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Harry opened his mouth to continue pleading their case, but McGonnagal gave him her trademark over-the-glasses stare and he knew best to keep his mouth firmly shut. [b "Come on,"] he murmured to Hermione, taking her hand to help her stand.
He could tell that their head of house was furious beyond belief, but he wasn't altogether too sure what she and Dumbledore could do about Umbridge, given that she was a ranking government official.
[b "That didn't go...terribly?"] he tried his best to make Hermione feel better. [b "At least we got out in one piece, and with no detentions. Ron will be proud."]
Harry gave her arm a tug to stop their stride. [b "I know I said that I'm fully aware you can take care of yourself,"] he looked like a begging puppy. [b "But please let me come with you on your rounds. I'll hide under the cloak and keep quiet, but I physically cannot stomach the idea of you walking the castle late at night without me there to at least jump in if a fight breaks out again."]
He risked a step forward so they're standing face to face. [b "Please, Hermione, for my own peace of mind? I doubt they're going to let you switch patrol partners, given that Umbridge wants us kept under watch at all times. I'll stay out of the way unless you absolutely need me."]
The girl finished telling what had happened and could see that the head of Gryffindor House was more than livid. In fact, the woman looked angrier than the Horntail had when guarding the egg last year and Fluffy in their first year. From the look upon McGongall's face, Hermione felt like the woman would be spitting fire.
She was minimally shaking in her seat when the question had been shot her way. She wasn't quite sure how to answer and was thankful for Harry's jumping in. [b "It's true...she doesn't trust us to adhere to the Ministry and is taking it into her own hands to make sure we will be obedient.."] Her words were quiet as she spoke them and the girl looked down to her hands which were folded in her lap.
A soft rustling was heard and then a small clank. It was when brown eyes came up again did she see the tbin tin upon the desk in front of them. Very slowly did the girl reach for a biscuit as had been told and nibble on it. [b "But what can we do..?"] She asked quietly.
[i "I am taking this to Professor Dumbledore. And I will let you do as you see fit..just try and keep out of Dolores' hands."] The woman said, to which Hermione's jaw nearly dropped. Her eyes quickly went to Harry as if asking him what they should do with that.
[i "Now off with the both of you."] And she and Harry were dismissed. Her head was more than reeling.
From Harry's point of view, McGonnagal looked ready to spit fire. He wasn't surprised by the rage building in his chest at hearing how Hermione came to be attacked, but the professor looked angrier than a Horntail protecting its egg.
[i "You are telling me, Miss Granger, that a Ministry official has granted permission to underage students to use corporal and magical force at their discretion, should they deem a fellow student 'disobedient?"] Minerva looked at her with a clenched jaw.
[b "She's telling the truth, Professor,"] Harry jumped in. [b "We overheard her giving the instructions to Malfoy and his friends. She has an entire crew of them acting as her watch dogs to report back to her with any findings of an uprising."]
He just conveniently left out the fact that they'd overheard it while sneaking around after curfew in an invisibility cloak that only Dumbledore knew about.
She stared at them both, breathing hard through her nostrils. After a moment, she pushed a tin box towards them. [i "Have a biscuit, you two."]
Confused, Harry plucked one from the tin and took a small bite. [b "Are we in trouble?"]
Minerva removed her glasses to clean a smudge. [i "On the contrary, Potter. I may just have to award Gryffindor points for gathering this information."]
Her cheeks flushed at Harry's words and a small smile came to her lips. Sometimes when things like whaat had just happened occurred, the girl forgot she wasn't that scared little girl. She forgot that she could take care of herself. It was her best friend's words that reminded her of that fact.
The girl was about to speak, but was beaten to it. Only minimally did she flinch from their professor's retort. It was true after all. She was every bit the trouble maker the boys were. More clever and crafty, granted but she still ended up in this office on multiple occasions. Hermione kept silent and looked down when Harry blurted out what Umbridge had allowed and how she had been on the floor when he and Ron had gotten to her.
[b "I was coming back from Care of Magical Creatures on my own...Ron had gotten under my skin and I was heading to the library which is where I calm down...it was when I got to the library did Malfoy decide to be all tough and say without Ron and Harry there he could teach me the lesson he wanted.... I wasn't going to cry or cringe...and so I said he couldn't teach his way out of one of our school bags...It was then that he decided to curse me before I could even get to my wand to defend myself, professor."] The girl whispered, timidly.
Harry gave a quiet laugh. [b "Are you joking? You could out-duel him any day of the week. Not to mention I've seen Prefect Granger's impressive right-hook that's already shut him up once,"] he bumped his shoulder into hers.
His nose stopped bleeding once they sat in McGonnagal's office, but his eye was beginning to ache. The adrenaline was coming down quickly. A headache was already starting, and he fought back a wince when their professor began the scolding.
[b "Professor, you know Hermione. She's never once been a trouble student in the five years we've been here,"] Harry defended. [b "The fact that Malfoy is involved should be everything you need to know!"]
[i "Potter, while I admire your fiery stubborn streak, might I remind you that yourself and Miss Granger, along with Mr Weasley, have been in my office more times that I have fingers. Miss Granger is every bit as capable of stirring up trouble as you are, I assure you,"] McGonnagal held up a hand to silence him.
Harry flushed red. [b "When I got there, Hermione was on the ground and Malfoy was standing over her with his wand. Professor Umbridge gave him and his friends the power to cast spells on the rest of the students if they thought we were challenging their authority!"] he blurted out.
McGonnagal's face barely twitched, but her eyes ignited. [i "Miss Granger, I need you to explain, very carefully, what has occurred."]
Honestly, the girl wasn't worried about herself but was Harry. His eye was starting to look angry and the blood seemed to not want to stop. She felt horrible that he had come to her rescue and ended up hurt. [b "I'm fine, really...Harry I am so sorry."] She whispered in only a tone that he would be able to hear. Hermione would more than take the fall for this one. Afterall, she had insulted Malfoy and he had decided to curse her. He had only been protecting her.
Her hand gave his a small squeeze when he had defiantly taken her hand. Her eyes went to their interlaced fingers and a blush coloured her cheeks as students the students the passed began to whisper. Well this would more than bring about rumours the boy didn't need. Already the Ministry was attacking him and now they would love to get ahold of this. She would deal with anything that came her way, but hoped it would not come back at him.
[b "When has Malfoy ever been fair..? Besides...I'm not as talented when it comes to dueling and such.."] The girl whispered just as McGonagall opened the door to the office and led the two teens into her office and pointed to the chairs in front of her desk.
[i "Sit, the both of you. Now I want to know what happened. And why it seems my top Gryffindors seem to be in so much trouble?"] The woman asked, seeming almost tired as she spoke. Her sharp gaze stayed upon them, waiting for one of them to speak up.
Harry only allowed himself to be hauled off of Malfoy at the sound of their professor's voice. His nose was bleeding and a black eye was already forming behind his cracked glasses. [b "Don't think you'll be able to hide behind Umbridge,"] Harry snapped over Ron's shoulder at the blonde headed boy.
[i "Potter, shut up before you make things worse. Now move, I want this dealt with,"] McGonnagal silenced him.
Harry rubbed at his nose with his sleeve to wipe the blood away. [b "Are you alright?"] he asked Hermione as they followed their professor - something becoming a habit for them.
He wasn't concerned with the potential punishment. He also tried convincing himself that he would have reacted the same way if it had been Ron on the ground, but Harry wasn't stupid. He knew that his overreaction had everything to do with the fact that it was Hermione in danger. He'd seen her in pain and immediately thought back to her petrified state in second year, and had instantly jumped into action.
He wasn't going to apologize for it, either.
His hand slipped into hers defiantly as he caught McGonnagal glaring at them from the side of her glasses. [b "I'm sure you could have handled yourself,"] he murmured to Hermione. [b "He wouldn't stand a chance against you in a fair fight."]
The curses had not been light and it hurt. Definitely would have been enough to make her scream or cry out if she had not been so stubborn or proud. But there did come a point where the girl couldn't take it and she did scream. The screams were what had brought the other students to circle them and to watch. Many of them were lost in what to do and so gaped at the scene before them.
Hermione lay on the floor in pain and only after heaven knew how long was in Ron's arms. The boy had done the one thing she had hoped her wouldn't and that was draw Harry's attention. She wanted to move. Wanted to assure both of her friends that she was fine but couldn't. There were still the aftershocks and jolts of Draco Malfoy's curses going through her.
It was when McGonagall's voice was heard did the girl finally regain herself enough and pull away from Ron. She was shaky as she was back on her feet and had moved to pulling Harry away from Malfoy just as their head of house got to the certain.
[b "This was my fault professor... I insulted Malfoy..and Harry was just protecting me.."] The girl said quickly and quietly.
The elderly woman looked at how bad the teens looked. But she was quick to recompose herself. [i "Someone take Mister Malfoy to the hospital wing. Miss Granger, you and Mister Potter will come with me to my office. After I expect the two of you to go and see Madam Pomfrey as well."] McGonagall said sharply as she turned and began towards her office.
Weakly Hermione gave Harry a smile. [b "I'm sorry for getting you into this.."] The girl whispered as she slowly tugged the boy with her after their head of house.
Ron didn't see what the big deal was. He knew both of his friends were attracted to one another, yet they were being stubborn and not saying anything. He wanted to argue this point, but he saw no point. It would only serve to make Harry grumpy. [i "Fine. My lips are sealed."]
Harry sighed in gratitude. [b "Thank you. At least until I figure everything out. But I did mean what I said. Maybe we should think about joining Hermione more often to do things that she likes. The worst that can happen is our grades get better."]
Ron had an exploding snap game waiting for him, but gestured towards the stairs. [i "Let's go find her, then. But you owe me a game of chess tonight."]
They were close to the library when they heard the commotion. A gathering of students had accumulated in a circle, staring intensely at whatever was going on. Harry felt his stomach knot. [b "Move,"] he and Ron pushed their way to the front after catching sight of Malfoy's blonde head.
Ron called his name and drew his attention to Hermione lying in pain, where the redhead had pulled her into his arms. Harry felt white hot rage blind him. Without hesitating, he ran full-tilt at Malfoy while yelling a disarming spell. He collided with the Slytherin boy and began throwing punches. [b "What the hell is wrong with you?"] he yelled between punches, hearing a crack as he broke the boy's nose.
Crabbe and Goyle moved to intervene, but Ron had raised his own wand and immobilized them. Draco tried to return the punches, but Harry was too filled with adrenaline to feel much of the pain.
[i "Enough! That's enough! Move, all of you!"] McGonnagal's voice rang out.
Again she had let Ronald get under her skin and she was kicking herself. She knew that their redheaded friend didn't mean any harm. All he had been doing was expressing his distaste for studying and saying he rather not be in the library or common room with his nose in a book. It wasn't like she didn't know any better. But she just usually wasn't into the type of things the boys were into even if she did try.
A sigh slipped her lips as she held her book closer to her chest and she looked down. Seemed she had done it again with her 'running off'. But she could only take so much and the day had not been a particularly kind one. Especially how it had started off in Professor Snape's and then Professor Umbridge's. Her eyes stung with tears as she lifted one hand to rub at them.
[i "Well, well if it isn't the little mudblood and all on her own. Where are Potter and Weasley? Thought the three of you were connected at the hip. No matter this makes it easier and I can teach you the lesson I was wanting to."] Came the voice of the greasy haired ferret from in front of her as she had yet to look up.
Hermione slipped the book into her bag and tired brown eyes fell on one Draco Malfoy. She wasn't going to cring or be the frail little girl he thought she was. [b "That's rich coming from you, Malfoy. You couldn't even teach your way out of one of our school bags. Your performances in Care of Magical Creatures the past few years prove that."] The girl shot back.
Draco's face reddened as he took out his wand. The boy knew she hadn't done anything YET but since he and others were allowed to curse students theg suspected of folly, what was the harm in doing it to her? He just wouldn't be getting Umbridge. And before Hermione could get her own wand out, Draco Malfoy was cursing her. The girl only refused to scream out because she was NOT going to play into his hand.
Harry tried interjecting, but Hermione was already moving back towards the castle. He looked at Ron with a surly expression. [b "She's always willing to participate in things we like to do. She even played Quidditch with us. It wouldn't kill us to be more supportive of what's important to her,"] he snipped.
Ron fought back an eye roll. [i "I forgot. You want to spend time with her no matter what you're doing. God, you've got it bad."]
Harry stepped forward and slapped the back of his head. [b "Say that any louder, why don't you!"]
The boys began the trek back to the school. [i "Believe me, mate, it's not news to anyone,"] Ron pulled a chocolate bar from his bag.
[b "It would be news to her!"] the Boy-Who-Lived hissed.
At least, he thought it would be. He was pathetic and unable to tell if Hermione was picking up on any of his signals. Harry was sure he hadn't hidden his feelings very well, especially over the last few days. For all he knew, Hermione had been taking it as nothing more than friendly affection.
Inside the castle, they began to wander. [b "I'm just saying that if you could keep this between us, I'd appreciate it. And by appreciate it, I mean I won't levitate you into the lake while you're sleeping."]
When the eyes of their professor had wandered to her, Hermione's cheeks heated up. The girl was willing to have given Harry the credit for getting the Niffler back, but lying to the woman would get them into trouble. So only did she give a small nod but say nothing. But deep down, the girl couldn't help feeling pleased with the complement given and by having gotten their house twenty extra points.
Her eyes went to Harry and the little brown fur ball and she couldn't help a soft laugh. It actually was cute to see that he wanted to stay with Harry. [b "I think it's cute."] The girl said as Grubby-Plank took out the ring with a diamond upon it and flashed it for their little friend to see. And as if by magic, or more like having the attention soan of a small child the Niffler let her necklace fall to the dirt and went for the shiny ring.
A small smile came to her lips and she nodded. She had known what he was trying to ask but wanted to let him. The girl lifted her hair and let him put it back on for her. [b "Thanks...I always have trouble with the clasp and get it caught.."] Hermione said as she stepped away from the boy and played with the pendant upon the chain. She didn't mean to be acting a little shy but she was. [i 'Get it together Granger!'] She mentally scolded herself as she had to look away.
Ron coughed as he was still waiting for the two. [i "We have some free time before dinner and our next class. What do you two want to do with it? And hopefully not studying."] Their red headed friend shot at Hermione. His eyes then were on Harry as if begging him for ANYTHING other than having their noses in books.
Hermione shot Ron a look and then looked away. [b "I'll catch up with the two of you later. Some of us take our classes seriously. And with Umbridge's assignment..well I'm sure you get it."] She said as she turned on her heel to go back to the castle ahead of the boys.
[i "What do s'pose is wrong now? All I said was I didn't want to study."] Ron said as he crossed his arms.
Harry lifted the Niffler to eye level and scowled at it. [b "You're lucky she likes you, otherwise I'd leave you to Fang's mercy, and he can be terrifying,"] he threatened, only to look over and see the lazy dog had already sprawled back out in front of the fireplace.
He let the creature hold on to her necklace until they rejoined the class, most of whom had already dispersed back to the castle. Ron and Neville were the only two Gryffindors remaining. [b "I'll remember this,"] he warned Ron, a smirk tugging at his lips.
Grubbly-Plank looked mildly surprised that he pulled it off. [i "I can only assume that this wasn't all your doing,"] her eyes wandered to Hermione. [i "But Miss Granger used yesterday's lesson to her advantage, so Gryffindor will still get twenty points. Hand him over."]
Harry went to drop the Niffler in her waiting hands, but it clung to him. [b "Oh no you don't,"] he wagged his arm. [b "Off!"]
[i "Aw, he thinks you're his mum,"] Ron laughed.
Grubbly-Plank took a ring from her pocket and waved it in front of the Niffler's eyes. It immediately dropped Hermione's necklace to grasp the much shiner diamond. Harry crouched to pick it up while their professor tucked the chubby creature back in its pen. [i "Off you go,"] she waved them towards the castle.
Harry sort of fiddled with the necklace. [b "I could...I mean,"] he gestured pathetically. [b "Put it back on?"] he offered, moving to step behind her until his arms were circling her to reclasp the necklace.
[b "It just looked like you needed a hand. Or in this case something shiny."] The girl said softly from where she stood. Hermione was still watching to make sure that Harry would not fall and that the little Niffler would be drawn to her necklace. When the little brown ball of fuzz had caught sight of her necklace and Harry was on the ground again the girl let out the breath she had been holding. Was she really becoming "mother hen?" Quickly she shook that thought from her head as soon Harry was holding the Niffler in the same fashion a mother cat did a kitten.
[b "Perhaps we can get Professor Grubby-Plank to help get my necklace back? Or let the Niffler keep it for now and just summon it later tonight?"] The girl found herself suggesting as the little magical creature looked like a defiant child. She couldn't help but to find it keep.
His next words made her give him a look and then she laughed. [b "We could if we want detentions and to lose house points. But come on.. I'm sure you're expected back with a Niffler."] And with her words, Hermione gave Harry a gentle back towards the group of students that were still heerded like cattle.
He felt the necklace press into his palm and he closed his fingers over it. [b "You're a godsend,"] he sighed in relief, lifting the necklace so the Niffler could see it.
On cue, it dropped the tin bobble he'd been fawning over. Beady little eyes focused on the necklace. [b "That's right. Come on now. Back to your brothers and sisters,"] he slowly backed away, forcing it out of the corner.
It hurried after Harry and locked it's paws on the chain. Harry shot his hand out and caught it around the scruff, lifting it like a mother cat would a kitten. [b "It's a good thing Newt Scamander likes you, because you're not on my good graces,"] Harry huffed, dropping back down to the floor.
[b "Give it back,"] he ordered, shaking the creature, who clutched Hermione's necklace. [b "Give it back to the lady!"]
The Niffler clutched it closer to his chest, and if it were a human, it appeared to be sticking its tongue out in defiance. [b "Maybe we should leave it for Fang to have a new toy,"] Harry threatened playfully.
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