'It's Longbottom, isn't it?' sneered Lucius Malfoy. 'Well, your grandmother is used to losing family members to our cause . . . your death will not come as a great shock.'
But the thin ribbons were spinning around Ron's chest now; he tugged and tore at them as the brain was pulled tight against him like an octopus's body.
A spell hit the stone bench at Harry's heel; it crumbled away and he fell back to the step below. Neville sank to the ground, his legs still jerking and thrashing, and he thrust the prophecy into his pocket.
'What do we do?' Hermione asked Harry, trembling from head to foot.
He forced his way out of the lift before the grilles were fully open and looked around. Bellatrix was almost at the telephone lift at the other end of the hall, but she looked back as he sprinted towards her and aimed another spell at him. He dodged behind the Fountain of Magical Brethren: the spell zoomed past him and hit the wrought-gold gates at the other end of the Atrium so that they rang like bells. There were no more footsteps. She had stopped running. He crouched behind the statues, listening.
'Petrificus Totalus!' shouted Harry, as the second Death Eater raised his wand. His arms and legs snapped together and he fell forwards, face down on to the rug at Harry's feet, stiff as a board and unable to move.
All three of them raised their wands again, but none of them struck: they were all gazing, open-mouthed, appalled, at what was happening to the man's head.
'WE'VE GOT HIM!' yelled the Death Eater nearest Harry. 'IN AN OFFICE OFF -'
Lupin turned away from the archway as he spoke. It sounded as though every word was causing him pain.
There's nothing you can do, Harry . . . nothing . . . he's gone.'
Malfoy turned, and raised his wand, but Tonks had already sent a Stunning Spell right at him. Harry did not wait to see whether it had made contact, but dived off the dais out of the way. The Death Eaters were completely distracted by the appearance of the members of the Order, who were now raining spells down upon them as they jumped from step to step towards the sunken floor. Through the darting bodies, the flashes of light, Harry could see Neville crawling along. He dodged another jet of red light and flung himself flat on the ground to reach Neville.
'Someone made a prophecy about Voldemort and me?' he said quietly, gazing at Lucius Malfoy, his fingers tightening over the warm glass sphere in his hand. It was hardly larger than a Snitch and still gritty with dust. 'And he's made me come and get it for him? Why couldn't he come and get it himself?'
'Neville, we're not far from the exit,' Harry whispered, 'we're right next to that circular room . . . if we can just get you across it and find the right: door before any more Death Eaters come, I'll bet you can get Hermione up the corridor and into the lift . . . then you could find someone . . . raise the alarm . . .'
'Accio wand!' cried Hermione. Harry's wand flew from a dark corner into her hand and she threw it to him.
Harry saw the look of mingled fear and surprise on his godfathers wasted, once-handsome face as he fell through the ancient doorway and disappeared behind the veil, which fluttered for a moment as though in a high wind, then fell back into place.
Sirius had hurtled out of nowhere, rammed Dolohov with his shoulder and sent him flying out of the way. The prophecy had again flown to the tips of Harry's fingers but he had managed to cling on to it. Now Sirius and Dolohov were duelling, their wands flashing like swords, sparks flying from their wand-tips - '
The room seemed to have been waiting for him to ask. The door right behind him flew open and the corridor towards the lifts stretched ahead of him, torch-lit and empty. He ran . . .
It seemed to take Sirius an age to tall: his body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backwards through the ragged veil hanging from the arch.