More of the Death Eaters laughed, though the woman laughed loudest of all.
‘It's time you learned the difference between life and dreams, Potter,’ said Malfoy. ‘Now give me the prophecy, or we start using wands.’
‘Go on, then,’ said Harry, raising his own wand to chest height. As he did so, the five wands of Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna rose on either side of him. The knot in Harry's stomach tightened. If Sirius really was not here, he had led his friends to their deaths for no reason at all ...
But the Death Eaters did not strike.
‘Hand over the prophecy and no one need get hurt,’ said Malfoy coolly.
It was Harry's turn to laugh.
‘Yeah, right!’ he said. ‘I give you this—prophecy, is it? And you'll just let us skip off home, will you?’
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the female Death Eater shrieked: ‘Accio proph —’
Harry was just ready for her: he shouted ‘Protego’ before she had finished her spell, and though the glass sphere slipped to the tips of his fingers he managed to cling on to it.
‘Oh, he knows how to play, little bitty baby Potter,’ she said, her mad eyes staring through the slits in her hood. ‘Very well, then—’
‘I TOLD YOU, NO!’ Lucius Malfoy roared at the woman. ‘If you smash it—!’
Harry's mind was racing. The Death Eaters wanted this dusty spun-glass sphere. He had no interest in it. He just wanted to get them all out of this alive, to make sure none of his friends paid a terrible price for his stupidity ...
The woman stepped forward, away from her fellows, and pulled off her hood. Azkaban had hollowed Bellatrix Lestrange's face, making it gaunt and skull-like, but it was alive with a feverish, fanatical glow.
‘You need more persuasion?’ she said, her chest rising and falling rapidly. ‘Very well—take the smallest one,’ she ordered the Death Eaters beside her. ‘Let him watch while we torture the little girl. I'll do it.’
Harry felt the others close in around Ginny; he stepped sideways so that he was right in front of her, the prophecy held up to his chest.
‘You'll have to smash this if you want to attack any of us,’ he told Bellatrix. ‘I don't think your boss will be too pleased if you come back without it, will he?’
She did not move; she merely stared at him, the tip of her tongue moistening her thin mouth.
‘So,’ said Harry, ‘what kind of prophecy are we talking about, anyway?’
He could not think what to do but to keep talking. Neville's arm was pressed against his, and he could feel him shaking; he could feel one of the others’ quickened breath on the back of his head. He was hoping they were all thinking hard about ways to get out of this, because his mind was blank.
‘What kind of prophecy?’ repeated Bellatrix, the grin fading from her face. ‘You jest, Harry Potter.’
‘Nope, not jesting,’ said Harry, his eyes flicking from Death Eater to Death Eater, looking for a weak link, a space through which they could escape. ‘How come Voldemort wants it?
Several of the Death Eaters let out low hisses.
‘You dare speak his name?’ whispered Bellatrix.
‘Yeah,’ said Harry, maintaining his tight grip on the glass ball, expecting another attempt to bewitch it from him. ‘Yeah, I've got no problem with saying Vol—
‘Shut your mouth!’ Bellatrix shrieked. ‘You dare speak his name with your unworthy lips, you dare besmirch it with your half-blood's tongue, you dare—’
‘Did you know he's a half-blood too?’ said Harry recklessly. Hermione gave a little moan in his ear. ‘Voldemort? Yeah, his mother was a witch but his dad was a Muggle—or has he been telling you lot he's pure-blood?’