Hello everyone, I was looking through some of my old stories and realized it's been some months since I updated this one! Sorry about that.

At any rate, it's been mentioned that this story is rather choppy. That's true; I originally intended for it to be a oneshot, but it's now more of a series of vignettes. In the interest of taking your suggestions, however, this chapter serves more as a transition between the little meetings our favorite study hall class has, and maybe ties this story together into more of a continuous plot. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock

Chapter Four:

Hitting a Roadblock

At thirteen, Hogsmeade had been an exciting new frontier, unexplored by his fellow peers, and waiting to greet each of them with its softly lit windows, sweets and Butterbeer, and a day of wandering the happy, snowy street till the evening.

Now at eighteen, he saw the small village for what it really was: a crowded, tiny, wet, absolutely freezing playpen. A place where they were permitted to stretch their legs, but still had a metaphorical fence to keep them in.

All the same, Neville didn't mind so much when the girls pulled him inside The Three Broomsticks to get out of the cold. He knew Hermione and Ginny had been looking forward to this day for weeks, as they were meeting up with Harry and Ron. Neville had to admit, he was quite happy to see his two friends and former dorm mates again as well, though he felt a little awkward tagging along for this double-date.

Make that triple-date. He also knew what Hermione and Ginny were doing purposefully inviting Luna along as well, and it wasn't just being good friends. Now, there was nothing wrong with Luna, in fact Neville quite enjoyed spending time with their Ravenclaw companion; he just didn't like her the way the others seemed to want him to.

It was a silly assumption his friends were making anyway. He and Luna were both a little odd and socially awkward, so they'd be a cute couple? He was almost offended, but he knew they didn't really mean it. Fortunately, Luna didn't seem to be making any of these assumptions either.

"That's them over there, isn't it?" The blonde girl asked in her dreamy voice.

"Yeah, good eye, Luna!" Ginny grinned, and began moving eagerly through the crowded pub, not seeming to care if she merely brushed or completely shoved someone out of the way.

"Honestly," Hermione huffed, but was also smiling as she followed after, leaving Neville to make the apologies and grab Luna's sleeve so the girl wouldn't get lost.

By the time he had arrived at the little corner table the other boys had procured, Ginny was leaning comfortably against Harry's side while Hermione was examining a particularly nasty cut on Ron's left palm. This also gave her the excuse to hold said appendage, but Neville chose not to voice that particular observation out loud.

"Really, it doesn't hurt hardly anymore," the redhead was saying, "Only when you—ow!—poke at it like that, Hermione."

"Sorry," the brunette muttered, cheeks flushing pink in embarrassment. Neville decided to turn himself into a distraction, dropping into the empty space to her left while Luna slid smoothly into the spot across from him.

"Hey Nev, Luna," Harry grinned at the two, while Ron gave a wave with his free hand.

"Hello, you two, how's the Auror training coming along?"

"Brilliant. Really exhausting, but it's worth it," Harry told him, Ron nodding along.

"How'd you get this cut, Ron?" Hermione asked her boyfriend, and Ron shrugged.

"I volunteered for a simulation exercise: what to do in a hostage situation. I was the hostage. I look way better than Simmons, though, that bloke needs to be more careful!"

"Do they do a lot of those exercises?" Ginny asked curiously.

"Pretty often," Harry replied. "There're also a lot of lectures, practice dueling, and a whole lot of other things."

"They've been getting pretty serious, those lectures," Ron added. "You'd think that it being peace time would mean they'd be more relaxed, but no. It reminds me of Moody sometimes!" They all took a moment to sip quietly at their drinks, an unspoken sign of respect for their former professor.

"Well, I think it's good that they're keeping you alert. You never really know what could happen," Hermione pointed out.

"What do they talk about?" Ginny wanted to know.

"Well, that's the funny thing," Harry replied. "They seem almost certain that there's trouble stirring up, almost like from within."

"Within?" Neville repeated, and could not explain the uncomfortable feeling he was beginning to get in his stomach.

"Yeah. Apparently they've been getting these letters or protests lately, and some of them are downright treasonous."

"Yeah, some bloke talking about how he lives in 'muggle Ireland' so there should be a 'wizard Ireland', too. Oh, and there was someone else on about all that SPEW stuff, Mione, had a bunch of dates and facts to go with it. Kind of reminded me of you," the redhead grinned at the girl in question. But Hermione had turned absolutely pale and could only chuckle weakly in response. Neville knew why.

Those were their letters Harry and Ron were talking about. Their friends were being warned against them.

"That's funny," Luna spoke suddenly, "Because we—"

"What has the Auror department worried, then?" Ginny cut across, much to the relief of both Neville and Hermione.

"They just think it's going to cause unnecessary trouble," Harry told them.

"It will only cause trouble if it's true," said a rather familiar voice, and Neville wasn't sure if he was glad or terrified to see Professor Pemberly in that moment.

"Professor!" Hermione squeaked, obviously thinking the same thing.

"Good afternoon. Enjoying the day out?" He inquired politely. They all answered in the affirmative.

"So, are you the new Defense professor?" Ron asked.

"My subject is Muggle Studies. Edward Pemberly," he added, offering his hand to both Harry and Ron.

"Ron Weasley," the redhead replied.

"Harry Potter," their famous friend rather unnecessarily said.

"An honor to meet you both," the professor remarked with a warm smile, causing Harry to awkwardly look away as was his custom and Ron to go slightly pink at the ears.

'What did you mean, sir?" Ginny couldn't help but ask. "It only causes trouble if it's true?"

"Well, Miss Weasley, the Ministry is receiving complaints from the people about the way their government is being run. That isn't anything to get too concerned about; people always criticize the government, it's healthy even. Now they are left with a decision: they can either acknowledge and correct whatever perceived transgressions have been committed, or they can ignore it and deflect." Neville had nearly convinced himself by the end of the impromptu lecture that they weren't in Hogsmeade at all, and were really just in another Study Hall.

"It sounds as if they've chosen option two," Luna commented with her usual cheerfulness.

"It would seem so," the man agreed. "Well, I'll leave you to the rest of your day." Neville watched as his professor walked to the bar, spoke quietly for a moment with Madam Rosemerta, and then left with a steaming mug.

"Well, what the bloody hell was that all about?" Ron finally asked.

"That's what he does," Hermione tried to explain.

"He sort of makes things make sense," Neville supplied.

"Well the Ministry's not denying anything," Harry disagreed.

"They haven't really said anything, Harry. And that's the point. They're ignoring our complaints." Luna was staring intently at their dark-haired friend now, completely focused.

"What do you mean 'our complaints'?" Ron asked with a slight frown.

"The people's complaints," Hermione salvaged, and Neville released a breath he'd been holding.

"Mione, it's just some extremists. Some people can't accept we're in peacetime; they just like to stir up trouble. They can't just…let the rest of us rest." Harry finished with a weary sigh, and Neville wondered how tired his friend really was. He felt annoyed by the other boy's dismissal, but also was worried for him.

Their Butterbeers were finished in a somewhat uncomfortable silence, and the six shuffled out the door into the cold.

"So we'll do this again next visit, yeah?" Ron asked the group at large.

"Of course," Hermione was quick to reassure, though her smile seemed a bit forced.

"Yeah, we'll catch you later," Ginny added, pulling away from a rather short hug with Harry and starting up the lane to the school. "Tell mum and the rest hi."

"Erm, until next time?" Neville supplied uncertainly, and couldn't stop his voice from turning up at the end into a question. The other two boys nodded and turned the other way.

"Happy Auror training!" Luna called to their retreating backs.

The four students made their way back to the castle, mostly silent as they were bundled up against the cold, but at last Hermione burst out, "Oh, what are we going to do! Harry and Ron aren't taking our letters and petitions seriously, and neither is the Ministry apparently."

"Big surprise there, those old warlocks don't change anything unless it's life or death," Ginny groused.

"Well…we'll just have to try harder," Neville resolved, and was surprised at the conviction with which he said it. Merlin knew he didn't feel so sure.

But his three friends smiled back at him, re-inspired by his words, and a small part of began to think that maybe they could in fact make a difference. And for now, that was enough.

Stopping there. So, I know it was a break from the usual format, but I thought this would be the best way to move the plot forward, plus a Hogsmeade visit was the only way to include Harry and Ron. So, the Ministry is doing their usual bury-their-heads-in-the-sand routine. What will Professor Pemberly's study hall do next? Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and please review. I promise more Pemberly next chapter!