They found Mr Weasley propped up in bed with the remains of his turkey dinner on a tray on his lap and a rather sheepish expression on his face.
Neville took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and shook his head. Harry could not remember ever feeling sorrier for anyone, but he could not think of any way of helping Neville out of the situation.
'And what's that supposed to be?' he asked angrily, as the Healer pursued him through six more portraits, shoving the occupants out of the way.
'Nah, it's the fourth,' said Harry, 'one more -
'Merlins beard,' said Mr Weasley, the smile sliding off his face, 'what's going on here?'
'Harry,' said Ron's voice, from far, far away, 'Mum says dinners ready, but she'll save you something if you want to stay in bed.'
Harry did not immediately register what she had said; one of his castles was engaged in a violent tussle with a pawn of Ron's and he was egging it on enthusiastically.
Neville jumped and cowered as though a bullet had narrowly missed him.
'Harry, dear,' said Mrs Weasley poking her head into his and Ron's bedroom, where the pair of them were playing wizard chess watched by Hermione, Ginny and Crookshanks, 'could you come down to the kitchen? Professor Snape would like a word with you.'
'How're you feeling?' asked Hermione.
'I did,' he said glumly. 'Dumbledore told me but I promised I wouldn't tell anyone . . . that's what Bellatrix Lestrange got sent to Azkaban for, using the Cruciatus Curse on Neville's parents until they lost their minds.'
They got up and dressed. They could hear the various inhabitants of the house calling 'Merry Christmas' to one another. On their way downstairs they met Hermione.
He reached the black door but could not open it. . . he stood gazing at it, desperate for entry . . . something he wanted with all his heart lay beyond . . . a prize beyond his dreams . . . if only his scar would stop prickling . . . then he would be able to think more clearly . . .
'No, no, house-elves can't leave unless they're given clothes. They're tied to their family's house,' said Sirius.
'Yeah?' growled Harry, his hands deep in his pockets as he watched the snow now falling thickly outside. 'All been talking about me, have you? Well, I'm getting used to it.'
'Yes,' said Hermione, now sounding a little nervous. 'Er . . . I think we'd better knock.'
'You didn't leave your bed, male,' said Ron. T saw you thrashing around in your sleep for at least a minute before we could wake you up.'
'Friends of yours, Neville, dear?' said Neville's grandmother graciously, bearing down upon them all.
'It's Harry!' said George, pointing at the back of the picture, 'says so on the back!'