'But what's a portrait of your mother doing here?' Harry asked, bewildered,
as they went through the door from the hall and led the way down a flight of
narrow stone steps, the others just behind them.
'Hasn't anyone told you? This was my parents' house,' said Sirius. 'But I'm
the last Black left, so it's mine now. I offered it to Dumbledore for Headquarters
- about the only useful thing I've been able to do.'
Harry, who had expected a better welcome, noted how hard and bitter Sirius's
voice sounded. He followed his godfather to the bottom of the steps and through
a door leading into the basement kitchen.
It was scarcely less gloomy than the hall above, a cavernous room with rough
stone walls. Most of the light was coming from a large fire at the far end of
the room. A haze of pipe smoke hung in the air like battle fumes, through which
loomed the menacing shapes of heavy iron pots and pans hanging from the dark
ceiling. Many chairs had been crammed into the room for the meeting and a long
wooden table stood in the middle of them, littered with rolls of parchment,
goblets, empty wine bottles, and a heap of what appeared to be rags. Mr Weasley
and his eldest son Bill were talking quietly with their heads together at the
end of the table.
Mrs Weasley cleared her throat. Her husband, a thin, balding, red-haired
man who wore horn-rimmed glasses, looked around and jumped to his feet.
'Harry!' Mr Weasley said, hurrying forward to greet him, and shaking his
hand vigorously. 'Good to see you!'
Over his shoulder Harry saw Bill, who still wore his long hair in a ponytail,
hastily rolling up the lengths of parchment left on the table.
'Journey all right, Harry?' Bill called, trying to gather up twelve scrolls
at once. 'Mad-Eye didn't make you come via Greenland, then?'
'He tried,' said Tonks, striding over to help Bill and immediately toppling
a candle on to the last piece of parchment. 'Oh no - sorry -
'Here, dear,' said Mrs Weasley, sounding exasperated, and she repaired the
parchment with a wave of her wand. In the flash of light caused by Mrs Weasley's
charm Harry caught a glimpse of what looked like the plan of a building.
Mrs Weasley had seen him looking. She snatched the plan off the table and
stuffed it into Bill's already overladen arms.
'This sort of thing ought to be cleared away promptly at the end of meetings,'
she snapped, before sweeping off towards an ancient dresser from which she started
unloading dinner plates.
Bill took out his wand, muttered, 'Evanesco!' and the scrolls vanished.
'Sit down, Harry,' said Sirius. 'You've met Mundungus, haven't you?'
The thing Harry had taken to be a pile of rags gave a prolonged, grunting
snore, then jerked awake.
'Some'n say m'name?' Mundungus mumbled sleepily. 'I 'gree with Sirius:' He
raised a very grubby hand in the air as though voting, his droopy, bloodshot
'The meeting's over, Dung,' said Sirius, as they all sat down around him
at the table. 'Harry's arrived.'
'Eh?' said Mundungus, peering balefully at Harry through his matted ginger
hair. 'Blimey, so 'e 'as. Yeah: you all right, 'Any?'
'Yeah,' said Harry.
Mundungus fumbled nervously in his pockets, still staring at Harry, and pulled
out a grimy black pipe. He stuck it in his mouth, ignited the end of it with
his wand and took a deep pull on it. Great billowing clouds of greenish smoke
obscured him within seconds.
'Owe you a 'pology,' grunted a voice from the middle of the smelly cloud.
'For the last time, Mundungus,' called Mrs Weasley, 'will you please not
smoke that thing in the kitchen, especially not when we're about to eat!'
'Ah,' said Mundungus. 'Right. Sorry, Molly.'
The cloud of smoke vanished as Mundungus stowed his pipe back in his pocket,
but an acrid smell of burning socks lingered.
'And if you want dinner before midnight I'll need a hand,' Mrs Weasley said
to the room at large. 'No, you can stay where you are, Harry dear, you've had
a long journey.'
'What can I do, Molly?' said Tonks enthusiastically, bounding forwards.
Mrs Weasley hesitated, looking apprehensive.
'Er - no, it's all right, Tonks, you have a rest too, you've done enough
'No, no, I want to help!' said Tonks brightly, knocking over a chair as she
hurried towards the dresser, from which Ginny was collecting cutlery.
Soon, a series of heavy knives were chopping meat and vegetables of their
own accord, supervised by Mr Weasley, while Mrs Weasley stirred a cauldron dangling
over the fire and the others took out plates, more goblets and food from the
pantry. Harry was left at the table with Sirius and Mundungus, who was still
blinking at him mournfully.
'Seen old Figgy since?' he asked.
'No,' said Harry, 'I haven't seen anyone.'
'See, I wouldn't 'ave left,' said Mundungus, leaning forward, a pleading
note in his voice, 'but I 'ad a business opportunity -'
Harry felt something brush against his knees and started, but it was only
Crookshanks, Hermione's bandy-legged ginger cat, who wound himself once around
Harry's legs, purring, then jumped on to Sirius's lap and curled up. Sirius
scratched him absent-mindedly behind the ears as he turned, still grim-faced,
'Had a good summer so far?'
'No, it's been lousy,' said Harry.
For the first time, something like a grin flitted across Sirius's face.
'Don't know what you're complaining about, myself.'
'What?' said Harry incredulously.
'Personally, I'd have welcomed a Dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my
soul would have broken the monotony nicely. You think you've had it bad, at
least you've been able to get out and about, stretch your legs, get into a few
fights: I've been stuck inside for a month.'
'How come?' asked Harry, frowning.
'Because the Ministry of Magic's still after me, and Voldemort will know
all about me being an Animagus by now, Wormtail will have told him, so my big
disguise is useless. There's not much I can do for the Order of the Phoenix:
or so Dumbledore feels.'
There was something about the slightly flattened tone of voice in which Sirius
uttered Dumbledore's name that told Harry that Sirius, too, was not very happy
with the Headmaster. Harry felt a sudden upsurge of affection for his godfather.
At least you've known what's been going on,' he said bracingly.
'Oh yeah,' said Sirius sarcastically. 'Listening to Snape's reports, having
to take all his snide hints that he's out there risking his life while I'm sat
on my backside here having a nice comfortable time: asking me how the cleanings
'What cleaning?' asked Harry.
Trying to make this place fit for human habitation,' said Sirius, waving
a hand around the dismal kitchen. 'No one's lived here for ten years, not since
my dear mother died, unless you count her old house-elf, and he's gone round
the twist - hasn't cleaned anything in ages.'
'Sirius,' said Mundungus, who did not appear to have paid any attention to
the conversation, but had been closely examining an empty goblet. 'This solid
'Yes,' said Sirius, surveying it with distaste. 'Finest fifteenth-century
goblin-wrought silver, embossed with the Black family crest.'
That'd come orf, though,' muttered Mundungus, polishing it with his cuff.
'Fred - George - NO, JUST CARRY THEM!' Mrs Weasley shrieked.
Harry, Sirius and Mundungus looked round and, within a split second, they
had dived away from the table. Fred and George had bewitched a large cauldron
of stew, an iron flagon of Butterbeer and a heavy wooden breadboard, complete
with knife, to hurtle through the air towards them. The stew skidded the length
of the table and came to a halt just before the end, leaving a long black burn
on the wooden surface; the flagon of Butterbeer fell with a crash, spilling
its contents everywhere; the bread knife slipped off the board and landed, point
down and quivering ominously, exactly where Sirius's right hand had been seconds
'FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!' screamed Mrs Weasley. THERE WAS NO NEED - I'VE HAD ENOUGH
OF THIS - JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE ALLOWED TO USE MAGIC NOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WHIP
YOUR WANDS OUT FOR EVERY TINY LITTLE THING!'
'We were just trying to save a bit of time!' said Fred, hurrying forward
to wrench the bread knife out of the table. 'Sorry, Sirius, mate - didn't mean
Harry and Sirius were both laughing; Mundungus, who had toppled backwards
off his chair, was swearing as he got to his feet; Crookshanks had given an
angry hiss and shot off under the dresser, from where his large yellow eyes
glowed in the darkness.
'Boys,' Mr Weasley said, lifting the stew back into the middle of the table,
'your mother's right, you're supposed to show a sense of responsibility now
you've come of age -'
'None of your brothers caused this sort of trouble!' Mrs Weasley raged at
the twins as she slammed a fresh flagon of Butterbeer on to the table, and spilling
almost as much again. 'Bill didn't feel the need to Apparate every few feet!
Charlie didn't charm everything he met! Percy -'
She stopped dead, catching her breath with a frightened look at her husband,
whose expression was suddenly wooden.
'Let's eat,' said Bill quickly.
'It looks wonderful, Molly,' said Lupin, ladling stew on to a plate for her
and handing it across the table.
For a few minutes there was silence but for the chink of plates and cutlery
and the scraping of chairs as everyone settled down to their food. Then Mrs
Weasley turned to Sirius.
'I've been meaning to tell you, Sirius, there's something trapped in that
writing desk in the drawing room, it keeps rattling and shaking. Of course,
it could just be a Boggart, but I thought we ought to ask Alastor to have a
look at it before we let it out.'
'Whatever you like,' said Sirius indifferently.
'The curtains in there are full of Doxys, too,' Mrs Weasley went on. 'I thought
we might try and tackle them tomorrow.'
'I look forward to it,' said Sirius. Harry heard the sarcasm in his voice,
but he was not sure that anyone else did.
Opposite Harry, Tonks was entertaining Hermione and Ginny by transforming
her nose between mouthfuls. Screwing up her eyes each time with the same pained
expression she had worn back in Harry's bedroom, her nose swelled to a beak-like
protuberance that resembled Snape's, shrank to the size of a button mushroom
and then sprouted a great deal of hair from each nostril. Apparently this was
a regular mealtime entertainment, because Hermione and Ginny were soon requesting
their favourite noses.
'Do that one like a pig snout, Tonks.'
Tonks obliged, and Harry, looking up, had the fleeting impression that a
female Dudley was grinning at him from across the table.
Mr Weasley, Bill and Lupin were having an intense discussion about goblins.
They're not giving anything away yet,' said Bill. 'I still can't work out
whether or not they believe he's back. Course, they might prefer not to take
sides at all. Keep out of it.'
'I'm sure they'd never go over to You-Know-Who,' said Mr Weasley, shaking
his head. They've suffered losses too; remember that goblin family he murdered
last time, somewhere near Nottingham?'
'I think it depends what they're offered,' said Lupin. 'And I'm not talking
about gold. If they're offered the freedoms we've been denying them for centuries
they're going to be tempted. Have you still not had any luck with Ragnok, Bill?'
'He's feeling pretty anti-wizard at the moment,' said Bill, 'he hasn't stopped
raging about the Bagman business, he reckons the Ministry did a cover-up, those
goblins never got their gold from him, you know -'
A gale of laughter from the middle of the table drowned the rest of Bill's
words. Fred, George, Ron and Mundungus were rolling around in their seats.
': and then,' choked Mundungus, tears running down his face, 'and then, if
you'll believe it, 'e says to me, 'e says, "'Ere, Dung, where didja get all
them toads from? 'Cos some son of a Bludger's gone and nicked all mine!" And
I says, "Nicked all your toads, Will, what next? So you'll be wanting some more,
then?" And if you'll believe me, lads, the gormless gargoyle buys all 'is own
toads back orf me for a lot more'n what 'e paid in the first place -'
'I don't think we need to hear any more of your business dealings, thank
you very much, Mundungus,' said Mrs Weasley sharply, as Ron slumped forwards
on to the table, howling with laughter.
'Beg pardon, Molly,' said Mundungus at once, wiping his eyes and winking
at Harry. 'But, you know, Will nicked 'em orf Warty Harris in the first place
so I wasn't really doing nothing wrong.'
'I don't know where you learned about right and wrong, Mundungus, but you
seem to have missed a few crucial lessons,' said Mrs Weasley coldly.
Fred and George buried their faces in their goblets of Butterbeer; George
was hiccoughing. For some reason, Mrs Weasley threw a very nasty look at Sirius
before getting to her feet and going to fetch a large rhubarb crumble for pudding.
Harry looked round at his godfather.