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             Despite chuckling at Ron’s immaturity whenever this conversation came to Hermione’s mind, she couldn’t help but think about it more deeply. She was fairly certain now that Ron seemed to have some sort of feelings for her, but she’d never questioned her own for him. Would she get jealous if she saw him with other girls, the same way he did with her and other boys? Not that either of them had had many opportunities… Viktor Krum’s interest in her was purely by chance, and it was really only because she didn’t fawn over him as all of the other girls did. And as for Harry, it would make sense that Ron could jump to conclusions, seeing as the three of them spent so much time together. She knew she didn’t feel that way for either of them: she didn’t envy Ginny when she spoke of Harry, and she didn’t feel a spark with Viktor when they had spent time together the previous year.

            But what about Ron? She couldn’t convince herself either way and the self-argument was still playing in her mind the next time she and Ginny were speaking in the privacy of their room.

            “Hermione, what is it?” Ginny asked bluntly. She had earlier been telling Hermione that Michael had written her back and they decided to go on their first official date during the first school trip to Hogsmeade, but stopped when she noticed Hermione staring off, deep in thought.

            Hermione blinked and re-focused on Ginny. “No, it’s nothing. You’re both going to Hogsmeade, that’s great,” she responded, showing that she had been indeed listening.

            Ginny was not convinced. “Hermione, you’re not good at hiding when something’s on your mind. Now, what is it?”

            Hermione smiled thankfully at Ginny. Sometimes it was nice to be able to talk to a girl when things like this happened. Then again, did she dare bring this up to Ron’s sister? Not that she distrusted Ginny’s ability to keep a secret, but what would she think if Hermione expressed a possible interest in her brother?

            She took a deep breath and decided to trust the strength of their friendship; the need for someone else’s opinion on the matter greatly outweighed trying to avoid an argument. “I was just wondering… I mean, I know it would be completely ridiculous and weird for you,” she began, looking from Ginny to the ground and back again. “But how would you feel about your brother and me… together?” Hermione asked.

            “My brother Ron, you mean?” Ginny asked. So far she did not seem angry in the least, merely curious. Hermione relaxed a bit and looked her completely in the eyes again and nodded.

            “I mean, I’m not really sure at all… I’ve just been thinking on it, you know?” she began, shrugging so it would seem as though it was not as pertinent in her mind as it actually was.

            Ginny merely raised an eyebrow. “I wondered when you would figure it out,” she said.

            Hermione could not hide her surprise. Had their attraction really been obvious, if that was indeed what she felt toward Ron? Or did this prove that she must be attracted to Ron, since an outsider could see it more plainly than she could?

            Just as she opened her mouth to protest, a loud pop resounded in the room and Fred and George appeared right beside them. They both looked rather alarmed.

            “Dumbledore’s here again,” George said. “And he’s…” He looked at Fred, something resembling fear in both of their eyes.

             Hermione and Ginny both followed them out of the room quickly to the top of the stairs to look down at the entrance of the house. Evidently the twins had told Ron first because he was already looking down on the frightening scene below when they arrived beside him.

            Dumbledore was indeed here, though his mood could not have been more different from his previous visit. He was absolutely livid. He was shouting about Mundungus Fletcher leaving before his shift ended.

            Hermione looked at Ron hoping for some clarification but he looked just as confused and frightened as she felt and simply shook his head. After just a few moments, Dumbledore stepped outside and Disapparated. The rest of the group, including Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Sirius, and Lupin, stepped back into the open door behind them and closed it, evidently not aware of the five spectators above.

            The group quietly but quickly headed downstairs and to just outside the door, George already passing around the Extendable Ears. If ever there were a meeting they wanted to hear, it was this one. As if they were standing inside the room themselves, they clearly heard many worried voices with the aid of Fred and George’s inventions in their own ears. This meeting was full of more people than were usually gathered at once. Fred informed them that the arrival of so many people in succession was what clued George and he in that something big had happened. They all silently listened…

            “I just came from the Ministry. Arthur told me… Dementors in Little Whinging?” said a woman, who Hermione recognized to be Tonks. She remembered with alarm that Little Whinging was Harry’s neighborhood.

            “And in plain sight of Muggles!” said a gruff voice Hermione recognized as Mad-Eye Moody.

            “Weren’t there people keeping watch on the boy?” a woman asked.

            “Mundungus Fletcher was on duty, but apparently left his post,” a man with a deep voice said, evidently very disapproving of this fact.

            “Is the boy alright?” another man asked, the worry plain in his shaky voice.

            “Of course he is,” Sirius answered, his voice tense.

            “He can conjure a very strong Patronus,” Lupin added, knowing this. He himself taught Harry how to do so just a couple years prior.

            “A boy his age can conjure a full Patronus?” someone said in awe. “Does it take a form?”

            “A stag,” Sirius said and the sound of a chair screeching and footsteps implied he had stood up and was pacing.

            “The Ministry’s threatened to expel him,” said the man with the deep voice.

            “For defending himself?” Moody said, his voice raised.

            Arguments broke out between the groups and continued to grow louder until many gasps were heard, and many people evidently stood up for more chairs screeched.

            The next voice came from Arthur Weasley, who Hermione knew was not here but at the Ministry. “They’re not going to expel him.” Many people sighed in relief, while others began telling their neighbor that they knew the Ministry wouldn’t do such a thing.

            “Dumbledore and I have convinced them to give Harry a hearing,” Arthur continued, and was met with silence again. “The Wizengamot will decide whether to expel him after that.”

            “What about Harry? What will happen to him now?” came Mrs. Weasley’s frightened and concerned voice.

            “I’ve sent him a letter telling him to stay at his aunt and uncle’s for now. We need to set up a group to retrieve him tonight. He’s no longer safe there,” Arthur responded. Many people voiced their agreement. One mumbled in shock, “Dementors among Muggles…”

            “I’ll go,” Lupin said. Tonks, Moody, the man with the deep voice, and four or five others added their names to the list of Harry’s traveling companions.

            “Hurry,” said Sirius. Hermione was sure he wished nothing more than to join them. She heard the rustling of parchment and the scratching of a quill and knew he must be writing to Harry. The rest of the group all began hushed conversations of the absurdity of the situation…

            The five of them outside the door remained silent, though the horror and shock was evident on everyone’s faces as Hermione glanced around, her hands over her mouth. Mrs. Weasley shooed them back upstairs after the meeting ended and they all hastily hid the Extendable Ears just in time.

            “Most of them are from the Ministry,” Fred informed Hermione as they made their way upstairs, glancing at them all stepping onto the first step outside and Disapparating.

            “They were really going to expel him?” Ginny asked, shock and irritation in her voice.

            “I’m fairly sure they couldn’t have!” Hermione said. Her mind was already running through the many books in her breadth of knowledge. There was something about using magic to save your own life…

            “At least Dumbledore and Dad were there,” Ron said. The group nodded in agreement. They were grateful for Ron’s father, but especially for Dumbledore; they really were lucky that he found out as quickly as he did. There were very few wizards who would dare disagree with Dumbledore.

            As they neared their rooms, Hermione immediately went to hers in search of the proper book – one on Wizarding law would do nicely. She knew she was right; they just couldn’t expel Harry.

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