'He says he'll be delighted,' said a bored voice behind Dumbledore; the wizard called Phineas had reappeared in front of his Slytherin banner. 'My great-great-grandson has always had an odd taste in house-guests.'
Professor McGonagall was gone in a swish of tartan.
'What did he say?' asked George.
'And how are you going to explain how you knew Arthur was attacked before the hospital even let his wife know?'
'I know it's hard, but we've all got to act as though we don't know anything yet. We've got to stay put, at least until we hear from your mother, all right?'
'I thought,' said Phineas Nigellus, stroking his pointed beard, 'that to belong in Gryffindor house you were supposed to be brave? It looks to me as though you would have been better off in my own house. We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks.'
They followed her through the double doors and along the narrow corridor beyond, which was lined with more portraits of famous Healers and lit by crystal bubbles full of candles that floated up on the ceiling, looking like giant soapsuds. More witches and wizards in lime-green robes walked in and out of the doors they passed; a foul-smelling yellow gas wafted into the passageway as they passed one door, and every now and then they heard distant wailing. They climbed a flight of stairs and entered the Creature-Induced Injuries corridor, where the second door on the right bore the words: 'Dangerous' Dai Llewellyn Ward: Serious Bites. Underneath this was a card in a brass holder on which had been handwritten: Healer-in-Charge: Hippocrates Smethwyck. Trainee Healer: Augustus Pye.
'It's two weeks till full moon,' Mr Weasley reminded her quietly. They've been talking to him this morning, the Healers, you know, trying to persuade him he'll be able to lead an almost normal life. I said to him - didn't mention names, of course - but I said I knew a werewolf personally, very nice man, who finds the condition quite easy to manage.'
that Tonks, whose hair was short and bright pink again, would attract far less attention on the Underground.
He felt dirty, contaminated, as though he were carrying some deadly germ, unworthy to sit on the Underground train back from the hospital with innocent, clean people whose minds and bodies were free of the taint of Voldemort . . . he had not merely seen the snake, he had been the snake, he knew it now . . .
'Did someone call?'
We've got to go to St Mungos, said Ginny urgently, She looked around at her brothers; they were of course still in their pyjamas. 'Sirius, can you lend us cloaks or anything?'
'I have just given it to you, dolt,' said Phineas Nigellus smoothly. 'Dumbledore says, "Stay where you are." '
Ginny said, 'Somebody else could have told us . . . we could have heard it somewhere other than Harry.'
'You need to sleep,' said Sirius firmly. 'You're going to have breakfast, then go upstairs to bed, and after lunch you can go and see Arthur with the others. You're in shock, Harry; you're blaming yourself for something you only witnessed, and it's lucky you did witness it or Arthur might have died. Just stop worrying.'
A truly terrible thought then occurred to him, a memory bobbing to the surface of his mind, one that made his insides writhe and squirm like serpents.
He sloped away into the frame of the portrait and disappeared from view at the very moment the study door opened again. Fred, George and Ginny were ushered inside by Professor McGonagall, all three of them looking dishevelled and shocked, still in their night things.
When he paused for breath, Sirius said, 'Did you tell Dumbledore this?'