sarnath: Harry Potter riding a Thestral (Harry Potter on Thestral)
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We get some interesting tidbits of information about Sirius and his family, nothing much other than cleaning really happens. But that's all right, because Harry is finally enjoying himself! Short, fierce, and black-haired, he puts a cloth over nose and mouth and devotes himself to ridding the old place of weird pests. You know what that makes me think of? This:





But before the actually rather interesting cleaning adventure of the next day, Harry and Ron try to talk over what they've been told before they go to sleep, but as Harry astutely points out:

'Well, they didn’t tell us much we couldn’t have guessed, did they?'

Fred and George Apparate in (on Ron, because "it's harder in the dark", and is it just me or is this chapter unusually filled with innuendo?), and they talk about the "weapon", the only real information they got. They're mostly just confused, though JKR manages to include a rather forced reference to Ginny.

'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 you?'


In a conversation about the Dark Lord's new dread weapon? I mean, come on.

That's pretty much the end of it, in any case. Mrs Weasley patrols the hallways so everyone obediently goes off to bed in fear of discovery and shouty rage (seriously, she yells more than anyone, I think).

I think the Black house is fairly large, but only one 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.

Mrs Weasley still uses Gilderoy Lockharts's Guide to Household Pests! It's probably a good book actually; his things was to take credit for other people's accomplishments, not make them up wholesale, after all.

Sirius shows up, there are grumbles about Kreacher, and he has a short exchange with Mrs Weasley about getting rid of the probable Boggart in the writing desk.

They were both speaking in carefully light, polite voices that told Harry quite plainly that neither had forgotten their disagreement of the night before.

Yeah, I can imagine. The doorbell rings, and Harry tries to listen at the open door as Sirius runs down (not so much to open the door as to close the curtains on his mother's screaming portrait).

Feeling Mrs Weasley’s eyes on the back of his head, Harry regretfully closed the drawing-room door and rejoined the Doxy party.

Meanwhile, Fred and George do their best to sneak some fainted Doxys from under their mother's nose for their Skiving Snackboxes (they have mail order now! All the fainting and nosebleeds you could wish for!) and this is pretty interesting:

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.

Because what's wrong with owning a business? I think it's likely that it's the "joke" part that's the problem for her, or at least that it's what we're meant to see. I can't help but think that there's a bit of snobbery in how she judges accomplishment. Status symbols like Prefect of Head Boy are important to her, for example. It's either looking down at her sons going into "trade" (the Weasleys are old and pure-blood, after all), or she's afraid that they will fail and have nothing (an effect of them always being poor).

They stop just before getting to:

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 blood

He does have a tendency towards the dramatic, but he's probably right. This stuff is probably valuable, though probably also quite illegal.

Anyway, have I mentioned how much I love these descriptions of the horrible old house? Because I really love them. Especially the detail where later on Sirius is bitten by one of the silver boxes whereupon it's hastily purloined by an enterprising Weasly twin (ingredients!).

They take a break, Mundungus shows up with a load of mysterious cauldrons;

'Probably looking for a safe 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 cauldrons?'

Harry and company try to listen in, but pretty much all they get is an earful of Mrs Weasley's rageout at Mundungus ('WE ARE NOT RUNNING A HIDEOUT FOR STOLEN GOODS!') and the noise from all the portraits still yelling from after Mundungus rang the doorbell. They give up and move to close the door, when suddenly a Kreacher appears!

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.

I actually kind of like Kreacher, he's totally putting on the "I'm old and can't be held responsible" show to get away with the most fantastic comments.

'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.


Oh, I laughed. Harry is just too nice sometimes (although in this case I'm glad). Of course, he's adopted his late mistress's horrible opinions, but I still think it's a great look at how he actually isn't to blame for his situation and how no one really knows how to handle him. Least of all Sirius, who definitely just sees him as a hateful extension of his horrible family.

In fact, I think it is, and is meant to be, a symptom of how many old Wizarding families actually do look at House Elves as more possessions than living creatures. Hermione does have the right idea, even if she goes about it all wrong.

There are many interesting threads starting in this book.

Anyway, I don't think Sirius is entirely to blame either;

'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 –'

Clearly his past is full of bitter poison. In a way his childhood was probably as bad as Harry's. Who, by the way understand Sirius pretty well even if the opposite can't be said;

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.

The reason Kreacher came into the drawing room to start with was, of course, the tapestry with the Black family tree (well, what's left of it after Mrs Black burnt off the unworthy) and motto, "Tojours Pur" (hah). Sirius himself is represented by nothing more than a charred mark because he ran away to live with James Potter's family.

'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'

Regulus Black, the good son and Death Eater. His parents approved; though not Death Eaters themselves, just proud that their son fighting the good fight 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.'

It's not that the theme and parallel is new and innovative, but it's really well done, I think. Especially in scenes like this, where JKR shows how easily crazy despots can come into power if they have the right words at the right time and people willing to listen even when they wouldn't have acted themselves.

Sirius knows that Regulus was murdered (and I think that the fact that he uses this word is significant, despite him saying that he hated his brother) by Voldemort or on his orders for wanting to get out. Also, nice foreshadowing!

We get some more interesting names from who's on the tapestry (Phineas Nigellus!) though mostly it's about this:

'You’re related to the Malfoys!'

Yes, Harry, I agree that it's important, my shipper heart delights in the fact that you always have such a strong reaction to that name. But the real point is, of course:

'The pure-blood families are all interrelated,' said Sirius. 'If 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.'

and this:

Lestrange ...’ Harry said aloud. The name had stirred something in his memory;

[...]

'They’re in Azkaban,’ said Sirius shortly. [...] -Bellatrix and her husband Rodolphus came in with Barty Crouch junior'.


Then Harry remembers what he saw in the pensieve. I'm pretty sure Bellatrix is Sirius's least favourite cousin. Her sister Andromeda is his favourite, but she made the unforgivable sin of marrying a muggle, so charred hole in the tapestry for her.

I saw something interesting in a fandom discussion recently: someone complained about the wards in fanfic, stating that there is no such thing as wards in Harry Potter! I had never thought about it, but when Sirius says that the Black house is perfect as a Headquarters for the Order since his father protected it with "every security measure known to wizardkind" he only mentions it being unplottable and under the Fidelius (with Dumbledore as the Secret Keeper).

He also mentions that he'd like to go with Harry to the hearing, which unfortunately reminds Harry of it just when he'd managed to forget.

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.

Sirius says he should get off, he was defending his life, after all. Harry just wants to stay at Grimmauld Place with Sirius if he's expelled (I'd say he was being needlessly dramatic, but considering what actually happens... you're only paranoid if you're wrong, isn't that so?)

'They must be bad if you prefer this place,' said Sirius gloomily.

They used to be worse, but yeah. Understatement of the year?

It's pretty telling, and typical, though; everyone seems to sort of assume that the Dursleys are bad on a somewhat normal level, which, ironically, they're really not.

There's some more cleaning to be done, and I just love all the details:

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".

Then there's a biting silver snuffbox, a music box that makes them all sleepy, seals, and order of Merlin ('It means he gave them a load of gold,' said Sirius contemptuously, throwing the medal into the rubbish sack.) and

a heavy locket that none of them could open

Wait, really? No, this must be another one. I really don't remember much after this, it's definitely been too long. But on the other hand it'll almost be like reading for the first time!

And here's Sirius's immortal comment:

'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.'

It still makes me chortle. What, I have simple tastes and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Then there's nothing but cleaning, or, as Harry thinks of it "waging war at the house" for days, with the occasional help of visitors (Mundungus saves Ron from being strangled by a set of robes, making Mrs Weasley soften towards him a bit, Tonks helps them deal with a murderous ghoul (I know they're different here but I just read Lovecraft's "Pickman's model"...), and Lupin helps them when he's not out on long, mysterious missions. I like the description of McGonagall "looking very odd in a Muggle dress and coat"; if JKR was ever influenced by the films, it doesn't seem to have happened yet here, at least.)

Despite the fact that he was still sleeping badly, still having dreams about corridors and locked doors that made his scar prickle, Harry was managing to have fun for the first time all summer.

Cleaning can be satisfying, and it's keeping him busy. And more foreshadowing!

Then, time for the hearing. Sirius isn't allowed to come, but he's going with Mr Weasley to work (and good thing he does, as we will see). But...

The thought that Dumbledore had been in the house on the eve of his hearing and not asked to see him made him feel, if it were possible, even worse.



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