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Hermione let out the breath she had been holding in a sigh and nodded. [b "They've been doing this since you said Voldemort was back last year. But as you said they are clearly trying to keep it out of the public's eye and to make it seem as if nothing is going wrong. Just last week there have been previous death eaters going missing...and Azkanan is now under even stricter guard than it had been. Everything is very quickly getting out of control."] Her words were quiet as she spoke them. She knew that this was VERY risky but she had thought they needed to know just what they were up against.
Slowly the girl moved to where she was leaning at Harry's side and without thinking her hand moved into his and she gave a gentle squeeze. [b "We knew things were bad and so much more was going on..but this is so much more than I was thinking...If we are going to make our move...after what we know now we need to soon."] She whispered softly and bit her lip. If she was honest she almost wished that this part was still unknown to them.
Her eyes closed and she had to fight back tears. Everything was so much worse than they had thought. And IF they tried to get word out they were going to get into so much trouble. But they had to do something. Her hand that had been holding Harry's let go and she let herself slide to the floor, her face becoming buried in her arms.
Harry couldn't even hide his dopey grin at her compliment. Clearing his throat, he turned his attention to the papers she was holding out. [b "Regular Nancy Drew, you are,"] he murmured, taking the documents carefully.
He wasn't as fast a reader as she was, but it was clear what Kingsley had sent them within a few lines. The Ministry had been conducting raid operations on known Dark Wizards, under extreme secrecy. The missions were not to be public knowledge, so as to keep the fight against Voldemort out of the public mind. Harry poured through every paragraph, taking it all in.
[b "So they've heightened their power in an attempt to keep talk of rising Death Eaters quiet,"] he spoke quietly so as to not be overheard. [b "Kingsley's been on a few raids, and they're all wizards that have served time in Azkaban for dark arts."]
He raised his eyes to meet hers. [b "This means Umbridge isn't just on a power-trip. She's been given new clearance to do everything in her power to shut down talk of the brewing war. The Ministry is clearly doing raids, but they don't want anyone to know because they don't want anyone to realize Voldemort is rising once more."]
Harry leaned back against the stone wall. [b "If raids have begun, then things are getting worse than we thought. Voldemort has started recruiting followers again, and building his army,"] he breathed out, staring off in disbelief.
They'd known that the dark lord would make another attempt at rising to power. They just hadn't realized how quickly he was going to go about it. [b "Looks like Azkaban did little to change their minds."]
When she got to the balcony further down, just off the owl observatory the girl couldn't help a shake of her head and laughing faintly. God he looked cute with the slightly red coloured cheeks from the cool breeze and the disheveled hair. And for a moment she had just stared at him, his words shaking her from her thoughts and causing her cheeks to flush. He could render her stupid even when the moments like these were becoming more familiar.
It took the bushy haired girl to regain herself. [b "You're both charming and sweet, Harry. We both know that."] She whispered, cheeks on fire. And after she had spoken, Hermione pulled out the book she had smoothed Kingsley's papers in. It took her a moment to refind the pages she had closed them in and then held the book to the boy. [b "Read that section there..."] She said as she pointed out the section to her best friend.
Hermione knew what it said as she had read it a couple of times. And just the thought of it had her pale. Brown eyes stayed on Harry as he read what she showed him. She was anxious to see his reaction to it.
He blurted out a laugh and grabbed the room to keep his balance. It was a treat to see her unwind and crack jokes with him and Ron when they could get her to unwind. She held so much pressure on her shoulders that seeing her face relaxed and happy was more than worth nearly falling off his broom while racing off to meet her at the balcony further down, just off the owl observatory.
[b "Looks like I won that race,"] he taunted, dusting off his shoulders smugly.
His hair stood on end from the wind, and his cheeks were a bit red from the beginning of the cold weather. Autumn tended to hit harder in Scotland, bringing the colder winds by early October. Harry straightened his collar and tried to flatten his fly-away locks.
[b "You look like you've cracked the code on something,"] he gave her a mischievous smile. [b "Would it happen to be the answer to 'who is the most dashing wizard in all of Hogwarts'? If the answer is anything but me, I might be a tiny bit depressed."]
He was nervously rambling again. It was nice to know that even while they were getting more familiar with these new flirtatious moments, that she still rendered him completely stupid.
Oh the rumours that McLaggen was sure to start for how she had behaved would be fun to face for sure. It wasn't her fault he had been an arrogant prat and thought he could tell her what she wanted. What women liked. If that was what he thought, the boy had another thing coming. Okay when it came to her he did. Parvati and Lavendar were exceptions and pretty much seemed to go for anyone good looking. They were ALWAYS talking about this boy or that one. And with a shake of her head and a sigh, the bushy haired girl finally made her way into the library and to the corner that she had pretty much claimed as hers.
When she took the seat, the girl took oit the books in her bag and a few of the papers from Kingsley. She purposely smoothed them into the book so it looked like she was reading from the book and not anything else. After the night before, Hermione knew to be more careful. And the more she read, the more her stomach began to do flips and sink. It appeared the woman was a sweet talker with her own agenda. She did things her way and liked to be in complete control even if that meant going against the law and sweeping it under the rug as if it never happened. An account of her using the cruciatus curse to regain control of a situation had her stomach in knots. And as she read it again, something clicked. Harry...
Her mind was beginning to race until she saw a hint of white from the corner of her eye. At first the girl thought she was going mad. And she ALMOST believed that to be the case with the lack of sleep and the ways Umbridge tortured them. But then she turned her full attention to the window and couldn't help a smile. It seemed that Harry wanted to play and old favourite game of his. Slowly she began to make faces back at the boy and was laughing. Though she had to quickly stop as the librian shouted at her. She then made a motion which said she would meet him because she needed to tell him what she had been reading. And after, the girl packed her books and all but bolted from the library.
Harry watched her go until Ron chucked a bread roll at his head. [i "Be a little more obvious, why don't you,"] the Weasley boy smirked.
[b "Not like she doesn't already know,"] Harry snorted. [b "Although is it possible to form a deeper crush after watching her shut down McLaggen like that?"]
Ron laughed. [i "Be still, my beating heart,"] he slapped a hand on his chest and batted his eyelashes at Harry, who returned fire with the roll.
They finished eating and Ron bid him farewell to do his afternoon rounds, leaving Harry to his own devices. Figuring he wouldn't get much flying time in peace while overseeing the tryouts, he descended down to the Gryffindor quidditch locker room to grab his Firebolt.
Ditching his robes and tie, he shot off into the blue sky over the school. The wind whipped at his hair and he breathed the first sigh of relief since last night. His bones and muscles were still aching, but being in the air brought relief of his mind.
Feeling a bit mischievous, he directed himself towards the windows of the library on the far side of the castle. He moved one by one until he found a window with a view of Hermione. Glancing around to make sure the grumpy librarian was nowhere in sight, he tapped on the glass to get her attention.
Letting go of the broom, he propped his hands beside his head and wiggled his fingers while going cross-eyed and sticking his tongue out at her. It was a fun game he liked to play, trying to get her to laugh in the silence of the library.
Hermione was no longer the scared little girl she had been. There were still the times she let her classmates say what they were going to say but there were also the times where she would shut them up too. This had just been one of the times she chose to shut them up. It had been highly irritating when McLaggen thought a pretty face and athletes were what all girls were into. Only arrogant pigs would think something like that. And so she as good as called him on it without fully calling him on it. Oh she would hear it later from the other girls but she really didn't care. Someone had to knock the boy down a bit as he was ALWAYS with someone new and never seemed to keep a girlfriend for long. She had seen so many of the other girls hurt by him and his wandering heart.
A small smile came to her lips at both Harry and Ron's praise. [b "I just didn't like that he happens to think of girls as prizes to be won. There is so much more women like and it's time someone said something. Besides you know I would never do anything like this to either of you."] She said, her own cheeks flushing slightly. And it was true. She would NEVER say or do anything to her two best friends as she had Cormac. Ron could be an ignorant prat but he was still her friend.
Her hand again without her conscious awareness had given Harry's a squeeze under the table. She had eaten all she was going to and personally McLaggen had made her sick. [b "We've still a little time before class.. I was thinking of heading to the library to look through some of the papers that Kingsley had sent to me... So I'll see the two of you later. Try and stay out of trouble."] The brunette girl said with a small smile as she moved her bag back over her shoulder and left the Gryffindor table.
Harry clenched his jaw to fight back the smirk he was itching to flash towards McLaggen. [b "I think you'd better look elsewhere for a cheerleader for tryouts, Cormac,"] he kept his voice neutral, spotting Ron grinning across from him.
[i "Try your hand at the Hufflepuff table, pretty boy,"] Ron taunted.
Cormac tried to hide a snarl. [i "See you on the pitch."]
As he stormed away. Harry leaned sideways to bump Hermione. [b "You really know how to go for the jugular, don't you? I don't think there's anything left of his pride and dignity,"] he laughed.
[i "Did you see how red he got?"] Ron gestured to his own face. [i "Looked redder than a Weasley."]
Harry felt a surge of pride for her. She'd come a long way from the first year girl who was left in tears by bullies. She stood proud and didn't back down when faced with arrogant classmates voiced their unwanted opinions. [b "Remind me to never get on your bad side,"] he winked at her playfully.
The girl wasn't exactly big on Quidditch but for Ron's and eapecially Harry Hermione tried to show support for their extracirricular activities. A small smile came to her lips to return the one that had been given to her and she gave a nod. It was the first time he was doing tryouts and captain and she wanted to be there. She would even help if needed, but she had faith that he would be fine and even choose the best players for the team. But before she could voice that, a new voice was heard joining them.
Brown eyes came up and glanced at Cormac McLaggen and then she looked down to her plate of barely touched breakfast. She had not liked the look that he had been giving her. It felt like she was some kind of a trophy or something and knowing his track record in dating made it all the worse. That and he was far too cocky and arrogant for her tastes.
She listened to the exchanges and looked up at the end. [b "Really, is that what girls are into? Some of us may like a boy who can show emotion and knows how to be a friend. Let me know how that works out for you."] Oh she should not have spoken up but his last words had gotten under her skin as did the fact that his gaze fell back to her again.
Under the table where no one could see her hand moved into Harry's and gave it a squeeze. It was her way of telling him that her words meant she had absolutely no interest in McLaggen.
Harry shot a grateful smile her way. He knew Quidditch wasn't exactly her thing, but she always tried hard to support his and Ron's extracurriculars. It meant a lot that she would come out to watch his first tryouts as captain, as he was fairly sure he had no idea what to even do. He was banking on just making the team run drills and competing in scrimmages.
[i "Six o'clock, right Potter?"] a new voice joined them.
Cormac McLaggen in all of his smug glory stood over them. [b "Six o'clock,"] Harry confirmed with a blank face.
He didn't know much about Cormac other than he didn't like the way he was eyeing Hermione like a trophy to be won. The boy was a known serial dater. That alone made Harry want to disqualify him from the team. Unfortunately, being a creep wasn't a capitol offense.
[i "Don't be too confident, Weasley. I've been practicing all summer. I'd say my odds of making keeper are nearly perfect,"] the blonde boy bragged.
[b "I think that's my decision, don't you think, McLaggen?"] Harry drawled. [b "Being the captain and all, I want to make sure my team is respectable both on the field and off."]
Cormac's eyes snapped to his. The smarmy smile was back. [i "Of course, captain. I'm just excited to have the chance to play. Girls love an athlete,"] his gaze dropped back down to Hermione.
[b "Of course she is...Kingsley actually sent me some things to look through as far as Umbridge is concerned.. And from the looks of what I have been through...it's not good. But I can understand not wanting to see how far she can or even will go."] The girl whispered. Seeing him so broken as he was hurt her. And she knew whatever had happened must have been bad for him to say what he had.
His hand found hers and she could not help the blush that rose in her cheeks. Honestly she was scared what the other students would think. Not for herself but for him. But it seemed he needed it and if she were going to be honest..she did too. She had been shaken pretty badly by their insane professor the night before and having him close helped her. Though she wasn't ready to voice it just yet. She couldn't.
When they got to the Great Hall, the girl would not even look at the others. She didn't care of they were watching but prayed they would leave Harry alone. The last thing she wanted to be doing was putting them in detentions or taking house points. But she would if it was needed. And soon, the girl found herself sitting next to Harry and Ron for breakfast, though she was only pushing her food back and forth, only having taken a couple bites
[b "I'm actually curious to see how the new Gryffindor team will look.. So yes I'll watch."] She said with a small smile, pushing her plate away and drinking her pumpkin juice.
[b "She's capable of much worse, and I'd rather not find out how far she's willing to go,"] he admitted with downcast eyes.
Still shaken from the ordeal, he wrapped his hand in hers and held tightly. Screw whatever the other students thought. He needed to feel the warmth of her skin to find some resemblance of comfort. He felt more secure with her close by, knowing she wouldn't let anything happen to him.
His steps were rigid but Harry forced himself to stand up straighter as they entered the Great Hall. Every time he looked down, it felt like everyone was watching him but when he'd sneak a peak, the other students were talking among themselves without taking note of him. Paranoia was going to eat at him all day, he could tell.
Other than the slight tremor in his hands as he reached for small bits of food, Harry thought he was doing fairly well with keeping the pain hidden. It broke his heart to see Hermione upset, but the only way he could fix it was to pretend that nothing happened.
[b "Tryouts this evening, Ron,"] he broke the silence between them. [b "Anyone in particular standing out?"]
The redhead came to life at the chance to talk sports. [i "Ginny's looking strong as a chaser. Her and Katie had a good back and forth going. Pretty sure I've got keeper in the bag. Only ones that are certain are the twins. Still the best beaters on the field."]
[b "Gonna come out and watch?"] he looked to Hermione. [b "I'll stop by the bleachers to keep you company."]
Honestly she wouldn't have hurt Colin but just she was more protective when it came to Harry. Even more him than she was of Ron. So when the fourth year had left them, brown eyes were once more on her friend. She was studying him as she didn't trust him to be telling her the truth. Neither one of them liked to admit when they were hurting or not in the best shape. And as he held up the hand like he did, the girl only gave a look.
Before she could speak, the boy had made himself move the rest of the way between them and his hands were on her shoulders. Brown eyes locked to green as he spoke. It was like he was begging her to trust him. And the sad thing was..she did so much more than anyone else. But she hated seeing him hurt and not being able to do anything about it. Before she could speak those words though, Ron had caught up with her and was complaining about how quick she had been and how she had been a nervous mess.
[b "I was worried..and you know worry can make people faster.."] Hermione whispered, cheeks flushing as she spoke. And was because of her words did the girl look away and only listen to the words passed between the boys. Honestly she wasn't all that hungry. Especially having a sinking feeling that Imbridge had really hurt Harry.
She had been about to follow Ron, but Harry's hand was on her arm and he was holding her back. A sigh slipped from her and she gave a weak smile. [b "I do trust you Harry...but I can't help but worry about you either. What she did to me was probably nothing what she could have...or did to you."] She whispered and then gently tugged on him so that they were following their redheaded bottomless pit of a friend so he did not turn and whine at them.
Harry tilted to the side slightly as Colin stepped away, no doubt fearing the wrath of the Gryffindor girl. He made quick work of abandoning the two fifth years in the middle of the hallway, leaving Harry to catch his balance without giving away too much in his expression. [b "I promise you, it's nothing,"] he held his hand up like calming a feral animal. [b "I'll be right as rain by lunch."]
To prove it to her, he forced himself to walk the last few steps between them so he could rest his hands on her shoulders. [b "I just need you to trust me. Please,"] his eyes stared into hers, pleading.
[i "Bloody hell, when did you get so fast,"] Ron's voice broke through their moment, as he jogged over clutching the stitch in his side. [i "This one just took off in a panic. Didn't even wait for me."]
Harry plastered a smile on. [b "She found me. I was just telling her nothing really happened. I was getting ready to come find you guys to go to breakfast. I'm famished."]
It couldn't have been further from the truth. Harry was pretty sure if he tried eating anything, it was going to come right back up. Still, he hoped they wouldn't press the issue so close to Umbridge's office. [i "Right then, let's go,"] Ron straightened up, tucking his tie into his sweater. [i "Don't wanna get the last of everything."]
Harry had kept one hand on Hermione's arm, holding her back for a moment. [b "I don't want to lie to you, but I can't explain what happened just yet. For your safety, I need you to believe me when I say that I'm okay."]
Brown eyes were anxiously skimming the hall and stairwell. She was still mentally scolding herself about having left him to Umbridge. He had waited for her the night before, the least she could have done was be up early and wait for him. And with his luck the insane Professor could have really hurt him too.
It was a motion off to her left and two Gryffindor ties that had the brunette all but run their way. One look at Harry and her face paled because even in him trying to hide the pain she could see it lingering. [b "Colin, where did you find him?"] The Prefect asked as she was more than aware of their younger housemate and his early morning wanderings.
Colin looked to Harry as if asking what to say. But the sharp brown gaze that had fallen on him had him flinch. Even he knew it was a bad idea not to give an answer when Hermione gave that look. [i "Boys' bathroom outside of Umbridge's office. Said he had fallen down some stairs or something."] He mumbled and then gave Harry an apologetic look before scurrying off.
At those words, brown eyes were instantly on Harry and her hands were on her hips. [b "You never fall...or if you do it's not enough to hurt you. Oh Harry..what did that devil woman do?"] She asked quietly, biting on her lip.
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