In Chapter 24, Harry gets assigned special lessons with Snape! Oh joy! Let’s go!
Well, we finally found Kreacher. He was hiding in the attic, although Harry still thinks that the house-elf is up to something. Whatever he is, he’s creepy. That’s for sure.
Sirius, however, is not doing well. He had a good time over Christmas, but now that everyone is getting ready to leave, he has to face being all alone again in that big house that he hates. Sure, it’s better than Azkaban, but still. It can’t be easy. Harry doesn’t want to leave him, especially since he has to go back to Umbridge. It’s the first time Harry has not wanted to go back to Hogwarts.
Then there was no Quidditch to look forward to now that he had been banned; there was every likelihood that their burden of homework would increase as the exams drew even nearer; Dumbledore remained as remote as ever; in fact, if it had not been for the D.A., Harry felt he might have gone to Sirius and begged him to let him leave Hogwarts and remain in Grimmauld Place.
It can’t get worse, can it? Oh wait, yes it can!
The day before they go back, Mrs. Weasley calls Harry downstairs because Snape is there to speak to him. Yes, you heard that right. Snape. What on earth would Snape want with Harry? Dumbledore has sent him because he wants Harry to learn Occlumency, a defensive form of magic used to protect the mind. They sit down to discuss this, along with Sirius, since he doesn’t want Snape to take advantage of the situation. These lessons will be secret and will be taught by Snape himself. That’s right. Harry gets to have extra lessons with Snape next term. Good times. Their cover story will be that Harry is taking Remedial Potions.
Before Snape leaves, Sirius stops him. He basically says that if Snape gives Harry a hard time, Sirius will deal with it personally. Snape doesn’t seem fazed by this at all. He makes a snide remark about Harry’s father and that’s all it takes for wands to be drawn.
“I’ve warned you, Snivellus,” said Sirius, his face barely a foot from Snape’s, “I don’t care if Dumbledore thinks you’ve reformed, I know better –”
“Oh, but why don’t you tell him so?” whispered Snape. “Or are you afraid he might not take the advice of a man who has been hiding inside his mother’s house for six months very seriously?”
“Tell me, how is Lucius Malfoy these days? I expect he’s delighted his lapdog’s working at Hogwarts, isn’t he?”
“Speaking of dogs,” said Snape softly, “did you know that Lucius Malfoy recognized you last time you risked a little jaunt outside? Clever idea, Black, getting yourself seen on a safe station platform . . . gave you a cast-iron excuse not to leave your hidey-hole in future, didn’t it?”
Harry tries to break up the fight, when they are interrupted by the entire Weasley family and Hermione. Including Arthur! He’s home! They are very surprised at the scene they have just walked into. Snape just turns and leaves. He’s doesn’t want to deal with an entire room of Gryffindors.
They have a big meal that night with the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, Sirius, and Mundungus and Mad-Eye, who came by to see Arthur. Harry wishes he could talk to Sirius, but instead tells Ron and Hermione about these new lessons with Snape. Hermione thinks this might be a good idea and might put a stop to these dreams Harry’s been having, but Ron correctly points out that having more lessons with Snape might be worse than the nightmares.
The next morning, Harry does not feel good about leaving Sirius. Before he leaves, Sirius takes him aside and gives him a package. It’s about the size of a book, but Sirius won’t let him open it, as he’s afraid that Molly won’t approve. According to Sirius, it’s a way for Harry to let him know if Snape is giving him a hard time, but Harry doesn’t want to use it. He doesn’t want Sirius to put himself in danger just because Snape is being Snape.
Tonks and Lupin escort the kids to the Knight Bus, which is now filled with a bunch of armchairs instead of beds like last time. Ron was originally excited about riding it, but changes his mind after experiencing it. Me personally, I think they should make a Knight Bus ride for the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. Wouldn’t that be fun!
The finally arrive at the Hogwarts gates. Tonks bids them goodbye. Lupin tells Harry to be sure to give Snape a chance. Snape’s an expert at Occlumency and it could really help Harry, so it’s in his best interest to at least give it a try. Harry agrees to, but still doesn’t sound particularly happy about it. In his shoes, I wouldn’t be either.
Once at school, several members of the D.A. come up and ask when their next meeting will be. Harry isn’t sure, but promises to let everyone know. Cho also comes up to talk to Harry, and Hermione very pointedly grabs Ron and drags him away so Harry and Cho can have some time alone. Hermione is the wingman you need!
“Had a good Christmas?” asked Cho.
“Yeah, not bad,” said Harry.
“Mine was pretty quiet,” said Cho. For some reason, she was looking rather embarrassed. “Erm . . . there’s another Hogsmeade trip next month, did you see the notice?”
“What? Oh no, I haven’t checked the notice board since I got back . . .”
“Yes, it’s on Valentine’s Day . . .”
“Right,” said Harry, wondering why she was telling him this. “Well, I suppose you want to –?”
“Only if you do,” she said eagerly.
Harry really didn’t realize where she was going with this. He’s such an oblivious teenage boy! It’s so endearing! He thought she was asking about the D.A. meeting. Luckily, he finally catches on and asks Cho out on an actual date to Hogsmeade on Valentine’s Day. Go Harry! Things are looking up!
Which is good, because they’re about to plummet. Harry has his first Occlumency lesson with Snape. And it’s horribly awkward. Neither one of them like each other. Neither one of them want to be there. It’s a mess. Snape informs Harry that Dumbledore wants Harry to learn this form of magic that “seals the mind against magical intrusion and influence” because Voldemort is very good at Legilimency, which is basically the magic of messing with other people’s minds.
Typically eye contact is needed for Legilimency, but Snape says that it seems like the normal rules don’t apply to whatever bond Harry and Voldemort seem to share. The reason for Harry’s dreams is because when asleep, his mind is vulnerable and it is easier for him to feel Voldy’s emotions. Harry understands this, but at the same time, doesn’t know why that is such a bad thing.
“But why does Professor Dumbledore want to stop it?” he asked abruptly. “I don’t like it much, but it’s been useful, hasn’t it? I mean . . . I saw that snake attack Mr. Weasley and if I hadn’t, Professor Dumbledore wouldn’t have been able to save him, would he? Sir?”
This is a fair point. If Harry’s connection to Voldemort can help save someone, like it just did with Arthur, then why get rid of it? Snape tells him that Voldy has only recently realized the connection between them — Harry had been experiencing Voldy’s emotions without Voldy knowing. But now he knows. And that makes a difference. It would be all too easy for Voldemort to try and access Harry’s thoughts and feelings and, in turn, make Harry do something he wouldn’t other wise do. Which is actually what will happen at the end of this book. Damn that foreshadowing!
What follows is an incredibly painful exercise where Snape attempts to break into Harry’s mind and Harry unsuccessfully tries to stop him. I will say that in this particular incident, Snape is a terrible teacher. He doesn’t really explain how to close his mind, only to tell him to clear his mind and get rid of his emotions, something that is really hard to do when your most hated teacher is attacking you. Instead of giving more instruction, Snape berates him for his lack of skill and his lack of trying.
“Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily — weak people, in other words — they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!”
During their last attempt, Harry sees the corridor and the door from his reoccurring dream and suddenly recognizes it. He asks Snape what’s in the Department of Mysteries. Snape, of course, won’t tell him and dismisses him immediately, telling him to come back for their next lesson on Wednesday. Harry is to try and empty his mind before he goes to sleep each night, to get rid of his emotions.
Harry goes and finds Ron and Hermione in the library, but he’s not doing well. His scar is aching something fierce and he feels shivery, like he’s feverish. Hermione in particular is worried about him, but Harry says that he’s fine. Like he always does. He tells them about the Department of Mysteries. Ron tells them that the people who work there are called “Unspeakables” and no one else really knows what goes on there.
They head up to the common room, where Fred and George are demonstrating their latest creation (headless hats), and Harry goes to lie down. As soon as he enters the dorm, his scar blazes with pain and he can hear nothing but laughter.
Maniacal laughter was ringing in his ears . . . He was happier than he had been in a very long time . . . Jubilant, ecstatic, triumphant . . . A wonderful, wonderful thing had happened . . .
This absolutely cannot be good. Ron finds Harry laying on the floor and smacks him around to try and break him out of the vision. Voldemort is really, really happy, which is a really, really bad thing. Ron says that Hermione was worried that Harry would be a bit weak since Snape had been working him over. Harry doesn’t feel like the Occlumency lesson helped at all, and now he has to worry about what could possibly have made Voldemort so happy.
See you next time for Chapter 25!