A mysterious house

Harry arrives at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place

Extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

‘What’s the Order of the –?’ Harry began.

‘Not here, boy!’ snarled Moody. ‘Wait till we’re inside!’

He pulled the piece of parchment out of Harry’s hand and set fire to it with his wand-tip. As the message curled into flames and floated to the ground, Harry looked around at the houses again. They were standing outside number eleven; he looked to the left and saw number ten; to the right, however, was number thirteen.

‘But where’s –?’

‘Think about what you’ve just memorised,’ said Lupin quietly. Harry thought, and no sooner had he reached the part about number twelve, Grimmauld Place, than a battered door emerged out of nowhere between numbers eleven and thirteen, followed swiftly by dirty walls and grimy windows. It was as though an extra house had inflated, pushing those on either side out of its way. Harry gaped at it. The stereo in number eleven thudded on. Apparently the Muggles inside hadn’t felt anything.

‘Come on, hurry,’ growled Moody, prodding Harry in the back.

Harry walked up the worn stone steps, staring at the newly materialised door. Its black paint was shabby and scratched. The silver doorknocker was in the form of a twisted serpent. There was no keyhole or letterbox.

Lupin pulled out his wand and tapped the door once. Harry heard many loud, metallic clicks and what sounded like the clatter of a chain. The door creaked open.

‘Get in quick, Harry,’ Lupin whispered, ‘but don’t go far inside and don’t touch anything.’

Harry stepped over the threshold into the almost total darkness of the hall. He could smell damp, dust and a sweetish, rotting smell; the place had the feeling of a derelict building. He looked over his shoulder and saw the others filing in behind him, Lupin and Tonks carrying his trunk and Hedwig’s cage. Moody was standing on the top step releasing the balls of light the Put-Outer had stolen from the streetlamps; they flew back to their bulbs and the square glowed momentarily with orange light before Moody limped inside and closed the front door, so that the darkness in the hall became complete.

‘Here –’

He rapped Harry hard over the head with his wand; Harry felt as though something hot was trickling down his back this time and knew that the Disillusionment Charm must have lifted.

‘Now stay still, everyone, while I give us a bit of light in here,’ Moody whispered.

The others’ hushed voices were giving Harry an odd feeling of foreboding; it was as though they had just entered the house of a dying person. He heard a soft hissing noise and then old-fashioned gas lamps sputtered into life all along the walls, casting a flicker- ing insubstantial light over the peeling wallpaper and threadbare carpet of a long, gloomy hallway, where a cobwebby chandelier glimmered overhead and age-blackened portraits hung crooked on the walls. Harry heard something scuttling behind the skirting board. Both the chandelier and the candelabra on a rickety table nearby were shaped like serpents.

There were hurried footsteps and Ron’s mother, Mrs Weasley, emerged from a door at the far end of the hall. She was beaming in welcome as she hurried towards them, though Harry noticed that she was rather thinner and paler than she had been last time he had seen her.

‘Oh, Harry, it’s lovely to see you!’ she whispered, pulling him into a rib-cracking hug before holding him at arm’s length and examining him critically. ‘You’re looking peaky; you need feeding up, but you’ll have to wait a bit for dinner, I’m afraid.’

She turned to the gang of wizards behind him and whispered urgently, ‘He’s just arrived, the meeting’s started.’

The wizards behind Harry all made noises of interest and excitement and began filing past him towards the door through which Mrs Weasley had just come. Harry made to follow Lupin, but Mrs Weasley held him back.

‘No, Harry, the meeting’s only for members of the Order. Ron and Hermione are upstairs, you can wait with them until the meeting’s over, then we’ll have dinner. And keep your voice down in the hall,’ she added in an urgent whisper.

‘Why?’

‘I don’t want anything to wake up.’

‘What d’you –?’

‘I’ll explain later, I’ve got to hurry, I’m supposed to be at the meeting – I’ll just show you where you’re sleeping.’

Pressing her finger to her lips, she led him on tiptoe past a pair of long, moth-eaten curtains, behind which Harry supposed there must be another door, and after skirting a large umbrella stand that looked as though it had been made from a severed troll’s leg they started up the dark staircase, passing a row of shrunken heads mounted on plaques on the wall. A closer look showed Harry that the heads belonged to house-elves. All of them had the same rather snout-like nose.

Harry’s bewilderment deepened with every step he took. What on earth were they doing in a house that looked as though it belonged to the Darkest of wizards?

‘Mrs Weasley, why –?’

‘Ron and Hermione will explain everything, dear, I’ve really got to dash,’ Mrs Weasley whispered distractedly. ‘There –’ they had reached the second landing, ‘– you’re the door on the right. I’ll call you when it’s over.’

And she hurried off downstairs again.

Harry crossed the dingy landing, turned the bedroom doorknob, which was shaped like a serpent’s head, and opened the door.

He caught a brief glimpse of a gloomy high-ceilinged, twin-bedded room; then there was a loud twittering noise, followed by an even louder shriek, and his vision was completely obscured by a large quantity of very bushy hair. Hermione had thrown herself on to him in a hug that nearly knocked him flat, while Ron’s tiny owl, Pigwidgeon, zoomed excitedly round and round their heads.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling