J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 50)

': he's got other plans: plans he can put into operation very quietly indeed: stuff he can only get by stealth: like a weapon. Something he didn't have last time.'

Harry had not thought about those words in weeks; he had been too absorbed in what was going on at Hogwarts, too busy dwelling on the ongoing battles with Umbridge, the injustice of all the Ministry interference: but now they came back to him and made him wonder: Voldemort's anger would make sense if he was no nearer to laying hands on the weapon, whatever it was. Had the Order thwarted him, stopped him from seizing it? Where was it kept? Who had it now?

'Mimbulus mimbletonia,' said Ron's voice and Harry came back to his senses just in time to clamber through the portrait hole into the common room.

It appeared that Hermione had gone to bed early, leaving Crookshanks curled in a nearby chair and an assortment of knobbly knitted elf hats lying on a table by the fire. Harry was rather grateful that she was not around, because he did not much want to discuss his scar hurting and have her urge him to go to Dumbledore, too. Ron kept throwing him anxious glances, but Harry pulled out his Charms books and set to work on finishing his essay, though he was only pretending to concentrate and by the time Ron said he was going up to bed, too, he had written hardly anything.

Midnight came and went while Harry was reading and rereading a passage about the uses of scurvy-grass, lovage and sneezewort and not taking in a word of it.

These plantes are moste efficacious in the inflaming of the braine, and are therefore much used in Confusing and Befuddlement Draughts, where the wizard is desirous of producing hot-headedness and recklessness:

: Hermione said Sirius was becoming reckless cooped up in Grimmauld Place:

: moste efficacious in the inflaming of the braine, and are therefore much used:

: the Daily Prophet would think his brain was inflamed if they found out that he knew what Voldemort was feeling:

: therefore much used in Confusing and Befuddlement Draughts:

: confusing was the word, all right; why did he know what Voldemort was feeling? What was this weird connection between them, which Dumbledore had never been able to explain satisfactorily?

: where the wizard is desirous:

: how Harry would like to sleep:

:of producing hot-headedness:

: it was warm and comfortable in his armchair before the fire, with the rain still beating heavily on the windowpanes, Crookshanks purring, and the crackling of the flames:

The book slipped from Harry's slack grip and landed with a dull thud on the hearthrug. His head lolled sideways:

He was walking once more along a windowless corridor, his footsteps echoing in the silence. As the door at the end of the passage loomed larger, his heart beat fast with excitement: if he could only open it: enter beyond:

He stretched out his hand: his fingertips were inches from it:

'Harry Potter, sir!'

He awoke with a start. The candles had all been extinguished in the common room, but there was something moving close by.

'Whozair?' said Harry, sitting upright in his chair. The fire was almost out, the room very dark.

'Dobby has your owl, sir!' said a squeaky voice.

'Dobby?' said Harry thickly, peering through the gloom towards the source of the voice.

Dobby the house-elf was standing beside the table on which Hermione had left half a dozen of her knitted hats. His large, pointed ears were now sticking out from beneath what looked like all the hats Hermione had ever knitted; he was wearing one on top of the other, so that his head seemed elongated by two or three feet, and on the very topmost bobble sat Hedwig, hooting serenely and obviously cured.

'Dobby volunteered to return Harry Potter's owl,' said the elf squeakily, with a look of positive adoration on his face, 'Professor Grubbly-Plank says she is all well now, sir.' He sank into a deep bow so that his pencil-like nose brushed the threadbare surface of the hearthrug and Hedwig gave an indignant hoot and fluttered on to the arm of Harry's chair.

Thanks, Dobby!' said Harry, stroking Hedwig's head and blinking hard, trying to rid himself of the image of the door in his dream: it had been very vivid. Surveying Dobby more closely, he noticed that the elf was also wearing several scarves and innumerable socks, so that his feet looked far too big for his body.

'Er: have you been taking all the clothes Hermione's been leaving out?'

'Oh, no, sir,' said Dobby happily. 'Dobby has been taking some for Winky, too, sir.'

'Yeah, how is Winky?' asked Harry.

Dobby's ears drooped slightly.

'Winky is still drinking lots, sir,' he said sadly, his enormous round green eyes, large as tennis balls, downcast. 'She still does not care for clothes, Harry Potter. Nor do the other house-elves. None of them will clean Gryffindor Tower any more, not with the hats and socks hidden everywhere, they finds them insulting, sir. Dobby does it all himself, sir, but Dobby does not mind, sir, for he always hopes to meet Harry Potter and tonight, sir, he has got his wish!' Dobby sank into a deep bow again. 'But Harry Potter does not seem happy,' Dobby went on, straightening up again and looking timidly at Harry. 'Dobby heard him muttering in his sleep. Was Harry Potter having bad dreams?'

'Not really bad,' said Harry, yawning and rubbing his eyes. 'I've had worse.'

The elf surveyed Harry out of his vast, orb-like eyes. Then he said very seriously, his ears drooping, 'Dobby wishes he could help Harry Potter, for Harry Potter set Dobby free and Dobby is much, much happier now.'

Harry smiled.

'You can't help me, Dobby, but thanks for the offer.'

He bent and picked up his Potions book. He'd have to try to finish the essay tomorrow. He closed the book and as he did so the firelight illuminated the thin white scars on the back of his hand - the result of his detentions with Umbridge:

'Wait a moment - there is something you can do for me, Dobby,' said Harry slowly.

The elf looked round, beaming.

'Name it, Harry Potter, sir!'

'I need to find a place where twenty-eight people can practise Defence Against the Dark Arts without being discovered by any of the teachers. Especially,' Harry clenched his hand on the book, so that the scars shone pearly white, 'Professor Umbridge.'

He expected the elf's smile to vanish, his ears to droop; he expected him to say it was impossible, or else that he would try to find somewhere, but his hopes were not high. What he had not expected was for Dobby to give a little skip, his ears waggling cheerfully, and clap his hands together.

'Dobby knows the perfect place, sir!' he said happily. 'Dobby heard tell of it from the other house-elves when he came to Hogwarts, sir. It is known by us as the Come and Go Room, sir, or else as the Room of Requirement!'

'Why?' said Harry curiously.

'Because it is a room that a person can only enter,' said Dobby seriously, 'when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker's needs. Dobby has used it, sir,' said the elf, dropping his voice and looking guilty, 'when Winky has been very drunk; he has hidden her in the Room of Requirement and he has found antidotes to Butterbeer there, and a nice elf-sized bed to settle her on while she sleeps it off, sir: and Dobby knows Mr Filch has found extra cleaning materials there when he has run short, sir, and -'

'And if you really needed a bathroom,' said Harry, suddenly remembering something Dumbledore had said at the Yule Ball the previous Christmas, 'would it fill itself with chamber pots?'

'Dobby expects so, sir,' said Dobby, nodding earnestly. 'It is a most amazing room, sir.'

'How many people know about it?' said Harry, sitting up straighter in his chair.

'Very few, sir. Mostly people stumbles across it when they needs it, sir, but often they never finds it again, for they do not know that it is always there waiting to be called into service, sir.'

'It sounds brilliant,' said Harry, his heart racing. 'It sounds perfect, Dobby. When can you show me where it is?'

'Any time, Harry Potter, sir,' said Dobby, looking delighted at Harry's enthusiasm. 'We could go now, if you like!'

For a moment Harry was tempted to go with Dobby. He was halfway out of his seat, intending to hurry upstairs for his Invisibility Cloak when, not for the first time, a voice very much like Hermione's whispered in his ear: reckless. It was, after all, very late, he was exhausted, and had Snape's essay to finish.

'Not tonight, Dobby,' said Harry reluctantly, sinking back into his chair. This is really important: I don't want to blow it, it'll need proper planning. Listen, can you just tell me exactly where this Room of Requirement is, and how to get in there?'

* * *

Their robes billowed and swirled around them as they splashed across the flooded vegetable patch to double Herbology, where they could hardly hear what Professor Sprout was saying over the hammering of raindrops hard as hailstones on the greenhouse roof. The afternoons Care of Magical Creatures lesson was to be relocated from the storm-swept grounds to a free classroom on the ground floor and, to their intense relief, Angelina had sought out her team at lunch to tell them that Quidditch practice was cancelled.

'Good,' said Harry quietly, when she told him, 'because we've found somewhere to have our first Defence meeting. Tonight, eight o'clock, seventh floor opposite that tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy being clubbed by those trolls. Can you tell Katie and Alicia?'

She looked slightly taken aback but promised to tell the others. Harry returned hungrily to his sausages and mash. When he looked up to take a drink of pumpkin juice, he found Hermione watching him.

'What?' he said thickly.

'Well: it's just that Dobby's plans aren't always that safe. Don't you remember when he lost you all the bones in your arm?'

This room isn't just some mad idea of Dobby's; Dumbledore knows about it, too, he mentioned it to me at the Yule Ball.'

Hermione's expression cleared. V

'Dumbledore told you about it?'

'Just in passing,' said Harry, shrugging.

'Oh, well, that's all right then,' said Hermione briskly and raised no more objections.

Together with Ron they had spent most of the day seeking out those people who had signed their names to the list in the Hog's Head and telling them where to meet that evening. Somewhat to Harry's disappointment, it was Ginny who managed to find Cho Chang and her friend first; however, by the end of dinner he was confident that the news had been passed to every one of the twenty-five people who had turned up in the Hog's Head.

At half past seven Harry, Ron and Hermione left the Gryffindor common room, Harry clutching a certain piece of aged parchment in his hand. Fifth-years were allowed to be out in the corridors until nine o'clock, but all three of them kept looking around nervously as they made their way along the seventh floor.

'Hold it,' Harry warned, unfolding the piece of parchment at the top of the last staircase, tapping it with his wand and muttering, 'I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.'

A map of Hogwarts appeared on the blank surface of the parchment. Tiny black moving dots, labelled with names, showed where various people were.

'Filch is on the second floor,' said Harry, holding the map close to his eyes, 'and Mrs Norris is on the fourth.'

'And Umbridge?' said Hermione anxiously.

'In her office,' said Harry, pointing. 'OK, lets go.'

They hurried along the corridor to the place Dobby had described to Harry, a stretch of blank wall opposite an enormous tapestry depicting Barnabas the Barmy's foolish attempt to train trolls for the ballet.

'OK,' said Harry quietly, while a moth-eaten troll paused in his relentless clubbing of the would-be ballet teacher to watch them. 'Dobby said to walk past this bit of wall three times, concentrating hard on what we need.'

They did so, turning sharply at the window just beyond the blank stretch of wall, then at the man-sized vase on its other side. Ron had screwed up his eyes in concentration; Hermione was whispering something under her breath; Harry's fists were clenched as he stared ahead of him.

We need somewhere to learn to fight: he thought. Just give us a place to practise: somewhere they can't find us:

'Harry!' said Hermione sharply, as they wheeled around after their third walk past.

A highly polished door had appeared in the wall. Ron was staring at it, looking slightly wary. Harry reached out, seized the brass handle, pulled open the door and led the way into a spacious room lit with flickering torches like those that illuminated the dungeons eight floors below.

The walls were lined with wooden bookcases and instead of chairs there were large silk cushions on the floor. A set of shelves at the far end of the room carried a range of instruments such as Sneakoscopes, Secrecy Sensors and a large, cracked Foe-Glass that Harry was sure had hung, the previous year, in the fake Moody's office.

These will be good when we're practising Stunning,' said Ron enthusiastically, prodding one of the cushions with his foot.

'And just look at these books!' said Hermione excitedly, running a finger along the spines of the large leather-bound tomes. 'A Compendium of Common Curses and their Counter-Actions: The Dark Arts Outsmarted: Self-Defensive Spellwork: wow:" She looked around at Harry, her face glowing, and he saw that the presence of hundreds of books had finally convinced Hermione that what they were doing was right. 'Harry, this is wonderful, there's everything we need here!'

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
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