'Well, Molly, I'm pretty sure this is a Boggart,' said Sirius, peering through
the keyhole, 'but perhaps we ought to let Mad-Eye have a shifty at it before
we let it out - knowing my mother, it could be something much worse.'
'Right you are, Sirius,' said Mrs Weasley.
They were both speaking in carefully light, polite voices that told Harry
quite plainly that neither had forgotten their disagreement of the night before.
A loud, clanging bell sounded from downstairs, followed at once by the cacophony
of screams and wails that had been triggered the previous night by Tonks knocking
over the umbrella stand.
'I keep telling them not to ring the doorbell!' said Sirius exasperatedly,
hurrying out of the room. They heard him thundering down the stairs as Mrs Black's
screeches echoed up through the house once more:
'Stains, of dishonour, filthy half-breeds, blood traitors, children of filth
'Close the door, please, Harry,' said Mrs Weasley.
Harry took as much time as he dared to close the drawing-room door; he wanted
to listen to what was going on downstairs. Sirius had obviously managed to shut
the curtains over his mother's portrait because she had stopped screaming. He
heard Sirius walking down the hall, then the clattering of the chain on the
front door, and then a deep voice he recognised as Kingsley Shacklebolt's saying,
'Hestia's just relieved me, so she's got Moody's Cloak now, thought I'd leave
a report for Dumbledore:'
Feeling Mrs Weasley's eyes on the back of his head, Harry regretfully closed
the drawing-room door and rejoined the Doxy party.
Mrs Weasley was bending over to check the page on Doxys in Gilderoy Lockhart's
Guide to Household Pests, which was lying open on the sofa.
'Right, you lot, you need to be careful, because Doxys bite and their teeth
are poisonous. I've got a bottle of antidote here, but I'd rather nobody needed
She straightened up, positioned herself squarely in front of the curtains
and beckoned them all forward.
'When I say the word, start spraying immediately,' she said. They'll come
flying out at us, I expect, but it says on the sprays one good squirt will paralyse
them. When they're immobilised, just throw them in this bucket.'
She stepped carefully out of their line of fire, and raised her own spray.
'All right - squirt!'
Harry had been spraying only a few seconds when a fully-grown Doxy came soaring
out of a fold in the material, shiny beetle-like wings whirring, tiny needle-sharp
teeth bared, its fairy-like body covered with thick black hair and its four
tiny lists clenched with fury. Harry caught it full in the face with a blast
of Doxycide. It froze in midair and fell, with a surprisingly loud thunk, on
to the worn carpet below. Harry picked it up and threw it in the bucket.
'Fred, what are you doing?' said Mrs Weasley sharply. 'Spray that at once
and throw it away!'
Harry looked round. Fred was holding a struggling Doxy between his forefinger
'Right-o,' Fred said brightly, spraying the Doxy quickly in the face so that
it fainted, but the moment Mrs Weasley's back was turned he pocketed it with
'We want to experiment with Doxy venom for our Skiving Snackboxes,' George
told Harry under his breath.
Deftly spraying two Doxys at once as they soared straight for his nose, Harry
moved closer to George and muttered out of the corner of his mouth, 'What are
'Range of sweets to make you ill,' George whispered, keeping a wary eye on
Mrs Weasley's back. 'Not seriously ill, mind, just ill enough to get you out
of a class when you feel like it. Fred and I have been developing them this
summer. They're double-ended, colour-coded chews. If you eat the orange half
of the Puking Pastilles, you throw up. Moment you've been rushed out of the
lesson for the hospital wing, you swallow the purple half -'
''- which restores you to full fitness, enabling you to pursue the leisure
activity of your own choice during an hour that would otherwise have been devoted
to unprofitable boredom." That's what we're putting in the adverts, anyway,'
whispered Fred, who had edged over out of Mrs Weasley's line of vision and was
now sweeping a few stray Doxys from the floor and adding them to his pocket.
'But they still need a bit of work. At the moment our testers are having a bit
of trouble stopping themselves puking long enough to swallow the purple end.'
'Us,' said Fred. 'We take it in turns. George did the Fainting Fancies -
we both tried the Nosebleed Nougat -'
'Mum thought we'd been duelling,' said George.
'Joke shop still on, then?' Harry muttered, pretending to be adjusting the
nozzle on his spray.
'Well, we haven't had a chance to get premises yet,' said Fred, dropping
his voice even lower as Mrs Weasley mopped her brow with her scarf before returning
to the attack, 'so we're running it as a mail-order service at the moment. We
put advertisements in the Daily Prophet last week.'
'All thanks to you, mate,' said George. 'But don't worry: Mum hasn't got
a clue. She won't read the Daily Prophet any more, 'cause of it telling lies
about you and Dumbledore.'
Harry grinned. He had forced the Weasley twins to take the thousand Galleons
prize money he had won in the Triwizard Tournament to help them realise their
ambition to open a joke shop, but he was still glad to know that his part in
furthering their plans was unknown to Mrs Weasley. She did not think running
a joke shop was a suitable career for two of her sons.
The de-Doxying of the curtains took most of the morning. It was past midday
when Mrs Weasley finally removed her protective scarf, sank into a sagging armchair
and sprang up again with a cry of disgust, having sat on the bag of dead rats.
The curtains were no longer buzzing; they hung limp and damp from the intensive
spraying. At the foot of them unconscious Doxys lay crammed in the bucket beside
a bowl of their black eggs, at which Crook-shanks was now sniffing and Fred
and George were shooting covetous looks.
'I think we'll tackle those after lunch.' Mrs Weasley pointed at the dusty
glass-fronted cabinets standing on either side of the mantelpiece. They were
crammed with an odd assortment of objects: a selection of rusty daggers, claws,
a coiled snakeskin, a number of tarnished silver boxes inscribed with languages
Harry could not understand and, least pleasant of all, an ornate crystal bottle
with a large opal set into the stopper, full of what Harry was quite sure was
The clanging doorbell rang again. Everyone looked at Mrs Weasley.
'Stay here,' she said firmly, snatching up the bag of rats as Mrs Black's
screeches started up again from down below. I'll bring up some sandwiches.'
She left the room, closing the door carefully behind her. At once, everyone
dashed over to the window to look down on the doorstep. They could see the top
of an unkempt gingery head and a stack of precariously balanced cauldrons.
'Mundungus!' said Hermione. 'What's he brought all those cauldrons for?'
'Probably looking for a sale place to keep them,' said Harry. 'Isn't that
what he was doing the night he was supposed to be tailing me? Picking up dodgy
'Yeah, you're right!' said Fred, as the front door opened; Mundungus heaved
his cauldrons through it and disappeared from view. 'Blimey, Mum won't like
He and George crossed to the door and stood beside it, listening closely.
Mrs Black's screaming had stopped.
'Mundungus is talking to Sirius and Kingsley,' Fred muttered, frowning with
concentration. 'Can't hear properly: d'you reckon we can risk the Extendable
'Might be worth it,' said George. 'I could sneak upstairs and get a pair
But at that precise moment there was an explosion of sound from downstairs
that rendered Extendable Ears quite unnecessary. All of them could hear exactly
what Mrs Weasley was shouting at the top of her voice.
WE ARE NOT RUNNING A HIDEOUT FOR STOLEN GOODS!'
I love hearing Mum shouting at someone else,' said Fred, with a satisfied
smile on his face as he opened the door an inch or so to allow Mrs Weasley's
voice to permeate the room better, 'it makes such a nice change.'
'- COMPLETELY IRRESPONSIBLE, AS IF WE HAVEN'T GOT ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT WITHOUT
YOU DRAGGING STOLEN CAULDRONS INTO THE HOUSE -'
The idiots are letting her get into her stride,' said George, shaking his
head. 'You've got to head her off early otherwise she builds up a head of steam
and goes on for hours. And she's been dying to have a go at Mundungus ever since
he sneaked off when he was supposed to be following you, Harry - and there goes
Sirius's mum again.'
Mrs Weasley's voice was lost amid fresh shrieks and screams from the portraits
in the hall.
George made to shut the door to drown the noise, but before he could do so,
a house-elf edged into the room.
Except for the filthy rag tied like a loincloth around its middle, it was
completely naked. It looked very old. Its skin seemed to be several times too
big for it and, though it was bald like all house-elves, there was a quantity
of white hair growing out of its large, batlike ears. Its eyes were a bloodshot
and watery grey and its fleshy nose was large and rather snoutlike.
The elf took absolutely no notice of Harry and the rest. Acting as though
it could not see them, it shuffled hunchbacked, slowly and doggedly, towards
the far end of the room, all the while muttering under its breath in a hoarse,
deep voice like a bullfrogs.
': smells like a drain and a criminal to boot, but she's no better, nasty
old blood traitor with her brats messing up my mistress's house, oh, my poor
mistress, if she knew, if she knew the scum they've let into her house, what
would she say to old Kreacher, oh, the shame of it, Mudbloods and werewolves
and traitors and thieves, poor old Kreacher, what can he do:'
'Hello, Kreacher,' said Fred very loudly, closing the door with a snap.
The house-elf froze in his tracks, stopped muttering, and gave a very pronounced
and very unconvincing start of surprise.
'Kreacher did not see young master,' he said, turning around and bowing to
Fred. Still facing the carpet, he added, perfectly audibly, 'Nasty little brat
of a blood traitor it is.'
'Sorry?' said George. 'Didn't catch that last bit.'
'Kreacher said nothing,' said the elf, with a second bow to George, adding
in a clear undertone, 'and there's its twin, unnatural little beasts they are.'
Harry didn't know whether to laugh or not. The elf straightened up, eyeing
them all malevolently, and apparently convinced that they could not hear him
as he continued to mutter.
': and there's the Mudblood, standing there bold as brass, oh, if my mistress
knew, oh, how she'd cry, and there's a new boy, Kreacher doesn't know his name.
What is he doing here? Kreacher doesn't know:"
This is Harry, Kreacher,' said Hermione tentatively. 'Harry Potter.'
Kreacher's pale eyes widened and he muttered faster and more furiously than
The Mudblood is talking to Kreacher as though she is my friend, if Kreacher's
mistress saw him in such company, oh, what would she say -'
'Don't call her a Mudblood!' said Ron and Ginny together, very angrily.
'It doesn't matter,' Hermione whispered, 'he's not in his right mind, he
doesn't know what he's -'
'Don't kid yourself, Hermione, he knows exactly what he's saying,' said Fred,
eyeing Kreacher with great dislike.
Kreacher was still muttering, his eyes on Harry.
'Is it true? Is it Harry Potter? Kreacher can see the scar, it must be true,
that's the boy who stopped the Dark Lord, Kreacher wonders how he did it -'
'Don't we all, Kreacher,' said Fred.
'What do you want, anyway?' George asked.
Kreacher's huge eyes darted towards George.
'Kreacher is cleaning,' he said evasively.
'A likely story,' said a voice behind Harry.
Sirius had come back; he was glowering at the elf from the doorway. The noise
in the hall had abated; perhaps Mrs Weasley and Mundungus had moved their argument
down into the kitchen.
At the sight of Sirius, Kreacher flung himself into a ridiculously low bow
that flattened his snoutlike nose on the floor.
'Stand up straight,' said Sirius impatiently. 'Now, what are you up to?'
'Kreacher is cleaning,' the elf repeated. 'Kreacher lives to serve the Noble
House of Black -'
'And it's getting blacker every day, it's filthy,' said Sirius.
'Master always liked his little joke,' said Kreacher, bowing again, and continuing
in an undertone, 'Master was a nasty ungrateful swine who broke his mother's
'My mother didn't have a heart, Kreacher,' snapped Sirius. 'She kept herself
alive out of pure spite.'
Kreacher bowed again as he spoke.
'Whatever Master says,' he muttered furiously. 'Master is not fit to wipe
slime from his mother's boots, oh, my poor mistress, what would she say if she
saw Kreacher serving him, how she hated him, what a disappointment he was -'
'I asked you what you were up to,' said Sirius coldly. 'Every time you show
up pretending to be cleaning, you sneak something off to your room so we can't
throw it out.'