The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

chapter six of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As his trial moves closer, Harry helps Sirius and the Weasleys clean up number twelve, Grimmauld Place, despite many protests from Kreacher. In doing so, he learns more about Sirius’s family, pure-blood wizards, and the wizarding world.
 

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, by Leela Starsky

Mrs. Black’s screeches echoed up through the house once more: “Stains of dishonor, filthy half-breeds, blood traitors, children of filth….”


 

Doxycide, by reallycorking

“Joke shop still on, then?” Harry muttered, pretending to be adjusting the nozzle on his spray…. “All thanks to you, mate,” said George.


 

Hermione, by Heather Campbell

“This is Harry, Kreacher,” said Hermione tentatively. “Harry Potter.”


 

Kreacher, by Cambryn

Kreacher’s pale eyes widened and he muttered faster and more furiously than ever. “The Mudblood is talking to Kreacher as though she is my friend, if Kreacher’s Mistress saw him in such company, oh what she would say -“

(by Cambryn)


 

The Black Family Tapestry, by Leela Starsky

“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.”


 

about the chapter

 

The Wizarding World

The (many) magical creatures living in Grimmauld Place have obviously had years to move in, and it seems likely most of them wouldn’t have been there back when the house was inhabited. But a lot of the objects that Harry, Sirius, and the Weasleys find while they’re cleaning would have been there before – so I can’t help wondering what the Blacks were doing with it. After all, in addition to the mementos they find in the glass-fronted cabinets, they also find Wartcap powder; a silver, spidery, skin-puncturing instrument; and an enchanted (seemingly Dark) music box. What the heck is all this stuff?
 

The Power of Magic

Fred and George mention (after Apparating onto Ron’s knees by mistake) that Apparition is “harder in the dark” – but why the heck would that be? What is it that wizards need to be able to see? We’ve heard something like this once before, when Harry took Floo Powder for the first time and Mrs. Weasley told him to be sure to “get out at the right grate,” and “wait until you see Fred and George.” But in both cases, it seems to me that wizards would be moving too fast to make decisions based on visuals. I wonder what these experiences are really like, and what it is they’re watching for while traveling.
 

Life at Grimmauld Place

Another interesting aspect of the objects in Grimmauld Place is that some of them – like the clock that shoots bolts, or the robes that strangle Ron – actually seem to have been programmed to attack. Given Sirius’s dad’s obsession with security, it’s possible these objects were simply enchanted to go after intruders; of course it’s also possible that whatever magic was in them has strengthened over time (or been altered by Kreacher, using house-elf magic). But given the nature of the objects’ behavior it almost seems to me like Sirius’s parents might have just gone a little crazy in their old age. It’s not hard to envision that part of the insanity that is this house (not to mention Kreacher) is the result of a paranoid old wizard or two enchanting things at random over the years.
 


33 Responses to “The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black”

  1. Josie, you are amazing. I never gave a thought to what all that stuff was in the house for! I was just enjoying being immersed in the world when reading or listening to the books.

  2. I think Fred and George weren’t meaning what they said about Apparating in the dark. I figured they were being sarcastic, justifying their inability to do Apparation perfectly, and/or they actually meant to Apparate on Ron’s knees. :-D

  3. Roonil Wazlib, good point. Fred has been known to fib to Ron about magic he isn’t old enough to use.

  4. It’s quite possible that the Blacks were nuts and enchanting things bizarrely, but it wasn’t doddering old age: Orion was a mere 50 years old when he died (according to JKR’s drawing of the tapestry) and Walburga 60.

  5. To Roonil Wazlib’s point, it’s definitely possible that this isn’t true, but I’m not sure I’d go along with that. Something about the way it’s written makes me think that Rowling meant it to be true. Plus, they were trying to be careful that Molly wouldn’t hear, because if she did they’d have to stop the conversation. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to aim for Ron’s knees from that perspective, either.

    elethian, a very good point about the age of Sirius’s parents – I hadn’t thought of that. I always think of them as being old because the portrait of Sirius’s mother is so raving. But it’s also true that the ages and years on that family tree are grossly off in other areas, so Rowling may have been thinking of them as older, too (I always got the impression they were). Who knows. :)

  6. It should be further noted that according to the BFT both Orion and Walburga were survived by their fathers (Arcturus Black and Pollux Black) so it’s hard to figure out how his parents could have inherited the place!
    I think of Arcturus,as head of the family,having kept its country seat (out amid the “dark Satanic mills” of the “Black Country”) but don’t have a clue where Pollux lived.

  7. Apparating confuses me because at first I thought they just think of a place to go and go, then in Deathly Hallows, one of the Death Eaters grabs Hermione as she’s apparating and she’s about on the doorstep of Grimmauld Place or something. It seemed that she must have seen the door before she switched destinations as she’s apparating.
    As for Sirius’s parents, I don’t think they were mad with age – I think they were mad in general.

  8. Yeah, Louis E, the dates on the BFT don’t really make any sense at all, for a ton of reasons. I’ve begun pretty much just ignoring them, because you run into a lot of problems just like this one. I don’t think JKR put much thought into it, to be honest.

  9. It is true that apparating takes time – think of Harry holding onto Dobby’s hand for ages when they apparated to Shell Cottage in DH. So maybe you do have time to see something (like how Harry sees the door to Grimmauld Place briefly before they leave?) I don’t know, it’s a bit muddled.

  10. Excellent analysis, as always. If I remember correctly, though, it was more or less stated in DH that some of the dark objects were placed in Grimmauld Place by Regulus, to protect a certain horcrux…

  11. if Apparating is about the three D’s, and one of them is destination, wouldn’t it be a bit harder if your destination is unclear, or dark?
    However, I also guess that the Twins are just coming up with a stupid argument to explain their poor aim of Apparating… :)
    The stuff the Blacks kept in their house, and the enchantments they put up… can’t they get bigger and more powerfull overtime? That they are just overdue, like sour milk???

  12. A drawing room is a very British thing to me. For the longest time I thought that it’s a room where you draw, but it seemed weird. Then I learned that it’s actually a room that you WITHdraw to after eating. Do British houses still have that?

    Here’s a thought that just occured to me. Sirius was sent to Askaban because he was believed to be a major Death Eater. Many people still believe he is. Wouldn’t that have changed his parents’ mind about him? Sure, Kreacher now knows he’s in the Order, but Sirius’ parents dies before he came back, so Kreacher, too, must have thought Sirius was in with Voldemort.

    Here goes JKR again, mentioning the most important thing in a half sentence.

  13. Surprised there’s no ‘Something to Remember’ section for a certain locket that nobody can open considering the importance it has in later books.

  14. Bro, I always have a debate with myself over things like this – I could write them in ‘Something to Remember,’ but since I have a no-spoiler policy on the pages, I worry that the very fact of pointing it out will give too much away. Does that make sense? This one is more border line, but others (like Regulus Black, also in this chapter) would be pretty spoilery if I brought them up at all. You might be right, though, that it’s a good idea to do something about the locket… hmm….

  15. I’m liking Cambryn’s portrait of Kreacher.

  16. I love Leela Starsky’s chapter headers… they’re marvelous :)

  17. Kim, I think these days drawing room is often a posher way of saying the living room, but traditionally it was a seperate room where guests would be entertained after dinner. Some larger houses with more than one reception room may have one of them allocated as a drawing rooms.

  18. When I first read OoTP I had a rather Charles Addamsesque idea about the items in the Black’s family home. Knowing how malevolent these people were and being a pureblood family, I had a vision of Mrs. Black wrapping these nasty items as presents for muggleborn and half-blood wizards that she despised. It certainly fits the personality of her portrait. I can hear her now, ” Wait till Phineas gets these robes. He’ll be all choked up.”

  19. I always assumed that the ‘strangling robes’ were really a lethifold. I know that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them says that they are native to tropical climates, but it does seem like the kind of thing the Blacks would keep as pets.

    By the way, great site, I’ve been burning through these chapter analysis pages like nobodies business. I love the “Things you May not have noticed.” You can be sure you’ve earned a new fan.

  20. CaptMcCool, thanks for the kind words! I’d be pretty surprised if the robes were actually a lethifold. For one thing, lethifolds move flat on the ground; for another, the only way to dispel them is with a Patronus, which to me sounds pretty different to me from the description in the book. Also, a lethifold is one of the most dangerous creatures in the world, silently killing and eating people in their sleep in a matter of seconds – way beyond any of the other dangerous stuff in the Black house. It’s hard for me to imagine any wizard keeping one in the house….

  21. One thing this chapter clearly states: Professor McGonagall is indeed a member of the Order. Though we rarely see her acting as anything more than a silent member, she is definitely involved in the inner-workings of Order activities if she’s showing up at Grimmauld Place at certain times.

  22. Casey, the thing that interests me about McGonagall isn’t so much that she’s in the order now, but that she isn’t in Moody’s picture of the original Order.

  23. This is true, however I don’t think McGonagall’s loyalty was in question last time. I think she probably took an inactive role. Or she may not have been around when the photo was taken, seeing as how she rarely shows up this time around anyway. I mean, she was there in the first chapter of PS, waiting for Dumbledore, after hearing the news. She must have been in-the-know to know where to show up to speak to Dumbledore herself.

  24. The fact that she (McGonagall) isn’t in Moody’s picture bothers me. As Casey points out, though, she is keeping an eye on things in her cat form for Dumbledore at the start of PS. My thought is that this could explain her absence from both the picture and a lot of the goings-on of the Order this time around. While McGonagall would have had to register as an Animagus, in most cases, a cat wandering around looking interested in things isn’t going to arouse much suspicion. Once the Ministry is taken over, and any anonymity she had as a cat is ruined, she returns to her post at Hogwarts.

    I realize I’m stretching a bit here, as probably what set Bellatrix off was just the noise, but the fear of an Animagus spying on her and Narcissa could have been why she killed the fox in Spinner’s End in HBP. Just a thought. Not claiming it’s a good one.

  25. Anyone else notice the heavy locket that no one could get open? Is this THE locket?

  26. stepheedens, are you asking rhetorically? I didn’t mention the locket on the page because I felt that pointing it out would be a spoiler for book six, but it’s clearly worth noticing….

  27. I was taken when reading this chapter today about how when the music box starts playing music that makes everyone feel weak and tired, it is Ginny who reacts. This might be due to her experience having been possessed by Voldemort – she is more alert than the others to the dangers of an object like this.

  28. About the Black house; I always thought these items react against the “intruders”. After all, Harry describes it as if they are fighting a war against the house. It seems to me that the objects in the house have been there for so long that they have kind of taken on the pure-blood spirits of its inhabitans, fighting back everything else. It always amused me that the whole house was so against the Order. It’s like it has been infected by the people in it.

  29. Does anyone know what happens to 12 grimmauld place after Harry grows up? Does he keep the place? Can he sell it? Would it make a great museum for the Order of the Phoenix after the war? Do he and Ginny later live there? If so, do they ever get Mrs Black unstuck and remove that picture? Also, do they give the stuffed elf heads to Kreacher? Do the death eaters destroy the place? Just curious, sure would not want to live there!
    And does Harry get to keep the old family home in Godric’s Hollow?
    Thi say not be the right forum for these questions, but they came to mind here. Nice site, Josie.

  30. Thanks Kc! As far as I know the future of Grimmauld Place or the cottage in Godric’s Hollow were never addressed by Rowlings (in interviews, etc.). Perhaps we will learn more on Pottermore?

  31. I think by the time Harry grows up that Kreacher is a stuffed elf head…

  32. Just how old was Mrs Blabk when Sirius was born? If shw was married and had him by say 20, shw would only be 56 or so. That is not old lady! She is described as old. DD is >100 yrs and hardly acts old. The potters too are ? Oold. Did they die before or after James and Lily? JKR mentions somewhere that the Potters died of old age. James was an only child. So how old were they when he was born? Does the wizarding world have babies late in life? Post menopause? Sounds like Abraham & Sarah or Elizabeth & Zacharias!

  33. Yeah, JK is really sloppy in her maths… or rather she uses them whatever way suits her best. Still, for Sirius’ parents to be raving and appearing older than they truly are, you don’t need much of an explanation other than “The pure-blood families are all interrelated. 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.” Sirius says that. Even if you check the tree, both his parents had the same last name, which in fact would reveal them to be cousins to a certain degree. How inbred was that family? Inbreeding in humans (practiced over generations in the Royal Families in Europe, and still practiced in some parts of the Middle East and Africa) has been proved to have adverse effects, specifically related to all genetic disorders, such as mental disorder, heart diseases, gastro-intestinal disorders, achondroplasia (one of the causes for dwarfism), hemophilia, hypertension, hearing deficit… and then take a look all the pairings on that tree… No wander they were barking mad and physically compromised!

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