At breakfast the next morning, Hermione yelps when she opens her Daily Prophet. She shows Harry and Ron the front page, which shows nine escaped prisoners from Azkaban, including Bellatrix Lestrange. The article says that Fudge thinks this breakout is connected to Sirius, which angers Harry. Hermione points out that Fudge is stuck; he can't walk back his attempts to discredit Harry and Dumbledore now. Hermione also finds an article saying that Broderick Bode, who used to work in the Department of Mysteries, died in St. Mungo's when a cutting of a Devil's Snare plant choked him. They realize they saw Bode and the plant, and Harry feels responsible. Hermione says this was clearly murder and runs off to send a letter.
Harry's sense of feeling responsible for Broderick Bode's death, since they saw the offending plant arrive in his ward, speaks to the way that Harry feels responsible for his fellow humans and wants to care for them the best he can. While this shows that Harry is a good and kind person, it also suggests that Harry is taking on too much emotional work and because of that, might be more overwhelmed by things than he really should be. This mass breakout from Azkaban also shows Voldemort’s growing strength, while Fudge continues to deny the truth and allow Voldemort to consolidate even more power.
Ron hails down Hagrid, who has new cuts and bruises. Hagrid mumbles that he's on probation and trudges off. Most of the other students don't seem to care. The students discuss the escaped Death Eaters often, and those who had family members killed by the Death Eaters get so much attention that they start to openly sympathize with Harry. Many students also start to look at Harry with curiosity instead of hostility. The teachers can't comfort the students, as Umbridge passes a decree saying that teachers can't talk to students about anything other than the subjects they teach. Umbridge herself seems even more intent on controlling things at Hogwarts.
The new interest in Harry suggests that when there's little other information that seems reliable (Harry knows that the Daily Prophet article about the breakout is nonsense), people will naturally start to turn to what seems to better explain their reality—in this case, Harry. By forbidding the teachers from speaking to students about this, Umbridge creates an environment of fear and not knowing. This does mean, however, that students are even more likely to turn to Harry.
Umbridge now supervises all of Harry's Divination and Care of Magical Creatures lessons. Both Trelawney and Hagrid seem nervous and jumpy, and Hagrid forbids the trio from visiting him. The only thing that makes Harry happy is the D.A. The members work even harder after the Death Eaters' escape, and Neville becomes one of the most accomplished students. Occlumency, however, continues to go poorly. Harry's scar hurts often and he regularly feels happiness or anger that's not his own. He also dreams about the Department of Mysteries nightly. Ron suggests that Snape might be trying to open Harry up for Voldemort, but Hermione shoots this down and says they must trust Dumbledore.
As has been the case previously, Harry continues to realize that quiet rebellion like the D.A. can be just as meaningful and impactful as something more obviously “heroic.” Harry's recurring dreams about the Department of Mysteries indicate that whatever good intentions might be at play in the requirement that Harry learn Occlumency, the lessons aren't working—and Harry is becoming even more connected to Voldemort as a result.
On the morning of Valentine's Day, Hermione receives a letter at breakfast and asks Harry to meet her in Hogsmeade around midday and to bring Cho if he has to. Ron stays at school for Quidditch practice while Harry meets Cho in the entrance hall. They talk about Quidditch all the way down to the village until Pansy Parkinson walks by and shouts that Cedric was at least handsome. Harry and Cho awkwardly wander through shops. They remark that nobody's looking for the escaped Death Eaters like people looked for Sirius a few years ago.
Though Cho doesn't know that Sirius is innocent, it's telling that she recognizes that Sirius and the escaped Death Eaters are being held to different standards after their escape. Hermione isn't the only student at Hogwarts capable of interpreting the information around her critically.
Cho leads Harry to a steamy teashop decorated for Valentine's Day with cherubs, confetti, and bows. They order coffees and Harry watches another couple making out, feeling wildly uncomfortable. Cho and Harry discuss Umbridge, and then Harry invites her to come to the Three Broomsticks to meet Hermione in a bit. Cho looks suddenly cold, moves her hand away from Harry's, and begins to talk about Cedric and another boy. Harry tries to change the subject, which makes Cho cry. She accuses Harry of wanting to date Hermione, and though Harry feels relieved to learn why she's behaving like this, Cho dramatically leaves the shop. Harry pays and leaves.
This is another situation in which having all available and pertinent information would be extremely useful: Cho should know that Hermione is just a friend, and Harry could have salvaged the situation if he knew that this information is what Cho was looking for. As it is, he still has a lot to learn about interpreting others’ words and actions.
In the Three Broomsticks, Harry runs into Hagrid. Hagrid morosely says that both of them are outsiders and orphans, and he says that family is important. When Harry asks about his injuries, Hagrid says they're part of his job and leaves. Harry moves over to Hermione's table, where Luna and Rita Skeeter are also sitting. Rita tries to ask Harry about his date with Cho and if he still believes that Voldemort is back. Hermione says that she wants Rita to write about Harry's version of events and name the active Death Eaters, to be published in The Quibbler. Hermione says in a level voice that the Prophet won't print it, and she believes publishing the story anywhere is better than keeping silent. Rita grudgingly agrees.
Hermione's desire to publish Harry's truth in The Quibbler shows that she understands now that speaking out is something that will be both healing for Harry and essential to the safety of the rest of the Wizarding world. By pulling in Rita Skeeter to write the article, Hermione also shows that she's willing to look past her dislike and her distrust of Rita to get what she needs. This is broadly applicable in many situations and offers an example of coming together for a common goal despite differences.