Think, he told himself, his face in his hands, while all around him quills scratched out never-ending answers and the sand trickled through the hour-glass at the front . . .
Hermione led the way down the stairs into the Entrance Hall. The din of loud voices and the clatter of cutlery on plates echoed from out of the double doors to the Great Hall - it seemed incredible to Harry that twenty feet away were people who were enjoying dinner, celebrating the end of exams, not a care in the world . . .
And Hermione began to cry weakly into the back of Millicent Bulstrode's robes. Millicent stopped trying to squash her against the wall immediately and dodged out of her way looking disgusted.
'All right, dear, let's make it just you and me . . . and we'll take Potter, loo, shall we? Get up, now.'
'That's right!' said Umbridge, in an even higher voice, 'so be very careful! By the laws laid down by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, any attack by half-breeds such as yourselves on a human - '
'He's not there, Hermione!'
'Well . . . no!' sobbed Hermione. 'We've tried the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley and the Three Broomsticks and even the Hog's Head - '
The Department of Mysteries?' said Luna, looking mildly surprised. 'But how are you going to get there?'
I'm trying to say - Voldemort knows you, Harry! He took Ginny down into the Chamber of Secrets to lure you there, it's the kind of thing he does, he knows you're the - the sort of person who'd go to Sirius's aid! What if he's just trying to get you into the Department of Myst - ?'
Very slowly, his arms trembling, the man on the ground raised his shoulders a few inches and lifted his head. His face was bloodstained and gaunt, twisted in pain yet rigid with defiance . . .
'Of course,' said Umbridge, though she sounded a little apprehensive now. 'Of course . . . very well, then . . . you two stay ahead of me.'
He was running again, pushing students out of the way, oblivious to their angry protests. He sprinted, back down two floors and was at the top of the marble staircase when he saw them hurrying towards him.
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'You can't come down here!' Ginny was calling to the crowd. 'No, sorry, you're going to have to go round by the swivelling staircase, someone's let off Garrotting Gas just along here - '
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It was nearly four in the morning before the common room cleared. Harry felt wide awake; the image of Hagrid sprinting away into the dark was haunting him; he was so angry with Umbridge he could not think of a punishment bad enough for her, though Ron's suggestion of having her fed to a box of starving Blast-Ended Skrewts had its merits. He fell asleep contemplating hideous revenges and arose from bed three hours later feeling distinctly unrested.
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Snape looked round at Harry. His face was inscrutable. Harry could not tell whether he had understood or not, but he did not dare speak more plainly in front of Umbridge.
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'Sirius is being tortured NOW!' shouted Harry. 'We haven't got time to waste.'
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There was a moment's silence. Then Ron said, 'G-get there?'
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'Yes,' said Umbridge, whose excitement seemed to be mounting. 'Yes, he would have done, of course, the great half-breed oaf.'
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Their final exam, History of Magic, was not to take place until that afternoon. Harry would very much have liked to go back to bed after breakfast, but he had been counting on the morning for a spot of last-minute revision, so instead he sat with his head in his hands by the common-room window, trying hard not to doze off as he read through some of the three-and-a-half-feet-high stack of notes that Hermione had lent him.