- "It's ideal for Headquarters, of course. My father put every security measure known to wizardkind on it when he lived here. It's unplottable, so Muggles could never come and call — as if they'd ever have wanted to — and now Dumbledore's added his protection, you'd be hard put to find a safer house anywhere."
- —Sirius Black regarding 12 Grimmauld Place[src]
12 Grimmauld Place was the ancestral home of the Black family, located in the Borough of Islington, London, in a Muggle neighbourhood, and the location was protected by a Fidelius Charm. As the house was invisible to the neighbourhood residents, the local Muggles have long since accepted the mistake in numbering which landed number 13 next to number 11.
In 1995, the home became the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix with the consent of Sirius Black, with Albus Dumbledore becoming Secret-Keeper. After Dumbledore's death in 1997, everyone in whom he confided the location of 12 Grimmauld Place to became a Secret-Keeper, so headquarters was moved to the Burrow.
- 1 History
- 2 Security Measures
- 3 Layout
- 4 Contents
- 5 Etymology
- 6 Behind the scenes
- 7 Appearances
- 8 Notes and references
- "Tucked away in northwestern London, a twenty minute walk from King's Cross Station, lies number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Both Unplottable and hidden behind a Fidelius Charm, the house is invisible to all but a few. Though the neighbouring Muggles don't even know the building exists, it was for many years home to the Black family — one of the wizarding world's oldest pureblood families, and extremely proud to be so."
- —Description of the house[src]
Number 12 Grimmauld Place was formerly a handsome Muggle townhouse built in London. At some point, an early member of the wizarding House of Black coveted the beautiful house and managed to "persuade" the original Muggle occupant to leave, and put the appropriate spells on it.
Under Walburga Black
The house was, apparently, in the Black family for some generations when Walburga Black took possession in the mid-20th century. Sirius and Regulus Black grew up in number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Sirius ran away from home around 1976, at age sixteen and both Regulus and Orion died just a few years later, in 1979. This left Walburga living in the house alone with the family house-elf, Kreacher. Upon Walburga’s death in 1985, the house passed to her only living descendant, Sirius, who, though he had been blasted off the family tree, had apparently not been disinherited.
Since Sirius was in Azkaban, the house sat empty for ten years with only Kreacher, who had gone “round the twist,” to look after it. Walburga Black made her disgust of having anyone less than pure-blood in her home very clear through the hostile shrieks of her portrait, which was affixed to the wall with a Permanent Sticking Charm.
Sirius Black stated that the house was unoccupied after the death of his mother Walburga in 1985. The Black family tree shows that both of Sirius's grandfathers, Arcturus Black III and Pollux Black, survived Walburga by several years, as did his unmarried great-aunt Cassiopeia, so they must have lived elsewhere.
Under Sirius Black
Sirius Black, Walburga's son, hated number 12 Grimmauld Place, and left when he was sixteen. He never imagined he would have to return to his family's home. During Sirius's imprisonment in Azkaban, wrongly convicted for the crime of murdering twelve Muggles and Peter Pettigrew (Pettigrew being the real perpetrator), the house was unoccupied, besides the Black family's house elf, Kreacher. After his escape in 1993, Sirius gave the home over to the Order of the Phoenix to be used as a headquarters. The home required an arduous cleaning up to make it even remotely habitable. Much of this work fell to Molly Weasley and her children. The home was in such disrepair that doxies and boggarts had made themselves quite at home.
Following Sirius’s death in 1996, the Order temporarily vacated the building for fear that its ownership had passed to his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange; however, it soon proved that Sirius had successfully left the house to Harry Potter in his will, and with his blessing the Order moved back in once again.
Under Harry Potter
The Order of the Phoenix
After Sirius Black was murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange in 1996 during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, the house was inherited by his godson, Harry Potter. He continued to allow the Order of the Phoenix to use it as a safe house. After the death of Albus Dumbledore, Grimmauld Place's Secret-Keeper in 1997, each of the members of the order to whom the secret had been imparted became Secret-Keepers themselves, giving them the power to reveal the house to others.
The Secret-Keepers included Severus Snape, who had killed Dumbledore and was believed to be in Lord Voldemort's employ and therefore would allow Death Eaters into the Order's headquarters. Alastor Moody placed a number of protective enchantments on the house to keep Snape from entering.
These were a Tongue-Tying Curse to prevent him from telling others of the place and a dust-composed form of Dumbledore, which disintegrated when the person it advanced upon said the word kill or a variant, the point of this being that Moody believed that Snape would be too overrun with guilt to say that he had killed Albus, forcing him to retreat. However, the Order did not know that Albus Dumbledore's death was prearranged with Severus Snape. Despite these enchantments, the Order ceased use of the house as headquarters as they still could not risk being ambushed by Death Eaters.
Use as a hide-out
- Harry Potter: "Grimmauld Place"
- Hermione Granger: "Don't be silly, Harry, Snape can get in there!"
- Harry Potter: "Ron's dad said they've put up jinxes against him — and even if they haven't worked... So what? I swear, I'd like nothing better than to meet Snape!"
- — Harry and Hermione arguing over a safe place to hide[src]
When Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger escaped from the Death Eater attack on Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour's wedding ceremony on 1 August, 1997, they hid at Grimmauld Place. They were able to remain hidden there for a month, though Death Eaters, who were staking out locations linked to the Order, skulked about the street outside, unable to see the secret location.
While at Grimmauld Place, the trio learned that Kreacher had attempted to destroy Salazar Slytherin's Locket one of several Horcruxes created by Lord Voldemort at the request of his master, Regulus Black. Kreacher revealed that the Horcrux was stolen by Mundungus Fletcher during a looting of 12 Grimmauld Place. After presenting Kreacher with Regulus Black's locket, Harry asked Kreacher to track down Mundungus.
Kreacher returned days later with Mundungus, who revealed that the locket was taken by Dolores Umbridge in Diagon Alley. The trio hatched a plan to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic. While performing four weeks of stakeouts at the Ministry entrance, they spent some of their free time cleaning up 12 Grimmauld Place.
After retrieving Salazar Slytherin's Locket from Umbridge, they Apparated back to Grimmauld Place, but Corban Yaxley grabbed Hermione's arm in the process. She struck him with a Revulsion Jinx and Disapparated away with Harry and Ron, but the house's location had been revealed to Yaxley, and they were forced to abandon it.
It's unknown what happened to Grimmauld Place when the Second Wizarding War was over, but even though Harry was not living in it, it's possible that it was kept safe for the Order of the Phoenix.
By the time the Order of the Phoenix made 12 Grimmauld Place its headquarters, the house had been placed under “every security measure known to wizard-kind.” Among other things, the house is Unplottable, which makes it accessible only to wizards, and had spells on the front door such that it could only be unlocked by a wizard using his or her wand. The house was also placed under a Fidelius Charm, meaning it couldn’t be accessed by wizards, either, unless they were told its location by the Secret-Keeper. Albus Dumbledore was the Secret-Keeper for Grimmauld Place until his death in 1997, after which everyone who had been told the secret became a Secret-Keeper themselves.
Dumbledore’s death also led Mad-Eye Moody to place additional enchantments on the house, in order to prevent Severus Snape from accessing it: he set up a Tongue-Tying Curse that sensed whether a person entering the house was Snape, and if so, bound his tongue; and a Dumbledore figure, made of dust, that approaches intruders unless they tell it that they were not the one who killed Dumbledore.
When a wizard approaches number twelve, Grimmauld Place who knows of its location, it appears to shove its neighbouring houses, number eleven and number thirteen, out of the way as it appears between them. What’s revealed is a worn set of front steps, leading to a battered front door. On the door is a silver knocker in the shape of a twisted serpent, with no keyholes, handles, or anything else that would indicate it to be a door, as it opens only by magic. However, there is a doorbell — a “loud, clanging bell” that has a tendancy to awaken Walburga Black’s portrait inside. When one leaves the house, the building vanishes behind him the instant he reaches the street.
The front door opens into a long hallway, lit with gas lamps and a large overhead chandelier. At one time this must have been a grand entryway, complete with ornate portraits on the walls, but by the time Harry first visited the house it was gloomy and cobwebby, with the wallpaper peeling off and the carpet worn thin.
Of all the portraits, the most prominent (though it’s often covered with curtains) is an enormous portrait of Walburga Black, stuck to the wall via a Permanent Sticking Charm, which takes to screaming at the top of her lungs whenever she spots “Mudbloods”, “blood traitors”, and “half breeds” in her house. Much of the decor in the entry hall is made of serpents, though there is also an umbrella stand made from the severed leg of a troll, that Nymphadora Tonks was particularly prone to knocking over.
The dining room contained a long wooden table with chairs and hanging light fixtures. At some point while the house was abandoned, spiders the size of saucers moved into the dresser; Harry, Sirius, and the Weasleys cleaned these out during their summer at Grimmauld Place, though admittedly Ron didn’t help much.
At the end of the entrance hall, facing the door, a grand staircase leads to the upper floors of 12 Grimmauld Place. The wall on the stair is decorated with a row of shrunken house-elf heads, mounted on the wall on plaques.
A door at the far end of the entry hall, a set of narrow stone stairs leads to the basement, and the house’s kitchen. Though less ornate than the floors above, the kitchen is still a large, “cavernous” room with a large fireplace at the far end. Iron pots and pans hang from the ceiling above, and a long wooden table sits in the centre of the room, large enough to fit a couple dozen people around it for a meal. The room had a gloomy feeling when it was occupied by the Order of the Phoenix, but when Harry later lived in the house, Kreacher cleaned the room up and made it sparkling, “almost unrecognizable” as the same room where the Order once held its meetings.
Also in the basement, just off the kitchen, is a dark pantry, large enough for two people to stand in comfortably; and another cupboard off the kitchen houses the boiler for the house, as well as Kreacher’s den, filled with rags, smelly blankets, and photographs of the Black family. Other than these two small rooms, however, the kitchen seems to fill the entire basement — making it quite a large room indeed.
On the first floor, there are at least three rooms: a bedroom, where Hermione and Ginny once slept; a bathroom where Harry once ran when he was overcome with a vision of Voldemort; and, of the most significance, the drawing room.
The drawing room was at one time exquisite, with large windows overlooking the street in front of the house, a large fireplace flanked by two ornate glass-fronted cabinets, and an entire wall covered with a tapestry of the Black family tree. In the summer of 1995, though, the room mostly just needed a good cleaning, as the curtains were filled with doxies, the writing desk housed a boggart, and the dark items in the cabinets — from snakeskins to bottles of blood to boxes of Wartcap Powder — were ready to put up a fight against anyone trying to clean them up. It was in this room that Kreacher stored Slytherin’s locket when he couldn’t get it open, and it was in this room that Harry, Ron, and Hermione slept (Hermione on the sofa cushions) when they returned to the house two years later to hide from the Ministry.
The second floor houses at least one bedroom, and possibly more; it was in this room that Harry and Ron slept during their first stay at Grimmauld Place. The room had two twin beds and a wardrobe, and like the rest of the house was gloomy, had lofty ceilings, and had a doorknob in the shape of a serpent. On the wall is a portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black (though Hermione later removed this), and in the corner there is a wastebasket that coughs when owl droppings are placed in it.
From the landing on the second floor, it is possible to look down over the bannisters and see the top of anyone’s head who is standing in the front entrance hall.
On the third floor, there is a mouldy cupboard that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to clean out as well as at least three bedrooms. Fred, George, and Mr and Mrs Weasley all slept on the floor above Harry and Ron's bedroom, and Mrs Black's former bedroom, where Buckbeak stayed, must also have been on this floor since it is "upstairs" to both the drawing room and Harry and Ron's bedroom but obviously not on the fourth floor with Sirius and Regulus's rooms.
The topmost landing is probably the fourth floor (unless the house is truly enormous – remember the high ceilings on every floor), and on this floor are only two doors: one leading to Sirius’s room, and the other to Regulus’s. The latter was marked by a sign on the door — “Do Not Enter Without the Express Permission of Regulus Arcturus Black” — that eventually proved to be the clue Harry would need to discover the identity of R.A.B. Though Harry never entered either until he owned the house himself, he could tell that both rooms had once been beautiful, with carved wooden headboards on the beds, velvet curtains, and fine wall hangings and furniture.
The decor in the two rooms, of course, could not have been more different: Sirius decked his room out in Gryffindor colours and banners, and posters of Muggle motorbikes and bikini-clad girls. In Regulus’s room, slightly smaller, the decor of course highlighted his Slytherin, pure-blood heritage, with a Black family crest painted over the bed and newspaper clippings about Voldemort donning the walls.
There is also an attic where Kreacher claimed to have been when he was in fact at Malfoy Manor (and where Sirius later searched for him).
Number 12, Grimmauld Place held many Black family heirlooms and possessions, such as a music box that played a sickly tune and tried to put the listener to sleep, crested goblets, a biting silver box containing Wartcap powder, and an unopenable locket which turned out to be Salazar Slytherin's Locket, one of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes. This was where Kreacher put the object after he drove himself mad not being able to complete his master's orders to destroy the locket because it had to be damaged past the point of repair, which was beyond the capabilities and understanding of the house-elf.
Another object of note was the Portrait of Walburga Black, which has an unpleasant habit of loudly screaming about the "Mudbloods" and "blood traitors" of the Order of the Phoenix members that inhabited the house, due to Walburga's prejudice against such people. The portrait was usually closed off with curtains, which aimed to keep the portrait quiet, but are not very effective; any loud noise in the vicinity would cause the curtains to fly open, and Walburga to start raging and howling again until someone forces the curtains shut.
Many of these family heirlooms were stolen and peddled by Mundungus Fletcher, including Salazar Slytherin's Locket, which the thief was forced to give to none other than Dolores Umbridge to avoid prosecution for trading without a licence, she used the locket to enforce her pure-blood credentials, claiming that the 'S' stood for Selwyn, which she claimed was a pure-blood family to whom she was related. In fact, the locket was an heirloom of Salazar Slytherin as well as one of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes, which Regulus Black stole when he abandoned the Death Eaters.
The name is another of J. K. Rowling's puns: Grimmauld Place can be taken as "grim, old place" or "grim mould place." The house's owner for most of the books is also Sirius Black, whose Animagus form is confused for, and referred to as, "the Grim" throughout Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Behind the scenes
- The inheritance of the property by Sirius Black is almost certainly governed by the magical equivalent of the English Common Law concept of the Entailed Estate. Under this type of arrangement, the inheritance of the covered property by the designated heir ("down the direct line, to the next male with the name of 'Black'") cannot be prevented by disinheritance or any other legal means. The only way the entail breaks is if there is no living descendant who matches the conditions of the entail. When the entail breaks, the property in question can be disposed of by any legal means, including being willed to any person the current holder so chooses. This legal mechanism matches the known circumstances of the inheritance, where the property was inherited by Sirius although he was "disowned", and then could be successfully left to Harry Potter once there was no "direct line, male descendant."
- In the films, Harry's inheritance of the house is omitted.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Indirectly mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game)
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- LEGO Dimensions
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 4 (Number Twelve Grimmauld Place)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 3 (Will and Won't)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6 (The Ghoul in Pyjamas)
- .@CharlsEC A Black ancestor coveted the beautiful house, so 'persuaded' the Muggle occupant to leave & put the appropriate spells on it. - J.K. Rowling on Twitter
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 5 (The Order of the Phoenix)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 (The Servant of Lord Voldemort)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3 (The Knight Bus)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 6 (The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 9 (The Woes of Mrs Weasley)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 9 (A Place to Hide)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11 (The Bribe)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 14 (The Thief)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 12 (Magic is Might)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 10 (Kreacher's Tale)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1