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They covered the distance to the trunk in seconds, but before they had reached the gap in the roots, Crookshanks had slid into it with a flick of his bottlebrush tail. Harry went next; he crawled forward, headfirst, and slid down an earthy slope to the bottom of a very low tunnel. Crookshanks was a little way along, his eyes flashing in the light from Harry's wand. Seconds later, Hermione slithered down beside him.
"THIRTY-ZERO! TAKE THAT, YOU DIRTY, CHEATING --"
It felt as though they had already won the Quidditch Cup; the party went on all day and well into the night. Fred and George Weasley disappeared for a couple of hours and returned with armfuls of bottles of butterbeer, pumpkin fizz, and several bags full of Honeydukes sweets.
A mass of filthy, matted hair hung to his elbows. If eyes hadn't been shining out of the deep, dark sockets, he might have been a corpse. The waxy skin was stretched so tightly over the bones of his face, it looked like a skull. His yellow teeth were bared in a grin. It was Sirius Black.
"That was quite some Patronus," said a voice in Harry's ear.
"Yeah..." said Harry, his stomach writhing.
"A hippogriff," he said firmly.
"I'm not," Hermione whispered. "If I'd been a bit cleverer, I'd have told everyone what you are!"
"How did you do that?" squealed Angelina Johnson as George started throwing Peppermint Toads into the crowd.
None of them spoke as they changed into their scarlet robes. Harry wondered if they were feeling like he was: as though he'd eaten something extremely wriggly for breakfast. In what seemed like no time at all, Wood was saying, "Okay, it's time, let's go --"
"Slytherin in possession, Slytherin heading for goal -- Montague scores --" Lee groaned. "Seventy- twenty to Gryffindor..."
It was the photograph of Ron and his family that had appeared in the Daily Prophet the previous summer, and there, on Ron's shoulder, was Scabbers.
But nobody had as much to do as Hermione. Even without Divination, she was taking more subjects than anybody else. She was usually last to leave the common room at night, first to arrive at the library the next morning; she had shadows like Lupin's under her eyes, and seemed constantly close to tears.
He separated Harry's, Ron's and Hermione's wands and threw each back to its owner; Harry caught his, stunned.