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Hermione was still holding and feeding her own Niffler as she watched Harry. The girl was hoping that he would be careful and not fall from the tree. The last thing he was needing was a trip to the hospital wing because of a broken arm or leg. Though she had to admit the idea of using the Galleon to distract the pudgy little creature was brilliant.
And for a moment as she watched her best friend, Hermione could almost imagine him with a baby. Not a magical creature, but an actual baby. As she realized where her thoughts had gone, the girl's cheeks grew red and she looked down to the Niffler in her own arms who again was reaching for her necklace.
[i "Seems Potter and Granger were the only ones who were listening to my instructions. When he's done eating, bring him back down and return him to the crate. Gryffindores won this challenge and have each earned ten points. Parkinson and Malfoy when you get your Nifflers hand them over to Potter and Granger."] Grubby-Plank was saying.
Harry made the mistake of taking his eyes off his Niffler for more than a second to laugh at Malfoy's misfortune. [b "Bloody hell,"] he cursed as the chubby creature dropped on his foot and scurried away.
[i "Don't lose my Niffler, Potter!"] the professor warned, but a smirk tugged at her lips.
Harry took off after the little thing, impressed by how quickly it moved for being so pudgy. [b "It's dinner time, you little bugger,"] he tried coaxing it from the branch it was perched on in an attempt to snatch a brooch Grubbly-Plank had hidden.
[i "Wag your glasses again, Harry, it seemed to like that!"] Ron joked, making the other Gryffindors cackle.
Harry braced his feet and began to climb, holding the bottle in his teeth. [b "You think you're crafty, don't you"] he spoke to the Niffler, his words muffled around the rubber top of the bottle.
The Niffler stopped and looked to him, his little eyes blinking rapidly. It froze, as though being completely still would make Harry not see him. The Potter boy threw a leg over the branch and sat down, holding the bottle in one hand and pulling a Galleon from his pocket. [b "You like shiny things, do you? Is this shiny enough?"] he said, holding the coin out.
The Niffler grew curious and started inching closer. As his little hand gripped the coin, Harry pulled him onto his lap and held him still, letting him play with the coin as he practically shoved the bottle in the creature's mouth.
Hermione looked to Harry as he said that. A faint smile did come to her lips. [b "I think I would prefer Buckbeak again, honestly."] The girl whispered as they slowly made their way to the crate that was before the class. The only thing that truly made her feel better about it was Malfoy and Parkinson looked even more ridgid than she and Harry did.
Again the girl listened silently to their professor. And before any of the four knew it, the lid had been ripped from the crate and the fat little creatures were poking their heads out. Almost immediately Malfoy's had gone for his hair and Harry's his glasses. The one Pansy was supposed to try and feed didn't want anything to do with her. It was an interesting sight and Professor Grubby-Plank was doing nothing to help them. The woman was watching them all struggle with the baby Nifflers.
Slowly the girl moved to the last Niffler who was still deciding what it wanted to do. [b "You're a cute little one. I'm not going to hurt you. Just I want to hold you and to feed you. You can even play with my necklace if you like."] She whispered softly, pulling her necklace out and off as she handed it over. The Niffler seemed distracted with it and as it was, Hermione picked it up and slowly moved the bottle under it's snout.
And when it went for the bottle, the girl took her necklace back and moved over to stand beside Harry, smirking as Malfoy was still having his hair pulled. [b "Have to admit he did leave himself open to it."] She whispered so that only him and Ron could hear her.
Harry wasn't usually one to volunteer, but it wasn't as though the professor was going to give them much choice. He gave a small press of his hand against Hermione's lower back to urge her forward with him. [b "Can't be worse than a hippogriff,"] he joked to her.
The two Slytherins were just as slow moving. Grubbly-Plank gestured for them to line up on one side of the wooden crate she had set up. [i "They're quick, so I'd grab them quickly. There's already four bottles prepared there for you. Just snatch them up and hold them tightly so they don't slip out. They'll go for the bottle once you wave it under their snout. The rest of you watch closely. Nifflers are easily distracted, and I've taken the liberty of hiding a few items around that will grab their attention, and make them harder to keep still."]
[b "Is now a bad time to say I'm a terrible babysitter?"] Harry looked to Hermione with a grin.
The professor ripped the lid from the box, and four plump creatures poked their heads out. Malfoy grimaced as he and Pansy tried to wrangle theirs, while Harry's Niffler immediately lunged for his glasses, having mistaken the flare of the sun in his lenses for a shiny bit of silver.
[b "Hey!"] Harry wrestled it back. [b "Hold still,"] he tried wiggling the bottle in front of its face, but the creature was still flailing.
Malfoy began crying out in pain, grabbing the class' attention. His Niffler had climbed on to his head and was pulling firmly at the bleach blonde locks. [i "That's not gold, you stupid beast!"]
[i "Must be all the oil making it shiny, Malfoy,"] Ron taunted.
The girl couldn't help the faint smile that tugged on her lips as Malfoy was scolded. She had been lucky to finish right before their substitute professor had walked up fully. And even she had to try not to snort at Harry's question. [b "At this rate, nothing. I'd gladly do it again."] She whispered back and listened to their professor as their lesson began.
When Neville answered, Hermione nodded and gave their housemate a bright smile. She could have answered but had not felt like it. The girl was still fuming over Malfoy and still thinking about her new idea. But even in her thoughts, the bushy haired girl was listening enough and paying attention.
As they were asked to volunteer the girl looked away from the expectant look. She didn't want to be the one chosen. And as the look continued over the class it appeared no one else wanted to brave it either.
[i "Alright then. Since no one can volunteer I will be picking four of you. You had your chance."] Professor Grubby-Plank said. And with those words the woman let her eyes wander the class again. [i "How about Malfoy, Potter, Parkinson, and Granger?"]
[i "Malfoy, quiet down and listen up!"] Professor Grubbly-Plank came striding over, pulling on thick leather gloves.
The Slytherin boy fell silent, though his jaw ticked with his irritation. [b "How much can I pay you to punch him in the face again?"] Harry leaned close to Hermione to whisper in her ear.
While their substitute wasn't as enthusiastic as Hagrid had been, she more than made up for it with engaging the class to participate. [i "Come on, someone has to know this! Tiny little fat creature with a penchant for shiny things! Anyone?"]
Neville raised his hand. [i "A Niffler, ma'am?"]
[i "Correct!"] Professor Grubbly-Plank clapped her hands together. [i "Nifflers! Sneaky little beasts who can pick your pockets faster than you can blink. A batch was delivered a few days ago, and I've been taking care of the little buggers after they lost their mum. I'll need a few volunteers to demonstrate how to keep hold of them during feeding times."]
She looked towards the Gryffindors in hopes that they would be more willing to volunteer. [i "Come on now, don't be shy. Two Slytherins and two Gryffindors. We'll keep things even and fair. Or, as fair as your two houses can get against each other."]
Hermione actually agreed with Harry and didn't do much to stop him saying his words to Malfoy. The greasy haired blonde didn't much care for anything and enjoyed making people suffer. But then she remembered his words and how he said he would make Harry pay back in their first year all because he turned down a friendship. And the prat had certainly kept his word to make life in school as miserable as he could.
The girl's dark eyes went to Malfoy as she had not forgiven him for what he had done to Hagrid and to Buckbeak. [b "You're pathetic and a whiner. Can't even handle a small sratch. Would you howl bloody murder if my cat scratched you? Would you have him put to death too?"] She hissed, having to fight the urge to pull her wand out on the boy.
All her words were said as Ron was trying to get Harry to calm down and to back off. She could see their new professor but she had not been able to bite her tongue.
Malfoy's face was even redder if at all possible. And his glare was like ice. [i "I'll make you and Potter both pay for your words, you filthy little mudblood."] He hissed at her. He had gotten closer to the three and his hand was on his wand.
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.
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