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Fit inside the tiny bag, within a few seconds it had vanished, like so much ease, into the

bag’s capacious depths.

“Phineas Nigellus,” Hermione explained as she threw the bag onto the kitchen

Table with the usual sonorous, clanking crash.

“Sorry?” said Ron, but Harry understood. The painted image of Phineas Nigellus

Black was able to travel between his portrait in Grimmauld Place and the one that hung in

the headmaster’s office at Hogwarts: the circular cower-top room where Snape was no

doubt sitting right now, in triumphant possession of Dumbledore’s collection of delicate,

Silver magical instruments, the stone Pensieve, the Sorting Hat and, unless it ad been

Moved elsewhere, the sword of Gryffindor.

“Snape could send Phineas Nigellus to look inside this house for him,” Hermione

explained to Ron as she resumed her seat. “But let him try it now, all Phineas Nigellus

will be able to see is the inside of my handbag.”

“Good thinking!” said Ron, looking impressed.

“Thank you,” smiled Hermione, pulling her soup toward her. “So, Harry, what

else happened today?”

“Nothing,” said Harry. “Watched the Ministry entrance for seven hours. No sign

of her. Saw your dad though, Ron. He looks fine.”

Ron nodded his appreciation of this news. The had agreed that it was far too

Dangerous to try and communicate with Mr. Weasley while he walked in and out of the

Ministry, because he was always surrounded by other Ministry workers. It was, however,

Reassuring to catch these glimpses of him, even if he did look very strained and anxious.

“Dad always told us most Ministry people use the Floo Network to get to work,”

Ron said. “That’s why we haven’t seen Umbridge, she’d never walk, she’d think she’s

too important.”

“And what about that funny old witch and that little wizard in the navy robes?”

Hermione asked.

“Oh yeah, the bloke from Magical Maintenance,” said Ron.

“How do you know he works for Magical Maintenance?” Hermione asked, her

Soupspoon suspended in midair.

“Dad said everyone from Magical Maintenance wears navy blue robes.”

“But you never told us that!”

Hermione dropped her spoon and pulled toward her the sheaf of notes and maps

That she and Ron had been examining when Harry had entered the kitchen.

“There’s nothing in here about navy blue robes, nothing!” she said, flipping

Feverishly through the pages.

“Well, dies it really matter?”

“Ron, it all matters! If we’re going to get into the Ministry and not give ourselves

away when they’re bound to be on the lookout for intruders, every little detail matters!

We’ve been over and over this, I mean, what’s the point of all these reconnaissance trips

if you aren’t even bothering to tell us –“

“Blimey, Hermione, I forget one little thing – “

“You do realize, don’t you, that there’s probably no more dangerous place in the

whole world for us to be right now than the Ministry of –“

“I think we should do it tomorrow,” said Harry.

Hermione stopped dead, her jaw hanging; Ron choked a little over his soup.

“Tomorrow?” repeated Hermione. “You aren’t serious, Harry?”

“I am,” said Harry. “I don’t think we’re going to be much better prepared than we

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 920

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