In Chapter 14, Harry writes to Sirius, Percy writes to Ron, and everything is weird. Let’s go!
The first week of the new school year is finally over, and Harry is exhausted. It’s been quite a week. He wakes early on Saturday and decides to go and write a letter to Sirius. He also looks around and sees that all the hats Hermione made are gone, and wonders how many elves have ended up freed by mistake. Still, Harry has to figure out exactly what to say to Sirius, keeping in mind that he has to be very careful. What would happen if it got in the wrong hands? He realizes how hard it was for Ron and Hermione to write over the summer.
Hope you’re okay, the first week back here’s been terrible, I’m really glad it’s the weekend.
We’ve got a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge. She’s nearly as nice as your mum. I’m writing because that thing I wrote to you about last summer happened again last night when I was doing a detention with Umbridge.
We’re all missing our biggest friend, we hope he’ll be back soon.
Please write back quickly.
All in all, I think he did a good job. I particularly love the dig that Umbridge is as nice as Sirius’s mom, who we all know is terrible. Harry heads to the owlry, but is intercepted by Nearly Headless Nick, who warns him about Peeves lying in wait. On the way, he also runs into Mrs. Norris, Filch’s cat and, even though Harry is not doing anything wrong, Mrs. Norris is still suspicious. But that might just be because she’s a cat and that’s what they do.
Harry quickly finds Hedwig and sends her off with his letter. The door to the owlry opens to reveal Cho Chang, who is surprised to see anyone around so early. She has a birthday present to send to her mum. They talk for a bit about Quidditch, which is funny, because I always forget that they have that in common. Cho plays for the Ravenclaw team (she’s their seeker too, I believe). Another thing they have in common? Their disgust for Umbridge. Cho tells Harry that she thinks Umbridge is horrible for putting him in detention.
“Putting you in detention just because you told the truth about how — how — how he died. Everyone heard about it, it was all over school. You were really brave standing up to her like that.”
On one hand, it’s cool that Cho is impressed with Harry’s bravery — but she’s also bringing up her dead boyfriend, which isn’t the most romantic of subjects. They are interrupted by Filch, summoned by Mrs. Norris, who claims that someone told him that Harry was ordering Dungbombs. He wasn’t, of course, and since the letter is gone, nothing can be proven. Cho vouches for Harry and there’s nothing much Filch can do but huff and puff. You do have to wonder who would have tried to pin that on Harry though.
They part ways after climbing down the owlry and Harry is actually really happy about the whole conversation. He didn’t say or do anything stupid! Hurray! More importantly, Cho doesn’t resent him for surviving when Cedric wasn’t so lucky. He knows that she really liked him, but she had also seemed disappointed that she couldn’t go to the Yule Ball with Harry when he asked.
Harry goes down to breakfast and Ron asks if they can go down to the Quidditch pitch early before practice to do some extra training. An owl arrives with a copy of the newspaper for Hermione, which at first doesn’t seem to have anything interesting, but then Hermione sees a small article saying that Sirius Black is believed to be hiding in London. Which he is.
“Lucius Malfoy, I’d bet anything,” said Harry in a low, furious voice. “He did recognize Sirius on the platform . . .”
Yeah, remember when Draco made that comment? He knows. And if he knows, Lucius knows. The good news is that London happens to be a very big city and Sirius is currently staying in an unplottable place. So he is probably as safe as he possibly could be. Then Harry sees another article, this time about Sturgis Podmore. Sturgis has been arrested for trespassing at the Ministry and has been sentenced to six months in Azkaban. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Sturgis is an Order member, one of the ones that was supposed to show up to help escort Harry but failed to do so. So something’s up with him. Ron thinks that the Ministry set him up, which Harry is unsure about, but Hermione thinks is plausible.
Despite their ever growing homework load, Harry and Ron head out with their brooms. They still have time, right? Harry works with Ron’s Keeper skills, and Ron actually does pretty well. They head back for lunch and then go to the actual team practice. Fred and George can’t help themselves – they have to tease their brother. They stop when they see the Slytherin team sitting up in the stands, ready to heckle the whole team. It really throws Ron off his game. He can’t focus and play with them making fun of him.
It doesn’t get any better, especially when Ron accidentally throws the Quaffle right at Katie Bell, making her nose bleed. Fred gives her “something” for it, which only makes it worse. Turns out he gave her the wrong thing. Since it was their fault, the twins take her to the hospital wing and Angelina cancels practice.
Hermione tries to be stern with the boys, but softens a bit when she sees Ron.
“Well, it was only your first one,” she said consolingly, “it’s bound to take time to –”
“Who said it was me who made it lousy?” snapped Ron.
“No one,” said Hermione, looking taken aback, “I thought –”
“You thought I was bound to be rubbish?”
“No, of course I didn’t! Look, you said it was lousy so I just –“
As I said, he’s very sensitive.
They spend the entire day Sunday trying to catch up on homework and agree that maybe, just maybe, they should try to be more productive during the week. Gee, what do you think, boys? Hermione sees them struggling and gives Ron some hints, but that only sets him off again. They are all cut off when they see a large owl come to the window. It’s Hermes, the screech owl that belongs to Percy.
Why would Percy be writing to Ron? They never seemed all that close. In his letter, Percy congratulates Ron for becoming a prefect and then goes on to warn Ron about hanging around Harry. He tells Ron to look out for an article in the paper the next day, says that Dumbledore might not be in charge for much longer, and that several people in the Ministry still think that Harry is guilty and should have been expelled at his hearing. Percy also tells Ron to go to Umbridge if he is at all worried that Harry might become “violent” or “unhinged” if Ron severs ties. He continues:
I am sorry that I was unable to see more of you over the summer. It pains me to criticize our parents, but I am afraid I can no longer live under their roof while they remain mixed up with the dangerous crowd around Dumbledore (if you are writing to Mother at any point, you might tell her that a certain Sturgis Podmore, who is a great friend of Dumbledore’s, has recently been sent to Azkaban for trespass at the Ministry. Perhaps that will open their eyes to the kind of petty criminals with whom they are currently rubbing shoulders).
Hmmm. More about Sturgis Podmore.
I count myself very lucky to have escaped the stigma of association with such people — the Minister really could not be more gracious to me — and I do hope, Ron, that you will not allow family ties to blind you to the misguided nature of our parents’ beliefs and actions either. I sincerely hope that, in time, they will realize how mistaken they were and I shall, of course, be ready to accept a full apology when that day comes.
Yeah, Percy, actually the exact opposite is going to happen, but whatever.
Ron rips up the letter angrily, and the whole incident makes Hermione feel a bit sorry for both of them and she helps them finish their homework. Harry feels very strange about the letter. He thought he knew Percy and that Percy had known him. After all the time Harry had spent in the Weasleys’ home, it feels weird that one of the Weasleys would feel this way about him. He also thinks that Sirius would understand how this feels, since so many people have turned their back on Sirius as well, ready to believe the worst.
And as though the thought had summoned him, Sirius’s head appears in the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. He’s there to answer Harry’s letter, particularly about Harry’s scar. Since Voldemort is back, the scar is bound to hurt more. The fact that it was when Umbridge was around is probably a coincidence, since Sirius is pretty sure Umbridge isn’t a Death Eater (although she’s a terrible person — part of her legacy has been to pass legislation that makes it harder for werewolves like Lupin to get a job). The Ministry is also afraid that the students would be “trained in combat” without their intervention.
“Trained in combat?” repeated Harry incredulously. “What does he think we’re doing here, forming some sort of wizard army?”
“That’s exactly what he thinks you’re doing,” said Sirius, “or rather, that’s exactly what he’s afraid Dumbledore’s doing — forming his own private army, with which he will be able to take on the Ministry of Magic.”
Wow. Just . . . wow. Fudge is absurdly paranoid about this, but the funny thing is, there is someone forming their own private army, ready to take on the Ministry of Magic . . . and Fudge is denying it. Isn’t that Voldemort is doing? Rallying more Death Eaters to his cause? Dumbledore isn’t taking on the Ministry, except where the Ministry is inadvertently helping Voldy. It’s a mess, isn’t it! But it does explain why Umbridge’s lessons are so boring and why they aren’t allowed to learn any defensive magic at all.
Sirius also confirms that no one has heard anything from Hagrid, and that Hagrid was supposed to be back by now. Dumbledore isn’t worried yet, and Hagrid is pretty tough. Sirius warns them to not ask too many questions about Hagrid though — no use drawing more attention to the fact that he’s missing.
Harry also brings up the fact that the Daily Prophet had reported Sirius to be in London, but Sirius shakes it off. He’s used to speculation about his whereabouts. Harry is too worried about what the Malfoys might do, which Sirius doesn’t like at all. He wants to come and see Harry on the next Hogsmeade weekend, but Harry doesn’t want him to take the risk.
“You’re less like your father than I thought,” he said finally, a definite coolness in his voice. “The risk would’ve been what made it fun for James.”
Okay, Sirius. I get that you are tired of being cooped up, but this is ridiculous. Harry has every right to be concerned about you, and you are behaving like a petulant child. Do you want to be thrown back into Azkaban? I don’t think so. You’re supposed to be the adult here, so you might try acting like one.
See you next time for Chapter 15!