Harry Potter and all related characters and places are owned by JK Rowling - I just make them dance for my own amusement.
Most people of the world, be they muggle or magical, accepted the idea that if something is too good to be true, it very likely is. Hermione had never given the notion much weight before, but upon reflection, getting to see Fleur again should have probably told her something bad was immediately going to follow. And sure enough, as she left Gryffindor Tower the next day and headed down for breakfast, a tidal wave of anger overcame her. Umbridge's new Educational Decrees leered down at her from the wall outside the Great Hall, positioned in a neat row alongside their increasingly large number of fellows. Before she had even moved on from the first of the new decrees, she knew full well what had led to their appearance.
Somehow, the overgrown toad had found out about Fleur's visit. For the first time in her life, Hermione had had to read something three or four times to make sure she actually understood it correctly. 'Illicit interpersonal relationships'? People deemed 'undesirable'? Was it truly within Umbridge's power to delve into students' private lives like that? Hermione was sure the answer was a resounding 'no'. If it wasn't before, it was now very clear that despite her constant talk of 'order' and 'discipline', when it came to Dolores Umbridge, rules were something she had no problem changing to suit her needs. Hermione was so lost in her flurry of disparate thoughts on the matter, it was only when a First Year bumped into her that she was shaken to the present, realising she had been stood stock still amongst the morning throng of students. She let out a long breath, slowly looking away from the placards.
"Hermione?" a voice asked. She turned to find Ginny watching her with a somewhat concerned air. "You've seen, then?"
The brunette just nodded, before finding her voice. "I have."
"She can't get away with this, can she?" the younger girl asked, cocking her head at the Educational Decrees. Hermione just sighed. The crowded Entrance Hall was hardly the place for this conversation.
"I don't know," she replied quietly. "Seems she already has."
"Ginny, I really don't..." she trailed off before sighing again, her shoulders sagging. "I'm sorry."
Hermione hadn't a clue what to say. Her mind was far too occupied trying to process what was happening; what had already happened. Did Umbridge truly mean to follow through with this? Or was it simply another way of intimidating those who dared to speak out against her? Aware that she was hardly going to find answers standing here surrounded by the steady stream of students coming and going from breakfast, she turned on her heel and left. It wasn't until she was halfway up the first flight of stairs that she realised had left Ginny behind. She turned and gave what she hoped was an apologetic wave. The redhead seemed to understand, and headed off into the Great Hall without her. The last thing on Hermione's mind was food.
To the surprise of her peers, Hermione was late to History of Magic that morning. While the others were busy with breakfast, she had sped off to the library and made a beeline for the seemingly rarely visited section on magical law. As she probably should have expected, there was surprisingly little to go on. It seemed the position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor was indeed created entirely anew for Umbridge: there was no reference of anything similar to be found anywhere. Furthermore, there was very little regarding Ministry interference at Hogwarts at all; it appeared such a thing had never happened before. At least, not to this extent - Hermione had found one brief mention of a Ministry official attempting to ban Quidditch and later being found hanging from a goalpost by their underwear, but that hardly seemed relevant.
Realising she would in all likelihood be late for her first lesson, she quickly returned the books to their rightful places and swept out of the library. Madam Pince seemed less than thrilled to have been disturbed so early in the day, and let out a huff as the brunette sped past. While passing a group of First Years who seemed to be in much the same predicament as herself, Hermione's eyes flitted up to a pair of large speakers jutting out from the stone wall, looking thoroughly out of place. In her mind she could already hear Umbridge's voice ringing through the halls, spouting nonsense about behavioural guidelines and the like. It was almost startling for Hermione to find herself so fed up with rules being enforced. But, she reminded herself, this was far more the fault of how said rules were being enforced – and the vile pink amphibian who was to blame for it all.
Hermione spent the rest of the day in something of a daze, uncharacteristically distracted from her work and those around her. It went unnoticed by Professor Binns, but both Professors Flitwick and Vector seemed somewhat concerned by the glazed look in her eyes. She just mumbled an apology and blinked a lot, which seemed to satisfy them. They went back to the other students, and Hermione went back to mulling over Umbridge's actions. She was almost getting bored of herself, her thoughts having focussed on nothing else since that morning. But no matter how long she dwelt on it, she still couldn't quite grasp just what this meant for the school. So far all she herself had managed to achieve was a tarnished record and spurring Umbridge into passing more idiotic Educational Decrees.
For the first time since the start of her education, Hermione felt like little more than a child – something Umbridge would probably approve of. What use was her encyclopaedic knowledge and advanced skill when those in charge could simply twist and invent new rules to further restrict her and her peers? She had always rolled her eyes at people her age complaining about 'adults' in general, brushing them off as petulant and immature, but now she was starting to see where they were coming from. Umbridge was treating them like children; like they weren't even capable of thinking for themselves. And, as she continued to think, Hermione's vague plan came meandering back into conscious thought. Nothing Umbridge was going to teach them would ever be of any use; furthermore, she was clearly using her lessons to gauge what else the students might know and potentially use 'against' the Ministry. That in itself was reason enough to take action, but with events outside of Hogwarts making things insurmountably worse, the need for a swift response was all the greater. And so, without as much as a second thought, everything suddenly fell into place. As ever, it would involve a great deal of rule breaking and deception, but Hermione knew deep down – hell, it wasn't even deep down anymore – that there was no other way. It was impossible to best Umbridge in a fair fight; she was their teacher, ergo there could be no fight, fair or otherwise. Logically, there was only one solution – take a leaf from Umbridge's book and change the rules.
Umbridge was convinced of two things. Firstly, that a secret, organised rebellion was forming against the Ministry and Cornelius Fudge. Secondly, that Harry, Hermione and their peers were mere children and not to be taken seriously. Neither was true, of course – but the former was certainly achievable, and the latter would be more than easy to create the illusion of.
After dinner, determined as she was to get back to Gryffindor Tower and broach the subject of her plan, Hermione almost didn't notice the gaggle of students outside the Great Hall before she walked headlong into them. She stopped just in time, craning her neck to see just what they were gathering around. At first she assumed it was simply the new Educational Decrees, being seen for the first time by those who missed them at breakfast. But as she managed to worm her way through the throng of black cloaks, Hermione was surprised to find a single long piece of parchment nailed to the wall below the wooden framed Decrees. And as she drew even closer, it became clear that it was a list – students on one side, a date and time on the other, above which sat the words;
Further to the passing of Educational Decree No. 56, the following students are hereby required to attend a friendly talk with Professor Dolores Umbridge over tea.
Those who fail to attend will face serious sanctions.
Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes. 'Friendly talk'? Was that Umbridge's attempt at appearing more approachable?And since when had she stopped referring to herself as The Hogwarts High Inquisitor? Turning her gaze back to the list, Hermione scanned through to find her name. She had no doubt it was there, and upon finding it, saw she was one of the first Umbridge wanted to 'talk' with. Tomorrow at nine o'clock, meaning she would miss Care of Magical Creatures. She wondered whether Professor Grubbly-Plank would even be aware; after all, Umbridge did so love lording it over her fellow teachers. On the other hand, not informing her would be a rather subtle way of getting Hermione into even more trouble – not that she really thought Umbridge capable of anything that could be remotely described as 'subtle'. Of course, Hermione cared rather little whether or not her absence was explained; she was more concerned as to the content of this 'talk.' The Educational Decree had stated they would be questioned regarding 'illicit interpersonal relationships' – was Umbridge really going to interrogate her about Fleur? Hermione knew she shouldn't have been surprised, given it was almost certainly Fleur's visit that had caused this.
The already somewhat distant memory of the blonde's embrace almost triggered a brief smile, before Hermione took a deep breath and pulled her bag further up her shoulder. She wondered whether Fleur's presence in the castle would be traced back to Professor McGonagall, or whether Fleur or even she herself would be blamed. The whole situation was beginning to seem like something of a mess, even by usual Hogwarts standards, and Hermione was starting to find it rather taxing to keep track of every single issue they were being forced to deal with at present. Of course, as she often did, the brunette simply straightened her tie, and got on with it.
The following morning, Hermione found herself feeling surprisingly calm. She got ready for the day as normal, even pausing to make sure her shoelaces weren't uneven and her even-present necklace from Fleur wasn't lopsided. She wondered whether her scheme for Umbridge's 'talk' would actually help at all. The professor had long since made up her mind about Hermione and her friends; surely she wouldn't be quick to change her perception of them. But, Hermione reasoned, it was worth a try – there was no way they would be able to organise any sort of response to Umbridge's meddling if she continued breathing down their necks and crying 'dissent' every time they so much as sneezed.
As she made her way from the girl's dormitory, she went over the situation one more time in her head. Umbridge saw them as children, that much was clear. And children make mistakes all the time, Hermione reasoned. If she were to simply play up to Umbridge's patronising view of them, surely that would convince Umbridge they were less of a threat. It would mean no more shouting competitions during Defence Against the Dark Arts, but as McGonagall's words had made clear, Hermione was on rather thin ice at this point. Already wondering just how far to take her routine, she suppressed a chuckle.
"You alright, Hermione?" Ron asked. The brunette blinked, caught off guard somewhat by her friends' sudden appearance.
"Hm?" she asked quickly, taking a second to process his question. "Oh, yes, I'm fine."
"Alright," Ron shrugged. "Looks like you've got trapped wind or something."
"…charming," Hermione finished, shaking her head as they left the Common Room. On the way down to breakfast, Harry told Hermione and Ron about his latest week of detentions, consisting of mostly the same punishment as before; sometimes with bonus lecturing from Umbridge, because quite clearly having his hand sliced open wasn't enough.
As they entered the Great Hall, Hermione glanced briefly up at the staff table, quickly noting that Umbridge was absent.
"Probably already getting her torture chamber ready," Ginny said as Hermione slid into the space beside her. The older girl gave a hollow laugh.
"Well you would know all about secret chambers," she replied, earning a shove from the redhead.
"Rude," Ginny grumbled, before properly turning to face her friend. "I assume by now you've already got your entire defence rehearsed and memorised?"
"Nothing so complicated," Hermione said, reaching for a slice of toast. "That would be a waste of good parchment."
"But you do have some sort of plan, right?" Ginny asked, her tone becoming somewhat more serious. "You know she's trying to get dirt on you."
"And I'm sure she'll find it, whether it exists or not," Hermione replied with a shrug. "What's the worst she could really do?"
"Expel you," Harry chimed in, putting his goblet of pumpkin juice down. That thought gave Hermione pause for a moment, but she quickly shook it off.
"Only Dumbledore can do that," she said, more for her own comfort than anything else. She was sure of it.
"Yeah, for now," Ron added. "But how long d'you really think it'll be before that old hag passes Education Decree Five Hundred or whatever we're up to and does it anyway? It's not like she's going anywhere – not being Fudge's pet project and everything."
Hermione sighed. "The worst part is, that's not completely farfetched," she said, gazing back down at her food. Suddenly her appetite was beginning to wane. Clearly her newfound confidence was, ironically, rather shy. She knew expulsion was beyond Umbridge's power, but if she did gain the capability to dismiss students, would she apply it retroactively for Hermione anyway? Somewhat rattled, she continued her breakfast in silence, increasingly fed up of her warring emotions on the subject. A short while later, she glanced at her watch, and promptly downed her pumpkin juice in one go.
"You heading off already?" Ginny asked, her questioned answered as the brunette got to her feet.
"Might as well get it over with," Hermione replied, pulling her bag over her shoulder and brushing a few crumbs from her jumper.
"Well good luck," Ginny said, sounding less than confident. Hermione wondered if her nerves were really showing that much, but cast the thought aside as she steeled herself with another deep breath.
"Thanks," she said quietly. Harry and Ron said their goodbyes, and Hermione swept out of the hall, heading up to the Third Floor. As she climbed the spiral staircase to Umbridge's classroom, her worries of expulsion and punishment began to fade again. Logic took control – Umbridge could not expel her; that much was a fact. She was an exemplary student in every other subject; something Hermione was hardly unaware of anymore. There was no way Umbridge could make her leave Hogwarts, not because of a few outbursts in class, and certainly not because of who she was going out with – not that the latter was going to be an issue after this.
The Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom was naturally deserted, looking much as it would to those who arrived early for a class – something Hermione was rather familiar with. But it felt significantly different; there was no chatter from the corridors or professor at the desk. All was still and quiet. The brunette made her way through the rows of empty seats, drawing level with the small staircase up to Umbridge's office. That awful woman was in there right now, ensconced in her perfect pink bubble and plotting Merlin knew what. Hermione shuddered involuntarily at the memory of her detentions there. The scars had healed, but every now and then her hand still prickled slightly; she could only hope what she was about to do would put all that behind her.
She took a final calming breath, straightened her tie, and made her way up the stone steps. She knocked three times on the thick oak door, before receiving an almost menacingly sweet call to come in.
It was always a jarring experience stepping into Professor Umbridge's office. It was much akin to exiting a warm house and finding yourself in a blizzard, only in this case, Hermione's eyes bore the brunt of the shock. After all this time, the sheer vibrancy and total coverage of the pink tones was overwhelming. Even the glass of the windows seemed to have been tinted fuchsia at this point, casting the crisp morning sky beyond in a rather bizarre colour. Were she not a cat person herself, Hermione was almost certain this room would have put her off them for life; the quiet mewling of the china plates set her teeth on edge, given her past experiences in there.
And of course, there was Professor Umbridge, sat at her desk and smiling pleasantly up at her 'guest'. As ever, her attire matched her office – cat broach and all – and in front of her, laid about her desk in neat, orderly rows, were several newspaper clippings; the subjects of which, Hermione could not make out.
"Good morning, Miss Granger," Umbridge said, voice still disturbingly kind. Hermione swallowed, before forcing herself to at least somewhat return the smile.
"Good morning, Professor," she replied, hoping she at least sounded agreeable.
"Sit," Umbridge instructed, gesturing to the lone chair opposite her desk. Hermione did as instructed, sliding her bag from her shoulder and leaning it neatly against the chair leg. She folded her hands in her lap, hoping that would make her look a little less confident. She knew Fleur would disapprove; though given her girlfriend's usual temper, she would probably advocate blasting Umbridge off the roof. Forcing that rather pleasant thought from her head, Hermione remembered her façade – and her manners.
"Thank you," she said quietly. The professor seemed to approve.
"Tea?" Umbridge offered. Hermione cast an eye over the cat-adorned teapot to her left. She dreaded to think how it might taste, given how 'sickly sweet' was generally the best way to describe everything about this room, but she had to create a good impression.
"Yes, thank you," Hermione replied, forcing another smile. As she watched her cup fill – she could have sworn the tea was tinged pink as well – it became harder and harder to maintain her polite expression. Despite the niceties, tension hung thick in the room. All previous interaction between the two of them had been hostile and belligerent – and yet of course, Umbridge acted as though everything was well. This was going to be trickier than Hermione had anticipated.
"Do you know why you're here today, Miss Granger?" Umbridge asked. She tilted her head to the side; not once did her pleasant expression so much as falter.
"I think so, Professor," Hermione replied. The older woman just moved her head to the other side and gave her a look to continue. "My behaviour has been appalling of late. I have spoken out of turn in class, I have been disrespectful to a member of staff, and I…" She swallowed uncomfortably. "…I have told lies."
Umbridge looked as though Christmas had come early, but quickly her expression shifted.
"You are partly correct, Miss Granger," she said. Hermione could definitely sense of barely restrained glee in her voice. "However, there are other, more distressing matters, that I wish to speak to you about."
"…alright," Hermione replied, not quite sure what else to say. She knew it had been too much to hope that throwing herself under the bus regarding her behaviour wouldn't save her from the prying personal questions. That was, after all, why they were there.
"You are currently in a relationship, are you not?" Umbridge asked, her tone becoming marginally less cheery. "With…" She trailed off, pulling one of the newspaper cuttings closer and peering down at it. "…a Miss Fleur Isabelle Delacour, correct?"
Just hearing Fleur's name spoken by this woman caused a spike in Hermione's anger. Unseen by the professor, she gripped the edge of the chair tightly, clenching her teeth as she did so. She was certain Umbridge couldn't see, but something in the squat woman's eyes told her she was well aware of the effect her words were having.
"That's right," Hermione said. She wasn't sure how long it had taken her to respond, but Umbridge didn't seem perturbed. Instead, she looked back to the newspaper clipping.
"Would I be correct in saying she was in the castle only a few days ago?" Umbridge asked, voice still rather calm. There it was – she really did know.
"I…yes, Professor," Hermione said. "She works for Gringotts. She was here on business and we…we spent a few hours together."
"That is rather troubling indeed," Professor Umbridge said in a clipped tone. "Did she have contact with anyone else besides yourself?"
"I…no, I don't think so," the younger witch replied, her nerves rising. Just what did Umbridge think Fleur would be doing with other people?
"A woman more than two years your senior, if this is to be believed," the professor continued, placing a finger upon the paper. Again, Hermione found herself fighting hard to maintain her composure. She was fully prepared for Umbridge to make this personal, but she hadn't anticipated just how loathsome it would feel to have this overgrown toad discussing Fleur.
"That's right," Hermione replied. "She turned eighteen this Summer."
"And you yourself are only sixteen," Umbridge went on, her brow furrowing in what could only be described as a look of sympathy. Indeed, her voice was becoming more and more that of an adult talking to an ignorant child. "And only very recently so."
"Yes," Hermione said, reasoning that perhaps if she kept her responses monosyllabic, it would be easier to mask her hatred of the woman before her.
Umbridge gave a look of resignation, shaking her head slightly and speaking quietly to herself. "Dear, dear…" she muttered. Hermione just took another deep breath and waited. "Quite honestly, I think it's high time you started acting your age, Miss Granger."
"Professor?" She had a good idea what the woman was getting at, but she had to hear it for herself; had to give Umbridge the satisfaction, if her plan had any hope of working.
"You are far too young to be getting yourself tangled up in such a…" She trailed off, blinking several times and taking a slow breath, as a storyteller would for a dramatic pause. "…sordid affair." She seemed rather satisfied with that moniker, pausing again as if for effect. "It is hardly proper for children to be getting involved with such things. I had hoped that one as allegedly intelligent as you would know better."
"May I ask a question?" Hermione said, unable to stop herself. Umbridge looked taken aback somewhat, clearly attempting to ascertain whether Hermione was trying to change the subject or not. After a moment, she conceded.
"Is this just about Fleur's age, Professor?" Umbridge looked at her curiously for a moment, before blinking rapidly again and smiling that same sweet smile once more.
"You are aware, of course, of your…ah…friend's heritage, are you not?" the professor asked, pausing as she found the 'right' word. Hermione came closer than ever to exploding with rage, but managed to reign it in at the last moment.
She should have known Umbridge's views on this would be as traditional as those she had on education. Was she really incapable of even using words that acknowledged she and Fleur were together? Hermione was well aware that bigotry still existed in the wizarding world – blood purity relied on reproduction, after all – but this was the first time she had witnessed it face to face at Hogwarts. Worse even than that, it was the first time she had come close to any form of prejudice at all, whether it be from the magical community or otherwise. She had expected lewd and ignorant comments from students last year, but on the whole, they hadn't crossed over into outright bias. And to think, this was coming from a teacher.
"I am," Hermione stated finally, likely sounding a little more aggressive than intended. "Fleur is a quarter Veela. On her grandmother's side." Her anger was bubbling just under the surface now, and it occurred to her that in all likelihood, that's exactly what Umbridge was trying to bring out. All this pretence and put-on pleasantness was just an act, as always.
"Now then, I would not expect a mere fifth year student to be aware of the ramifications herein," Umbridge said. She gave that little head shake again, as though disapproving of something privately to herself. "As your professor, I feel it is my duty to make you aware that Veela are deadly, vicious creatures, Miss Granger. They are unreasonably violent and are classified as dangerous by the Ministry."
Hermione almost blurted out that that was a lie; she knew full well what the Ministry classified Veela as. But again, she held her tongue, and with great difficulty, swallowed her pride.
"Are they?" she asked, hoping her tone was one of shock and not sarcasm. Umbridge seemed nonplussed at Hermione's 'ignorance'.
"They are indeed," she said, nodding solemnly. Hermione felt rather like vomiting. "Veela are terrifying and murderous creatures, Miss Granger. They possess powers to both cause harm and to control one's mind with no more than a look and a smile. Of course it's no surprise that you were unaware; the Ministry prefers that knowledge of such vile creatures be kept well away from innocent young minds."
Hermione had to wonder whether Umbridge would dare say this in front of others, or if it was simply to get a reaction from her. It was always difficult to gauge the woman's motivations, so hidden as they were beneath those many layers of pretence. Again, she found herself unsure of exactly what to say, and quickly chose to continue playing dumb.
"You mean…" she trailed off, mustering every ounce of her Primary School acting skills. "…Fleur is…is some sort of monster?"
"I'm afraid so, dear," the professor said, her voice approaching something that could actually be mistaken for kindness. She even managed a passably sympathetic smile. "I'm so sorry you had to be subjected to this."
"It's alright, Professor…" Hermione said, trying her best to sound as not alright as possible. She sat back in her chair, pretending to digest this 'new' information. "It explains so much…"
"It does?" Umbridge asked, seeming to perk up slightly. So that was it – she really was after information. "Explains what, dear?"
"All the things she told me, Professor," Hermione said. She hated to admit it, but this was becoming somewhat amusing. "Last year she told me House Elves were being abused in the kitchens – she even made me set up a protest group against it. She told me that You-Know-Who was back."
"Did she now?" Umbridge asked, sounding more and more intrigued. Hermione nodded vigorously.
"Oh yes. We handed out badges and leaflets and everything," she said, before faking her best lost expression. "I…I thought I was doing something good…"
"Just what contact did you have with Miss Delacour after the end of term?"
"I stayed with her over the Summer," Hermione explained. "She said her education in France was far better than what we have here."
"Well, I can assure you that that was also a lie," Umbridge said sharply. Clearly she had taken offense at the implication. "Your Ministry-approved education is second to none, Miss Granger, make no mistake."
"It all seems so clear now," Hermione sighed. "She did it to Harry too." That got Umbridge's attention. The toad-like woman suddenly seemed to be bolt upright in her chair, far less squat than usual.
"Has this Veela been in contact with Mr Potter, also?" she asked, eyes just a bit wider than usual.
"Yes, he visited us over the Summer too," Hermione said. She was firmly into the realm of complete fabrication now, but she hardly expected Umbridge to check – Dumbledore would be the only one who could tell her for certain, after all. "Everything I was told, he was told."
"Well, that is very interesting indeed," Umbridge replied, nodding to herself again and narrowing her eyes. Hermione considered for a moment; was it right to bring Harry into this? Would there be any repercussions for him? She dismissed the questions immediately – she knew what she was doing. Sort of.
"Harry is very easily led," Hermione went on, hoping she sounded as forlorn as she intended. "He's still so upset about his parents. I think he just wants someone to blame."
"I see," Umbridge said, her voice quieter now. She reached for a nearby quill and made a few scrawls in an open notebook beside her. "Would you say Mr Potter is capable of blind trust, Miss Granger?"
"Oh definitely," Hermione replied, nodding again. "You don't think someone else has been telling him lies, do you?"
"That is a matter you should not concern yourself with, Miss Granger," Umbridge said, giving that eerily genuine smile again. "I am afraid Miss Delacour's father is an well-known troublemaker and critic of the British Ministry of Magic. I shudder to think what lies he has perpetuated throughout his family and inner circle."
"I feel like such an idiot," she said, her expression crestfallen. "I always thought I was smart…"
"I think you are smart, Miss Granger," Umbridge said, and to Hermione's shock, reached out and patted her hand gently. "But you are still a child, and there are those who would take advantage of your naivety. That is why it is so important for you and your peers to follow the Ministry's guidelines on the matter. If you hear anyone discussing something you know to be a lie, you should come straight to me."
"What about Professor McGonagall?" Hermione asked. She couldn't quite believe she was pulling this off, but pressed on regardless. "She always told us to go to her if we had questions."
"I think not," the pink-clad woman said, frowning to herself. "As your teachers are currently being evaluated by the Ministry, I feel it would be improper. Besides, what questions could children possibly have that cannot be answered in class?"
"Okay," Hermione said with another nod. "Straight to you. And it goes without saying that I'll break things off with Fleur as soon as possible. I don't want her manipulating me or my friends."
"Good girl," Umbridge said, beaming. Once again, the younger witch felt like being sick. "It makes me so sad to know there are those would manipulate innocent young minds to spread their lies. I'm glad we got this sorted out before it went any further."
"So am I, Professor," Hermione said. "I just want to learn. I never wanted to be a bad student."
"Well, hopefully that is all behind us now," Umbridge said, that smile unwavering. "Now then, I believe I have everything I need from you."
Umbridge just continued smiling. "Is there anything else you wish to discuss?"
"I don't think so," Hermione said, to which Umbridge nodded.
"Very well," she said. "I'm rather glad I was wrong about you, Miss Granger. With any luck, hopefully together we can help Mr Potter see the truth."
"I hope so, Professor," Hermione replied, getting to her feet and reaching for her bag. "I don't even want to spend another second thinking about the things we have been told. I just want to learn."
"Good," Umbridge said. "The I will see you in class this afternoon."
And with that, Hermione left. The moment the door to the professor's office closed, the brunette felt herself sag somewhat and let out a breath that felt as though it had been held ever since she sat down. She leant against the stone railing of the steps for a moment, letting out a quiet and shaky laugh. Had that really all just happened? She wondered whether Fleur would face any sort of repercussions from this, but quickly dismissed the thought – Umbridge didn't even know where Fleur was. Still, she was troubled by just how willingly Umbridge had accepted her words. Had she truly believed Hermione's story, or had she seen right through it and was herself putting on a façade? Of course, it was entirely possible that Umbridge was so wrapped up in her mind-set of them being easily led children, that to her, it likely all seemed perfectly plausible.
Exiting the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom as quickly as possible, she headed off to Care of Magical Creatures. It already felt as though it had been a long day.
"Easily led?" Harry asked, his voice a mix of amusement and offense. "You really told her that?"
"I had to think of something," Hermione insisted, raising her hands defensively. "I'm not exactly a trained actress, you know."
She, Harry and Ron were sat by the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. Hermione had just finished retelling her 'friendly chat' with Umbridge, a task which had seemingly taken longer than the actual event. It was nearly midnight; the fire now little more than a few glowing embers and occasional quiet crackling. She had waited through lunch and their shared classes to tell them about it, despite Ron's persistent nagging. He seemed to have been expecting another 'Granger vs Umbridge' shouting match. Hermione herself was stood in front of the grate, while Harry and Ron were seated upon the nearest sofa. Her friends had listened eagerly to her tale, with Harry being completely unsurprised at Umbridge's acceptance of her fabricated story. He mentioned several occasions during his own detentions where the toad-like woman would refer to 'fragile young minds' and the like.
"Well for a start, how do you think Fleur's going to take the news you're dumping her?" Harry said, smirking up at her. Hermione just rolled her eyes.
"Really?" she asked, incredulous. "That's what you took away from this? Nothing at all about how I managed to convince Umbridge everything we've been saying is just the result of us being coerced by other people?"
"So, what, you want us to just pretend everything's fine now?" Ron asked. "Just keep our heads down?"
"That would probably be best," Hermione said, nodding. Harry didn't seem convinced.
"We can't just sit there and lap up whatever she puts in front of us," he said. "We're never going to learn anything in those classes."
"Exactly," Hermione replied. "But we've tried being direct with her, and it didn't work. You tried it, I tried it, and look what it got us." She held up the back of her hand to make her point. Harry subconsciously covered his own, despite his own scars also having nearly faded. "She's not here to teach, she's here to report back to the Ministry. We know that."
"You know she's going to blame this all on Dumbledore," Ron said. Harry and Hermione looked at him. "Well you said yourself, she thinks Fleur's the one who filled your head with 'lies' about You-Know-Who – who d'you think she's going to think's been telling Harry."
"He's got a point, Hermione," Harry said, looking back up at the brunette. "Now she's going to think Dumbledore's lying to us."
"She already thinks that," Hermione pointed out incredulously. "All I did was take some of the blame off of us. At least now maybe we can suffer through her lessons in silence."
"Still doesn't change the fact we're not learning a single thing that can help us," Harry replied. "We know what's going on out there." He nodded towards the nearest window. "How are we supposed to be prepared if she's treating us like children."
Hermione didn't say anything. Instead, she just smiled and folded her arms, looking dead at Harry.
"What?" he asked, leaning back into the sofa and glancing at Ron. "What is it?"
"You've got a plan, haven't you?" Ron asked, watching as Hermione's smile widened.
"Oh Ronald, haven't you worked that out yet?" she asked, brown eyes twinkling. "I always have a plan."