43 Chapter 43: The Second Attack

As Hermione concluded her visit, another student initiated his audience with Professor Forester in his office. The student in question was Colin Creevey, a first-year Gryffindor. A fervent admirer of Harry, Colin was usually seen brandishing his camera, capturing as many images of Harry as possible, much to the latter's dismay.

"Professor, would you mind if I took a photograph with you?" Colin inquired, his anticipation glowing in his cheeks. "When I return home for the Christmas holidays, I wish to share it with my parents. They are eager to learn more about Hogwarts. My younger brother Dennis has been asking for more pictures of the professors. To satiate their curiosity, I've been photographing the castle, my teachers, and fellow students. My intention is to deliver them a visual tour of Hogwarts with these photos," spoke Colin while clutching his camera.

Upon hearing Colin's earnest request, Sherlock momentarily halted his work, admiration warming his gaze. His impression of the young boy, amplified by this sincerity, left him no choice but to agree. "Why, certainly," he gave his affirmative with a nod.

Visibly elated, Colin positioned himself beside the seated Sherlock, the top of his head scarcely reaching the professor's shoulder. Pointing the camera towards them, his smile could hardly be contained as he pressed the shutter. "Thank you, Professor. I now have captured moments with most of my teachers; only Professor Snape remains. I aspire to approach him tomorrow; hopefully, he will be amenable."

Sherlock couldn't help but sense Colin's optimistic expectations against reality; he doubted Snape's propensity to accommodate such a request. "Well, may fortune favor you tomorrow."

"Thank you~! Farewell, Professor."

Once Colin exited, Hermione resurfaced in Sherlock's office, her demeanor uncertain.

Spotting Hermione without the book in hand, Sherlock arched an eyebrow, curiosity piqued. "Miss Granger, is there something else you need?"

Hermione attempted a facade of nervousness, which wasn't entirely false. She stumbled over her words, "I... I beg your pardon, Professor Forester. The library slip you entrusted me with was in my pocket; I ensured that. However, upon reaching the library, I found it missing. I fear it might have slipped out en route."

"So you lost it?" Sherlock reiterated, his gaze searching her face.

"Yes, Professor. I'm incredibly sorry. I truly have no idea when or how..." Hermione attempted to further explain but was halted by Sherlock's slightly amused expression. "Don't fret, Miss Granger. It was but a library slip. I scarcely believe anyone who stumbles upon it will have nefarious intentions, correct?"

Hermione could feel a chill of anxiety, amplified by the sharp winter cold. She implicitly felt that Sherlock might be intuiting something, yet chose to stick with her narrative. "Certainly not, Professor."

Preferring to dispense with further probing, Sherlock rapidly penned a replacement library slip, presenting it to Hermione. "You shall properly maintain this one, won't you?"

"I pledge, Professor, the book will be in your hands not more than ten minutes from now."

"Very well. Proceed."

At Sherlock's dismissal, Hermione dashed from the office, the crisp parchment of the new library slip clutched in her hand. Outside, awaiting her at the intersection of the corridor and staircase, were Harry and Ron. "What happened? Did Professor Forester see through our plan?" Hermione's face tightened. "He didn't express it outright, yet I believe he suspects something about the library slip."

"Did he ask you about it?" Ron was intrigued.

"No, he simply wrote me a new note and instructed me to fetch the book. Wait here, I'll return with the book for the professor and join you afterward."

True to her words, Hermione hastened to the library, successfully borrowed the book, returned it to Sherlock's office, and reconvened with Harry and Ron. She appeared rather disquieted though, and Harry attempted comfort. "We got what we wanted, we should be happy."

Hermione, however, shook her head, guilt washing over her. "Professor Forester has been nothing but generous as our teacher, and here we are, undermining his trust."

Ron tried to locate a justification. "It's all for the greater good of Hogwarts." (E/N.: mf sounding like grindelwald rn)

"We owe Professor Forester an apology!" Hermione insisted firmly. "Regardless of whether Malfoy is guilty or not, we must apologize to Professor Forester."

"I agree," Harry nodded.

Sighing heavily, Ron reluctantly agreed, "Fine then, I'll go along with you, but first we have to actually brew the damn potion."

Hermione darted a reproachful look at Harry. "You suspected Professor Forester when he placed the protective charm on Justin. Just outside his office, I overheard him wishing Colin luck for tomorrow. Let's see if anything untoward befalls Colin then."

Harry scratched his head, an awkward chuckle escaping him; his initial doubts regarding Professor Forester certainly felt unreasonable now. Fumbling for a diversion, he queried, "When shall we borrow the book from the library, then?"

"Tomorrow afternoon. We can't present two library slips from the professor to Madam Pince within such a short span; that might raise suspicions," Hermione answered.

In the blink of an eye, the day had passed. Following lunch the next day, the trio regrouped at the entrance of the Great Hall. "Let's borrow the book first and then attend our class," Hermione suggested.

They advanced towards the library. Harry presented the library slip to Madam Pince, and they finally procured 'Moste Potente Potions'. The interaction proceeded smoothly.

Securing a home base for their operation in the abandoned girl's bathroom on the first floor, they searched the book for the brewing instructions for Polyjuice Potion.

Unfortunately, they were short of some crucial ingredients and didn't have the slightest clue where to locate them. Ron's face fell, mirroring Hermione's grim expression. "We can't abandon the mission now. We've gotten so far already. Snape must possess these materials!" She declared, a determined gleam in her eyes.

Harry's gaze widened, quickly discerning Hermione's insinuation. "Snape is no Professor Forester!"

"Are we abandoning the cause then?" Hermione retorted, a clear challenge in her voice.

Harry and Ron exchanged a glance. Resolute, they came to a unanimous decision. "We can't give up now! We have Potions as the last class today; we must arrange everything beforehand!"

Emerging from the bathroom with their plan set, they noticed a swarm of noise from the corridor. Drawn by the commotion, they moved closer, only to be met with a pallid sight, another attack! This time, the unfortunate victim was none other than Colin Creevey.

A wave of shock and disbelief washed over the trio, rendering them statuesque in the pandemonium.

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