'We do,' said Harry and Ron together.
He looked down at his watch and was shocked to see it was already ten past nine, which meant they needed to get back to their common rooms immediately or risk being caught and punished by Filch for being out of bounds. He blew his whistle; everybody stopped shouting 'Expelliarmus' and the last couple of wands clattered to the floor.
'And Umbridge?' said Hermione anxiously.
The Great Hall was filling up fast when they arrived, the talk louder and the mood more exuberant than usual. As they passed the Slytherin table there was an upsurge of noise. Harry looked round and saw that, in addition to the usual green and silver scarves and hats, every one of them was wearing a silver badge in the shape of what seemed to be a crown. For some reason many of them waved at Ron, laughing uproariously. Harry tried to see what was written on the badges as he walked by, but he was too concerned to get Ron past their table quickly to linger long enough to read them.
Harry's stomach did yet another back-flip.
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 . . .
The elf looked round, beaming.
A map of Hogwarts appeared on the blank surface of the parchment. Tiny black moving dots, labelled with names, showed where various people were.
The only thing really worrying Harry was how much Ron was allowing the tactics of the Slytherin team to upset him before they even got on to the pitch. Harry, of course, had endured their snide comments for over four years, so whispers of, 'Hey, Potty, I heard Warrington's sworn to knock you off your broom on Saturday', far from chilling his blood, made him laugh. 'Warrington's aim's so pathetic I'd be more worried if he was aiming for the person next to me,' he retorted, which made Ron and Hermione laugh and wiped the smirk off Pansy Parkinson's face.
'Hey, Harry, what's this stuff?' asked Dean from the rear of the room, indicating the Sneakoscopes and the Foe-Glass.
'It sounds brilliant,' said Harry, his heart racing. 'It sounds perfect, Dobby. When can you show me where it is?'
'I told Sirius last time.'
'Can we be the Anti-Umbridge League?' said Angelina hopefully.
The walls were lined with wooden bookcases and instead of chairs the re 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.
'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 - '
'No, what's that?'
'You can't help me, Dobby, but thanks for the offer.'
'Any time, Harry Potter, sir,' said Dobby, looking delighted at Harry's enthusiasm. 'We could go now, if you like!'
It felt very odd to be issuing instructions, but not nearly as odd as seeing them followed. Everybody got to their feet at once and divided up. Predictably, Neville was left partnerless.