In Chapter 34, it’s off to the Ministry of Magic! What could go wrong!
How weird would it be to ride a flying animal that was completely invisible? Harry, Neville and Luna can see the thestrals and each climb onto one. Ron, Hermione and Ginny, on the other hand? Not so much? Luna leaves her thestral to help them, but I can’t imagine any of them feel particularly secure up there. I know I sure wouldn’t!
“This is mad,” Ron said faintly, moving his free hand gingerly up and down his horse’s neck. “Mad . . . if I could just see it –”
“You’d better hope it stays invisible,” said Harry darkly.
Truth. If you suddenly see your thestral, that means you also just saw one of your friends/siblings die. Still, riding a thestral is not a comfortable experience, especially since they move really fast through the air and it’s not necessarily the smoothest ride. It’s also really cold up there in the atmosphere. Harry can’t help but wonder if they are going to get there in time. He was still pretty sure that Sirius was alive and that he still hadn’t done whatever it was Voldemort wanted him to do, but all Harry can do is guess based on how his scar is feeling.
They land in London next to the telephone booth entrance to the Ministry. Somehow, I have no idea how, the thestrals knew where that was. Maybe they have the same magical GPS that owls seem to have? You just tell them where to go and they just know? Ron swears he will never do that again, and I don’t blame him. That would have scared me half to death.
They all pile into the telephone booth. Harry remembers the number to dial and the voice replies to them, the same way it did when Harry came down with Mr. Weasley. This time, at night and given the circumstances, it’s really creepy. Harry gives it their names and says they are here to save someone. The telephone booth then gives them all badges with their names on them, indicating that they are on a “rescue mission.” I know it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s just so damn serious right now! I was freaked out the first time I read this!
Also ominous – the security guard is missing. Harry is pretty sure that there should have been someone there, even if it is the middle of the night. This is a government building, THE government building for the wizarding world. There should always be security there and they are missing. Luckily, Harry knows where to go. They head to the elevators and descend into the depths, arriving at the Department of Mysteries. There, finally, Harry sees the black door that he’s been dreaming about all year long.
“Okay, listen,” said Harry, stopping again within six feet of the door. “Maybe . . . maybe a couple of people should stay here as a — as a lookout, and –”
“And how’re we going to let you know something’s coming?” asked Ginny, her eyebrows raised. “You could be miles away.”
“We’re coming with you, Harry,” said Neville.
“Let’s get on with it,” said Ron firmly.
Nice try, Harry, but they are not staying behind.
Here’s where everything starts to get trippy. They enter the door and find a round room with lots of doors, lit by blue flamed candles. As soon as they close the door they came through, the walls start to spin really fast and then they stop. Now they have no idea which door they came through and no idea of how to get out. Hermione says that they need to keep quiet, but I don’t think that needed to be said. It’s fairly clear.
In his dream, Harry just walked right across the room and entered the door across from the entrance, but the spinning room thing has startled all of them. He decides that they will just try a few doors and see if he recognizes one of them. The first door is empty except for some desks and an enormous tank of water filled with . . . swimming brains? Really? What the heck is the Ministry doing with a tank full of brains? In any case, this is not the right room, so they head back to the round room. Before they close the door, Hermione casts a spell that puts a red X on the room they were in, and this X stays there even after the room spins again. Quick thinking there, Hermione!
The next room is really creepy. It is a stone amphitheater with a raised platform on the “stage” of it. On the platform is a stone archway that looks really, really old, like it is falling apart. Hanging from the arch is a tattered black curtain, swaying slightly . . . in a room where the air is absolutely still. Harry has a weird reaction to this thing. He thinks he can hear whispers coming from the other side of the archway, even though you can see right through it and no one is there. It’s so creepy! Luna can hear the whispers too, but no one else can. Also, Harry is strangely drawn to the archway, so much so that he actually forgets about Sirius for a minute, before Hermione reminds him and drags him away.
There has been so much speculation about this archway in the Harry Potter fandom, but I don’t know if there was ever a definitive answer from JKR. My guess has always been that this was where the Ministry conducted executions, sending condemned wizards through it to die since (spoiler alert) that’s what will happen to Sirius when he goes through. Maybe they don’t do this any longer, which is why it looks so old? The wizarding world abolished capital punishment?
They head back to the round room, which spins again. The next door they try will not open, no matter what they try to cast on it. They leave it alone. The door after that does open and Harry recognizes it immediately.
He knew it at once by the beautiful, dancing, diamond-sparkling light. As Harry’s eyes became more accustomed to the brilliant glare he saw clocks gleaming from every surface, large and small, grandfather and carriage, hanging in spaces between the bookcases or standing on desks ranging the length of the room, so that a busy, relentless ticking filled the place like thousands of minuscule, marching footsteps. The source of the dancing, diamond-bright light was a towering crystal bell jar that stood on a desk and appeared to be full of a billowing, glittering wind . . .
Drifting along in the sparkling current inside was a tiny, jewel-bright egg. As it rose in the jar it cracked open and a hummingbird emerged, which was carried to the very top of the jar, but as it fell on the draft, its feathers became bedraggled and damp again, and by the time it had been borne back to the bottom of the jar it had been enclosed once more in its egg.
It’s beautiful, but still creepy. Everything about this place is creepy. I could never work in the Department of Mysteries!
They go through the clock room to the next room, which is the last room in Harry’s dreams. The room is very large with high ceilings filled with shelves upon shelves covered in glass orbs. The shelves have numbers on them and Harry remembers seeing row 97 in his vision. They keep going, but see no one around. At row 97, they turn and head down the row of shelves, but still no one. Harry knows this is the place – he’s seen it in his visions. But this time, there’s no sign of Sirius.
He doesn’t want to hear anyone say “I told you so,” not after he was so sure they had to get here, but instead, Ron sees something. Something odd. One of the glass orbs has a label that has Harry’s name on it.
S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.
Dark Lord and (?) Harry Potter
It’s very strange. It was also dated almost 16 years ago. Ron looks around, but doesn’t see his name or any of their other names on anything. Just Harry. Harry goes to reach for it, but Hermione stops him. She doesn’t think he should touch it, and neither does Neville. I’m with them, Harry. You don’t know what this thing is. What if it’s something that could kill you instantly? You don’t know!
Harry being Harry, he reaches out and picks up the orb anyway. It’s surprisingly warm. Nothing happens when he touches it, and nothing happens when he lifts it off the shelf. They all stand there staring at this dusty orb.
And then, from right behind them, a drawling voice said, “Very good, Potter. Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give that to me.”
See you next time for Chapter 35!