'Er,' said Harry, without moving. 'Professor Umbridge. Er - before we start, I - I wanted to ask you a . . . a favour.'
'I have my sources.' said Filch in a self-satisfied hiss. 'Now hand over whatever it is you're sending.'
And on it went. Again and again Harry wrote the words on the parchment in what he soon came to realise was not ink, but his own blood. And, again and again, the words were cut into the back of his hand, healed, and reappeared the next time he set quill to parchment.
'How come you didn't do it last night?' Harry asked, as Ron stared wildly around the common room for inspiration. Ron, who had been fast asleep when Harry got back to the dormitory, muttered something about 'doing other stuff, bent low over his parchment and scrawled a few words.
'No,' said Harry flatly.
'You keep shifting around while you're watching the Chasers!' said Angelina. 'Either stay in centre position until you have to move to defend a hoop, or else circle the hoops, but don't drift vaguely off to one side, that's how you let in the last three goals!'
'No,' said Harry.
'. . . "Ministry warns wizarding community that Black is very dangerous . . . killed thirteen people . . . broke out of Azkaban . . ." the usual rubbish,' Hermione concluded, laying down her half of the paper and looking fearfully at Harry and Ron. 'Well, he just won't be able to leave the house again, that's all,' she whispered. 'Dumbledore did warn him not to.'
He stumped off down the stairs. Mrs Norris cast a last longing look at the owls and followed him.
'Harry, I'm sure Dumbledore would want to be bothered by this - '
Harry looked round at Ron, who was hovering in front of the left-hand hoop, leaving the other two completely unprotected.
'Wait a moment . . .' said Harry slowly. 'Sturgis was supposed to come and see us off, remember?'
'Do you know, I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were true.'
'You know what to do, Mr Potter,' said Umbridge, smiling sweetly at him.
As Ron moved away, Angelina came striding up to Harry.
She moved over to her desk, sat down and bent over a stack of parchment that looked like essays for marking. Harry raised the sharp black quill, then realised what was missing.
She blinked her amber eyes once and he took that to mean that she understood.
He had not had time to practise Vanishing Spells, had not written a single dream in his dream diary and had not finished the drawing of the Bowtruckle, nor had he written his essays. He skipped breakfast next morning to scribble down a couple of made-up dreams for Divination, their first lesson, and was surprised to find a dishevelled Ron keeping him company.
'Every evening since Tuesday . . . just on my own, though. I've been trying to bewitch Quaffles to fly at me, but it hasn't been easy and I don't know how much use it'll be.' Ron looked nervous and anxious. 'Fred and George are going to laugh themselves stupid when I turn up for the tryouts. They haven't stopped taking the mickey out of me since I got made a prefect.'