Tonks was very interested in Harry's vision of the attack on Mr Weasley, something Harry was not remotely interested in discussing.
Thank you,' said Mrs Weasley. 'Come on, you lot.'
'No, of course not,' said Mr Weasley, with a slightly bitter smile, 'the Ministry wouldn't want everyone to know a dirty great serpent got - '
'Fine,' he said coolly, rummaging in his pockets, 'be like that. Don't tell us anything.'
But Kreacher did not answer the summons.
Something about Phineas's voice was familiar to Harry, where had he heard it before? But before he could think, the portraits on the surrounding walls broke into a storm of protest.
'Not far from here,' grunted Moody as they stepped out into the wintry air on a broad store-lined street packed with Christmas shoppers. He pushed Harry a little ahead of him and stumped along just behind; Harry knew the eye was rolling in all directions under the tilted hat. 'Wasn't easy to find a good location for a hospital. Nowhere in Diagon Alley was big enough and we couldn't have it underground like the Ministry - wouldn't be healthy. In the end they managed to get hold of a building up here. Theory was, sick wizards could come and go and just blend in with the crowd.'
'Your father has been injured in the course of his work for the Order of the Phoenix,' said Dumbledore, before Harry could speak. 'He has been taken to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. I am sending you back to Sirius's house, which is much more convenient for the hospital than The Burrow. You will meet your mother there.'
Fred and George looked as though they could not care less what the Ministry made of anything. Ron was still ashen-faced and silent.
Meanwhile, at the front of the queue, a young wizard was performing an odd on-the-spot jig and trying, in between yelps of pain, to explain his predicament to the witch behind the desk.
'We are honour-bound to give service to the present Headmaster o:~ Hogwarts!' cried a frail-looking old wizard whom Harry recognised as Dumbledore's predecessor, Armando Dippet. 'Sharne on you, Phineas!'
'He's going to be all right,' she said, her voice weak with tiredness. 'He's sleeping. We can all go and see him later. Bill's sitting with him now; he's going to take the morning off work.'
Harry and the others gathered around Dumbledore's desk.
The man has red hair and glasses,' said Dumbledore. 'Everard, you will need to raise the alarm, make sure he is found by the right people - '
'Arthur!' Mrs Weasley warned him.
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'You know,' said Phineas Nigellus, even more loudly than Harry, 'this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay, that there might be an excellent reason why the Headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore's orders has never yet led you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognise danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realise what the Dark Lord may be planning - '
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'But that's not all,' said Harry, in a voice only a little above a whisper. 'Sirius, I . . . I think I'm going mad. Back in Dumbledore's office, just before we took the Portkey . . . for a couple of seconds there I thought I was a snake, I felt like one - my scar really hurt when I was looking at Dumbledore - Sirius, I wanted to attack him!'
'I haven't moved!' said Harry, his hand still upon the doorknob. 'So what's the message?'
'Not running away, no,' said Harry shortly, dragging his trunk a few more feet across the room.