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!
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