'I know,' said Harry wearily.
Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide and swallowed the jet of green light whole: he burst into flame and fell to the floor, small, wrinkled and flightless. At the same moment, Dumbledore brandished his wand in one long, fluid movement - the snake, which had been an instant from sinking its fangs into him, flew high into the air and vanished in a wisp of dark smoke; and the water in the pool rose up and covered Voldemort like a cocoon of molten glass.
Voldemort paid no attention.
'I - don't - well -' blustered Fudge, looking around as though hoping somebody was going to tell him what to do. When nobody did, he said, 'Very well - Dawlish! Williamson! Go down to the Department of Mysteries and see . . . Dumbledore, you - you will need to tell me exactly - the Fountain of Magical Brethren - what happened?' he added in a kind of whimper, staring around at the floor, where the remains of the statues of the witch, wizard and centaur now lay scattered.
Harry felt the familiar sensation of a hook being jerked behind his navel. The polished wooden floor was gone from beneath his feet; the Atrium, Fudge and Dumbledore had all disappeared and he was flying forwards in a whirlwind of colour and sound . . .
'Cornelius, I am ready to fight your men - and win, again!' said Dumbledore in a thunderous voice. 'But a few minutes ago you saw proof, with your own eyes, that I have been telling you the truth for a year. Lord Voldemort has returned, you have been chasing the wrong man for twelve months, and it is time you listened to sense!'
For a few seconds Voldemort was visible only as a dark, rippling, faceless figure, shimmering and indistinct upon the plinth, clearly struggling to throw off the suffocating mass - '
'And what brings you here in the early hours of the morning?' said Phineas eventually. This office is supposed to be barred to all but the rightful Headmaster. Or has Dumbledore sent you here? Oh, don't tell me . . .' He gave another shuddering yawn. 'Another message for my worthless great-great-grandson?'
A few more of the portraits had stirred now. Terror of being interrogated made Harry stride across the room and seize the doorknob.
'Not until I have had my say,' said Dumbledore.
'She doesn't love me,' said Harry at once. 'She doesn't give a damn - '
'I know, Williamson, I know, I saw him too!' gibbered Fudge, who was wearing pyjamas under his pinstriped cloak and was gasping as though he had just run miles. 'Merlin's beard - here - here! - in the Ministry of Magic! - great heavens above - it doesn't seem possible - my word - how can this be - ?'
'Madam Pomfrey is patching everybody up,' said Dumbledore 'Nymphadora Tonks may need to spend a little time in St Mungos, but it seems she will make a full recovery.'
He was gone from the hall, he was locked in the coils of a creature with red eyes, so tightly bound that Harry did not know where his body ended and the creatures began: they were fused together, bound by pain, and there was no escape - '
Dumbledore closed his eyes and buried his face in his long-fingered hands. Harry watched him, but this uncharacteristic sign of exhaustion, or sadness, or whatever it was from Dumbledore, did not soften him. On the contrary, he felt even angrier that Dumbledore was showing signs of weakness. He had no business being weak when Harry wanted to rage and storm at him.
The prophecy's smashed,' Harry said blankly. 'I was pulling Neville up those benches in the - the room where the archway was, and I ripped his robes and it fell . . .'
'So . . . when I asked Kreacher if Sirius was there last night . . .'
'It is time,' he said, 'for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything. I ask only a little patience. You will have your chance to rage at me - to do whatever you like - when I have finished. I will not stop you.'
'Well, it seemed to me that twelve was, after all, hardly better than eleven to receive such information. I allowed you to leave my presence, bloodstained, exhausted but exhilarated, and if I felt a twinge of unease that I ought, perhaps, to have told you then, it was swiftly silenced. You were still so young, you see, and I could not find it in myself to spoil that night of triumph . . .