The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys spend the next morning ridding the parlour of Doxies. When Harry catches Fred pocketing a paralyzed Doxy, he explains that he and George can experiment with its venom for new joke products (Skiving Snackboxes). Mundungus Fletcher arrives, bringing stolen cauldrons to store at the house, sending Mrs. Weasley into a rage. While she furiously prepares lunch, a wizened House-elf wanders into the drawing room, muttering obscenities about "mudbloods," evidently meaning Hermione. The elf, Kreacher, apparently devoted to Mrs. Black, has been taking orders from her portrait for the past ten years. Hermione's attempts to be kind to him are thwarted by the Twins and Sirius, who has just entered the room.
Harry notices an old tapestry, that Sirius sarcastically explains is the "Noble and Most Ancient House of Black" family tree. Mrs. Black has blasted off various members for "sins" against the family—namely, associating with, marrying, or sympathizing with Half-bloods and Muggles. Sirius points out that pure-blood Wizarding families like the Blacks are almost all interrelated. Notable Black family connections include the Malfoys, the Lestranges, the Weasleys, the Prewetts, the Tonks, and former Hogwarts Headmaster Phineas Nigellus. In addition, his brother, Regulus, was once a Death Eater. According to Sirius, "He got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out." This led to his death.
The next few days are fill with cleaning tasks, often interrupted by Kreacher's rescuing discarded family heirlooms and Dark objects, and with visits from Order members. Finally, Mrs. Weasley reminds Harry that his Ministry of Magic hearing is the next day. Mr. Weasley will escort him, as requested by Professor Dumbledore when he visited Grimmauld Place the night before. Harry, already worried about the hearing, is vexed that Dumbledore ignored him while he was there, and also all summer.
Despite Voldemort, the upcoming hearing, Sirius' increasing depression, and Harry's frustration, Grimmauld Place offers rare snippets of domestic bliss that Harry and his godfather enjoy with the Weasleys. Neither Sirius nor Harry has ever experienced a happy family life, and Harry relishes these brief interludes. Harry and Sirius actually share much in common, growing up isolated and miserable in loveless households: Grimmauld Place and Privet Drive. And while Harry only has to endure his unhappy home for the summer, Sirius is now trapped inside a house containing many unpleasant (and magically permanent) reminders of his difficult youth—his mad mother's screaming portrait, a sullen House-elf, and the family-tree tapestry bearing scorch marks where he and his other "blood traitor" relatives were blasted away by Mrs. Black. But a house can only reflect the people living in it, and Harry and Sirius have taken the first steps in creating their own happy family there. The pleasant time they share together will be short-lived, however. Hogwarts starts soon, and Sirius and Harry must then part company; for the time being, Sirius must endure being even more lonely and miserable, it possibly affecting his mental stability.
Harry also learns more about Sirius' ancestry and how interrelated wizard families are. It is quite possible that Harry and Sirius are distant blood relatives as well as godfather and godson. Harry may even be related to the Weasleys. It is also revealed that Tonks is related to Sirius; her mother, Andromeda, is Sirius' cousin, and sister to both Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. While this means that Tonks is cousins with Draco, neither seems to acknowledge this relationship.
Hermione looking out the drawing room window and down at the front steps may be somewhat confusing for US readers. The house at Grimmauld Place is built to the London pattern, very much vertical, and apparently has four stories above the ground floor. The drawing room or parlour is apparently located one floor above ground level, on what U.S. readers would call the second floor, and European readers call the first floor. More information is available here.
- Why does Kreacher continually retrieve discarded items?
- What was Sirius' relationship with his family?
- Why doesn't Sirius directly answer Harry when he asks if he can live at Grimmauld Place if he is expelled?
- Why would Dumbledore ignore Harry while he was at 12 Grimmauld Place?
- What exactly is Kreacher's relationship with the Black family?
- Kreacher's name sounds distinctly like the word "creature." Rowling is obviously playing with words here; she is directing us to infer a certain connotation in Kreacher's name. What might this be?
This chapter marks the first time Sirius' brother, Regulus, is mentioned. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a note is found that is signed only with the initials R.A.B. This R.A.B. is Regulus Arcturus Black, as confirmed by Kreacher in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Also, amongst the miscellaneous stuff being tossed out is, "a heavy locket that none of them could open". We discover later that a locket, which can be traced back to Salazar Slytherin, plays a major part in the story. Dumbledore believes that Voldemort used this locket to create a Horcrux, and in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, they retrieve it, only to discover it was replaced with a fake locket and the above-mentioned note. Ironically, this locket had been at Headquarters all this time. As a Slytherin relic, Kreacher would likely have squirreled it away for safe-keeping, along with other discarded Black family heirlooms and photos, including those of Bellatrix Lestrange. Kreacher and Mundungus Fletcher explain the locket's history in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and we will see its eventual destruction in that book as well.