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[i "Don't even worry about them, Hermione,"] Ron assured her. [i "Pansy's just jealous that you have two guys that actually enjoy spending time with you. I bet she has to pay Draco to put up with her. Truthfully, I don't know who I feel more sorry for, her or the ferret."]
Harry snorted a laugh. [b "Not to mention how you out-shined the other girls at the Yule Ball. Half of them are probably still talking about how beautiful you looked. I'm sure it riled Pansy and the other Slytherin girls right up."]
The words hit his ears as they spilled out of his mouth. He clamped down on his tongue to keep from saying anything further, spotting Ron's smirk over Hermione's head. [b "Shut up,"] Harry mouthed silently to him.
The redhead rolled his eyes and looked forward once more. [i "I don't mean to brag, but I looked pretty good in those frilly robes. Those girls are probably disappointed they didn't get a chance to dance with me last year. My looks can be intimidating,"] he joked.
[b "I think they were more angry that your robes had more lace than their dresses did. Not nice for a boy's robes to be prettier,"] Harry taunted in return.
Brown eyes rolled at the comments both the Slytherins used. Apparently they were still implying she was a whore and liked to play with the hearts of her two best friends. Honestly they had been using those lines since third year and she thought that the lines since they were older would get better. [b "Coming from two half-wits I suppose I really can't take it seriously."] Hermione muttered. But before Parkinson or Malfoy could say anything, Ron amd Harry had literally jumped to her defense.
It wasn't like she needed them too. Though admittedly, Pansy's words had hit something in jer much harder then they should have. And she was trying not to let it show, though tears did sting her eyes. The girl hated how easily it seemed certain comments got under her skin or got to her. [b "Thanks you two..."] Hermione whispered to Ron and Harry as they were side-stepping the Slytherins and starting on their way again to class.
But those had been the only words she spoke, falling silent. Though she shouldn't have been, Hermione was thinking about Pansy's words. MAYBE she could try just a little more. And it was with that thought did a sigh slip from her.
Harry's mood noticeably soured the second he saw the Slytherin goons walking towards them. [b "No promises,"] he muttered to Hermione out of the corner of his mouth.
As expected, nothing original was thrown their way. Malfoy and Pansy were using recycled lines that they never seemed to upgrade, looking to get a rise out of them. Still, he could practically hear Ron's teeth grinding together. [b "McLaggen is nursing wounded pride, and if he wants to keep his spot at tryouts, he might want to reconsider who he bitches to,"] Harry spoke lowly.
Hearing Pansy's comments, anger swirled in his chest. Ron, however, barked out a laugh. [i "Are you serious?"] he looked the Slytherin girl up and down. [i "Maybe we like her because she isn't wearing a pound of makeup caked on to her face, or trailing after the ferret here hoping to get some attention. Self-respect is an admirable quality."]
Pansy's glare narrowed further. [i "What the hell does that mean, Weasley?"]
[b "It means that your pathetic attempts to get Malfoy to notice you are tragic, given that he's never looked at anyone with love that he didn't see in a mirror,"] Harry snapped. [b "Ron and I appreciate classic beauty, not the several layers of powder and paint you used this morning."]
Tugging Hermione and Ron along, he side-stepped the Slytherins. [b "By the way, Pansy, your face and neck are two different colours."]
The two boys really did act like brothers and after the talk they had been having it was comical and a relief. It made things feel normal and not at all as dark and dreary as things were going to get. And it was that thought that made the girl inwardly cringe. She and Harry would have to fill their red haired friend in on the new information that they had found out.
[b "Ron you know that's not true. Your mum would not let any of you starve or not eat. May scold you a bit but then give you food. Remember how many times she did back at Grimmauld Place."] The bushy haired girl said as she gave a roll of her eyes. Again she was trying to be as normal as she could be.
Her eyes soon fell on Malfoy and Parkinson and she shook her head, her hands moving into both Harry's and Ron's. [b "Whatever he says...don't give him the satisfaction.."] Hermione whispered to the two boys, keeping her hands tightly wrapped around theirs.
[i "So McLaggen says that Granger has both of you wrapped around her finger. Seeing the three of you like this proves the point."] Malfoy said with a smirk.
Parkinson laughed at Draco's words, dark eyes going to Hermione. [i "Pity you two could always do so much better than this little mudblood. She's not even that pretty. So how she has you both is beyond me."]
[b "We've conquered the Shrieking Shack while entirely sober, so it should be a piece of cake to go inside while a bit under the influence,"] he joked. [b "Slap some paint on it and it's almost a spa retreat."]
Ron caught up with them near the Great Hall, toting his bag in one hand, and balancing two muffins in the other. [b "Those for us?"] Harry reached out to grab one.
The redhead pulled them back and licked the tops of each muffins to claim them as his. [i "As if! I snuck down to the kitchens to get these since my break was cut short for rounds. You should have thought to get food."]
It was almost impressive how quickly he managed to stuff his face with each blueberry muffin. He didn't so much as chew them as he did shove it in his mouth to pack down in order to take another bite. [b "Do you think his jaw unhinges to eat, like a snake?"] Harry teased, grinning at Hermione. [b "Maybe that's his special talent."]
Ron tried making a comeback but only managed to choke on the mouthful of food. [b "Alright, don't hurt yourself,"] Harry smacked him on the back until his airway cleared and he was able to take deep breaths.
[i "I have five older brothers. If you don't eat fast in my house, you don't eat,"] he remarked.
After them talking like they had and those carefree moments, Hermione was feeling much better. And she had Harry to thank for that. The boy never knew how much he truly did help her and she wished she had the courage to tell him. Only a little had she told him when they spoke of themselves in the third person. But it had to be enough for now as she was still so new to the idea that he actually felt the same about her that she did him.
[b "I think she is giving us some repeat lessons to keep things easy. This time I think flytraps and devil snare. Professor Sprout doesn't trust Umbridge and so wants to make sure it is something all of us can manage."] Hermione said as she had been pulled up and the last tears stains wiped away by Harry's sleeve.
[b "Honestly I'm looking forward to it. We really just need the day away from school. And some firewhisky to help us forget."] The girl teased as she nudged him and took his hand as they made their way down to the greenhouses.
Harry looked down at their hands and extended his out in front of them to look at it. [b "Hawaii might test the pastiness of English skin. We'd better invest in the strongest sunblock on the market. But I'm willing to burn if it means seeing the ocean in actual warm weather."]
Time was running out to hang around in peace and quiet. Soon enough they'd be wandering down to Herbology to attempt keeping whatever plant Professor Sprout had gotten them alive. As long as they weren't Mandrakes again, they might actually be successful. Well, he and Ron at least. Hermione rarely made mistakes in Herbology.
Rising to his feet, Harry grabbed her hand and hauled her up with him. [b "No more tears,"] he playfully scolds, wiping the remaining tear stain from her cheek with his sleeve. [b "Umbridge certainly isn't worth it. And tomorrow is Hogsmead. We'll get away from the castle and enjoy the cloudy skies and crowded shops. And don't forget the firewhisky mission,"] he grinned at her.
[b "I think we've certaintly had our fair share of both those things. So no I don't think the new adventures will have anything to do with mad dark wizards or pink hags of terror."] The girl said with a laugh and shake of her head.
Honestly anything would sound good to her as long as they did it together. It could be something really out there or something simple to a log cabin in the woods. All she wanted was for this nightmare to finally end and for once let them be their age and to relax. She didn't want to have to worry like this anymore.. No..she didn't want to watch Harry have to worry anymore.
[b Switzerland would be nice.. Actually getting to hide away and tp eat sweets would be. I could try and teach you to ski..but to be fair I'm not very good. Dad tried to teach me and when I landed on my bum for the tenth time I gave up and went to hide with my book by the fire in an armchair until mum and dad came back in."] The girl admitted, her cheeks flushing a bright pink. She had never told that to anyone and prayed he would not find her ridiculous for it.
Then when somewhere warm was mentioned, Hermione smile a smile only Harry ever saw. And as of late it had been less and less given. [b "We could always do Hawaii and lay on the beach and let the sun warm us and tan us... As to skydiving, I dun't think so. I hate heights."] The girl said and gave him a pout. Oh she knew he had been teasing her but the idea still scared her. It was silly because she could break school rules and fight evil wizards..but she could not do flying or heights.
He grinned. [b "As long as the adventure doesn't involve battling evil wizards or frightening women with pink obsessions, I think I'm up for just about anything you can suggest."]
Honestly, he'd even be happy to just get a large hotel room and sleep for the next six years. Nothing sounded more relaxing than sitting on a balcony overlooking a city they've never seen, gorging themselves on junk food, and feeling the weight of the world leave their shoulders.
[b "Maybe Switzerland, first. I'll buy a boat load of chocolate and we can hide out in the Alps so no one can find us. Not even Mrs Weasley's howlers would figure out where we are. You can teach me to ski,"] he bumped her shoulder with his. [b "I've heard you and your parents have done it before. You'll have to keep me from tumbling down the mountain like an idiot."]
Harry was more comfortable on a broomstick than anything else, but he'd be willing to try whatever she wanted to do. Heights weren't an issue for him, but the idea of strapping bits of lumber to his feet and propelling himself down the face of a mountain was a little daunting.
[b "After Switzerland, we'll do someplace warm, where we can go scuba diving. All the cliche things people have on their bucket lists. Maybe I can even get you to skydive,"] he issued a playful challenge.
The girl's eyes caught his and she gave a small smile. His words made her feel much better and even had a soft laugh slip from her lips. [b "You know...she never did think any of this would happen.. But she wouldn't regret it and also owes that Harry Potter so much. He was always brave and putting others before himself.. And taught her there is so much more to life than cleverness and books.. There is bravery, friendship, and loyalty... And she learned to grow so much by having him as her best friend.. More than any book could teach."] All of that had been things she had wanted to tell the boy but had been too scared to say. But since he had spoken of them both the way he had, Hermione decided it would be the easiest way to tell him.
Her eyes were still locked to his for a moment and she looked away. Her cheeks burned a bright red as she had been staring longer than she should have. But she had definitely took in his words. They were nice and sounded like a real plan once they were done with school. But even she knew there was the underlying IF they happened to survive all of this. And just that thought alone hurt as she could not imagine a future without her best friend there somehow.
[b "Lets make a promise right now..That we will do everything you said.. And even more. I mean we could make everday a new adventure and live our lives the way we want to.. What do you think?"] Hermione asked as she slowly looked to Harry, biting on her lower lip, giving him a hopeful look.
[b "You're not meant to do anything,"] he assured her. [b "You're allowed to feel overwhelmed. You didn't exactly sign up for this kind of education when you got to Hogwarts. I'm sure eleven year old Hermione thought she'd be learning magic and mythical creatures, not co-founding an underground student rebellion."]
Harry gave her shoulders a tight squeeze and tried to tilt his head to catch her eye. [b "And that Harry Potter? Jeez, you really got dealt a bad hand, falling in with that troublemaker. Keeping you out late at night, getting you into all sorts of mischief. Not to mention he's a bit of a lost cause in classes,"] he flashed a smile, trying to cheer her up. [b "I hear he's an attention seeker looking to cash in on fame. You should run far away."]
He reached out a thumb to catch a stray tear that fell to her cheek. [b "We're almost done at Hogwarts. Two more years and we're out of here. We'll do all the traveling we can, put all this war stuff behind us. We'll climb mountains and visit Hollywood, and swim at the Great Barrier Reef. Two years is nothing."]
[i If I survive Voldemort], flashed through his head, but he didn't voice it out loud. He'd fight the Dark Lord any day of the week if it meant he could have even a shred of peace with her.
[b "You have Kingsley, Tonks, and Mr. Weasley on the inside..but Kingsley is the best go to when we need information like this. There are others all over according to Lupin..but some work double and play the part.. spies if you will. I'm not sure how many people and creatures there altogether. And yes...they are working to get magical creatures involved too.."] She knew her friend was trying to comfort her and she really did appreciate it. Honestly the girl didn't know how or why she had told him all of that. She had been actually writing with Tonks and Sirous both of whom had been more than willing to give her some of the information. And they were even more willing when she had explained about the studen rebellion and what they had planned. None of this she had told Harry yet.
Just him being close and holding her as he was helped. And so much more than he could know. The faintest of smile traced her lips as she wiped her eyes that had become a little red from the tears. [b "You're right...if they can manage the outside.. then we can manage to lead a rebel group here and help. We're not going to sit and take it."] She whispered. Her cheeks lit up with a faint blush. [b "Thanks, Harry...and I am so sorry for breaking down like this... I'm meant to keep it together.."]
Harry's heart sunk into his chest seeing her so gloomy about the situation. He slid down to sit beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and pulling her close. It was the most comfort he could offer at the moment, still reeling from the news. [b "We'll figure something out. Kingsley is aware of this, so that means the Order is as well. Who knows how many other agents are working within the Ministry to get information? Only the most loyal to Fudge can be discounted as being on our side,"] he tried to reassure her.
The Order was still relatively new, and he wasn't entirely sure just how much strength they had in numbers. It could be small handfuls, or independent militias working against the government. Ministry employees, and wizards outside of official offices. They could only hope that the numbers were larger than what Fudge had on his side.
For a short while he sat there with her, rubbing his hand up and down her arm. It was the closest he'd been to her in days, and while the contact was at the back of his mind, first and foremost was making her feel better. [b "Fudge and Umbridge aren't expecting an underground rebellion to lead a charge against them. The Order has already begun the revolution. We just get to extend their reach to Hogwarts. We can help them by doing exactly what we're doing,"] he leaned his head against hers. [b "We're starting our own rebel group, and we won't let them walk all over us."]
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."]
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