“Yes, they’re here,” said Hermione, and to Harry and Ron’s utter astonishment, she pulled out a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, some maroon socks, and finally the silvery Invisibility Cloak.
“How the ruddy hell –?”
“Undetectable Extension Charm,” said Hermione. “Tricky, but I think I’ve done it okay; anyway, I managed to fit everything we need in here.” She gave the fragile-looking bag a little shake and it echoed like a cargo hold as a number of heavy objects rolled around inside it. “Oh, damn, that’ll be the books,” she said, peering into it, “and I had them all stacked by subject…. Oh well…. Harry, you’d better take the Invisibility Cloak. Ron, hurry up and change….”
“When did you do all this?” Harry asked as Ron stripped off his robes.
“I told you at the Burrow, I’ve had the essentials packed for days, you know, in case we needed to make a quick getaway. I packed your rucksack this morning, Harry, after you changed, and put it in here…. I just had a feeling….”
“You’re amazing, you are,” said Ron, handing her his bundled-up robes.
“Thank you,” said Hermione, managing a small smile as she pushed the robes into the bag. “Please, Harry, get that Cloak on!”
Harry threw his Invisibility Cloak around his shoulders and pulled it up over his head, vanishing from sight. He was only just beginning to appreciate what had happened.
“The others – everybody at the wedding – ”
“We can’t worry about that now,” whispered Hermione. “It’s you they’re after, Harry, and we’ll just put everyone in even more danger by going back.”
“She’s right,” said Ron, who seemed to know that Harry was about to argue, even if he could not see his face. “Most of the Order was there, they’ll look after everyone.”
Harry nodded, then remembered that they could not see him, and said, “Yeah.” But he thought of Ginny, and fear bubbled like acid in his stomach.
“Come on, I think we ought to keep moving,” said Hermione.
They moved back up the side street and onto the main road again, where a group of men on the opposite side was singing and weaving across the pavement.
“Just as a matter of interest, why Tottenham Court Road?” Ron asked Hermione.
“I’ve no idea, it just popped into my head, but I’m sure we’re safer out in the Muggle world, it’s not where they’ll expect us to be.”
“True,” said Ron, looking around, “but don’t you feel a bit – exposed?”
“Where else is there?” asked Hermione, cringing as the men on the other side of the road started wolf-whistling at her. “We can hardly book rooms at the Leaky Cauldron, can we? And Grimmauld Place is out if Snape can get in there…. I suppose we could try my parents’ home, though I think there’s a chance they might check there…. Oh, I wish they’d shut up!”
“All right, darling?” the drunkest of the men on the other pavement was yelling. “Fancy a drink? Ditch ginger and come and have a pint!”
“Let’s sit down somewhere,” Hermione said hastily as Ron opened his mouth to shout back across the road. “Look, this will do, in here!”
It was a small and shabby all-night café. A light layer of grease lay on all the Formica-topped tables, but it was at least empty. Harry slipped into a booth first and Ron sat next to him opposite Hermione, who had her back to the entrance and did not like it: She glanced over her shoulder so frequently she appeared to have a twitch.
Harry did not like being stationary; walking had given the illusion that they had a goal. Beneath the Cloak he could feel the last vestiges of Polyjuice leaving him, his hands returning to their usual length and shape. He pulled his glasses out of his pocket and put them on again.
After a minute or two, Ron said, “You know, we’re not far from the Leaky Cauldron here, it’s only in Charing Cross – ”
“Ron, we can’t!” said Hermione at once.
“Not to stay there, but to find out what’s going on!”
“We know what’s going on! Voldemort’s taken over the Ministry, what else do we need to know?”
“Okay, okay, it was just an idea!”
They relapsed into a prickly silence. The gum-chewing waitress shuffled over and Hermione ordered two cappuccinos: As Harry was invisible, it would have looked odd to order him one. A pair of burly workmen entered the café and squeezed into the next booth. Hermione dropped her voice to a whisper.
“I say we find a quiet place to Disapparate and head for the countryside. Once we’re there, we could send a message to the Order.”
“Can you do that talking Patronus thing, then?” asked Ron.
“I’ve been practicing and I think so,” said Hermione.
“Well, as long as it doesn’t get them into trouble, though they might’ve been arrested already. God, that’s revolting,” Ron added after one sip of the foamy, grayish coffee. The waitress had heard; she shot Ron a nasty look as she shuffled off to take the new customers’ orders. The larger of the two workmen, who was blond and quite huge, now that Harry came to look at him, waved her away. She stared, affronted.