By J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Chapter Eleven. The Bribe
If Kreacher could escape a lake full of Inferi, Harry was confident that the capture of Mundungus would take a few hours at most, and he prowled the house all morning in a state of high anticipation. However, Kreacher did not return that morning or even that afternoon. By nightfall, Harry felt discouraged and anxious, and a supper composed largely of moldy bread, upon which Hermione had tried a variety of unsuccessful Transfigurations, did nothing to help.
Kreacher did not return the following day, nor the day after that. However, two cloaked men had appeared in the square outside number twelve, and they remained there into the night, gazing in the direction of the house that they could not see.
“Death Eaters, for sure,” said Ron, as he, Harry, and Hermione watched from the drawing room windows. “Reckon they know we’re in here?”
“I don’t think so,” said Hermione, though she looked frightened, “or they’d have sent Snape in after us, wouldn’t they?”
“D’you reckon he’s been in here and has his tongue tied by Moody’s curse?” asked Ron.
“Yes,” said Hermione, “otherwise he’d have been able to tell that lot how to get in, wouldn’t he? But they’re probably watching to see whether we turn up. They know that Harry owns the house, after all.”
“How do they -?” began Harry.
“Wizarding wills are examined by the Ministry, remember? They’ll know Sirius left you the place.”
The presence of the Death Eaters outside increased the ominous mood inside number twelve. They had not heard a word form anyone beyond Grimmauld Place since Mr. Weasley’s Patronus, and the strain was starting to tell. Restless and irritable, Ron had developed an annoying habit of playing
with the Deluminator in his pocket; This particularly infuriated Hermione, who was whiling away the wait for Kreacher by studying The Tales of Beedle the Bard and did not appreciate the way the lights kept flashing on and off.
“Will you stop it!” she cried on the third evening of Kreacher’s absence, as all the light was sucked from the drawing room yet again.
“Sorry, sorry!” said Ron, clicking the Deluminator and restoring the lights. “I don’t know I’m doing it!”
“Well, can’t you find something useful to occupy yourself?”
“What, like reading kids’ stories?”
“Dumbledore left me this book, Ron -“
“-and he left me the Deluminator, maybe I’m supposed to use it!”
Unable to stand the bickering, Harry slipped out of the room unnoticed by either of them. He headed downstairs toward the kitchen, which he kept visiting because he was sure that was where Kreacher was most likely to reappear. Halfway down the flight of stairs into the hall, however, he heard a tap on the front door, then metallic clicks and the grinding of the chain.
Every nerve in his body seemed to tauten: He pulled out his wand, moved into the shadows beside the decapitated elf heads, and waited. The door opened: He saw a glimpse of the lamplit square outside, and a cloaked figure edged into the hall and closed the door behind it. The intruder took a step forward, and Moody’s voice asked, “Severus Snape?” Then the dust figure rose from the end of the hall and rushed him, raising its dead hand.
“It was not I who killed you, Albus,” said a quiet voice.
The jinx broke: The dust-figure exploded again, and it was impossible to make out the newcomer through the dense gray cloud it left behind.