'By the time we've done that, Sirius'll probably be dead!' said Harry, kicking a nearby tree in temper. A high-pitched chattering started up overhead and he looked up to see an angry Bowtruckle flexing its long twiglike fingers at him.
The sounds of the galloping centaurs and the blundering giant grew fainter and fainter. As Harry listened to them, his scar gave another great throb and a wave of terror swept over him.
'So,' said Ron, pushing aside a low-hanging branch and holding out Harry's wand, 'had any ideas?'
'Don't, Harry,' said Neville suddenly. Harry looked at him. Neville's round face was shining slightly with sweat. He looked as though he could not take much more suspense.
They burst into more protests. His scar gave another, more painful, twinge. Every moment they delayed was precious; he did not have time to argue.
'No, they got chased off by Grawp,' said Harry.
'Yeah, but - '
The woman stepped forward, away from her fellows, and pulled off her hood. Azkaban had hollowed Bellatrix Lestrange's face, making it gaunt and skull-like, but it was alive with a feverish, fanatical glow.
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the female Death Eater shrieked: 'Accio proph-
She pulled them over to the other Thestrals standing around and one by one managed to help them on to the back of their mount. All three looked extremely nervous as she wound their hands into their horses mane and told them to grip tightly before she got back on to her own steed.
'Go on, then,' said Harry, raising his own wand to chest height. As he did so, the five wands of Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna rose on either side of him. The knot in Harry's stomach tightened. If Sirius really was not here, he had led his friends to their deaths for no reason at all . . .
'Someone's whispering behind there,' he said, moving out of her reach and continuing to frown at the veil. 'Is that you, Ron?'
They passed row eighty-four . . . eighty-five . . . Harry was listening hard for the slightest sound of movement, but Sirius might be gagged now, or else unconscious . . . or, said an unbidden voice inside his head, he might already be dead . . .
'All right,' he said angrily, 'pick one and get on, then.'
Drifting along in the sparkling current inside was a tiny, jewel-bright egg. As it rose in the jar, it cracked open and a hummingbird emerged, which was carried to the very top of the jar, but as it fell on the draught its feathers became bedraggled and damp again, and by the time it had been borne back to the bottom of the jar it had been enclosed once more in its egg.
'No - of course it wasn't - ' said Harry impatiently.
Beyond the Veil
Harry scrambled down the benches one by one until he reached the stone bottom of the sunken pit. His footsteps echoed loudly as he walked slowly towards the dais. The pointed archway looked much taller from where he now stood than it had when he'd been looking down on it from above. Still the veil swayed gently, as though somebody had just passed through it.