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He listened to his friends talk as they went out in to the fresh air for their only outdoor class. It was a pity that Hagrid had his teaching position taken away, but Harry always enjoyed getting to work with the strange animals kept around the school.
Still, the greasy haired weasel was going to do his best to ruin that class for them as well. Harry's fist clenched tightly at Malfoy's words. [b "Hardly fair to blame the teacher for the faults of an incompetent student, Malfoy."]
Draco sneered in their direction. [i "I'd watch yourself, Potter. You don't have your precious Hagrid here to save you."]
Harry shrugged. [b "I'm just saying that if you were able to hear any voice that isn't yours, you wouldn't have become a ragdoll for Buckbeak to play with. Seemed like easy instructions, but I guess unless they come from daddy, you don't understand."]
Draco's face turned red. [i "Don't you speak about my father,"] he hissed.
[i "The professor's coming. Enough, Harry,"] Ron tugged at the back of his robes.
Listening to the two boys the girl gave a roll of her eyes. [b "I still remember what coughing up the hairballs was like. It wasn't pleasant and so I would take Crabbe or Goyle anyday over that. But to be fair we did pretty well and even saved the school from being closed down."] She finished and then fell quiet as Ron asked what they had been talking about.
Hermione kept her eyes on others around them as Harry explained it to Ron. They had to be careful because after Malfoy who else would be a spy for the pink terror? But her attention was back on the boys when Ron spoke his last words of defenses being lost to them and Harry explained she had a plan.
[b "It is a very rough idea...but it might be worth it to get some others on our side. You've heard others are worried about this too...I know that you have Ron."] She said quietly and quickly.
When they got to Care of Magical Creatures, the girl rolled her eyes. They were with a new professor since Hagrid was gone.
[i "Well, well. It looks like the great oaf got sacked. About time he did. He was the worst teacher here."] Came Malfoy's voice from somewhere behind the trio.
Harry snorted in memory of her fuzzy face and tail from their failed Polyjuice attempt. [b "To be fair, I'd say two of the three of us were successful with that. For a bunch of twelve year olds, I'd say we did fairly well."]
[i "I still say it was worse being Crabbe and Goyle,"] Ron joked, before turning the conversation to what he and Hermione had been discussing.
Harry was quiet for a moment, trying to figure out how he would sum it up without revealing too much. Given that Umbridge could have listeners all around the castle, he wouldn't want their plan foiled before it had even begun.
[b "I heard Umbridge talking to Dumbledore. The Ministry will take action against the Hogwarts staff if they don't fall in line with the new school curriculum she's trying to push. She's leaving us unprepared and defenseless in the event of an attack,"] he spoke in a rush, making sure he was close enough to Ron that he'd hear everything clearly.
The taller boy paled. [i "I know the Ministry wants to keep things quiet, but would they really be willing to jeopardize safety like that?"]
Unfortunately, it definitely seemed like it. [b "Hermione said she had an idea, but she can't tell us until we're absolutely alone. Otherwise, we might be found out."]
The girl gave him a sheepish grin. She knew that even he wasn't used to her being the one that could or would get them into trouble. But literally it was desperate times and they needed to take desperate measures. [b "Trust me, you'll see."] She whispered.
Silence had fallen between them, and honestly she was a bit anxious. Not just because of her new plan for them, but also because of what Harry had overheard. She just hoped she had the right idea.
Only vaguely was she listening to their professor and his words of dismissal. It wasn't like it really concerned her as it was quite simple as it was. And soon Ron came up to them and Harry told him what was in mind. A faint smile came to her lips at the groan and she shrugged. [b "Because it never is and it always costs us somehow. I mean looked what happened in our second year with the Polyjuice."] She said and motioned that they needed to get going to their next class as she shifted her bag on her shoulder.
[i "You two were talking pretty intensely back in Charms. What was it about?"] Ron asked as he had not heard anything about what they seemed to be up to.
Harry lifted his head and gave her a small smile. [b "A potentially expel-worthy plan? Hermione Granger? This I have to hear."]
He pulled himself back up to a normal sitting position and hung his hope on her words. If she was willing to promise that others were behind their cause, then he'd believe her. It was slightly relieving to hear, and makes him hope that they aren't alone in their concern.
[i "Now I want you all to study these notes because I will be testing you on them early next week. Practice your charms, and don't blow anything up in the process,"] Flitwick dismisses them, staring pointedly at Seamus and Dean for the last part.
Harry stood and gathered his things, waiting for Ron to join them. [b "We need to make our move tonight. Once that's done, we can move on to the next step. Whatever the hell that's going to be,"] he spoke low enough so they wouldn't be overheard.
[i "Something tells me these plans aren't going to be easy,"] the redhead groaned.
She knew she really shouldn't be thinking up anything that could get them in trouble, "killed, or worse expelled" but this was different. This year they needed to be able to learn and they needed to truly know what they were up against. The world they had known was changing and the dangers they had only heard of or had had nightmares about were now becoming a reality. If they couldn't count on their professors then they really had no choice.
[b "There are more of us than you think that take this seriously. They just aren't as outspoken about it. Trust me when I say that."] Hermione said with a small smile. The girl wouldn't tell him more about her idea until they truly could be alone again. And she wanted to run it by him before she even explained anything to Ron either. What she had in mind was mad and could not happen without Harry agreeing to it.
A sigh slipped her lips as her hand did move to his under the desk and give it a quick squeeze. [b "Because it wouldn't be Hogwarts or our lives if it were normal. And things would get rather boring quickly."] The girl was trying to make him smile, if even a little bit. [b "And I'll explain my idea later. It's mad and could possibly get us 'killed or worse expelled."] She added as an afterthought
[b "What do you propose?"] Harry looked at her with desperation.
She'd always been the brilliant one of the trio, and he was hoping with everything in him that she would have a solution, no matter how temporary. It was probably unhealthy that he relied so much on her; dependency would only get him in to trouble.
[b "So far the only students I know taking this seriously are us and the Weasleys. We're hardly enough to face an entire army. And like you said, with the professors being watched, we can't even count on them to help,"] Harry sunk in his seat.
[i Fudge has left us in the ocean with no boat,] he thought to himself. [b "Why can't we have a normal year? Just once? No threats, no trouble. I hate to admit it, but I'd like to just do homework with no one trying to sabotage us,"] he huffed a sad laugh and dropped his forehead to her shoulder.
Brown eyes were on her friend and seeing that pained smile of his nearly did break her heart. She already missed the days at headquarters and how he had smiled and laughed so freely. But even she had known those days had been numbered and the storm waiting for him would soon fall. So she sat in silence, waiting to see what he would tell her in why he looked so troubled.
The girl took in the words spoken and her eyes moved to the desk. [b "Then we have to take matters into our own hands somehow. Dumbledore and the others can't do too much without the Ministry finding out and trying to get in their way. But they would never think students to do something. We need to be ready and to be able to protect ourselves. Just with that gargoyle here we won't learn how."] Her words were quiet as she spoke them. And it was clear she had something in mind.
Harry had his head in his hands when he felt her take the seat next to him. He muttered a quick, "Thanks" for her offer, leaning back to offer a pained smile.
Picking up his quill, he halfheartedly started copying her work. Flitwick droned on in the background, but Harry couldn't focus on anything other than what had gone on in Dumbledore's office.
[b "Things are much worse than we thought,"] he answered her question quietly.
He glanced around to make sure that they wouldn't be overheard. [b "I used the cloak and snuck in to Dumbledore's office. Umbridge was there, going on and on about the staff and students being insubordinate to Ministry regulations. She was threatening him to fall in line with what Fudge has ordered."]
Harry's face took on a look of concern. [b "It won't take long for Voldemort to figure out that the Ministry is trying to hush Hogwarts up. Once he knows what's going on, who's stopping him or the Death Eaters from staging an attack?"]
Hermione sat with her eyes on the parchment on the desk in front of her. The girl was writing the notes as they were spoken, but her mind truly was not on the class or the lecture. Her mind was on Harry and how late to the class he seemed to be. Every few moments her head would pop up and her eyes would dart to the door just to see if he was coming. It was getting later and later and the girl nearly asked Professor Flitwick if she could go to the bathroom. Of course that wasn't what she had in mind. If he did allow it, the girl would try to find her vest friend.
But that plan no longer became necessarry as Harry finally came walking in. And from what she could see he looked rather deflated and defeated as well. Slowly, the girl slipped out of her usual seat and moved to the empty seat beside Harry in the back. [b "He's not going to go over much more...this spell is really simple and I can show you tonight...Harry, what's happened?"] Hermione whispered as she pushed her notes to him so he could copy them as Flitwick got off topic on the summer since only ten minutes of class remained.
It took everything in him to keep quiet while listening to Umbridge's threats. Dumbledore seemed unfazed, as always. Harry, on the other hand, was ready to drop the cloak and curse the pink nightmare into the next century. She held herself in such high authority that she couldn't see past the Ministry's lies.
[i "Don't think I won't be writing to Minister Fudge about this, Professor. Insubordination will not be tolerated,"] she snipped once more before storming out.
It was a good moment before Albus cleared his throat. [i "You're lucky that she is not as observant as I am, Harry. You can come out now."]
Harry couldn't even bring himself to be embarrassed about being caught. [b "Professor, she can't do this. She's washed the entire class of any Defense skills, and is teaching Ministry law. How are we supposed to prepare for Voldemort if our own government is denying his return?"]
[i "Cornelius has never been known to be an easy man to deal with. His position of power leaves him in a difficult place, I'm afraid. I'm not condoning his actions or statements, but he has an entire wizarding world hanging on his every word, and I'm choosing to think that he is doing his best to avoid a national panic. That being said, his actions have been foolish as of late and sending Dolores to Hogwarts is not a wise one. Policing an educational institute is not something that my staff and I will take sitting down. Just because we are not fighting back visually does not mean we aren't taking every precaution against this government invasion."]
[b "By not doing anything about her, we may as well be saying that we're not going to defend ourselves. If Voldemort hears that the Ministry is interfering, it's only more ammunition he has against us. He'll know we're ill-prepared for an attack,"] Harry argued.
Dumbledore raised a hand. [i "I'm on your side, Harry. Believe me when I say that I am not taking her threats likely. We are watching her just as much as she's watching us. Now, I believe you are supposed to be in class. I suggest you get there before another detention falls your way."]
Wanting to continue the fight, but knowing better, Harry tucked the cloak away in his bag. He grumbled to himself the entire way to class, barely muttering an apology to Professor Flitwick as he slumped in a seat at the back, his regular spot having been taken by Neville.
Her hand had stayed in Harry's until he had let it go. Even she had noticed that he seemed off and like any small thing would or could set the boy off. And it worried her because she knew that was not how he was. Malfoy may have been a snide little prat, but even he wasn't worth the rising temper. But she had to quickly reign her thoughts in as the "Ferret" and his cronies were gone. Even she visibily relaxed when he was.
[i "He sure is, mate. But I've never seen you get like that over him before. Are you sure you're okay?"] Ron asked as he looked between Harry, his brothers and lastly Hermione.
[b "He's been purposely flaunting his newly found position again. And had threatened to turn the four of us into Umbridge all because we were just talking."] The bushy haires girl said huffily. She was trying to get Ron's attention off Harry and make it seem that his actions had been justified. Though later when they had a moment alone she would be asking.
When Harry said he would catch up with them, the girl bit her lip. She knew that he would but she didn't want to quite let him go off on his own. [b "Erm, yeah we'll see you in class."] The girl said, watching as he walked off.
For a few moments she watched after Harry and then went off with Ron to class. Only did she hope their friend would not find himself in trouble again before he rejoined them.
Harry wasn't sure what the hell was wrong with him as he felt his temper rise. It seemed like everything was setting him off lately, no matter how small. He'd learned long ago that Malfoy was just a pest looking for trouble. He shouldn't be rising to the bait. So when Hermione's hand slid in to his, he used it to ground himself.
The twins rose to their feet and crossed their arms as Malfoy backed away, only releasing their tension when the blonde parasite was around the corner and out of their hair. [i "He gets more unbearable every year, doesn't he?"] Fred huffed.
[i "All that grease is going to his head,"] George answered.
It took Harry a moment before realizing that Ron had joined them and was looking for an answer to his question. [b "Yeah, we're fine. You know how Malfoy is. Always causing trouble for us."]
He released Hermione's hand and patted his pocket to make sure the spying orb was secure. [b "You guys go on ahead. I have to check on something. I'll catch up with you in class, yeah?"]
The orb would have to be tucked away in his trunk until they could safely sneak out that night. Harry wasn't exactly comfortable keeping it hidden in his cloak all day. In the privacy of the boys' dorms, he dropped to his knees and opened his trunk, rifling through the contents.
When his hand brushed against the Marauder's Map, he pulled it free and opened it. [b "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,"] he quickly tapped the parchment.
It didn't take long to locate Umbridge's feet pacing rapidly in Dumbledore's office. Grabbing his cloak, Harry hurried from Gryffindor Tower. A quick run and a whisper of 'Caramel Toffee', and he was standing outside of Dumbledore's office. As quietly as he could while keeping himself hidden under his cloak, he eased the door open and stepped inside.
Umbridge turned abruptly at the sound. [i "What exactly was that?"] her lips pursed as she looked to Albus for an explanation.
[i "It's an old castle, Professor. Drafts and such,"] he remained as calm as ever, passively waving his hand to shut the door again. [i "Please continue."]
[i "I don't think you're taking this situation as seriously as you need to, Professor Dumbledore. Your staff are directly disrespecting Ministry demands. If you do not get them under control, I will be forced to take matters into my own hands,"] Dolores stood as tall as her short stature would allow.
Brown eyes weren't on Harry or Malfoy for the moment but on the corner Malfoy had come around. For the briefest she had seen a glimpse of the two goons that usually flanked the blonde before them. [b "Clever to pick a fight now. You're clearly wanting one and then going to tell Professor Umbridge how we just attacked you."] The girl said.
Her hand did grip Harry's as a warning to keep calm. The last he needed was another detention. [b "And last I checked, Draco we were allowed to speak with whoever we like. Fred and George were just telling us their new plans for Quidditch this term. And then you have to get snarky, thinking everything is suspicious. It seems being a Prefect has gotten to your already swelled head."]
Draco flushed at the girl's words. She was right but curse the little mudblood for pointing it out. [i "You'll pay for that Granger. And Professor Umbridge will be hearing of this."] He said as he looked at the four of them. He was about to say something more but decided against it as Ron came to join them, glaring at Malfoy as well.
[i "You guys okay?"]
Harry took the orb from the twins, and examined it in his hands. It looked like a simple glass ball that Trelawney would use in her Divination classes. [b "We can probably hide it in her office and she wouldn't notice it. She has enough trinkets on her desk, I'm sure there'll be more we can stick it behind,"] he rolled it in his hands.
He was running through a list of potential spies for them when the platinum slimeball cleared his throat behind them. [i "What do we have here? Two Weasleys, a Mudblood, and the pathetic orphan himself. Is this the Gryffindor's loser club?"] he taunted.
Harry slid the orb into his robes pocket and rose to his feet. [b "No, it's actually three of the seven Quidditch players who've beat Slytherin for the past five years, and Hogwarts' smartest student. Feeling a little inferior there, ferret?"]
[i "Just keeping an eye out for Professor Umbridge, Potter. Little suspicious to find you in the company of the school's resident troublemakers. Especially after your detention. I'm wondering if I should be taking notes to report back with. Maybe another few detentions will do you some good,"] Draco wasn't phased, so Harry was sure that Crabbe and Goyle must be waiting nearby to jump in for a fight.
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