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The Flight of the Hufflepuffs

Who: Michael Corner, Ernie Macmillan, Anthony Goldstein, Megan Jones, Hannah Abbott and Open (Padma, Luna, DA?) NPC's Owen Cauldwell and Eleanor Branstone.
What: The DA ferries away yet another set of targeted students.
When: Just after Dinnertime; December 15th, 1997.
Where: Room of Requirement.
Status: Complete.

The signal was made shortly after lunchtime, and Michael noticed during one of his brief trips to the 'bathroom'. The old and entirely forgettable cauldron was turned over onto its top on its pedestal, below it the name of the person it was dedicated to- "Grimfoss the Brewer." Michael actually bothered to look up the name- he invented a new form of heat-controlling cauldron back in the 16th century, and was Head Boy. Other than that, he seemed unremarkable. But even in death, his small and forgotten monument was doing good again.

Michael only lingered as long as he had to, placing the time and location of the meet for the mystery party to recover, as the rules went.

Michael met them in an abandoned Transfigurations classroom, surprised to see Eleanor Branstone and Owen Cauldwell there- two Hufflepuffs. They had apparently been seeing quite alot of each other and had decided to escape rather than face the Continuing Committee. After a tense meeting where Owen and Eleanor neither entirely trusted Michael, having preferred a Hufflepuff, Michael managed to assuage their concerns with the point that 'Houses are meaningless now' and that the DA was a multi-House organization.

As per the rules, Michael made sure both wished for evacuation. If either backed out, they were obliviated of their meeting. They didn't- and so Michael did as he was supposed to. He transfigured them both in nice, fat little mice and placed them in his pocket. Then he flipped a coin to summon his companions, took up their wands and stashed them in a special compartment he had transfigured into his school robes.

Now, Michael found himself staring at the walls of the Room of Requirement and the strange mirror that Hannah and Anthony had shown them only a few weeks ago. And he waited, nervously checking his watch. Forty five minutes to curfew.


Finally, Anthony opened the door to the Room of Requirement. He seemed relieved when his eyes fell on Michael. "Do we have any riders?" he asked, crossing the room.

Michael met Anthony halfway in the room and nodded, immediately opening up his bag to reveal two little yellow mice. "Eleanor Branstone and Owen Cauldwell. I've already sent the Snitch to Dean Thomas and his friends. They'll pick them both up in the forest and ferry them to the nearest town. The Creeveys have offered up their place for temporary. From there, they want to go to Eleanor's Great Aunt in Brussels." Michael grimly set his mouth for a moment before shutting his pocket and then oddly grinning, "I just hope nature doesn't take over. I mean- they are mice. Female and male. That'd be a nasty shock."
"Excellent," Anthony replied. "I've heard some talk about Tabitha as well, but nothing concrete as of yet. I think we'll have a pretty continously stream throughout the course of the week. However, I have a feeling many will wait it out until the hols and then chose not to return."

He looked at his mate and smiled. "We can seperate them if it makes you feel better."
Michael looked down at his slightly shorter friend, smiled, and clapped his arm around him. "I'm glad you're here." He admitted. And then it was back to business, "Tabitha, alright. I'll watch her." He nodded, "Mandy looks like she's considering it. I don't know about Brown. I can't say I run with many Gryffindors since Hermione left."

Michael grinned, issuing Anthony over to the wall so he could lean against it. "Ah Merlin, my back's killing me." He grunted, arching and putting his hand against his spine in a feeble effort to fix it. At Anthony's last words, Michael nodded and once again opened his bag. He gently lifted one out and placed what looked like a her into Anthony's hands. "They've requested at least one Hufflepuff present. I think my public neutrality has Owen especially a bit spooked. He was sure I was there as a loyalty sting." Michael smirked. "Hopefully a couple more show. We need two a team, in case there is a trap."

Michael crossed arms over his chest, "Is Hannah alright? Do you know? Detention with Carrow. The old Michael would be mounting a raiding party about now."
"Brown will stay as long as the Patils stay. We won't know about them until they move down the list. I'm assuming they call me by mid-week. And when they do, I'm not sure what I'll say. Today when Carrow was mouthing off to Hannah..." Anthony's hand clenched around his wand, but he refused to continue.

Instead he opened up his free hand to accept the mouse, before tucking it into his own robe pockets. "So we're expecting Ernie then tonight? Who else? You're correct. We're going to need at least four."

Anthony reached out and touched Michael's shoulder. "I know what the old Michael would do and I appreciate that you're holding back. It hasn't been easy. But the things you're doing now, while subtle - are very smart. I saw what you did with Ernie today. And that simple gesture saved your friend from danger. Even if you don't feel like you're doing enough, Michael, you are helping."
"You're probably right." Michael said with an eyebrow raise and nod, "They'll crawl over broken glass for each other." He shrugged, "You may not be called. You're a model student and a model Halfblood, working his way towards absolute loyalty. They aren't going after all Halfbloods, Anthony. They would have to expunge much of Slytherin too. Halfbloodedness is only seemingly being ultimately a punishment if you have strong Muggle ties in your family- sided with Muggles and such. Then you may have to worry. And even then- look at the Weasleys. They seem fine."

Michael nodded and sighed, gripping his shoulder in sympathy, "She's stronger than she looks, Anthony. Trust in that. There's going to be a day we get to set that little hellion free and imagine what she'll do?"

"Hopefully Ernie. I'd quite like Megan this time as well. Or perhaps Luna or Padma. Hannah went last time with Dennis." He nodded. "But it was a general call. We'll take anyone, ay?"

Michael smiled proudly as his friend touched his shoulder. They had come so far, and done so much in the past month, since that silly feud. It was almost like it never happened. It simply became a priority again. "It hasn't, but I know my time will come." He smirked a bit then.

Then then his eyes dropped, "I knew he was going to do it too. He hinted at it before class. Merlin it was heard to do though." He sighed.
Three passes of the door and Ernie was inside the Room of Requirement.

"Who is it tonight?" he asked as he entered and spotted Michael and Anthony holding a pair of white mice.

"What do you need me to do to help - or are you going to just hex me again to keep me out of the way?" he asked sarcastically, directing the words at Michael. He understood why his friend had done what he'd done in DADA class, but that didn't mean Ernie intended on letting him forget it anytime soon.
"It's Owen and Elenor, from your house," Anthony replied to Ernie. "However, I don't think the sarcasm is necessary, Ernie. What Michael did today, he did to help you. End of story." He glanced down at his watch, curious to see who the next person would be.
Michael's eyes dropped and a deeply cut look crossed him, as did a look of conflict. Lately, Ernie was so much more capable of hurting him, and it annoyed Michael to no end. "Its alright Anthony... but thanks for sticking up for me. I probably deserved that." Michael set his lips in a determined way, not wishing to show that Ernie's anger bothered him. "And Anthony's right too. I did it because you were an idiot."

He looked away and sighed, stuffing his hands into his pockets, "Anyway yes. Cauldwell and Branstone. They requested a Hufflepuff be present. At least one." Michael sidelong glanced at the pair then and studied them. "We'll be heading into the mirror and then apparating. Thomas and Griphook will ferry them away from there." Michael held up vials of potion then, "Polyjuice for our return trip."
Ernie was about to lift his head high with Michael's stating that he was right... until he called him an idiot. He grimaced and grit his teeth to keep himself form saying anything he - and Michael - would most definitely regret.

"Well, it's good to know I'm useful in being the token Badger, at least," he muttered under his breath. He didn't know why or how, but Michael had somehow learned the fine art of getting right in under Ernie's skin, which was seriously irritating at times like these. Or perhaps it was just the fact that he was still sore about being hexed by his own friend that made every comment sound like an insult of some sort.

"Whose hair did you get this time? I don't know about you, but I can't do Filch if my life depended upon it."
Michael sighed and rolled his eyes, momentarily oblivious of the contents in his bag when he shrugged widely and then dropped his arms down upon it. "Oh Lord, don't be that way, please?" Michael looked away and rubbed his eyes. "Alright... alright. Whats done is done. When you end up dead by Carrow's hand, I promise to mourn your putrefied remains knowing you went how you wanted. Without my help."

Or a lick of sense... Michael thought, brushing his hair from his exhausted face. I took a goddamn stinging hex for you too... ya jerk. Michale dutifully handed out the polyjuice and then held up hairs. "Its the Slytherin sampler tonight. Bit of Crabbe. Bit of Goyle. I think there's a Vaisey and a Nott in there too."
Ernie looked down at the hairs in Michael's hand, then back up at his face. He was unable to hide the betrayal he felt at being put in such a position. With determination, he stuck his hand out.

"Give me Vaisey's," he demanded. "I know him best of any of us, his habits and all."
Michael's eyes narrowed, sensing Ernie's completely obvious sense of betrayal. "Oh bloody hell, what is it now?" He asked, dropping the hand holding the hairs. Michael's look showed that he was growing irritated, but trying so hard to control it. "Is there any way I can please you today?" Michael piped up.

He sighed, scoffed and then searched the hairs for the medium length brown one. "There. Vaisey." Michael stated before he gave Ernie a jazz-handed motion and a look that dripped with sarcastic sensationalism. It even had the wide eyes and mouth. "Happy?"
Ernie took the hair from Michael's fingers... and promply threw it over his shoulder.

"There," he said pompously. "Now I'm happy. And I will thank you not to use my friend's identity like that ever again! I know you don't like him, but if we get caught and he gets into trouble, then it's our fault - and I'm not going to let that happen."

He shook his head. "I can't believe you would make me choose between him and the DA."
Michael watched in utter shock at Ernie's actions, first from his hand and then as the hair comparatively serenely drifted to the ground where Michael largely lost sight of it. First, Michael swallowed, like he was trying to swallow a lump of coal. Failing that, he glanced up at Ernie with anger. Not just any anger- old Michael anger.

Dropping his bag, Michael first filtered his fingers through his hair, grabbed the back of it and gently pulled. It caused him to wince with gritted teeth and then with a sudden, lightning quick fury, Michael was slamming his fist into the wall next to him. There was a soft crunch and Michael pulled his hand away to coddle it. "I didn't fucking mean for you to have to choose. My distrust of your little pal had nothing to do with it. I had an opportunity to get hairs. I took it. I pawed through dirty robes for those. I had to stare at Crabbe's three weeks worn skivs to get that. A bloke that apparently does not believe in toilet paper, I might add."

Michael shook out his hand and grimaced. He was under control again, and kissed his bleeding knuckles. He couldn't look at Ernie, or speak further. Anything he did or said made Ernie angry. He sniffed, squinted his eyes and then released a breath.
There had been very rare occasions where Ernie had seen Michael angry, most of them involving Nott in some way. However, as Michael's fist hit the wall, Ernie knew that it was him that Michael wanted to hit. For the first time ever, he was actually afraid of his friend.

The best thing for him to do was go before any of them got hurt, or did something they would further regret.

"I'll go get Hannah to come and help you," he finally said before turning on his heel to rush out of the room, needing to get out of there as quickly as he could lest he suffocate in the tension of the room.
"Hannah was with Carrow this afternoon!" Michael cried out after Ernie. Michael moved to chase after Ernie but stopped after a few steps. He rolled his eyes, and with it his head. "Oh sodding Christ..." He gulped, gripped his head and curlling down into a ball.

The truth was, he was more scared of himself than Ernie was. He had tried so hard to disinherit himself from his anger over the past month. And just like that, Ernie could bring it back. "God help me..." Michael whispered, eyes sheening with liquid in frustration before he blinked it away.
Anthony was only partially listening to the exchange between Michael and Ernie as he sorted through various supplies needed for the journey. "I managed to get a few girls as well," he said, his words mostly ignored. "I picked up Pansy's during a set of rounds and Daphne's during class." Anthony lifted up a long red hair. "I can save them for the girls, but if we're pressed one of us can use them. In fact, it might be easier. Changing into Crabbe and Goyle in our current clothes might prove difficult."

It was then that Michael punched his hand into a wall and Anthony's head shot up to see what was really going on. "Merlin, Michael. What-" But before he really had a chance to ask, Ernie turned to escape - mumbling something about getting Hannah.

"No, no Hannah tonight!" Anthony countered with aggravation, but Ernie was already gone. Shaking his head, he dug into the pockets of his robe to pull out a clean hankerchief and handed it to Michael.
Michael took the handkerchief after a moment of coddling around his head in shame. "Thanks mate," he mumbled, looking up at Anthony. He then tied it around his bleeding and swollen knuckles, wincing as he did. "Merlin, I can't do anything right these days can I?" Michael half-deprecated, half-joked. He tried so hard to smile but its forced nature was probably obvious.

"I'm sorry Anthony," Michael said as he stood up and fixed his bangs behind his ear. "Shouldn't have had to see that. We should probably get going. We made the call awhile ago, and we're down to the quick for time. We have to drop them off and then hike back."

Michael pulled at his lip, "I guess we break the rules this one time. We can't wait any longer. And they'll just have to be disappointed that we didn't have a Hufflepuff."
"Was this about what happened today in Defense class? Ernie's not still sore, is he?" Anthony searched through the last of the supplies, just to double check.

He glanced at his watch again. "You're right. It's late. We either do this now or we'll be forced to postpone."
"Yeah," Michael sighed, peering back over his shoulder. "He's Ernie. He'll never change." He mumbled softly, accepting that fact. It still hurt though, for Ernie to do that. More than Michael wanted to admit, in fact.

"We can't postpone. Their hearings are supposedly tomorrow." Michael slid his arm up to pat Anthony mid-back. "You and I can take them. I mean together, we're three, maybe four others ourselves." Michael grinned, boasting at their skill.
Anthony glanced back at the entrance to the Room of Requirement. He hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "Let's go," he agreed, fastening his heavy winter robes and pulling on a pair of gloves. He checked his pockets again, first for his mouse student and next for other necessary items. "I suppose we can go with Crabbe and Goyle - it will be more believable if we get caught and stumble over words. It should be easy enough to transfigure our outfits for size..." he glanced up at Michael. "And colour."

Once he was confident of their readiness, Anthony approached the mirror and inserted just his wand. After speaking a cushioning charm that he hoped would break their fall, he stepped through.