'Y - y - yes,' gasped Hermione, 'but he had to leave before it was finished and n - n - now we've finished it for him, and we c - c - can't find him t - t - to tell him!'
'But - but where? How?' said Hermione, whose face was white.
'Master does not tell poor Kreacher where he is going,' said the elf quietly.
'I - oh, all right,' she said desperately. 'You go and get the Invisibility Cloak and we'll meet you at the end of Umbridge's corridor, OK?'
The black shape on the floor shifted a little. Harry saw a long-fingered white hand clutching a wand rise at the end of his own arm . . . heard the high, cold voice say 'Crucio!'
He glared at her.
'Padfoot?' cried Professor Umbridge, looking eagerly from Harry to Snape. 'What is Padfoot? Where what is hidden? What does he mean, Snape?'
'Who are you?' said a voice.
Harry didn't answer, but flung himself out of the room and began to fight his way through the milling crowds outside. Two floors up he met Seamus and Dean, who hailed him jovially and told him they were planning a dusk-till-dawn end-of-exams celebration in the common room. Harry barely heard them. He scrambled through the portrait hole while they were still arguing about how many black-market Butterbeers they would need and was climbing back out of it, the Invisibility Cloak and Sirius's knife secure in his bag, before they noticed he had left them.
'You are forcing me, Potter . . . I do not want to,' said Umbridge, still moving restlessly on the spot, 'but sometimes circumstances justify the use . . . I am sure the Minister will understand that I had no choice . . .'
Harry looked back at Umbridge, who was watching him closely. He kept his face deliberately smooth and blank as footsteps were heard in the corridor outside and Draco Malfoy entered the room, closely followed by Snape.
'How?' Harry demanded. 'How're we going to check?'
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I know this, Harry thought, though his brain felt torpid and slack. He could visualise a heading, in Hermione's handwriting: The formation of the International Confederation of Wizards . . . he had read those notes only this morning.
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He was gibbering as he tried to pull away from Professor Tofty, who was looking at Harry with much concern after helping him out into the Entrance Hall with the students all around them staring.
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'He's not there, Hermione!'
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'So, Potter,' she said. 'You stationed lookouts around my office and you sent this buffoon,' she nodded at Ron - Malfoy laughed even louder - 'to tell me the poltergeist was wreaking havoc in the Transfiguration department when I knew perfectly well that he was busy smearing ink on the eyepieces of all the school telescopes - 'Mr Filch having just informed me so.
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Snape had stopped with his hand on Umbridge's door handle.
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'But - Harry . . .' said Ron weakly.
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I was going to let one more foul, scavenging little creature enter my office without my knowledge? I had Stealth Sensoring Spells placed all around my doorway after the last one got in, you foolish boy. Take his wand,' she barked at someone he could not see, and he felt a hand grope inside the chest pocket of his robes and remove the wand. 'Hers, too.'