'How can he think that?' said Harry angrily. 'How can he think Dumbledore
would just make it all up - that I'd make it all up?'
'Because accepting that Voldemort's back would mean trouble like the Ministry
hasn't had to cope with for nearly fourteen years,' said Sirius bitterly. 'Fudge
just can't bring himself to face it. It's so much more comfortable to convince
himself Dumbledore's lying to destabilise him.'
'You see the problem,' said Lupin. 'While the Ministry insists there is nothing
to fear from Voldemort it's hard to convince people he's back, especially as
they really don't want to believe it in the first place. What's more, the Ministry's
leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet not to report any of what they're calling
Dumbledore's rumour-mongering, so most of the wizarding community are completely
unaware any things happened, and that makes them easy targets for the Death
Eaters if they're using the Imperius Curse.'
'But you're telling people, aren't you?' said Harry, looking around at Mr
Weasley, Sirius, Bill, Mundungus, Lupin and Tonks. 'You're letting people know
They all smiled humourlessly.
'Well, as everyone thinks I'm a mad mass-murderer and the Ministry's put
a ten thousand Galleon price on my head, I can hardly stroll up the street and
start handing out leaflets, can I?' said Sirius restlessly.
'And I'm not a very popular dinner guest with most of the community,' said
Lupin. 'It's an occupational hazard of being a werewolf.'
'Tonks and Arthur would lose their jobs at the Ministry if they started shooting
their mouths off,' said Sirius, 'and it's very important for us to have spies
inside the Ministry, because you can bet Voldemort will have them.'
'We've managed to convince a couple of people, though,' said Mr Weasley.
Tonks here, for one - she's too young to have been in the Order of the Phoenix
last time, and having Aurors on our side is a huge advantage - Kingsley Shacklebolt's
been a real asset, too; he's in charge of the hunt for Sirius, so he's been
feeding the Ministry information that Sirius is in Tibet.'
'But if none of you are putting the news out that Voldemort's back -' Harry
'Who said none of us are putting the news out?' said Sirius. Why d'you think
Dumbledore's in such trouble?'
'What d'you mean?' Harry asked.
They're trying to discredit him,' said Lupin. 'Didn't you see the Daily Prophet
last week? They reported that he'd been voted out of the Chairmanship of the
International Confederation of Wizards because he's getting old and losing his
grip, but it's not true; he was voted out by Ministry wizards after he made
a speech announcing Voldemort's return. They've demoted him from Chief Warlock
on the Wizengamot - that's the Wizard High Court - and they're talking about
taking away his Order of Merlin, First Class, too.'
'But Dumbledore says he doesn't care what they do as long as they don't take
him off the Chocolate Frog Cards,' said Bill, grinning.
'It's no laughing matter,' said Mr Weasley sharply. 'If he carries on defying
the Ministry like this he could end up in Azkaban, and the last thing we want
is to have Dumbledore locked up. While You-Know-Who knows Dumbledore's out there
and wise to what he's up to he's going to go cautiously. If Dumbledore's out
of the way - well, You-Know-Who will have a clear field.'
'But if Voldemort's trying to recruit more Death Eaters it's bound to get
out that he's come back, isn't it?' asked Harry desperately.
'Voldemort doesn't march up to people's houses and bang on their front doors,
Harry,' said Sirius. 'He tricks, jinxes and blackmails them. He's well practised
at operating in secret. In any case, gathering followers is only one thing he's
interested in. He's got other plans too, plans he can put into operation very
quietly indeed, and he's concentrating on those for the moment.'
'What's he after apart from followers?' Harry asked swiftly. He thought he
saw Sirius and Lupin exchange the most fleeting of looks before Sirius answered.
'Stuff he can only get by stealth.'
When Harry continued to look puzzled, Sirius said, 'Like a weapon. Something
he didn't have last time.'
'When he was powerful before?'
'Like what kind of weapon?' said Harry. 'Something worse than the Avada Kedavra
Mrs Weasley spoke from the shadows beside the door. Harry hadn't noticed
her return from taking Ginny upstairs. Her arms were crossed and she looked
'I want you in bed, now. All of you,' she added, looking around at Fred,
George, Ron and Hermione.
'You can't boss us -' Fred began.
'Watch me,' snarled Mrs Weasley. She was trembling slightly as she looked
at Sirius. 'You've given Harry plenty of information. Any more and you might
just as well induct him into the Order straightaway.'
'Why not?' said Harry quickly. I'll join, I want to join, I want to fight.'
It was not Mrs Weasley who spoke this time, but Lupin.
The Order is comprised only of overage wizards,' he said. 'Wizards who have
left school,' he added, as Fred and George opened their mouths. There are dangers
involved of which you can have no idea, any of you: I think Molly's right, Sirius.
We've said enough.'
Sirius half-shrugged but did not argue. Mrs Weasley beckoned imperiously
to her sons and Hermione. One by one they stood up and Harry, recognising defeat,
- CHAPTER SIX
The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
Mrs Weasley followed them upstairs looking grim.
'I want you all to go straight to bed, no talking,' she said as they reached
the first landing, 'we've got a busy day tomorrow. I expect Ginny's asleep,'
she added to Hermione, 'so try not to wake her up.'
'Asleep, yeah, right,' said Fred in an undertone, after Hermione bade them
goodnight and they were climbing to the next floor. 'If Ginny's not lying awake
waiting for Hermione to tell her everything they said downstairs then I'm a
'All right, Ron, Harry,' said Mrs Weasley on the second landing, pointing
them into their bedroom. 'Off to bed with you.'
'Night,' Harry and Ron said to the twins.
'Sleep tight,' said Fred, winking.
Mrs Weasley closed the door behind Harry with a sharp snap. The bedroom looked,
if anything, even danker and gloomier than it had on first sight. The blank
picture on the wall was now breathing very slowly and deeply, as though its
invisible occupant was asleep. Harry put on his pyjamas, took off his glasses
and climbed into his chilly bed while Ron threw Owl Treats up on top of the
wardrobe to pacify Hedwig and Pigwidgeon, who were clattering around and rustling
their wings restlessly.
'We can't let them out to hunt every night,' Ron explained as he pulled on
his maroon pyjamas. 'Dumbledore doesn't want too many owls swooping around the
square, thinks it'll look suspicious. Oh yeah: I forgot:'
He crossed to the door and bolted it.
'What're you doing that for?'
'Kreacher,' said Ron as he turned off the light. 'First night I was here
he came wandering in at three in the morning. Trust me, you don't want to wake
up and find him prowling around your room. Anyway:' he got into his bed, settled
down under the covers then turned to look at Harry in the darkness; Harry could
see his outline by the moonlight filtering in through the grimy window, 'what
Harry didn't need to ask what Ron meant.
'Well, they didn't tell us much we couldn't have guessed, did they?' he said,
thinking of all that had been said downstairs. 'I mean, all they've really said
is that the Order's trying to stop people joining Vol-'
There was a sharp intake of breath from Ron.
'-demort,' said Harry firmly. 'When are you going to start using his name?
Sirius and Lupin do.'
Ron ignored this last comment.
'Yeah, you're right,' he said, 'we already knew nearly everything they told
us, from using the Extendable Ears. The only new bit was -'
'Keep your voice down, Ron, or Mum'll be back up here.'
'You two just Apparated on my knees!'
'Yeah, well, it's harder in the dark.'
Harry saw the blurred outlines of Fred and George leaping down from Ron's
bed. There was a groan of bedsprings and Harry's mattress descended a few inches
as George sat down near his feet.
'So, got there yet?' said George eagerly.
The weapon Sirius mentioned?' said Harry.
'Let slip, more like,' said Fred with relish, now sitting next to Ron. 'We
didn't hear about that on the old Extendables, did we?'
'What d'you reckon it is?' said Harry.
'Could be anything,' said Fred.
'But there can't be anything worse than the Avada Kedavra Curse, can there?'
said Ron. What's worse than death?'
'Maybe it's something that can kill loads of people at once,' suggested George.
'Maybe it's some particularly painful way of killing people,' said Ron fearfully.
'He's got the Cruciatus Curse for causing pain,' said Harry, 'he doesn't
need anything more efficient than that.'
There was a pause and Harry knew that the others, like him, were wondering
what horrors this weapon could perpetrate.
'So who d'you think's got it now?' asked George.
'I hope it's our side,' said Ron, sounding slightly nervous.
'If it is, Dumbledore's probably keeping it,' said Fred. *!
'Where?' said Ron quickly. 'Hogwarts?' '
'Bet it is!' said George. That's where he hid the Philosopher's Stone.'
'A weapons going to be a lot bigger than the Stone, though!' said Ron.
'Not necessarily' said Fred.
'Yeah, size is no guarantee of power,' said George. 'Look at Ginny.'
'What d'you mean?' said Harry.
'You've never been on the receiving end of one of her Bat-Bogey Hexes, have
'Shhh!' said Fred, half-rising from the bed. 'Listen!'
They fell silent. Footsteps were coming up the stairs.
'Mum,' said George and without further ado there was a loud crack and Harry
felt the weight vanish from the end of his bed. A few seconds later, they heard
the floorboard creak outside their door; Mrs Weasley was plainly listening to
check whether or not they were talking.
Hedwig and Pigwidgeon hooted dolefully. The floorboard creaked again and
they heard her heading upstairs to check on Fred and George.
'She doesn't trust us at all, you know,' said Ron regretfully.
Harry was sure he would not be able to fall asleep; the evening had been
so packed with things to think about that he fully expected to lie awake for
hours mulling it all over. He wanted to continue talking to Ron, but Mrs Weasley
was now creaking back downstairs again, and once she had gone he distinctly
heard others making their way upstairs: in fact, many-legged creatures were
cantering softly up and down outside the bedroom door, and Hagrid the Care of
Magical Creatures teacher was saying, 'Beauties, arm they, eh, Harry? We'll
be studyin' weapons this term:" and Harry saw that the creatures had cannons
for heads and were wheeling to face him: he ducked:
The next thing he knew, he was curled into a warm ball under his bedclothes
and George's loud voice was filling the room.
'Mum says get up, your breakfast is in the kitchen and then she needs you
in the drawing room, there are loads more Doxys than she thought and she's found
a nest of dead Puffskeins under the sofa.'
Half an hour later Harry and Ron, who had dressed and breakfasted quickly,
entered the drawing room, a long, high-ceilinged room on the first floor with
olive green walls covered in dirty tapestries. The carpet exhaled little clouds
of dust every time someone put their foot on it and the long, moss green velvet
curtains were buzzing as though swarming with invisible bees. It was around
these that Mrs Weasley, Hermione, Ginny, Fred and George were grouped, all looking
rather peculiar as they had each tied a cloth over their nose and mouth. Each
of them was also holding a large bottle of black liquid with a nozzle at the
'Cover your faces and take a spray,' Mrs Weasley said to Harry and Ron the
moment she saw them, pointing to two more bottles of black liquid standing on
a spindle-legged table. 'It's Doxycide. I've never seen an infestation this
bad - what that house-elf's been doing for the last ten years -'
Hermione's face was half concealed by a tea towel but Harry distinctly saw
her throw a reproachful look at Mrs Weasley.
'Kreacher's really old, he probably couldn't manage -'
'You'd be surprised what Kreacher can manage when he wants to, Hermione,'
said Sirius, who had just entered the room carrying a bloodstained bag of what
appeared to be dead rats. 'I've just been feeding Buckbeak,' he added, in reply
to Harry's enquiring look. 'I keep him upstairs in my mothers bedroom. Anyway:
this writing desk:'
He dropped the bag of rats into an armchair, then bent over Jo examine the
locked cabinet which, Harry now noticed for the first time, was shaking slightly.