Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 34

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In Chapter 34, it’s off to the Ministry of Magic! What could go wrong!

How weird would it be to ride a flying animal that was completely invisible? Harry, Neville and Luna can see the thestrals and each climb onto one. Ron, Hermione and Ginny, on the other hand? Not so much? Luna leaves her thestral to help them, but I can’t imagine any of them feel particularly secure up there. I know I sure wouldn’t!

“This is mad,” Ron said faintly, moving his free hand gingerly up and down his horse’s neck. “Mad . . . if I could just see it –”

“You’d better hope it stays invisible,” said Harry darkly.

Truth. If you suddenly see your thestral, that means you also just saw one of your friends/siblings die. Still, riding a thestral is not a comfortable experience, especially since they move really fast through the air and it’s not necessarily the smoothest ride. It’s also really cold up there in the atmosphere. Harry can’t help but wonder if they are going to get there in time. He was still pretty sure that Sirius was alive and that he still hadn’t done whatever it was Voldemort wanted him to do, but all Harry can do is guess based on how his scar is feeling.

They land in London next to the telephone booth entrance to the Ministry. Somehow, I have no idea how, the thestrals knew where that was. Maybe they have the same magical GPS that owls seem to have? You just tell them where to go and they just know? Ron swears he will never do that again, and I don’t blame him. That would have scared me half to death.

They all pile into the telephone booth. Harry remembers the number to dial and the voice replies to them, the same way it did when Harry came down with Mr. Weasley. This time, at night and given the circumstances, it’s really creepy. Harry gives it their names and says they are here to save someone. The telephone booth then gives them all badges with their names on them, indicating that they are on a “rescue mission.” I know it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s just so damn serious right now! I was freaked out the first time I read this!

Also ominous – the security guard is missing. Harry is pretty sure that there should have been someone there, even if it is the middle of the night. This is a government building, THE government building for the wizarding world. There should always be security there and they are missing. Luckily, Harry knows where to go. They head to the elevators and descend into the depths, arriving at the Department of Mysteries. There, finally, Harry sees the black door that he’s been dreaming about all year long.

“Okay, listen,” said Harry, stopping again within six feet of the door. “Maybe . . . maybe a couple of people should stay here as a — as a lookout, and –”

“And how’re we going to let you know something’s coming?” asked Ginny, her eyebrows raised. “You could be miles away.”

“We’re coming with you, Harry,” said Neville.

“Let’s get on with it,” said Ron firmly.

Nice try, Harry, but they are not staying behind.

Here’s where everything starts to get trippy. They enter the door and find a round room with lots of doors, lit by blue flamed candles. As soon as they close the door they came through, the walls start to spin really fast and then they stop. Now they have no idea which door they came through and no idea of how to get out. Hermione says that they need to keep quiet, but I don’t think that needed to be said. It’s fairly clear.

In his dream, Harry just walked right across the room and entered the door across from the entrance, but the spinning room thing has startled all of them. He decides that they will just try a few doors and see if he recognizes one of them. The first door is empty except for some desks and an enormous tank of water filled with . . . swimming brains? Really? What the heck is the Ministry doing with a tank full of brains? In any case, this is not the right room, so they head back to the round room. Before they close the door, Hermione casts a spell that puts a red X on the room they were in, and this X stays there even after the room spins again. Quick thinking there, Hermione!

The next room is really creepy. It is a stone amphitheater with a raised platform on the “stage” of it. On the platform is a stone archway that looks really, really old, like it is falling apart. Hanging from the arch is a tattered black curtain, swaying slightly . . . in a room where the air is absolutely still. Harry has a weird reaction to this thing. He thinks he can hear whispers coming from the other side of the archway, even though you can see right through it and no one is there. It’s so creepy! Luna can hear the whispers too, but no one else can. Also, Harry is strangely drawn to the archway, so much so that he actually forgets about Sirius for a minute, before Hermione reminds him and drags him away.

There has been so much speculation about this archway in the Harry Potter fandom, but I don’t know if there was ever a definitive answer from JKR. My guess has always been that this was where the Ministry conducted executions, sending condemned wizards through it to die since (spoiler alert) that’s what will happen to Sirius when he goes through. Maybe they don’t do this any longer, which is why it looks so old? The wizarding world abolished capital punishment?

They head back to the round room, which spins again. The next door they try will not open, no matter what they try to cast on it. They leave it alone. The door after that does open and Harry recognizes it immediately.

He knew it at once by the beautiful, dancing, diamond-sparkling light. As Harry’s eyes became more accustomed to the brilliant glare he saw clocks gleaming from every surface, large and small, grandfather and carriage, hanging in spaces between the bookcases or standing on desks ranging the length of the room, so that a busy, relentless ticking filled the place like thousands of minuscule, marching footsteps. The source of the dancing, diamond-bright light was a towering crystal bell jar that stood on a desk and appeared to be full of a billowing, glittering wind . . .

Drifting along in the sparkling current inside was a tiny, jewel-bright egg. As it rose in the jar it cracked open and a hummingbird emerged, which was carried to the very top of the jar, but as it fell on the draft, its feathers became bedraggled and damp again, and by the time it had been borne back to the bottom of the jar it had been enclosed once more in its egg.

It’s beautiful, but still creepy. Everything about this place is creepy. I could never work in the Department of Mysteries!

They go through the clock room to the next room, which is the last room in Harry’s dreams. The room is very large with high ceilings filled with shelves upon shelves covered in glass orbs. The shelves have numbers on them and Harry remembers seeing row 97 in his vision. They keep going, but see no one around. At row 97, they turn and head down the row of shelves, but still no one. Harry knows this is the place – he’s seen it in his visions. But this time, there’s no sign of Sirius.

He doesn’t want to hear anyone say “I told you so,” not after he was so sure they had to get here, but instead, Ron sees something. Something odd. One of the glass orbs has a label that has Harry’s name on it.

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.

Dark Lord and (?) Harry Potter

It’s very strange. It was also dated almost 16 years ago. Ron looks around, but doesn’t see his name or any of their other names on anything. Just Harry. Harry goes to reach for it, but Hermione stops him. She doesn’t think he should touch it, and neither does Neville. I’m with them, Harry. You don’t know what this thing is. What if it’s something that could kill you instantly? You don’t know!

Harry being Harry, he reaches out and picks up the orb anyway. It’s surprisingly warm. Nothing happens when he touches it, and nothing happens when he lifts it off the shelf. They all stand there staring at this dusty orb.

And then, from right behind them, a drawling voice said, “Very good, Potter. Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give that to me.”

Yikes!!!

See you next time for Chapter 35!

Teaser Tuesday · Top Ten Tuesdays

Teasers & Top Tens – 8/20/19

tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Purple Booker. Here are the rules if you want to play along:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

Today’s teaser comes from Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins:

But this room looked like it had been decorated by the unholy lovechild of Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake.

A short quote, but it made me laugh. Also, yes, this is yet another book that I started last night. We had a power outage and since I didn’t want to use any of my devices (trying to conserve the batteries), I picked up a paperback (or as my friend Jess calls them, a dead tree copy). This was another series I had wanted to try to finish, so I figured why not. It’s a fairly light read.

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TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Favorite Tropes

This one was actually pretty easy for me. Over the years, I have tended to gravitate towards a lot of the same tropes or themes. I’ve been trying to break out of that a bit, but it’s hard!

  1. Boarding Schools – Preferably magical, but I like non-magical ones as well. When I was a kid, I always wanted to go to one, so I guess I live vicariously through books now.
  2. Road Trips – I love a good road trip, but I like reading about them a lot as well. Especially if the characters are searching for a specific person or a specific thing.
  3. Libraries – Anything that connects to a library, especially a magical one, is solid for me. I think libraries are magical anyway, but put a portal to another world in one, and I am good to go.
  4. Scavenger Hunts – This one is a bit different and I haven’t seen it as much, but I love it. It also typically goes along with a Road Trip. My favorite example is 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. I love that book!
  5. Urban Exploration – I love big cities. They always have a history to them that is wide a varied, usually with a darkness lurking underneath.
  6. Strong Platonic Friendships – Not every “couple” needs to fall in love, okay? My favorite example is Harry Potter and Hermione Granger (from the books, not the movies). So many people wanted them to end up as a couple, but to me, it was better that they were best friends. What’s wrong with being besties?
  7. Heists – This is a new one for me, probably from some of the newer books I’ve picked up this year. I’ve started to really dig that Mission Impossible vibe, which is funny since I’ve never really liked those movies all that much.
  8. Starting Over – Maybe this is because I have gone through this process myself, but I like seeing a character who has faced a lot of challenges in their lives take a chance and start over. Blank slate. Fresh start.
  9. Servants – This one sounds weird, but I’m talking about something like Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs. The people who take care of the aristocracy know EVERYTHING, but they are almost always taken for granted. My examples here are TV shows, but I like this trope in books as well.
  10. Chosen One: This is sometimes very cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason, and when done well, it makes for a really fun story. Bonus points if that prophesy could point to multiple people and we need to find out who the chosen one is.

Please share your teasers and/or top tens in comments!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 33

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In Chapter 33, Harry and Hermione lure Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest. What could go wrong? Let’s go!

Hermione has a plan. We don’t know what it is or where she is heading, but Harry is following her without question. Not that he can ask questions with Umbridge right behind him, but following Hermione is usually a good idea regardless.

They walk through the entrance hall, past the Great Hall where the other students are eating dinner, and out the front door.

“It’s hidden in Hagrid’s hut, is it?” said Umbridge eagerly in Harry’s ear.

“Of course not,” said Hermione scathingly. “Hagrid might have set it off accidentally.”

“Yes,” said Umbridge, whose excitement seemed to be mounting. “Yes, he would have done, of course, the great half-breed oak . . .”

Don’t you dare talk about Hagrid that way! Although it is clever of Hermione to play into Umbridge’s hatred of half-breeds as a way of placating her and making her think they have something in common.

Hermione tells her that the “weapon” is in the Forbidden Forest, since it had to be somewhere students wouldn’t find it. Umbridge is feeling a bit uncertain now, but tells them both to stay in front of her (although she won’t give Harry her wand since they are the ones who are going first and will be the first ones to encounter any danger – she doesn’t care about their welfare in the slightest). Harry also tries to catch Hermione’s eye as they are walking, but fails. He is so confused right now!

Harry starts to realize that they are heading down the same path Hagrid had taken them to go see Grawp and asks if Hermione is sure she’s going the right way. Hermione is very sure. Her idea seems to be to lead Umbridge to Grawp, and then let Grawp deal with her. Honestly, it’s not a terrible plan, although there are so many variables that could go horribly wrong. One of those variables being . . .

An arrow flew through the air and landed with a menacing thud in the tree just over her head. The air was suddenly full of the sound of hooves. Harry could feel the forest floor trembling; Umbridge gave a little scream and pushed him in front of her like a shield —

It wasn’t Grawp they were heading for. It was the centaurs. Hermione was banking on the centaurs belief from before that they wouldn’t harm her or Harry (since they don’t hurt “foals”) and would instead deal with Umbridge so that they could get away. This is still a dangerous plan, mostly because Umbridge will not shut up. She announces herself as being from the Ministry and threatens them with regulations, calls them half-breeds that have “near-human intelligence.”

Naturally, this makes them angry. Angry magical beings don’t behave rationally, especially when their rules are not the same as human rules. They shoot an arrow towards Umbridge after she claims that the forest doesn’t belong to them and then she tries to cast spells on them, which they do not like one bit. Several of them pick her up and take off through the forest until Harry and Hermione can no longer hear her screaming.

Harry and Hermione are not out of trouble yet though. At first, one of the centaurs repeats what we already know, that the centaurs don’t hurt “foals,” but they also point out that they brought Umbridge there, who just insulted and attacked them. Hermione tries to say that they are different, that they had only hoped that the centaurs could help them. It doesn’t go well.

The gray centaur threw back his head, his back legs stamping furiously, and bellowed, “You see, Ronan? They already have the arrogance of their kind! So we were to do your dirty work, were we, human girl? We were to act as your servants, drive away your enemies like obedient hounds?”

This is not at all what Hermione was saying, but the centaurs are beyond listening. Fortunately, who should appear around the corner, but Grawp. The centaurs recognize this as the much larger threat. He also seems to recognize Hermione, calling out to “Hermy” and wanting to know where “Hagger” is. When Grawp reaches for her, he catches a centaur and sends it flying, which is all the centaurs need to change targets. They start pelting Grawp with arrows and retreating, with Grawp in hot pursuit.

Finally alone, Harry back focused on his scar, which is still hurting. They don’t know what to do other than head back to the castle to at least get their wands, but they have already wasted so much time. Sirius could be dead by the time they get there! As Hermione wonders how they would even get to London, they are interrupted by Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Luna, all who were able to easily disarm the Inquisitorial Squad thanks to their lessons with the D.A.

Harry tells them about the centaurs taking Umbridge away, and then getting run off by Grawp. He also knows that Sirius is still alive, since he knows that his scar would really hurt if Voldemort had done anything extreme. What Harry doesn’t count on is Ginny, Neville, and Luna all deciding that they’re coming along on this venture.

“We were all in the D.A. together,” said Neville quietly. “It was all supposed to be about fighting You-Know-Who, wasn’t it? And this is the first chance we’ve had to do something real — or was that all just a game or something?”

Neville has a point.

So they need to get to London. The fastest way would be to fly. They don’t all have brooms, but what do they have? Thestrals. Yep, the skeletal horses that people can’t see unless they’ve seen someone die. As more and more thestrals arrive (following the smell of blood that Harry and Hermione have on them from Grawp), Harry gives up fighting with them. He tells them to grab a thestral and let’s go. It’s off to the Ministry!

See you next time for Chapter 34!

Added to GoodReads

Added to GoodReads – 8/19/19

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Added to GoodReads is a weekly feature where I share books that I’ve recently discovered and the book bloggers who have shared them. Let’s see what we have this week!

  • Final Girls by Riley Sager – This year, I was lucky enough to get an ARC of a Riley Sager book (Lock Every Door) and absolutely loved it. It was the first I had ever heard of this author. According to this review by Kristi at Confessions of a YA Reader, Final Girls is also amazing.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – This is one of those classics that I never got around to reading, even when I got my English degree. Then I saw this review over at Ashes Books & Bobs. I totally get where she’s coming from – reviewing classics does feel weird – but this book sounds delightful.
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho – I love books that take ancient mythology and put it in the modern world. What, you thought these things just disappeared? Maybe they’re just good at hiding! Check out this review from Noura at The Perks of Being Noura – she highly recommended it.
  • We are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo – Turns out, I actually had this one on my GoodReads, but I wanted to share it anyway. Please check out this review by Nikki at Books and Lemon Squash. She says it’s a “really solid and very enjoyable read.” Sounds good to me!

That’s it for this week. Have you read a wonderful review? Please share! Have you written a review that you want people to see? Please share that too! The more books, the better!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 32

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In Chapter 32, Harry has to try and figure out what to do about his vision of Sirius, and as usual, everything goes wrong. Let’s go!

Everything is a mess now. Professor Tofty is trying to get Harry to the hospital wing, but Harry just wants to run to Sirius’s aid. He tries to say that he was just having a nightmare, which does work. Tofty thinks it’s because of all the pressure Harry has been under due to the exams. This time, instead of just running off on his own, he goes to the one person in the school who he knows is a member of the Order – McGonagall.

But McGonagall isn’t there. Remember, she took several Stunning Spells right in the chest the night before. She was transferred to St. Mungo’s. Dumbledore is long gone. Harry feels quite alone right now. After the exam is over, he runs to find Ron and Hermione and tells them what he saw. They react with varying shades of disbelief.

“Harry,” said Hermione in a rather frightened voice, “er . . . how . . . how did Voldemort get into the Ministry of Magic without anybody realizing he was there?”

“How do I know?” bellowed Harry. “The question is how we’re going to get there!”

“But . . . Harry, think about this,” said Hermione, taking a step toward him, “it’s five o’clock in the afternoon . . . The Ministry of Magic must be full of workers . . . How would Voldemort and Sirius have got in without being seen? Harry . . . they’re probably the two most wanted wizards in the world . . . You think they could get into a building full of Aurors undetected?”

As usual, Hermione makes good points, but Harry is beyond using logic. This is Sirius we’re talking about – his only real family at this point. When Hermione tries to point out that it may have just been a dream, Harry says no, it’s not, remember Mr. Weasley. That seemed like “just a dream,” and turned out to be spot on. And it saved Mr. Weasley’s life. This brings Ron around. He says that Sirius may have left Grimmauld Place to get some fresh air since he had been so desperate to leave. Maybe Voldemort caught him and then magicked him into the Ministry somehow. Sirius is known to be a pretty powerful wizard, after all. Plus his brother had been a Death Eater, so maybe Sirius knows more about this mysterious weapon than he’s been telling them.

Hermione is still very skeptical, even though Ron is now on Harry’s side. She also says that maybe, just maybe, Harry has a “saving-people-thing.” Like when he tried to save Gabrielle in the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament. It was very noble of him, but it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t his responsibility. He just did it. Maybe Voldemort is playing this up, making sure that Harry would come to him by taking Sirius. Harry points out again that it wouldn’t matter if that’s why Voldemort did it, Harry still has to save Sirius, even if he gets accused of “acting the hero.” Hermione tries to say that maybe it really was just a dream this time, and Harry can’t take it anymore.

“You don’t get it!” Harry shouted at her. “I’m not having nightmares, I’m not just dreaming! What d’you think all the Occlumency was for, why d’you think Dumbledore wanted me prevented from seeing these things? Because they’re REAL, Hermione — Sirius is trapped — I’ve seen him — Voldemort’s got him, and no one else knows, and that means we’re the only ones who can save him, and if you don’t want to do it, fine, but I’m going, understand? And if I remember rightly, you didn’t have a problem with my saving-people-thing when it was you I was saving from the dementors, or” — he rounded on Ron — “when it was your sister I was saving from the basilisk –“

Hey, don’t start on Ron here, Harry. He’s on your side already!

They are getting louder and their voices carry. The door of the classroom opens and Ginny walks in, followed by Luna. At first Harry brushes them off, but Ginny offers to help. The main thing that Hermione wants to do is to make sure that Sirius really has left headquarters before they run to his rescue. That way if this really was just a nightmare, or if this is some trick, they will know the truth. In order to check, they need to get to Umbridge’s fire in her office again, and this is where Ginny and Luna can come in. They can be lookouts. All they need is a distraction, which will be provided by Ron, who will tell her Peeves is destroying something.

They won’t have much time, and they’ll need to avoid Umbridge, Filch, and the Inquisitorial Squad. But it’s all they can do. Harry runs to get the Invisibility Cloak and they get set up. Harry’s scar is still hurting, but not so bad that he thinks Sirius has been killed yet. That’s something anyway.

Ginny and Luna use the story that the corridor is full of Garroting Gas, which clears it out, and soon the coast is clear. Ron leaves to distract Umbridge and Harry and Hermione enter her office. Harry uses the floo to call Grimmauld Place, but it’s empty. No one is there. He calls out, but only Kreacher answers. Harry asks Kreacher where Sirius is.

“Nobody here but Kreacher!” said the elf gleefully, and turning away from Harry he began to walk slowly toward the door at the end of the kitchen. “Kreacher thinks he will have a little chat with his Mistress now, yes, he hasn’t had a chance in a long time, Kreacher’s Master has been keeping him away from her.”

“Where has Sirius gone?” Harry yelled after the elf. “Kreacher, has he gone to the Department of Mysteries?”

Kreacher stopped in his tracks. Harry could just make out the back of his bald head through the forest of chair legs before him . . . .

“Master will not come back from the Department of Mysteries!” he said gleefully. “Kreacher and his Mistress are alone again!”

Before Harry can do much else, he is dragged away from the fire by Umbridge. She had put Stealth Sensoring Spells around her office after the second niffler, so she knew immediately when someone broke in. Harry’s wand is taken away, as is Hermione’s. Harry tries to lie and say he broke in to get his Firebolt. Soon they are joined by Ron, Ginny and Luna, and also Neville, who tried to stop the Inquisitorial Squad from taking Ginny.

Umbridge demands that Harry tell her who he was talking to, but Harry won’t answer. She sends Draco to get Professor Snape, and this is where Harry realizes his mistake. There was one other Order member in the castle, even if it was one who currently doesn’t like him all that much. Still, I wonder how much Snape would have helped him, especially given that it was Sirius who was in danger. I’d like to think he would have, but I honestly don’t know. I tend to give Snape way more credit than he probably deserves.

When Snape arrives, Umbridge asks him for more Veritaserum. Snape says she took the last bottle he had when she questioned Harry last time, but she should still have some because it only takes three drops. Apparently Umbridge tried to give Harry the whole bottle. I wonder if it’s possible to have Veritaserum poisoning, because that seems like a lot to overdose on! Umbridge asks if he can make any more, to which Snape says that yes, of course he can, but it takes a full month to brew. That doesn’t make Umbridge happy at all. She tries to explain why she needs it, that Harry was trying to communicate with someone, but there isn’t much that can be done. If she had known better, she should know that you can’t just magic up a potion if it takes that long to brew. She’s really not all that smart, is she? Just power hungry.

Snape stares at Harry and, for once, Harry wants Snape to read his thoughts. He tries to concentrate on what he had seen, but knows it isn’t working. Umbridge is furious with Snape’s attitude and puts him on probation for being “deliberately unhelpful.” As Snape turns to leave, Harry knows he has one last chance to try and get someone to help him.

“He’s got Padfoot!” he shouted. “He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden!”

Umbridge doesn’t know what any of this means and demands that Snape tell her, but Snape claims that he doesn’t know either and that Harry is just babbling. At that point, Umbridge is desperate. She needs to do something, and what she finally decides on is that the Cruciatus Curse should force Harry to tell the truth. Yeah, because torture always works. Hermione shrieks that it’s illegal, but Umbridge is beyond reasoning. As far as she’s concerned, the end justifies the means, and if that means she has to work outside of the Ministry’s knowledge, that’s just what she’ll do. After all, that’s what happened when she sent dementors after him last summer. Yes, after all of that, Umbridge admits that she sent dementors into a Muggle neighborhood to silence Harry from speaking the truth.

Wow. Just . . . wow.

As she’s getting ready to cast the spell, Hermione cracks. She shouts that they have to tell Umbridge everything and starts crying. She starts telling a story, a very convincing one at that, and Harry and the others try to keep their faces blank. According to Hermione’s tale, they were trying to contact Dumbledore in the fire, but couldn’t find him. They were supposed to tell Dumbledore that some sort of weapon they were working on for him was ready now. They don’t understand what the weapon is or does — they were just following Dumbledore’s instructions.

It works. Umbridge immediately insists that they take her to the weapon. I have to say, Hermione is a good actress here. She is really laying it on thick and it is working so much.

“Fine,” said Hermione, now sobbing into her hands again, “fine . . . let them see it, I hope they use it on you! In fact, I wish you’d invite loads and loads of people to come and see! Th-that would serve you right — oh, I’d love it if the wh-whole school knew where it was, and how to u-use it, and then if you annoy any of them they’ll be able to s-sort you out!”

I’m sure that Hermione is probably crying real tears at this point, probably scared out of her wits, but that doesn’t mean she’s still not the smartest witch of her age. These words convince Umbridge that wherever they are going to go to this weapon, she will be taking them alone. No other teachers. No Inquisitorial Squad. Just Umbridge, Harry and Hermione, heading out to . . . . wherever Hermione is going to lead them.

See you next time for Chapter 33!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dawn and the Impossible Three

Nostalgic Reads

Title: Dawn and the Impossible Three

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #5

Blurb: Dawn’s the newest member of the Baby-Sitters Club and everybody’s glad – except Kristy. Kristy thinks things were better without Dawn around. That’s why Dawn’s eager to take on a big baby-sitting job. It’s her chance to show Kristy what she’s made of.

Review: We finally get to Dawn, the fifth member of the BSC. Dawn is from California and, as such, eats a lot of tofu, granola, and wheat germ. She made friends with Mary Anne during the big BSC fight in the last book and her friendship with Mary Anne is making Kristy jealous. Kristy is used to having Mary Anne pretty much all to herself. Couple that with the fact that Kristy will be moving across town after her mom marries Watson ( and won’t live next door to Mary Anne anymore), and it’s a recipe for disaster and lots of hurt feelings. Luckily, Dawn realizes this and reaches out to Kristy, and by the middle of the book they are friends and everything is cool.

The “impossible three” are the Barrett kids: Buddy, Suzi and Marnie. They aren’t bad kids, but their parents are going through a divorce and it’s making their mom get a little spacy. The house is always a mess (which Dawn cleans up), she forgets to tell Dawn about one of the kid’s allergies, and leaves the wrong phone numbers to contact her while she’s gone. She also strictly forbids Dawn to let her kids talk to their father when he calls. The culmination of all this is that one day while sitting, Buddy disappears. Dawn can’t get in touch with Mrs. Barrett so she calls the other parents she knows in the neighborhood to form a search party. One of the other kids says he saw Buddy getting into a strange car and that’s when they call the police.

Buddy is fine. Turns out the strange car belonged to his dad, and his dad was supposed to have that weekend with the kids, but Mrs. Barrett forgot. So he drove by, saw Buddy in the yard, and decided to take him to the amusement park. Dawn stands up to Mrs. Barrett and says that she can’t continue sitting for them if things keep going the way they are. They work things out and everybody is happy by the end.

While not my favorite of the series (I never related to Dawn very much), this is still a solid read. I do feel bad for the Barretts – they are definitely going through a rough time – but hopefully this situation will lead to at least some improved communication.

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 31

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In Chapter 31, it’s time for exams. If only Harry didn’t have to worry about Hagrid and Sirius. Let’s go!

Y’all, Ron is so excited that he helped with the Quidditch Cup. It’s so cute! He can’t stop talking about the match, even when they are hanging out by the lake studying. After a few minutes of Ron recounting all of the action, he sort of realizes that Harry and Hermione didn’t actually see anything that happened. Hermione has to sheepishly admit that she and Harry both left the match soon after it started. Ron is rightly upset by this, but it is soon replaced by the horror of the implications of what they tell him about Hagrid

“He brought one back and hid it in the forest?”

“Yep,” said Harry grimly.

“No,” said Ron, as though by saying this he could make it untrue. “No, he can’t have . . .”

“Well, he has,”: said Hermione firmly. “Grawp’s about sixteen feet tall, enjoys ripping up twenty-foot pine trees, and knows me,” she snorted, “as Hermy.”

Ron gave a nervous laugh.

“And Hagrid wants us to . . .?”

“Teach him English, yeah,” said Harry.

“He’s lost his mind,” said Ron in an almost awed voice.

Hermione agrees, but they promised. Ron doesn’t care. This is the type of promise that is meant to be broken. What are they supposed to do anyway? They are always in trouble anyway, and all of Hagrid’s “friends” have been nothing but trouble. They all hope that Hagrid will make it through the end of the year.

On top of that, O.W.L. season has arrived. This means that they don’t have homework, which is good, but their lessons are all constant review. Everyone is tense, from Hermione talking to herself to Ernie Macmillan bugging people asking how many hours of studying they are doing each day. Malfoy tries to say that the witch at the head of the Examination Authority is a friend of his father’s and will no doubt go easy on him, but Neville quietly says that Griselda Marchbanks is actually a friend of his grandmother’s and he’s never heard her talk about the Malfoys at all.

It’s also led to a black market of products meant to aid in concentration or other such things to help. Hermione has been confiscating things left and right, since most of it is fake.

McGonagall gives them all the run down on how the exams will work. It’s spread out over two weeks with theory exams on paper in the mornings and then practical demonstrations in the afternoons (except for Astronomy, which will take place at night for obvious reasons). They will get their results over the summer.

The morning of the first exams dawns bright and everyone is on edge. Everyone, except the examiners, who have arrived, and who are making Umbridge just the tiniest bi nervous. Especially Professor Marchbanks.

“Journey was fine, journey was fine, we’ve made it plenty of times before!” she said impatiently. “Now, I haven’t heard from Dumbledore lately!” she added, peering around the hall as though hopeful he might suddenly emerge from a broom cupboard. “No idea where he is, I suppose?”

“None at all,” said Umbridge, shooting a malevolent look at Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were now dawdling around the foot of the stairs as Ron pretended to do up his shoelace. “But I daresay the Ministry of Magic will track him down soon enough . . .”

“I doubt it,” shouted tiny Professor Marchbanks, “not if Dumbledore doesn’t want to be found! I should know . . . Examined him personally in Transfiguration and Charms when he did N.E.W.T.s . . . Did things with a wand I’d never seen before . . .”

Yeah, Umbridge, this is why you really don’t want to tangle with Dumbledore. You will only look foolish.

Their first written exam, Charms, goes fairly well. Then they are called one by one for the practical exam. Harry’s examiner, Professor Tofty, is pretty excited to be meeting “the famous Potter,” which causes Malfoy to drop the wine glass he was levitating when he overhears this. Over the week, they complete their Transfiguration and Herbology exams, both of which Harry feels fairly confident about his performance. It’s not until the D.A.D.A. that he feels completely in his element. Plus, he gets to do all the counterjinxes and defensive spells that Umbridge wouldn’t teach them right in front of her as he performs for the examiners. And she can’t say anything about it! Ha!

Even better, Professor Tofty has heard that Harry can produce a Patronus and asks if Harry would mind showing him for bonus points. Which of course, Harry does, using the image of Umbridge getting fired as his happy thought.

The boys get a break for a day during the Ancient Runes O.W.L.s. Hermione comes back from the exam frustrated at a mistake she knows she made, but also upset because someone put another niffler in Umbridge’s office, which could mean bad news for Hagrid, since she’s so sure he’s responsible.

The next day is the Potions exam, which Harry finds difficult, although the practical is no where near as bad with Snape not around. He’s able to relax a bit, as is Neville. The next day is Care of Magical Creatures, which Harry wants to do well in so that he doesn’t let Hagrid down. Their next theory exam is Astronomy, followed by Divination, which Harry and Ron knew they were going to fail, so they aren’t too concerned.

That night is their Astronomy practical exam, so they are on top of the tower with their telescopes completing star charts. While they are looking around, Harry sees something odd — Umbridge and five other wizards walking across the Hogwarts lawn. They are headed to Hagrid’s. He can hear Fang barking followed by a roar of outrage.

Hagrid’s door had burst open and by the light flooding out of the cabin they saw him quite clearly, a massive figure roaring and brandishing his fists, surrounded by six people, all of whom, judging by the tiny threads of red light they were casting in his direction, seemed to be attempting to Stun him.

No one is paying attention to the test now. No one had ever seen Hagrid angry before. The Stunning spells aren’t working on him and he picks up one of the Aurors and throws him ten feet across the grass. The doors to the castle open once more to reveal Professor McGonagall running out trying to stop everything.

“Leave him alone! Alone, I say!” said Professor McGonagall’s voice through the darkness. “On what grounds are you attacking him? He has done nothing, nothing to warrant such –”

Hermione, Parvati and Lavender all screamed. No fewer than four Stunners had shot from the figures around the cabin toward Professor McGonagall. Halfway between cabin and castle the red beams collided with her. For a moment she looked luminous, illuminated by an eerie red glow, then was lifted right off her feet, landed hard on her back, and moved no more.

I’ll be honest, the first time I read this I was an absolute mess because I thought for sure they had killed off McGonagall and I was going to hate Umbridge even more than I already do. Because you know one of those Stunners aimed at McGonagall came from her. You just know it! Seeing McGonagall down provokes Hagrid into an even ragier rage and he starts pummeling the Aurors. Violence isn’t the answer, except when it is! Except when you almost kill my favorite teacher! Hagrid then picks up Fang and runs into the Forbidden Forest.

Here’s the thing though. This whole scene was witnessed not just by the students, but by the examiners too. They are aghast at this behavior. By the time the exam is over, no one can talk about anything else. Hermione can’t believe they tried to sneak up on Hagrid, but Ernie points out that Umbridge probably wanted to avoid another scene like the one with Trelawney. The good thing is that they didn’t catch him and he wasn’t taken to Azkaban. Hopefully he has gone to find Dumbledore and the Order.

The conversation continues in Gryffindor tower. Angelina asks why Hagrid was sacked now, especially when his classes had been improving. There are two reasons. First, there is Umbridge’s hatred of anything that is part-human. Hagrid’s giant blood may have saved him from the Stunning Spells, but it guaranteed that Umbridge would always try to get rid of him one way or another. Second, Umbridge had thought that Hagrid was putting nifflers in her office, which we find out was not Hagrid, but Lee Jordan.

They are all also very worried about their Head of House.

Harry doesn’t sleep well that night and heads into there final exam, History of Magic, the next morning. He is sleepy enough without having to try and focus on such a dull subject. He soon falls asleep and falls right back into that dream of the corridor and rooms in the Department of Mysteries. This time it is different. There is someone else there, someone who has been hurt badly. Harry hears himself talking, in a voice distinctly not his own, telling the person to take something down for him because he can’t touch it.

“Lord Voldemort is waiting . . .”

Very slowly, his arms trembling, the man on the ground raised his shoulders a few inches and lifted his head. His face was bloodstained and gaunt, twisted in pain yet rigid with defiance . . .

“You’ll have to kill me,” whispered Sirius.

“Undoubtedly I shall in the end,” said the cold voice. “But you will fetch it for me first, Black . . . You think you have felt pain thus far? Think again . . . We have hours ahead of us and nobody to hear you scream . . .”

Harry wakes up, still screaming, and falling out of his chair in the Great Hall and . . . that’s where the chapter ends. J.K. Rowling, you are one sadistic lady!

See you next time for Chapter 32!