'Molly doesn't approve of Mundungus,' said Sirius in an undertone.
'How come he's in the Order?' Harry said, very quietly.
'He's useful,' Sirius muttered. 'Knows all the crooks - well, he would, seeing
as he's one himself. But he's also very loyal to Dumbledore, who helped him
out of a tight spot once. It pays to have someone like Dung around, he hears
things we don't. But Molly thinks inviting him to stay for dinner is going too
far. She hasn't forgiven him for slipping off duty when he was supposed to be
Three helpings of rhubarb crumble and custard later and the waistband on
Harry's jeans was feeling uncomfortably tight (which was saying something as
the jeans had once been Dudley's). As he laid down his spoon there was a lull
in the general conversation: Mr Weasley was leaning back in his chair, looking
replete and relaxed; Tonks was yawning widely, her nose now back to normal;
and Ginny who had lured Crookshanks out from under the dresser, was sitting
cross-legged on the floor, rolling Butterbeer corks for him to chase.
'Nearly time for bed, I think,' said Mrs Weasley with a yawn.
'Not just yet, Molly' said Sirius, pushing away his empty plate and turning
to look at Harry. 'You know, I'm surprised at you. I thought the first thing
you'd do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort.'
The atmosphere in the room changed with the rapidity Harry associated with
the arrival of Dementors. Where seconds before it had been sleepily relaxed,
it was now alert, even tense. A frisson had gone around the table at the mention
of Voldemort's name. Lupin, who had been about to take a sip of wine, lowered
his goblet slowly, looking wary.
'I did!' said Harry indignantly. 'I asked Ron and Hermione but they said
we're not allowed in the Order, so -'
'And they're quite right,' said Mrs Weasley. 'You're too young.'
She was sitting bolt upright in her chair, her fists clenched on its arms,
every trace of drowsiness gone.
'Since when did someone have to be in the Order of the Phoenix to ask questions?'
asked Sirius. 'Harry's been trapped in that Muggle house for a month. He's got
the right to know what's been happen-'
'Hang on!' interrupted George loudly.
'How come Harry gets his questions answered?' said Fred angrily.
'We've been trying to get stuff out of you for a month and you haven't told
us a single stinking thing!' said George.
'"You're too young, you're not in the Order,'" said Fred, in a high-pitched
voice that sounded uncannily like his mother's. 'Harry's not even of age!'
'It's not my fault you haven't been told what the Order's doing,' said Sirius
calmly, 'that's your parents' decision. Harry, on the other hand -'
'It's not down to you to decide what's good for Harry!' said Mrs Weasley
sharply. The expression on her normally kind face looked dangerous. 'You haven't
forgotten what Dumbledore said, I suppose?'
'Which bit?' Sirius asked politely, but with the air of a man readying himself
for a fight.
The bit about not telling Harry more than he needs to know,' said Mrs Weasley,
placing a heavy emphasis on the last three words.
Ron, Hermione, Fred and George's heads swivelled from Sirius to Mrs Weasley
as though they were following a tennis rally. Ginny was kneeling amid a pile
of abandoned Butterbeer corks, watching the conversation with her mouth slightly
open. Lupin's eyes were fixed on Sirius.
'I don't intend to tell him more than he needs to know, Molly,' said Sirius.
'But as he was the one who saw Voldemort come back' (again, there was a collective
shudder around the table at the name) 'he has more right than most to -'
'He's not a member of the Order of the Phoenix!' said Mrs Weasley. 'He's
only fifteen and -'
'And he's dealt with as much as most in the Order,' said Sirius, 'and more
'No one's denying what he's done!' said Mrs Weasley, her voice rising, her
fists trembling on the arms of her chair. 'But he's still -'
'He's not a child!' said Sirius impatiently.
'He's not an adult either!' said Mrs Weasley, the colour rising in her cheeks.
'He's not James, Sirius!'
'I'm perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly,' said Sirius coldly.
'I'm not sure you are!' said Mrs Weasley. 'Sometimes, the way you talk about
him, it's as though you think you've got your best friend back!'
'What's wrong with that?' said Harry.
'What's wrong, Harry, is that you are not your father, however much you might
look like him!' said Mrs Weasley, her eyes still boring into Sirius. 'You are
still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!'
'Meaning I'm an irresponsible godfather?' demanded Sirius, his voice rising.
'Meaning you have been known to act rashly, Sirius, which is why Dumbledore
keeps reminding you to stay at home and -'
'We'll leave my instructions from Dumbledore out of this, if you please!'
said Sirius loudly.
'Arthur!' said Mrs Weasley, rounding on her husband. 'Arthur, back me up!'
Mr Weasley did not speak at once. He took off his glasses and cleaned them
slowly on his robes, not looking at his wife. Only when he had replaced them
carefully on his nose did he reply.
'Dumbledore knows the position has changed, Molly. He accepts that Harry
will have to be filled in, to a certain extent, now that he is staying at Headquarters.'
'Yes, but there's a difference between that and inviting him to ask whatever
'Personally,' said Lupin quietly, looking away from Sirius at last, as Mrs
Weasley turned quickly to him, hopeful that finally she was about to get an
ally, 'I think it better that Harry gets the facts -not all the facts, Molly,
but the general picture - from us, rather than a garbled version from: others.'
His expression was mild, but Harry felt sure Lupin, at least, knew that some
Extendable Ears had survived Mrs Weasley's purge.
'Well,' said Mrs Weasley, breathing deeply and looking around the table for
support that did not come, 'well: I can see I'm going to be overruled. I'll
just say this: Dumbledore must have had his reasons for not wanting Harry to
know too much, and speaking as someone who has Harry's best interests at heart
'He's not your son,' said Sirius quietly.
'He's as good as,' said Mrs Weasley fiercely. 'Who else has he got?'
'He's got me!'
'Yes,' said Mrs Weasley, her lip curling, 'the thing is, it's been rather
difficult for you to look after him while you've been locked UP in Azkaban,
Sirius started to rise from his chair.
'Molly, you're not the only person at this table who cares about Harry,'
said Lupin sharply. 'Sirius, sit down.'
Mrs Weasley's lower lip was trembling. Sirius sank slowly back into his chair,
his face white.
'I think Harry ought to be allowed a say in this,' Lupin continued, 'he's
old enough to decide for himself.'
'I want to know what's been going on,' Harry said at once.
He did not look at Mrs Weasley. He had been touched by what she had said
about his being as good as a son, but he was also impatient with her mollycoddling.
Sirius was right, he was not a child.
'Very well,' said Mrs Weasley, her voice cracking. 'Ginny - Ron - Hermione
- Fred - George - I want you out of this kitchen, now.'
There was instant uproar.
'We're of age!' Fred and George bellowed together.
'If Harry's allowed, why can't I?' shouted Ron.
'Mum, I want to hear!' wailed Ginny.
'NO!' shouted Mrs Weasley, standing up, her eyes overbright. 'I absolutely
'Molly, you can't stop Fred and George,' said Mr Weasley wearily. They are
They're still at school.'
'But they're legally adults now,' said Mr Weasley, in the same tired voice.
Mrs Weasley was now scarlet in the face.
'I - oh, all right then, Fred and George can stay, but Ron -'
'Harry'll tell me and Hermione everything you say anyway!' said Ron hotly.
'Won't - won't you?' he added uncertainly, meeting Harry's eyes.
For a split second, Harry considered telling Ron that he wouldn't tell him
a single word, that he could try a taste of being kept in the dark and see how
he liked it. But the nasty impulse vanished as they looked at each other.
'Course I will,' Harry said.
Ron and Hermione beamed.
'Fine!' shouted Mrs Weasley. 'Fine! Ginny - BED!'
Ginny did not go quietly. They could hear her raging and storming at her
mother all the way up the stairs, and when she reached the hall Mrs Blacks ear-splitting
shrieks were added to the din. Lupin hurried off to the portrait to restore
calm. It was only after he had returned, closing the kitchen door behind him
and taking his seat at the table again, that Sirius spoke.
'OK, Harry: what do you want to know?'
Harry took a deep breath and asked the question that had obsessed him for
the last month.
'Where's Voldemort?' he said, ignoring the renewed shudders and winces at
the name. 'What's he doing? I've been trying to watch the Muggle news, and there
hasn't been anything that looks like him yet, no funny deaths or anything.'
That's because there haven't been any funny deaths yet,' said Sirius, 'not
as far as we know, anyway: and we know quite a lot.'
'More than he thinks we do, anyway,' said Lupin.
'How come he's stopped killing people?' Harry asked. He knew Voldemort had
murdered more than once in the last year alone.
'Because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself,' said Sirius. 'It
would be dangerous for him. His comeback didn't come off quite the way he wanted
it to, you see. He messed it up.'
'Or rather, you messed it tip for him,' said Lupin, with a satisfied smile.
'How?' Harry asked, perplexed.
'You weren't supposed to survive!' said Sirius. 'Nobody apart from his Death
Eaters was supposed to know he'd come back. But you survived to bear witness.'
'And the very last person he wanted alerted to his return the moment he got
back was Dumbledore,' said Lupin. 'And you made sure Dumbledore knew at once.'
'How has that helped?' Harry asked.
'Are you kidding?' said Bill incredulously. 'Dumbledore was the only one
You-Know-Who was ever scared of!'
Thanks to you, Dumbledore was able to recall the Order of the Phoenix about
an hour after Voldemort returned,' said Sirius.
'So, what's the Order been doing?' said Harry, looking around at them all.
'Working as hard as we can to make sure Voldemort can't carry out his plans,'
'How d'you know what his plans are?' Harry asked quickly.
'Dumbledore's got a shrewd idea,' said Lupin, 'and Dumbledore's shrewd ideas
normally turn out to be accurate.'
'So what does Dumbledore reckon he's planning?'
'Well, firstly, he wants to build up his army again,' said Sirius. 'In the
old days he had huge numbers at his command: witches and wizards he'd bullied
or bewitched into following him, his faithful Death Eaters, a great variety
of Dark creatures. You heard him planning to recruit the giants; well, they'll
be just one of the groups he's after. He's certainly not going to try and take
on the Ministry of Magic with only a dozen Death Eaters.'
'So you're trying to stop him getting more followers?'
'We're doing our best,' said Lupin.
'Well, the main thing is to try and convince as many people as possible that
You-Know-Who really has returned, to put them on their guard,' said Bill. 'It's
proving tricky, though.'
'Because of the Ministry's attitude,' said Tonks. 'You saw Cornelius Fudge
after You-Know-Who came back, Harry. Well, he hasn't shifted his position at
all. He's absolutely refusing to believe it's happened.'
'But why?' said Harry desperately. Why's he being so stupid? If Dumbledore
'Ah, well, you've put your finger on the problem,' said Mr Weasley with a
wry smile. 'Dumbledore.'
'Fudge is frightened of him, you see,' said Tonks sadly.
'Frightened of Dumbledore?' said Harry incredulously.
'Frightened of what he's up to,' said Mr Weasley. 'Fudge thinks Dumbledore's
plotting to overthrow him. He thinks Dumbledore wants to be Minister for Magic.'
'But Dumbledore doesn't want -'
'Of course he doesn't,' said Mr Weasley. 'He's never wanted the Minister's
job, even though a lot of people wanted him to take it when Millicent Bagnold
retired. Fudge came to power instead, but he's never quite forgotten how much
popular support Dumbledore had, even though Dumbledore never applied for the
'Deep down, Fudge knows Dumbledore's much cleverer than he is a much more
powerful wizard, and in the early days of his Ministry he was forever asking
Dumbledore for help and advice,' said Lupin. 'But it seems he's become fond
of power, and much more confident. He loves being Minister for Magic and he's
managed to convince himself that he's the clever one and Dumbledore's simply
stirring up trouble for the sake of it.'