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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 29

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In Chapter 29, Harry has to come to terms with what he saw in the Pensieve and Fred and George have an interesting development in their prankster careers. Let’s go!

This is such a sad situation. Harry has spent his entire childhood wondering about his father and, ever since entering the wizarding world, heard nothing but how wonderful his dad was. After seeing Snape’s memory, it’s really hard to say that Snape was in the wrong. James and Sirius look like arrogant bullies who ganged up on the unpopular kid. It sucks.

Hermione keeps asking why Harry doesn’t have Occlumency lessons anymore. Harry lies and says that he can do it by himself now and he’s stopped having dreams. Hermione is definitely not buying this story at all, but the last thing Harry wants to do is talk to Snape about anything. Snape was absolutely livid about Harry looking at his private memories, and really, who can blame him?

On top of EVERYTHING else, they have exams coming up in six weeks. Hermione works hard to try and make study schedules for the boys. I love how she is a fount of optimism for them, but let’s be honest — they are probably not going to keep to those schedules unless Hermione is cracking a whip. Hermione also mentions that she has seen Cho and Cho looks miserable. This launches Ron into a rant about Cho and Marietta, but Harry isn’t paying much attention. He can’t stop thinking about his father and Snape.

Harry tried to make a case for Snape having deserved what he had suffered at James’s hands — but hadn’t Lily asked, “What’s he done to you?” And hadn’t James replied, “It’s more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean?” Hadn’t James started it all simply because Sirius said he was bored? Harry remembered Lupin saying back in Grimmauld Place that Dumbledore had made him prefect in the hope that he would be able to exercise some control over James and Sirius . . . But in the Pensieve, he had sat there and let it all happen . . .

He is slightly comforted by the fact that his mother had seemed nice, standing up to the bullies, but it also makes him wonder how the heck she ended up married to his dad when it looked like she despised him. Harry had always liked it when people said that he reminded them of James, but now? Not so much.

In the library, Harry runs into Ginny, who tells him that they had to cut Quidditch practice short because one of their new beaters accidentally knocked himself out — with his own bat. Sigh. This poor team. That’s not the main reason Ginny came over though. Harry got a package. It took a while to get through Umbridge’s screening process, but it’s a bunch of Easter eggs that Mrs. Weasley had sent.

The egg makes Harry feel strangely emotional, which Ginny can immediately see. She thinks it may have something to do with Cho and suggests that Harry talk to her, but it isn’t Cho Harry wants to talk to. It’s Sirius. Harry wants answers. He wants an explanation. Ginny understands and says that if that’s what he really wants, then they should figure out a way to do it. But how? Umbridge is reading all their mail and all the fires are being watched.

“The thing about growing up with Fred and George,” said Ginny thoughtfully, “is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

I love that this is what Ginny has learned from her brothers. I LOVE IT!

And then they get kicked out of the library for eating chocolate near Madam Pince’s precious books.

Before the end of holidays, there is a notice posted that all fifth year students will meet with their Head of House to discuss career opportunities. Which is odd, because these books don’t really discuss much about what these students are going to do after school. We’ve seen a few examples of wizarding jobs, mostly tied to the Ministry, but what else is out there? Harry gets to find out soon enough, as he’s scheduled to meet with McGonagall. There are a bunch of pamphlets passed out with information about various wizard careers: Healing, Muggle Relations, Wizard banking, training security trolls. You know. The usual thing.

Fred and George interrupt them to say that Ginny told them that Harry wants to talk to Sirius. Their plan? Cause a big enough distraction that Harry can use the Floo in Umbridge’s office. This is clearly a very risky plan, but Harry is desperate. He needs some information badly and is willing to take the risk. He also has a special knife from Sirius that will open any lock. The plan is a go. The twins will make some sort of mishap in the east wing and Harry will have free access to the fire.

Hermione spends the next day desperately trying to talk Harry out of this idea, which only makes Harry and Ron both stop speaking to her.

Before the big plan, Harry has his career meeting with McGonagall and is dismayed that Umbridge is sitting in. McGonagall asks what career Harry was thinking about. He wants to be an Auror. McGonagall starts talking about how difficult it is, that they need excellent grades as well as strict character and aptitude tests with the Auror office itself. It’s very difficult to become an Auror. She starts discussing the classes that Harry should take, but all the while Umbridge tries to interrupt with that simpering little cough of hers. McGonagall and Harry both ignore her, until McGonagall finally asks her if she needs a cough drop.

They go back and forth a bit, Umbridge suggesting that Harry might not have the temperament for an Auror and McGonagall ignoring everything Umbridge says. When McGonagall says that his D.A.D.A scores have always been very high, Umbridge asks if she has reviewed her notes on Harry’s classwork. Yes, McGonagall has read your pink parchment, Dolores, and yes, she understood what you said.

“Well, then I am confused . . . I’m afraid I don’t quite understand how you can give Mr. Potter false hope that –”

“False hope?” repeated Professor McGonagall, still refusing to look round at Professor Umbridge. “He has achieved high marks in all his Defense Against the Dark Arts tests –”

“I’m terribly sorry to have to contradict you, Minerva, but as you will see from my note, Harry has been achieving very poor results in his classes with me –”

“I should have made my meaning plainer,” said Professor McGonagall, turning at last to look Umbridge directly in the eyes. “He has achieved high marks in all Defense Against the Dark Arts tests set by a competent teacher.”

Oh, she went there! Saucy McGonagall is my favorite! She is not here to put up with Umbridge’s crap!

As you can imagine, the conversation goes downhill from here. McGonagall tries to talk about the aptitude tests, but Umbridge says that they check criminal records, which Harry apparently has even though he was cleared. Umbridge says that Harry will never be an Auror. McGonagall says she will do everything in her power to make sure Harry achieves the test results needed. Umbridge fires back that the Minister would never hire Harry, but McGonagall says that maybe there will be a new Minister when the time comes. Umbridge explodes at that point, accusing McGonagall of wanting Dumbledore to wrest power from Fudge so that McGonagall can rise high in the Ministry herself and also become headmistress of Hogwarts.

All of that is plainly ridiculous. McGonagall dismisses Harry and he quickly leaves, hearing them continue their argument as he goes down the hall. Can I just say that I absolutely love McGonagall’s unwavering loyalty to Harry here? She has no interest in protecting her own skin where Umbridge is concerned, even though Umbridge is in a position to dismiss McGonagall, and there’s nothing she could do about it. But McGonagall doesn’t even blink. Harry is her student, who she has known for years, and that is who she needs to stand by. It’s beautiful.

They have Umbridge’s class next and Umbridge is already furious. Hermione keeps whispering to Harry to change his mind about breaking in to her office, and Harry does feel a bit guilty now, especially after McGonagall’s support. Hermione also brings up the fact that Dumbledore had sacrificed his own career and place at Hogwarts so that Harry could stay.

He could abandon the plan and simply learn to live with the memory of what his father had done on a summer’s day more than twenty years ago . . .

And then he remembered Sirius in the fire upstairs in the Gryffindor common room . . . “You’re less like your father than I thought . . . The risk would’ve been what made it fun for James . . .”

But did he want to be like his father anymore?

Ugh, it’s so sad! I wish Harry had just waited until term was over. He would have gone back to Sirius’s place eventually, and he could have gotten answers then. This is eating away at him though, so I guess I understand how he needs to know now.

After class, he loiters in the hallway until he hears screams and yells coming from the floor above. Umbridge comes out of her classroom and runs down the hall. It’s go time. Harry puts on the Invisibility Cloak, pulls out Sirius’s knife, and enters the office. He calls Grimmauld Place on the Floo and finds, not Sirius, but Lupin. Lupin is afraid that something is wrong, but Harry says he just needs to talk to his godfather.

Lupin gets Sirius, who is also worried that something is wrong. Harry tells them what he saw in the memory, and Lupin and Sirius both tell Harry not to judge James too harshly because he was only fifteen. Which Harry takes great offense to, since he is fifteen and would never do something like this.

“Look, Harry,” said Sirius placatingly, “James and Snape hated each other from the moment they set eyes on each other, it was just one of those things, you can understand that, can’t you? I think James was everything Snape wanted to be — he was popular, he was good at Quidditch, good at pretty much everything. And Snape was just this little oddball who was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts and James — whatever else he may have appeared to you, Harry — always hated the Dark Arts.”

Sirius also admits that he isn’t proud of his behavior — he knows he was wrong. They behaved like idiots because that’s exactly what they were. Lupin also feels bad for not doing something or saying something when the others went too far. Sirius also mentions that James always acted foolish when Lily was around, but that she didn’t really hate him. They started dating during their seventh year after James matured a bit.

Lupin then asks how Snape reacted when he found out what Harry had seen, which Harry explains that Snape threw him out and said he wouldn’t teach Harry Occlumency anymore. Sirius is pretty upset about this and is ready to storm up to Hogwarts to confront Snape about it. Lupin wants Harry to go back to Snape and demand Occlumency, but we all know Harry is not going to do that, even though Lupin says that learning Occlumency is the most important thing Harry can do right now.

They hear footsteps coming from Harry’s side of the fire and Harry quickly pulls himself out of the flames and gets under the Invisibility Cloak. Filch bursts into the office and starts going through papers on Umbridge’s desk, finally finding one that says “Approval for Whipping.” Nothing has ever made Filch happier, nothing at all.

Harry rushes after Filch and finds that, somehow, Fred and George have turned a school corridor into a swamp of Stinksap. They have been caught by the Inquisitorial Squad and Umbridge is ready to let Filch whip them, something Filch has wanted to do ever since they came to school. But here’s the thing. Fred and George are not about to get punished. In fact, they aren’t about to stay in school at all.

“George,” said Fred, “I think we’ve outgrown full-time education.”

“Yeah, I’ve been feeling that way myself,” said George lightly.

“Time to test our talents in the real world, d’you reckon?” asked Fred.

“Definitely,” said George.

They summon their brooms and fly off, announcing that their store, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, is now located at 93 Diagon Alley. Also, they are offering a special discount for any students wanting to use their products on Umbridge. Available in the store, a nice Portable Swamp, as demonstrated in the corridor. Their last words, as they fly away:

“Give her hell from us, Peeves.”

If ever Peeves had kindred spirits, it’s the Weasley twins. He salutes them as they fly off into the sunset, to the applause and cheers of the rest of the school.

See you next time for Chapter 30!

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