This seemed to pacify the other boy, whose features got more bright, immediately. As he left the room, Harry couldn't help but notice that the conversation seemed to become easier for those he left behind, and it stung a little bit. He didn't want everyone to tiptoe around him for the rest of the summer.
He retraced his footsteps to find his way back to the library. Rapping his knuckles on the door, he peeked in and found her curled in a chair with a book in her lap. [b "I wanted to make sure you were okay. I know Ron can get under your skin,"] his voice broke the calm silence of the room.
Stepping inside, Harry moved to a chair beside her, making himself comfortable and looking to her with a soft smile. There was something calming about being around Hermione in her little haven.
It wasn't like the ministry would take any form of responsibility for their creatures leaving post, and she knew it too. But something about it seemed off, far too off. It almost seemed like an order of sorts. Almost like someone didn't want for Harry to be returning to school. But how was she going to voice what she was thinking without any proof and without being thought 'mental'? In all honesty, this very much looked like a time where keeping her thoughts to herself would be a good idea. Or would be until she could get her two friends alone.
Brown eyes snapped up from her plate as soon as she heard the words snapped out by Mrs. Weasley and a shiver ran through her. The girl had been at headquarters long enough to know another bout was on the way and bit her lip, praying it would be interjected quickly. And as soon as Harry's words were spoken before Lupin's had been, the breath she had been holding slowly slipped from her lips. It wasn't much help, but it was calling them off the matter that had happened and the fight that had been coming.
[b "We've all been cooped up here for the most part. They think it better for us not to wander so we don't get into trouble...look for it or it find us. And this way we're safe.. or it's what the rest of us have been told. But it isn't all that bad..."] Hermione said, trying to answer Harry's question.
"Oh yeah, not that bad?! Have you lost it, Hermione? We've been trying to clean this place for weeks, and still haven't got much done." Ron said with a roll of his eyes at the way the girl had tried to make the house seem better than it was. It wad quite clear that the redhead was starting to get tired of being 'cooped up' as Harry had put it.
It was his words that struck a nerve with her. She had been trying not to fight with Ron, but he was being a bit of a prat. [b "Thank you for dinner Mrs. Weasley... I'll take the plates of those who are done and then I think I am going up to the library to do a bit of 'light' reading."] The girl said quietly, pushing her chair back and gathering plates before depositing them to the sink and leaving the kitchen.
"What's with her? All I said was we're stuck and it hasn't been fun." Ron said with a shrug, seemingly not seeing the big deal at all.
Harry looked to Hermione, nodding silently to her comment. There was no explanation for why the Dementors had been roaming away from the wizard prison. It made the boy nervous. It was unlikely that the Ministry would admit any fault for their creatures abandoning post.
He was grateful for Sirius' praise, but it was short lived once Molly glared at his godfather. [i "You suppose Harry was having fun, fighting for his life, do you? I swear, Sirius, I think you have never grown up. This is a frightening situation!"]
By the look of the Weasley children, Harry assumed that another bout was on the cusp of starting. [i "I'm not trying to lessen the seriousness of the matter. I'm merely saying I'm impressed with the way he handled it."] Sirius took a sip of wine, not phased by her.
[b "You've been locked up this whole time?"] Harry interjected to try and aim the topic away from himself.
[i "The whole 'wanted' status has yet to be lifted. So, the dear Order has made sure that I don't step outside of these walls,"] Sirius answered.
[i "It's for your own good. And Harry's. Remember that you're doing this for him,"] Lupin tried to mediate.
[i "That's the only reason I've listened to the Order."]
A frustrated sigh came from the other end of the table, but Harry wasn't sure who it came from. How had they all been here without killing each other? It didn't seem like anyone was getting along.
[b "Will we have to stay cooped us, as well?"] Harry looked for an answer from anyone who would give it.
Brown eyes met green eyes and a small smile came to her lips at his mouthed words as she mouthed back a 'you're welcome.' Of course she knew that their redheaded friend had meant no harm, but he did have a way of giving little to no thought before he said or did something and quite often it landed the pair in the most ridiculous of arguments. Quickly brown eyes went to Ron who gave a look, but decided to let it drop, which she was grateful for. The girl REALLY didn't want another of their petty fights, especially not that night since so much had already happened.
And just as what had been before, she went back to eating. This time she was more slow and actually trying to taste the food as she realized that the library would still be there after and she wanted to make sure that Ron didn't say or do anything else stupid through the rest of the meal. But that wasn't the only thing, it was a 'law' of Molly Weasley's that no one leave the table until everyone was done and the mess was cleaned. And usually she was one of the ones chosen to help in that aspect.
Silence or little chatter here and there came from around the table. Most of it having to do with trying to clean the old Black House or some from of work that one of the adults sitting about had. But mostly there was the clattering of silverware hitting plates or scraping from knives. So not really at all what one could call a calm and happy 'family'
Slowly, Hermione's eyes came up to look at Harry and she could see the look of annoyance starting to once more appear upon the boy's face. But before the girl could ask what was on his mind, Sirius cut in and asked what had happended with the dementors.
[b "But that doesn't make any sense...they are supposed to be at Azkaban... Unless..."] But at some looks she was getting, Hermione quickly looked down and blushed, keeping quiet. If she could, the girl would tell both Ron and Harry what she had been thinking.
"No need to look like a child being scolded, Harry. You did the right thing. Only wish I could have been out there too having a bit of fun. Sounds much more exciting than being 'prisoner' to your old childhood home." Sirius said, sounding both impressed with his godson and glum for his lack of adventure.
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.
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