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And they both pretended not to notice the whining growing louder and louder as the sky became steadily darker. Stars were blossoming in the blackness. Harry pulled his sweater back on, try ing to ignore the way the windshield wipers were now waving fee bly, as though in protest. "Not far," said Ron, more to the car than to Harry, "not far now," and he patted the dashboard nervously. When they flew back beneath the clouds a little while later, they had to squint through the darkness for a landmark they knew. "There!" Harry shouted, making Ron and Hedwig jump. "Straight ahead!" Silhouetted on the dark horizon, high on the cliff over the lake, stood the many turrets and towers of Hogwarts castle. But the car had begun to shudder and was losing speed. "Come on," Ron said cajolingly, giving the steering wheel a lit tle shake, "nearly there, come on -" The engine groaned. Narrow jets of steam were issuing from un der the hood. Harry found himself gripping the edges of his seat very hard as they flew toward the lake. The car gave a nasty wobble. Glancing out of his window, Harry saw the smooth, black, glassy surface of the water, a mile below. Ron's knuckles were white on the steering wheel. The car wobbled again. "Come on," Ron muttered. They were over the lake - the castle was right ahead - Ron put his foot down. There was a loud clunk, a splutter, and the engine died com pletely.
"My dear boy! Harry Potter, at my deathday party! And" - he hesitated, looking excited - "do you think you could possibly mention to Sir Patrick how very frightening and impressive you find me?"
When the door had closed behind her, Ron let out a long, low whistle.
"How are you, Myrtle?" said Hermione in a falsely bright voice. "It's nice to see you out of the toilet."
It had snapped, almost in two; the tip was dangling limply, held on by a few splinters.
"I suggest, Headmaster, that Potter is not being entirely truthful," he said. "It might be a good idea if he were deprived of certain privileges until he is ready to tell us the whole story. I personally feel he should be taken off the Gryffindor Quidditch team until he is ready to be honest."
Professor Binns was looking at her in such amazement, Harry was sure no student had ever interrupted him before, alive or dead.
Percy strode briskly forward and vanished. Mr. Weasley went next; Fred and George followed.
"We're going to miss the train," Ron whispered. "I don't understand why the gateway's sealed itself -"
History of Magic was the dullest subject on their schedule. Professor Binns, who taught it, was their only ghost teacher, and the most exciting thing that ever happened in his classes was his entering the room through the blackboard. Ancient and shriveled, many people said he hadn't noticed he was dead. He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staff room fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since.
"If I might speak, Headmaster," said Snape from the shadows, and Harry's sense of forboding increased; he was sure nothing Snape had to say was going to do him any good.
Fred and George, who had been spying on the Slytherin team, had seen for themselves the speed of those new Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones. They reported that the Slytherin team was no more than seven greenish blurs, shooting through the air like missiles.
"Because - because -" Harry said, his heart thumping very fast; something told him it would sound very far-fetched if he told them he had been led there by a bodiless voice no one but he could hear, "because we were tired and wanted to go to bed," he said.