All right, whispered Hermione as a gang of loud sixth-years passed them. 'So Ron - you go and head Umbridge off . . . Ginny, Luna, if you can start moving people out of the corridor . . . Harry and I will get the Cloak on and wait until the coast is clear . . ."
'Well . . . no!' sobbed Hermione. 'We've tried the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley and the Three Broomsticks and even the Hog's Head - '
'Somebody had to act,' breathed Umbridge, as her wand came to rest pointing directly at Harry's forehead. They were all bleating about silencing you somehow - discrediting you - but I was the one who actually did something about it . . . only you wriggled out of that one, didn't you, Potter? Not today though, not now - ' And taking a deep breath, she cried, 'Cruc-
'Pressure of examinations!' said the old wizard sympathetically, patting Harry shakily on the shoulder. 'It happens, young man, it happens! Now, a cooling drink of water, and perhaps you will be ready to return to the Great Hall? The examination is nearly over, but you may be able to round off your last answer nicely?'
'But . . . Harry, think about this,' said Hermione, taking a step towards him, 'its five o'clock in the afternoon . . . the Ministry of Magic must be full of workers . . . how would Voldemort and Sirius have got in without being seen? Harry . . . they're probably the two most wanted wizards in the world . . . you think they could get into a building full of Aurors undetected?'
'Five minutes'll be enough,' said Harry 'C'mon, let's go - '
'And you two can go ahead of me and show me the way,' said Umbridge, pointing at Harry and Hermione with her wand. 'Lead on.'
'You are on probation!' shrieked Professor Umbridge, and Snape looked back at her, his eyebrows slightly raised. 'You arc being deliberately unhelpful! I expected better, Lucius Malfoy always speaks most highly of you! Now get out of my office!'
Straight across the stone floor and through the second door . . . patches of dancing light on the walls and floor and that odd mechanical clicking, but no time to explore, he must hurry . . .
'Clearly, it was very important for you to talk to somebody. Was it Albus Dumbledore? Or the half-breed, Hagrid? I doubt it was Minerva McGonagall, I hear she is still too ill to talk to anyone.'
'Yes,' said Harry blankly.
'Here,' he said; he threw the Invisibility Cloak over both of them and they stood listening carefully over the Latin mumblings of the bust in front of them.
Though clearly struggling to understand what was going on, Ginny said immediately, 'Yeah, we'll do it,' and Luna said, 'When you say "Sirius", are you talking about Stubby Boardman?'
'Right,' said Hermione, twisting her hands together and pacing up and down between the desks. 'Right . . . well . . . one of us has to go and find Umbridge and - and send her off in the wrong direction, keep her away from her office. They could tell her - I don't know - that Peeves is up to something awful as usual . . .'
Harry closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, so that the glowing red of his eyelids grew dark and cool. Bonaccord had wanted to stop troll-hunting and give the trolls rights . . . but Liechtenstein was having problems with a tribe of particularly vicious mountain trolls . . . that was it.
'Very well,' she said in her most dangerous and falsely sweet voice. 'Very well, Mr Potter . . . I offered you the chance to tell me freely. You refused. I have no alternative but to force you. Draco
The . . . the weapon,' said Hermione.
She seemed to be talking herself into something. She was shifting her weight nervously from foot to foot, staring at Harry, beating her wand against her empty palm and breathing heavily As he watched her, Harry felt horribly powerless without his own wand.