Chapter 1: Number Twelve Grimmauld Place
The flat was on a busy street in Bloomsbury, where people from
all walks of life could be found hurrying by at all hours of the day and
night. Even now, well past midnight on a Saturday night, the street was teeming
with people. It was also the sort of place where nothing was out of the
ordinary and strangers turned a blind eye to one another. In short, it was the
perfect place for a wizard to live.
The flat itself was clean and tidy, simply furnished and decorated
in an unmistakably masculine style. The few personal items on display
consisted of some books and a handful of photos which were arranged neatly on a
bookshelf. The only thing that appeared out of place was the body lying on the
living room floor.
Alastor Moody looked down at the now late resident of the flat
- a young man, perhaps 30, dressed in well-made, but uninspired robes. He was
slender, clean-shaven and had short, brown hair just beginning to thin on top.
There was no fear in the vacant eyes – no emotion at all, in fact. The dead
man’s only remarkable feature was the Dark Mark branded on his left forearm.
“Suicide,” the Auror standing next to Moody stated flatly.
“Turned his wand on himself and cast Avada Kedavra.”
“Any idea why?” Moody asked as he knelt down to examine the
body. “Death Eaters aren’t known for committing suicide.”
The Auror, a middle-aged woman with close-cropped graying hair
shrugged. “Maybe he developed a conscience.”
Moody snorted, not bothering to state his opinion on the
likelihood of that. Instead, he scanned the room. His magic eye swiveled to
take in every inch of the scene, but it was his good eye that spotted the
single, long strand of black hair lying on the carpet near the deceased. He
picked it up and frowned.
His colleague looked on with a small, indulgent smile. “Don’t
tell me. You suspect foul play.”
“I don’t suspect any such thing. I’m certain of it.”
“Certain?” the woman’s voice held a note of exasperation.
“Based on what - a single hair? We’ve identified the man’s wand as the one
that killed him and there’s absolutely no evidence of any sort of fight.”
“There wouldn’t have been a fight if the killer was lying in
wait and stunned him. Using a victim’s own wand to kill him is one of the oldest
tricks in the book. You know that.”
“It’s also impossible to prove without a witness. We’ve
already checked. No one saw anything. Murdock was last seen alive leaving his
office Friday afternoon. He was due at his family’s estate for dinner earlier
tonight for an uncle’s birthday celebration or some such. He didn’t show up,
so his cousin popped round afterward to look for him. Got quite a nasty
Moody gestured at the man on the floor. “Did he have any known
“None that we know of. But he was obviously a Death Eater
which isn’t the most popular line of work.”
“Nor the safest these days,” Moody remarked. “Another turned
up dead just a few days ago, didn’t he?”
“That was in Knockturn Alley,” the woman said a little
sharply. “An illegal deal gone sour, by the look of it.”
“By the look of it,” Moody murmured, heaving himself to his
feet. He stood scowling in thought and the other Auror’s face softened
“Moody, even if you’re right and this wasn’t suicide, you have
no proof and we’ve got too much on our plates as it is. We’re in the middle of
a war. We have enough live Death Eaters to be concerned about without worrying
over dead ones. Frankly, if one of his friends helped him along then they did
us a favor and are probably guilty of worse crimes anyway.”
Moody turned to his colleague with a sour smile. “Off hand,
I’d guess it wasn’t one of his friends who did him in, but one of his enemies.”
“Yes, of course, but that’s not the point.”
“Actually, that’s the whole point,” Moody said, slowly. He
turned away, leaving the bemused woman shaking her head as he left the flat and
joined the late-night wanderers on the street.
Number 12 Grimmauld Place didn’t look too bad. That had been
Harry’s first thought when he arrived at the former Black family residence,
clandestine headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix and his new summer home
away from Hogwarts. From the highly polished banister of the main staircase to
the glistening chandelier in the dining room, the house was spotless and felt
almost welcoming. Harry could imagine its former grandeur, dark though it had
been. Now, as he opened his eyes to pale sunlight streaming through the
windows of his bedroom on the first morning after his arrival, he found the
reason for the house’s transformation peering at him with large, expectant
“Harry Potter is awake!” Dobby exclaimed happily.
Harry raised his head and regarded the house-elf with far less
enthusiasm. “Dobby, what are you doing in my bedroom?”
“Dobby has come to see what master Harry Potter would like for
“First off, I’m not your master. Second, I can get my own
breakfast. Now if you don’t mind, I’d just like to sleep in a bit.” Harry
flopped back onto his pillow and shut his eyes, then opened them again and
sighed. Dobby hadn’t moved.
“Dobby, that means go away,” Harry snapped and instantly
regretted it. Dobby’s hopeful smile faltered and disappointment shone in his
“I mean, it’s very thoughtful of you to want to make me
breakfast and I appreciate it,” Harry said as kindly as he could while still
sounding stern. “But I’d really like to sleep a bit longer. Okay?”
“Very well, sir,” Dobby said, his spirits somewhat restored.
“Dobby will wait to make breakfast until Harry Potter is ready.”
Harry forced a smile. “Great.”
Dobby flashed Harry a happy smile and vanished. Harry sighed
in relief, pulled the covers up around his ears and closed his eyes.
“MUGGLE-LOVING BLOOD TRAITORS!”
Harry jumped at the shout that had come from somewhere outside
his room and sprang up in bed, his heart pounding wildly.
“SONS OF BLOOD-TRAITORS! GET OUT OF
Harry groaned and flopped back on his pillow once more as he
realized that the screams were coming from Mrs. Black’s portrait, one of the few remnants of the house’s dark past that no
one had been able to get rid of and which still hung in the entrance
hall downstairs. Harry pulled the covers over his
head and squeezed his eyes shut
Harry grabbed his pillow and shoved
it over his head.
With a snarl of frustration, Harry
tossed his pillow aside, threw back his covers and got up. He crossed the room
in two strides, threw open his door and stalked out into the first-floor
hallway where the shouting seemed to echo throughout the house.
“BLIGHT UPON OUR WORLD!”
Harry grimaced, leaned over the
banister and scowled down at the entrance hall below.
Fred and George Weasley were just
finishing hanging up their cloaks in a leisurely fashion while the portrait of
Mrs. Black railed at them. Mrs. Black’s shrieks were grating at any time, but
first thing in the morning they were nearly unbearable. However, Fred
and George didn’t seem at all put out and in fact,
seemed to hardly notice.
“I say, do you hear something,
George?” Fred asked, glancing around the hall as if trying to place the source
of some far-off sound, even though he had to practically shout to be heard over
“Don’t mock me, you traitors!” Mrs.
“Oh, Mrs. Black! Good morning to you
too.” George grinned cheekily and bowed gallantly to the enraged portrait.
“So good to see you in your usual
charming mood,” Fred added, grinning and bowing as well.
“Ahhhhhh! Vermin! Out! Out!
“You know, you really ought to do
something about your nerves.”
“I don’t suppose a portrait can take
a tonic, though,” Fred said.
“Well, there is that. Pity.”
“Are you two completely mental?”
Harry had come down to the entrance hall, but still had to yell to be heard as
Mrs. Black continued her stream of abuse.
“Oh hi, Harry,” Fred yelled back,
cheerily. “Did we wake you?”
“Fred! George!” Remus snapped in
exasperation as he came downstairs as well. “Must you provoke her? We had her
under control until you two got it into your heads to start encouraging her.”
“Flea-bitten mongrel!” Mrs. Black
snarled at Remus who glared at the portrait then back at Fred and George.
“We’ll calm her down. Honestly!”
Fred assured Remus.
“Not to worry, sir, Dobby will handle
it.” Dobby had appeared in the entrance hall and turned to face the portrait.
Harry watched uneasily, not at all
certain that the house-elf was going to improve the situation. Dobby frowned
at the portrait, planted two knobby fists on his hips and drew himself up to
his full height. Unfortunately, this still left him well below Mrs. Black’s
waist and beneath her notice. In an effort to get her attention, Dobby shook a
bony finger at her.
“You will stop this rudeness, now!”
Mrs. Black stopped screaming at Fred
and George and looked disdainfully down her nose at the house-elf. “How dare
you!” she said in her most affronted tone. “I’d have had your head for such
insolence. These traitors defile my house and let servants behave –”
How they allowed servants to behave
Harry never found out, for at that moment Dobby snapped his fingers and Mrs.
Black stopped screaming; or rather her lips were still moving but no sound was
coming out. It took her a moment to realize this, then her face purpled with
indignant rage. Dobby smiled in satisfaction and closed the curtain over the
still silently-shouting portrait.
“Brilliant, Dobby!” Fred said,
sounding genuinely impressed. “Our silencing charms never work.”
“We do always manage to find some way
to calm her down, though,” George said with a sheepish grin at Remus.
“Always?” Harry whispered to Remus,
wondering just how often this sort of thing occurred.
“Fortunately, they’re not around
much,” Remus replied quietly with a wry smile.
“Is breakfast ready, Dobby?” Fred
“We’re famished,” George added.
Dobby looked at Harry who quickly
said, “Yeah Dobby, let’s eat.” Harry certainly didn’t want anyone else going
hungry on his account.
“So, how are things, mate?” Fred asked as he and George
attacked a platter of sausages and eggs.
“Better now that Mrs. Black has shut it,” Harry said, sitting
down at the kitchen table and shoveling baked beans onto his own plate.
“Sorry about that,” George said. “She’s taken it into her head
to dislike us for some reason.”
“Possibly because you go out of your way to goad her,” Remus
said, taking a seat as well. A pot of tea immediately appeared next to his
“Remus, it’s just too easy,” George
said with a shrug.
“We can’t resist,” Fred agreed.
A bowl of fresh fruit and clotted cream floated to the table
and George deftly snatched it out of midair.
“You’re in luck, Harry,” he said. “We used to have to fend for
ourselves at meals. Now that Dobby’s here, we’re eating like kings.”
“Don’t get too used to having Dobby around,” Remus warned.
“Dumbledore only sent him here to get Professor Snape’s rooms in order.”
“Snape,” Fred snorted then turned back to Harry. “Aside from
Remus’s bedroom and study, he’s got the whole bloody second floor reserved for
him: bedroom, office, store room, laboratory. You’d think he was moving in
permanently instead of just for the summer.”
“Dobby’s been racing around for a couple of weeks trying to get
everything in order,” George continued. “But the good news is he’s managed to
clean up most of the rest of the house as well. The first and second floors
are entirely inhabitable now and there are only a couple of rooms on the ground
floor that will still try to kill you. He hasn’t done anything with the third
floor or attic, but no one’s up there except Buckbeak.”
“Is anyone else staying here?” Harry asked.
“Just us. Our room’s at the end of the hall from yours,”
George said. “But lately we’ve been staying at the shop working on some new
items, so you’ll have the common room to yourself.”
“They mean the drawing room at the head of the stairs on the
first floor,” Remus said. “These two have dubbed it the Gryffindor common
Harry grinned. “That’s brilliant! I can’t wait for Ron, Ginny
and Hermione to get here. They’ll love it.”
Fred and George exchanged glances and
Fred cleared his throat. “Er, about that.”
“There’s been a bit of a change in
plans,” George said.
“You see, Dad was talking with
Charlie last week.”
“And it came up that it would be a
great opportunity if Ron and Ginny could learn about dragons.”
“What?” Harry exclaimed.
“Not to worry, Harry,” Fred
insisted. “They’ll only be gone a month.”
“They’re going to Romania for a month? And no one bothered to mention this at the train station yesterday?”
“I think Dad wanted to tell them
first,” George said.
“If it’s any consolation, they didn’t
look all that happy about it when we stopped by the house this morning,” Fred
reassured Harry. “Of course, that just might have been because Dad had them up
at the crack of dawn getting ready to leave.”
“They’re leaving today? What about
Hermione? She was supposed to be staying at the Burrow before coming here.”
Fred and George exchanged another
glance which confirmed Harry’s worst suspicions. “She’s going with them, isn’t
George shrugged apologetically. “Dad
already arranged it with the Grangers.”
“Ron, Ginny and Hermione asked us to
give you this,” Fred added, handing an envelope to Harry. “They reckoned it’d
be a lot faster than sending it with Errol.”
Harry took the envelope and opened
it. There were three sheets of parchment inside.
I reckon Fred and George told you
the news. It was rotten of Dad to make plans without asking us. I don’t know
what he was thinking! We wouldn’t be going if we could get out of it, but
Charlie and his mates are expecting us and Hermione says it’d be rude
not to show up.
It’ll be good to see Charlie,
though, and I suppose the dragons will be interesting. It’ll be cool to watch
Charlie work with them and he said that I might be able to help him feed them –
though I’m not really sure what they eat. It could wind up being miserable and
really boring though.
It’s rubbish that you can’t come!
It’d be brilliant if you were there and Charlie said you’re welcome anytime.
Maybe when this bloody war is over we can go and do it properly.
Anyway, I’ll make sure to bring
you back something really cool like a dragon tooth.
Fred’s breathing down my neck, so
I’d better give this to him. Don’t let Snape make you study too much.
I know you must be awfully
disappointed, but to be honest, I’m not sure our plans to spend time in London would have worked out even if we were there. I was listening to Mr. Weasley and
some of the other Order members talking last night and I don’t think Professor
Snape is coming there just to teach you Potions. I rather think it’s more to
do with watching you.
Don’t scowl. I know you hate
that, but given what you told us after the attack on Hogsmeade, I think they’re
probably right to be extra cautious.
Please just do whatever Professor Snape and Remus tell you to
do. And don’t do anything reckless. We’ll see you as soon as we can.
P.S. – Don’t forget to do your
Do you reckon Dad knows you’ve
been snogging me and arranged this just to keep us apart?
Don’t be cross with Dad. He
doesn’t say it, but I know he’s worried about us and I think he just wants us
as far away from Voldemort as possible. I wish you could have come too. Dad
asked if you could, but Dumbledore wants you to stay where you are. I suppose
he thinks it’s the safest place for you.
I promise that I’ll write to you
every day and let you know if Ron’s managed to get himself killed. He’s got
some mad idea about helping Charlie feed the dragons, though from the look on
Hermione’s face when he said it, I don’t think she’s going to let him.
Dad’s calling us, so I’d better
go. I’ll see you in a month and I promise that we’ll make up for lost time.
I’ll miss you.
Harry folded the letters and stuffed
them back in the envelope.
“We’re sorry, Harry,” George said.
“We know being stuck here alone wasn’t what you had in mind. Dad wanted you to
come too, but…”
“But I’m Harry Potter.” Harry could
hear the bitterness in his voice and forced a smile. “It’s okay. It’s only a
month. Besides, I’ve got more than enough homework to keep me busy.” Harry
looked down at his half-finished breakfast which he no longer felt like
eating. “In fact, I probably ought to get cracking.”
Harry downed the last of his pumpkin
juice and left the kitchen. He went back up to his room and sat down on his
bed to sulk. He and his friends had planned to spend the entire summer
holidays together at Grimmauld Place. It was their last summer as students and
they had hoped to spend time in Muggle London and forget the war for a while.
So far things were not turning out as planned.
Not that Harry could really blame Mr.
Weasley for wanting to send his two youngest children as far away as possible
from the scourge of terror Voldemort had unleashed across Britain, nor could he blame Hermione for going with them. Mrs. Weasley had been killed by
Voldemort only a few months previously which had brought the war home to all of
them. He only wished that Dumbledore had let him go too.
“So, you’re back,” a smug and faintly bored voice said.
Harry started and looked around then spotted the portrait of
Phineas Nigellus smirking at him from atop the wardrobe. “What are you doing
The wizard in the picture shrugged. “They moved me. I suppose
they thought you needed watching.”
“I don’t need watching,” Harry said indignantly, remembering
Hermione’s comment as well. Phineas only smirked more and sauntered out of the
Harry scowled, went over to the wardrobe and laid the picture
face down so that Hogwarts’ former and least favorite headmaster couldn’t spy
on him. That was the last thing he needed. He sat back down on the edge of
his bed and considered. He really did have a lot of homework to do, but he had
no interest in doing it. Still, he supposed that he ought to at least get
started on his Potions work. Snape would not be happy if he wasn’t prepared
for his first lesson and Harry didn’t need any scathing remarks from his
teacher to make his life more miserable than it already was.
He opened his trunk and pulled out his Potions text with
Snape’s lengthy syllabus shoved in the middle of it. Harry grimaced and tossed
the book aside then began rummaging for his Potions supplies. Everything in
Harry’s trunk had shifted during the trip from Hogwarts, forcing Harry to dig
through clothes and past a forgotten bag of Honeydukes sweets and other
personal effects. He reached deep down and swept the bottom of his trunk
looking for his mortar and pestle and almost immediately drew back his hand
with a sharp hiss. He had cut his hand on something and it was bleeding
Wrapping his handkerchief around the wound, Harry shifted the
contents of his trunk more carefully until he spotted the offending item. A
broken mirror lay at the bottom of the trunk and Harry felt his throat tighten
at the sight of it. It was the mirror Sirius had given him so they could
communicate and which Harry had forgotten about until it was too late.
Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and pointed it at the
mirror. “Reparo!” he said. All of the pieces dutifully reassembled
themselves. Harry picked up the mirror and stared into it, but all he saw was
his own reflection staring back.
“I’m sorry, Sirius,” he murmured. At his words, the surface of
the mirror seemed to shimmer and darken. Harry leaned closer and peered at it
intently. “Sirius? Sirius!”
But the mirror appeared perfectly normal once more and showed
only Harry’s own anxious features. Harry sighed irritably at his own
foolishness; obviously he’d only imagined the change. Resisting the urge to
smash it once more, Harry laid the mirror atop the wardrobe next to Phineas’s
portrait and tried to put it out of his mind as he retrieved the rest of his
Potions supplies. Then, because he had nothing else to do, he pulled Snape’s
syllabus from his Potions text and started his homework.
Dobby appeared to announce lunch
precisely at noon. Harry didn’t demur this time; he was more than ready to
take a break and gratefully headed downstairs. He slowed, however, as he
reached the entrance hall. Mad-Eye Moody was standing in the doorway to the
library talking with Remus. Both men looked grim.
“Keep an eye on him,” Moody said,
darkly. “With these deaths, I don’t want him sneaking –”
“Harry!” Remus interrupted Moody
with a forced smile. “I haven’t seen you since breakfast.”
“I’ve been doing homework,” Harry
said as he approached the men.
“Good to see you made it, Potter,” Moody
said, clapping Harry on the shoulder as though he had completed some perilous
journey rather than having simply arrived from Hogwarts the day before.
“Lupin, we’ll talk later.”
With a final nod to both Harry and
Remus, the old Auror left and Harry turned to Remus. “What’s up?”
“Order business, Harry. Nothing you
need to worry about.”
Remus smiled and shrugged
nonchalantly, but Harry noticed that his father’s old friend wasn’t looking him
in the eyes. He didn’t press Remus though. He already suspected that the two
men had been talking about him: it didn’t really surprise him, but it was
frustrating. Why was everyone suddenly so worried about him? And why was
Moody here warning Remus to keep an eye on him?
Harry shrugged mentally as he and Remus
went down to lunch. It was probably just Moody being extra cautious as usual,
but one thing kept Harry from dismissing the incident entirely. Moody had
mentioned that there had been deaths - recent ones from the sound of it - yet
Harry couldn’t recall hearing about any deaths that might be connected to him.
There had actually been a lull in Death Eater activity in the last couple of
A warning bell sounded in the back of
Harry’s mind. His friends had been sent away, Snape was coming to keep an eye
on him and now Moody had warned Remus to do the same. Worst of all, Harry knew
that they were all hiding something from him. Harry’s heart sank. He had the
feeling that this was not going to be a good summer at all.