'Kreacher would never move anything from its proper place in Master's house,'
said the elf, then muttered very fast, 'Mistress would never forgive Kreacher
if the tapestry was thrown out, seven centuries it's been in the family, Kreacher
must save it, Kreacher will not let Master and the blood traitors and the brats
destroy it -'
'I thought it might be that,' said Sirius, casting a disdainful look at the
opposite wall. 'She'll have put another Permanent Sticking Charm on the back
of it, I don't doubt, but if I can get rid of it I certainly will. Now go away,
It seemed that Kreacher did not dare disobey a direct order; nevertheless,
the look he gave Sirius as he shuffled out past him was full of deepest loathing
and he muttered all the way out of the room.
'- comes back from Azkaban ordering Kreacher around, oh, my poor mistress,
what would she say if she saw the house now, scum living in it, her treasures
thrown out, she swore he was no son of hers and he's back, they say he's a murderer
'Keep muttering and I will be a murderer!' said Sirius irritably as he slammed
the door shut on the elf.
'Sirius, he's not right in the head,' Hermione pleaded, 'I don't think he
realises we can hear him.'
'He's been alone too long,' said Sirius, 'taking mad orders from my mother's
portrait and talking to himself, but he was always a foul little -'
'If you could just set him free,' said Hermione hopefully, 'maybe -'
'We can't set him free, he knows too much about the Order,' said Sirius curtly.
'And anyway, the shock would kill him. You suggest to him that he leaves this
house, see how he takes it.'
Sirius walked across the room to where the tapestry Kreacher had been trying
to protect hung the length of the wall. Harry and the others followed.
The tapestry looked immensely old; it was faded and looked as though Doxys
had gnawed it in places. Nevertheless, the golden thread with which it was embroidered
still glinted brightly enough to show them a sprawling family tree dating back
(as far as Harry could tell) to the Middle Ages. Large words at the very top
of the tapestry read:
The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black Toujours pur'
'You're not on here!' said Harry, after scanning the bottom of the tree closely.
'I used to be there,' said Sirius, pointing at a small, round, charred hole
in the tapestry, rather like a cigarette burn. 'My sweet old mother blasted
me off after I ran away from home - Kreacher's quite fond of muttering the story
under his breath.'
'You ran away from home?'
'When I was about sixteen,' said Sirius. 'I'd had enough.'
'Where did you go?' asked Harry, staring at him.
'Your dad's place,' said Sirius. 'Your grandparents were really good about
it; they sort of adopted me as a second son. Yeah, I camped out at your dad's
in the school holidays, and when I was seventeen I got a place of my own. My
Uncle Alphard had left me a decent bit of gold - he's been wiped off here, too,
that's probably why - anyway, after that I looked after myself. I was always
welcome at Mr and Mrs Potter's for Sunday lunch, though.'
'But: why did you:?'
'Leave?' Sirius smiled bitterly and ran his fingers through his long, unkempt
hair. 'Because I hated the whole lot of them: my parents, with their pure-blood
mania, convinced that to be a Black made you practically royal: my idiot brother,
soft enough to believe them: that's him.'
Sirius jabbed a finger at the very bottom of the tree, at the name 'Regulus
Black'. A date of death (some fifteen years previously) followed the date of
'He was younger than me,' said Sirius, 'and a much better son, as I was constantly
'But he died,' said Harry.
'Yeah,' said Sirius. 'Stupid idiot: he joined the Death Eaters.'
'Come on, Harry, haven't you seen enough of this house to tell what kind
of wizards my family were?' said Sirius testily.
'Were - were your parents Death Eaters as well?'
'No, no, but believe me, they thought Voldemort had the right idea, they
were all for the purification of the wizarding race, getting rid of Muggle-borns
and having pure-bloods in charge. They weren't alone, either, there were quite
a few people, before Voldemort showed his true colours, who thought he had the
right idea about things: they got cold feet when they saw what he was prepared
to do to get power, though. But I bet my parents thought Regulus was a right
little hero for joining up at first.'
'Was he killed by an Auror?' Harry asked tentatively.
'Oh, no,' said Sirius. 'No, he was murdered by Voldemort. Or on Voldemort's
orders, more likely; I doubt Regulus was ever important enough to be killed
by Voldemort in person. From what I found out after he died, he got in so far,
then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. Well,
you don't just hand in your resignation to Voldemort. It's a lifetime of service
'Lunch,' said Mrs Weasley's voice.
She was holding her wand high in front of her, balancing a huge tray loaded
with sandwiches and cake on its tip. She was very red in the face and still
looked angry. The others moved over to her, eager for some food, but Harry remained
with Sirius, who had bent closer to the tapestry.
'I haven't looked at this for years. There's Phineas Nigellus: my great-great-grandfather,
see?: least popular Headmaster Hogwarts ever had: and Araminta Mehflua: cousin
of my mothers: tried to force through a Ministry Bill to make Muggle-hunting
legal: and dear Aunt Elladora: she started the family tradition of beheading
house-elves when they got too old to carry tea trays: of course, any time the
family produced someone halfway decent they were disowned. I see Tonks isn't
on here. Maybe that's why Kreacher won't take orders from her - he's supposed
to do whatever anyone in the family asks him -'
'You and Tonks are related?' Harry asked, surprised.
'Oh, yeah, her mother Andromeda was my favourite cousin,' said Sirius, examining
the tapestry closely. 'No, Andromeda's not on here either, look -'
He pointed to another small round burn mark between two names, Bellatrix
'Andromeda's sisters are still here because they made lovely, respectable
pure-blood marriages, but Andromeda married a Muggle-born, Ted Tonks, so -'
Sirius mimed blasting the tapestry with a wand and laughed sourly. Harry,
however, did not laugh; he was too busy staring at the names to the right of
Andromeda's burn mark. A double line of gold embroidery linked Narcissa Black
with Lucius Malfoy and a single vertical gold line from their names led to the
'You're related to the Malfoys!'
The pure-blood families are all interrelated,' said Sirius. Tf you're only
going to let your sons and daughters marry pure-bloods your choice is very limited;
there are hardly any of us left. Molly and I are cousins by marriage and Arthur's
something like my second cousin once removed. But there's no point looking for
them on here - if ever a family was a bunch of blood traitors it's the Weasleys.'
But Harry was now looking at the name to the left of Andromeda's burn: Bellatrix
Black, which was connected by a double line to Rodolphus Lestrange.
'Lestrange:' Harry said aloud. The name had stirred something in his memory;
he knew it from somewhere, but for a moment he couldn't think where, though
it gave him an odd, creeping sensation in the pit of his stomach.
They're in Azkaban,' said Sirius shortly.
Harry looked at him curiously.
'Bellatrix and her husband Rodolphus came in with Barty Crouch junior,' said
Sirius, in the same brusque voice. 'Rodolphuss brother Rabastan was with them,
Then Harry remembered. He had seen Bellatrix Lestrange inside Dumbledore's
Pensieve, the strange device in which thoughts and memories could be stored:
a tall dark woman with heavy-lidded eyes, who had stood at her trial and proclaimed
her continuing allegiance to Lord Voldemort, her pride that she had tried to
find him after his downfall and her conviction that she would one day be rewarded
for her loyalty.
'You never said she was your -'
'Does it matter if she's my cousin?' snapped Sirius. 'As far as I'm concerned,
they're not my family. She's certainly not my family. I haven't seen her since
I was your age, unless you count a glimpse of her coming into Azkaban. D'you
think I'm proud of having a relative like her?'
'Sorry,' said Harry quickly, 'I didn't mean - I was just surprised, that's
'It doesn't matter, don't apologise,' Sirius mumbled. He turned away from
the tapestry, his hands deep in his pockets. 'I don't like being back here,'
he said, staring across the drawing room. 'I never thought I'd be stuck in this
Harry understood completely. He knew how he would feel, when he was grown
up and thought he was free of the place for ever, to return and live at number
four, Privet Drive.
'It's ideal for Headquarters, of course,' Sirius said. 'My father put every
security measure known to wizardkind on it when he lived here. It's unplottable,
so Muggles could never come and call - as if they'd ever have wanted to - and
now Dumbledore's added his protection, you'd be hard put to find a safer house
anywhere. Dumbledore is Secret Keeper for the Order, you know - nobody can find
Headquarters unless he tells them personally where it is - that note Moody showed
you last night, that was from Dumbledore:' Sirius gave a short, bark-like laugh.
'If my parents could see the use their house was being put to now: well, my
mothers portrait should give you some idea
He scowled for a moment, then sighed.
'I wouldn't mind if I could just get out occasionally and do something useful.
I've asked Dumbledore whether I can escort you to your hearing - as Snuffles,
obviously - so I can give you a bit of moral support, what d'you think?'
Harry felt as though his stomach had sunk through the dusty carpet. He had
not thought about the hearing once since dinner the previous evening; in the
excitement of being back with the people he liked best, and hearing everything
that was going on, it had completely flown his mind. At Sirius's words, however,
the crushing sense of dread returned to him. He stared at Hermione and the Weasleys,
all tucking into their sandwiches, and thought how he would feel if they went
back to Hogwarts without him.
'Don't worry,' Sirius said. Harry looked up and realised that Sirius had
been watching him. 'I'm sure they'll clear you, there's definitely something
in the International Statute of Secrecy about being allowed to use magic to
save your own life.'
'But if they do expel me,' said Harry quietly, 'can I come back here and
live with you?'
Sirius smiled sadly.
'I'd feel a lot better about the hearing if I knew I didn't have to go back
to the Dursleys',' Harry pressed him.
'They must be bad if you prefer this place,' said Sirius gloomily.
'Hurry up, you two, or there won't be any food left,' Mrs Weasley called.
Sirius heaved another great sigh, cast a dark look at the tapestry, then
he and Harry went to join the others.
Harry tried his best not to think about the hearing while they emptied the
glass-fronted cabinets that afternoon. Fortunately for him, it was a job that
required a lot of concentration, as many of the objects in there seemed very
reluctant to leave their dusty shelves. Sirius sustained a bad bite from a silver
snuffbox; within seconds his bitten hand had developed an unpleasant crusty
covering like a tough brown glove.
'Its OK,' he said, examining the hand with interest before tapping it lightly
with his wand and restoring its skin to normal, 'must be Wartcap powder in there.'
He threw the box aside into the sack where they were depositing the debris
from the cabinets; Harry saw George wrap his own hand carefully in a cloth moments
later and sneak the box into his already Doxy-filled pocket.
They found an unpleasant-looking silver instrument, something like a many-legged
pair of tweezers, which scuttled up Harry's arm like a spider when he picked
it up, and attempted to puncture his skin. Sirius seized it and smashed it with
a heavy book entitled Nature's Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy. There was a
musical box that emitted a faintly sinister, tinkling tune when wound, and they
all found themselves becoming curiously weak and sleepy, until Ginny had the
sense to slam the lid shut; a heavy locket that none of them could open; a number
of ancient seals; and, in a dusty box, an Order of Merlin, First Class, that
had been awarded to Sirius's grandfather for 'services to the Ministry'.
'It means he gave them a load of gold,' said Sirius contemptuously, throwing
the medal into the rubbish sack.
Several times Kreacher sidled into the room and attempted to smuggle things
away under his loincloth, muttering horrible curses every time they caught him
at it. When Sirius wrested a large golden ring bearing the Black crest from
his grip, Kreacher actually burst into furious tears and left the room sobbing
under his breath and calling Sirius names Harry had never heard before.
'It was my father's,' said Sirius, throwing the ring into the sack. 'Kreacher
wasn't quite as devoted to him as to my mother, but I still caught him snogging
a pair of my father's old trousers last week.'