Turn over your papers,' said Professor Marchbanks from the front of the Hall, flicking over the giant hour-glass. 'You may begin '
'But - Harry . . .' said Ron weakly.
'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 . . .'
'OK,' said Hermione. 'Well then, Harry, you and I will be under the Invisibility Cloak and we'll sneak into the office and you can talk to Sirius - '
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.
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.
'Come with me,' Harry said quickly. 'Come on, I've got to tell you something.'
'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.'
'Where has Sirius gone?' Harry yelled after the elf. 'Kreacher, has he gone to the Department of Mysteries?'
An arrow flew through the air and landed with a menacing thud in the tree just over her head. The air was suddenly full of the sound of hooves; Harry could feel the Forest floor trembling; Umbridge gave a little scream and pushed him in front of her like a shield - '
'Very well,' she said, and she pulled out her wand. 'Very well . . . I am left with no alternative . . . this is more than a matter of school discipline . . . this is an issue of Ministry security . . . yes . . . yes . . .'
'Don't call them that!' Hermione said furiously, but Umbridge did not appear to have heard her. Still pointing her shaking wand at Magorian, she continued, 'Law Fifteen "B" states clearly that "any attack by a magical creature who is deemed to have near-human intelligence, and therefore considered responsible for its actions - '
There was a moment's silence, then the elf let out his loudest cackle yet.
'Saw it. Just now. When I fell asleep in the exam.'
'All right,' said Malfoy, looking sulky and disappointed.
'I'm warning you!' said Harry, fully aware that his scope for inflicting punishment upon Kreacher was almost non-existent in this position. 'What about Lupin? Mad-Eye? Any of them, are any of them there?'
'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-
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.
Snape looked back at Harry, who stared at him, frantic to communicate without words.