In Chapter 25, Harry finds out what Voldemort at been celebrating, has a terrible first date, and finally gets a chance to tell the world his story. Let’s go!
Right up front, we get to see just what made Voldemort so happy in the last chapter. There has been a mass breakout at Azkaban and ten Death Eaters have escaped, including the notorious Bellatrix Lestrange. Also, because the Daily Prophet is run by idiots, they claim that Sirius might be a “rallying point” for the Death Eaters, since he was the first person to ever successfully escape the wizard prison. Which, okay, I guess it does make some logical sense, but still!
None of the other students in the Great Hall seem upset by this, although the staff table is a different story. Umbridge in particular is very, very angry, as if the Ministry’s inability to keep dangerous criminals in prison is a personal affront.
In another story, there was a patient at St. Mungo’s who was just killed by a potted plant. This may just seem like a ridiculous point, but it happened in the permanent spell damage ward, where Lockhart and the Longbottoms were. Harry, Ron and Hermione were even there when the plant was delivered to Boderick Bode. It was actually a cutting of Devil’s Snare, which Harry remembers very, very well.
“How come we didn’t recognize Devil’s Snare . . .? We’ve seen it before . . . we could’ve stopped this from happening . . .”
“Who expects Devil’s Snare to turn up in a hospital disguised as a potted plant?” said Ron sharply. “It’s not our fault, whoever sent it to the bloke is to blame! They must be a real prat, why didn’t they check what they were buying?”
“Oh come on, Ron!” said Hermione shakily, “I don’t think anyone could put Devil’s Snare in a pot and not realize it tries to kill whoever touches it? This — this was murder . . . A clever murder, as well . . . If the plant was sent anonymously, how’s anyone ever going to find out who did it?”
Harry also realizes something else — he had met Bode on the day of his hearing at the Ministry. This makes the connection for Ron, remembering his dad talking about Bode. Bode was an Unspeakable who worked at the Department of Mysteries. It all seems to lead back to that place, doesn’t it!
Hermione runs off, babbling about needing to send a letter, and not sure if it will work. The boys have no idea what she’s talking about, a fact which Ron is a bit frustrated with. Hermione is so used to being leaps and bounds ahead of them intellectually, she doesn’t slow down to tell them what she’s up to. To which I say: keep up then, boys!
The boys also run into Hagrid in the hallways. Hagrid still looks rough, more bruises and a fresh cut on his nose. Harry asks if he’s okay, but Hagrid brushes him off. It’s obvious something is going on here, but all Hagrid will tell them is that he was put on probation due to his inspection not going so well. That doesn’t explain why he looks so beat up, but you know, Hagrid will be Hagrid. Harry is also a bit upset that no one else in the school seems to care about it, in fact most of them think Hagrid deserves it. Which . . . okay, he may not the the best teacher, but come on! It’s Hagrid!
The news about the escaped Death Eaters spreads through school and it is soon all that anyone can talk about. Other students, relatives of some of their victims, are now the subjects of conversation, but more importantly, there is a lot of doubt about the Ministry’s version of events. It doesn’t make much sense, which means that Dumbledore and Harry’s explanation of Voldemort’s return could possibly connect the dots. OF COURSE IT DOES! GAH!
But here’s the thing: the teachers are no longer allowed to discuss any of this with the students.
BY ORDER OF THE HIGH INQUISITOR OF HOGWARTS
Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
The above is in accordance with Educational Decree Number Twenty-six.
Honestly, how does something like that even make sense? It’s all to do with Umbridge’s determination to rule Hogwarts with an iron fist, to make sure nothing happens without her direct permission. She is inspecting every lesson that Trelawney and Hagrid teach and it’s a race to see which one will get fired first. Both teachers are losing their nerves during classes. Hagrid even forbids Harry to come visit him in case Umbridge catches him and it makes things worse.
Harry starts to pour everything he has into the D.A. meetings. It’s the only way he has to feel like he is able to stand up to Umbridge. Everyone has been improving, but no one as much as Neville. Hearing about Bellatrix Lestrange’s escape has made him work even harder on every new charm, jinx, or countercurse. Seriously, Neville needs the biggest hug right now!
So D.A. is going great. What’s not great? Occlumency lessons. They are getting worse. Also getting worse? Harry’s scar. It pains him constantly now, often accompanied by surges of emotions that he knows are not his. Harry is worried that the Occlumency lessons are making it worse, and Ron brings up the idea that maybe, just maybe, Snape is making it worse on purpose. They have never completely trusted that Snape gave up his loyalties to the Death Eaters. Wouldn’t this be the perfect way to give Voldemort a better in to Harry’s mind? Right under Dumbledore’s nose?
“He used to be a Death Eater,” said Ron stubbornly. “And we’ve never seen proof that he really swapped sides . . .”
“Dumbledore trusts him,” Hermione repeated. “And if we can’t trust Dumbledore, we can’t trust anyone.”
Yeah, here’s the thing though. Do we know we can trust Dumbledore right now? He’s been acting a bit shady towards Harry lately, which is definitely not normal. Something isn’t right there.
Harry is so busy that Valentine’s Day arrives before he even realizes it. You know what that means — his first date! Harry isn’t sure what to expect, since he’s never spent that much time alone with her (except for, you know, the crying kissing incident). That morning, Hermione gets a letter which she is pretty pleased about and asks if Harry can meet her at the Three Broomsticks at midday. Um, this is awkward, Hermione. Harry is supposed to be spending the day with Cho. You know how much he likes her. All she says is that he can bring Cho with him if he wants to, so he reluctantly agrees.
Oh, and Ron can’t go with them to act as a buffer because Angelina is organizing a full day of Quidditch practice to try and make something of her cobbled-together team.
Harry meets Cho at the doors to the castle so they can head down to Hogsmeade. Cho notices Harry staring off towards the Quidditch pitch and is very sympathetic to the fact that Harry can’t play due to his ban. They discuss Quidditch for a while and Harry is surprised that Cho is easy to talk to. Come on, Harry. She’s a girl, not an extraterrestrial or mythological creature!
They are noticed by Pansy Parkinson, who has to be awful.
“Potter and Chang!” screeched Pansy to a chorus of snide giggles. “Urgh, Chang, I don’t think much of your taste . . . At least Diggory was good-looking!”
That’s a low blow, even for Slytherin. Why would you make fun of someone’s dead boyfriend? Why?
Harry and Cho wander through Hogsmeade looking at the shops when Cho makes a valid point. There are wanted posters around the town with the faces of the ten escaped Death Eaters on them, but there are no dementors or any other extra security, not like when Sirius had escaped. So one Death Eater escapes and everyone loses their minds, now ten have escaped and . . . nothing? The absence of the dementors is particularly troubling, not because we want them around, but why would they both let the Death Eaters escape and then not look for them? More and more, it seems like they are not being controlled by the Ministry.
It’s also sad that Harry has to worry about this stuff on his date with Cho. Why can’t he just enjoy himself, just for one day?
It starts to rain, so Cho suggests that they go to Madam Puddifoot’s, a small coffee shop that is so cutesy it’s almost sickening. The shop is also full of other couples who are clearly more experienced than Harry is. Roger Davies, the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain, and his girlfriend are even making out at their table, which makes Harry start to wonder what Cho is expecting. They discuss the D.A. for a bit, which is a safe topic, but then Harry mentions that Hermione had asked for him to meet her at lunch.
“You’re meeting Hermione Granger? Today?”
“Yeah. Well, she asked me to, so I thought I would. D’you want to come with me? She said it wouldn’t matter if you did.”
“Oh . . . well . . . that was nice of her.”
But Cho did not sound as though she thought it was nice at all; on the contrary, her tone was cold and all of a sudden she looked rather forbidding.
Oh, Harry. Harry, Harry, Harry. You don’t tell a girl who fancies you that you basically have a date with another girl later that day. I know Harry doesn’t think of it that way, and Hermione doesn’t either, but that sure is how it sounded and is DEFINITELY how Cho took it. Harry tries to decide whether or not to hold Cho’s hand, when she pulls her hand away and mentions that Roger Davies had asked her out a few weeks ago. She turned him down, presumably because she likes Harry. She also mentions that Cedric brought her to Madam Puddifoot’s last year for Valentine’s Day.
I get what Cho is doing here, I do. Harry brought up wanting to go out with another girl after their date (which yes, Harry didn’t mean it that way, but Cho doesn’t realize that), so Cho is bringing up all of her prospects, both past and present. What she doesn’t understand is how sensitive Harry is to anything about Cedric. Harry feels partially responsible for Cedric’s death, so of course he doesn’t want to talk about it! But Cho does want to talk about it, very much.
“I thought,” she said, tears spattering down onto the table. “I thought you’d understand! I need to talk about it! Surely you n-need to talk about it t-too! I mean, you saw it happen, d-didn’t you?
Everything was going nightmarishly wrong; Roger Davies’ girlfriend had even unglued herself to look around at Cho crying.
“Well — I have talked about it,” Harry said in a whisper, “to Ron and Hermione, but –”
“Oh, you’ll talk to Hermione Granger!” she said shrilly, her face now shining with tears, and several more kissing couples broke apart to stare. “But you won’t talk to me! P-perhaps it would be best if we just . . . just p-paid and you went and met up with Hermione G-Granger, like you obviously want to!”
Cho runs out on Harry, who is left alone in a coffee shop full of couples who are all now staring at him. He leaves quickly.
Since he doesn’t have anything else to do, he heads for the Three Broomsticks, figuring he’ll wait there until it’s time for Hermione to show up. Hagrid is there, so Harry joins him and is astonished at how bad Hagrid looks. Two more fresh cuts and lots of new bruises. Whatever Hagrid did while he was gone that had gotten him so injured is obviously still going on.
Hagrid starts talking about how he and Harry are in similar situations. Personally, I think Hagrid is in his cups right now. He goes on that he and Harry are both outsiders, both orphans. That his dad and Harry’s parents were really decent people and if they had lived, life would have been a lot different, because family is important. Very important. Harry asks point blank how Hagrid keeps getting injured, but Hagrid dismisses his concerns, saying that he has a “rough job.” But it’s also the same job he’s always had, and he’s never had a face that looked like raw hamburger before.
Hagrid leaves and Hermione turns up, with two very unlikely guests: Luna Lovegood and . . . Rita Skeeter. Rita is up to her usual antics, and is VERY interested that Harry was just on a date. Hermione shuts her down immediately. None of that sensational gossip right now, Rita, so don’t even think about it. Remember, Hermione knows that Rita is an unregistered Animagus who had been using her beetle form to eavesdrop on lots of conversations. One word from Hermione and Rita could be in a world of trouble, although I’m not sure what the sentence would be for this particular infraction.
Rita still wants a story. Despite being currently unemployed, she is still a reporter at heart who loves putting her nose where it doesn’t belong.
“So you actually stick to it, do you, that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?” said Rita, lowering her glass and subjecting Harry to a piercing stare while her finger strayed longingly to the clasp of the crocodile bag. “You stand by all this garbage Dumbledore’s been telling everybody about You-Know-Who returning and you being the sole witness –?”
“I wasn’t the sole witness,” snarled Harry. “There were a dozen-odd Death Eaters there as well. Want their names?”
“I’d love them,” breathed Rita, now fumbling in her bag once more and gazing at him as though he was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. “A great bold headline: ‘Potter Accuses . . .’ A subheading: ‘Harry Potter Names Death Eaters Still Among Us.’ And then, beneath a nice big photograph of you: ‘Disturbed teenage survivor of You-Know-Who’s attack, Harry Potter, 15, caused outrage yesterday by accusing respectable and prominent members of the Wizarding community of being Death Eaters . . .”
Turns out, that’s exactly what Hermione wants her to do, although more sympathetic to Harry and less so to the “prominent members of the Wizarding community” who also happen to be evil. She wants Rita to write the true story, all the facts, all the details. Rita says that there’s no point. The Prophet won’t print a story like that, especially with Fudge leaning on them to keep this sort of thing quiet. That’s not a problem though, since Hermione wasn’t planning on this story getting printed in the Daily Prophet.
It’s going to be published by The Quibbler.
Sure, The Quibbler is known for it’s ridiculous and unbelievable stories, but at the same time, there are a lot of questions about the Daily Prophet’s accountings of the story. Even if Harry’s explanation is printed in an “unusual” magazine, Hermione believes that people will want to read it.
Rita’s not happy about this, especially since The Quibbler doesn’t usually pay their writers, but she doesn’t exactly have a choice. It’s time for Harry to tell all. His story on his terms.
See you next time for Chapter 26!