Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 28

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In Chapter 28, the D.A. members face the consequences of creating their group and Harry learns some information about Snape. Let’s go!

The very first thing we learn: Umbridge has been named as Headmistress of Hogwarts. What has everyone else in the school learned? That Dumbledore was able to escape Hogwarts even with Umbridge, Fudge, Percy and two Aurors trying to stop him. The other interesting thing is that Hogwarts itself doesn’t seem to happy about the change in leadership. The Head office has sealed itself and won’t open to Umbridge.

One thing that Umbridge has done out of spite (because that’s all she is) is recruiting students to help her keep an eye on the student body, and don’t you know who was smarmy enough to join up. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and a bunch of other Slytherins. They are now part of the Inquisitorial Squad. This means that they have authority from Umbridge to enforce rules and actually dock points from the Houses. Ernie Macmillan is particularly upset by this, but Malfoy was not bluffing. They watch as the House hourglasses change, all except Slytherin, which seems the same. Fred and George also comment on this situation.

“Anyway . . . we’ve decided we don’t care about getting into trouble anymore.”

“Have you ever?” asked Hermione.

“‘Course we have,” said George. “Never been expelled, have we?”

“We’ve always known where to draw the line,” said Fred.

“We might have put a toe across it occasionally,” said George.

“But we’ve always stopped short of causing real mayhem,” said Fred.

“But now?” said Ron tentatively.

“Well, now –” said George.

“– what with Dumbledore gone –” said Fred.

“– we reckon a bit of mayhem –” said George.

“– is exactly what our dear new Head deserves,” said Fred.

Yes!! Fred and George unleashed!! No longer restrained by any sort of obligation to appear to care about rules. This is going to be great. Fred announces that “phase one” is about to begin and it is in their best interest to head to the Great Hall so that they will have a clear alibi for when things go down. It’s really not a bad idea, guys.

Before they enter the Great Hall, Filch appears to summon Harry to Umbridge’s office. Filch is thrilled that they have a new Head. Umbridge is just the type of person Filch has always wanted in charge. He wants to be able to whip the students or to hang them by the ankles in his office. Umbridge has also indicated that she will get rid of Peeves, something Filch has wanted for ages. Actually, that one I can understand.

Harry enters Umbridge’s office and sits down. Umbridge smiles at him in that creepy, creepy way and asks him what he would like to drink. She is very insistent, so Harry agrees to a cup of tea, which he doesn’t drink at first until she mentions that he should drink. Personally, I wouldn’t ever drink anything this woman offers me, and Harry has a thought about Mad-Eye, who would have never, ever accepted a drink from this woman. He pretends to drink, but keeps his mouth tightly shut.

As soon as he drinks, Umbridge starts with her questions. The main thing she wants to know is where Dumbledore is. Harry answers that he has no idea, which is indeed the truth. Then Umbridge asks where Sirius Black is. She knows that Sirius had talked to Harry in the fire up in the common room, but thanks to Harry not drinking the truth potion that is undoubtedly mixed into the tea, he is able to answer that he doesn’t know where Sirius is. Thankfully, Umbridge is so confident in her trickery that she doesn’t suspect that Harry caught on.

“Very well, Potter, I will take your word for it this time, but be warned: The might of the Ministry stands behind me. All channels of communication in and out of this school are being monitored. A Floo Network Regulator is keeping watch over every fire in Hogwarts — except my own, of course. My Inquisitorial Squad is opening and reading all owl post entering and leaving the castle. And Mr. Filch is observing all secret passages in and out of the castle. If I find one shred of evidence . . .”

They are interrupted by a loud BOOM! I’ll get to that in a minute, but I have to wonder really quickly why Umbridge refused to have her own fireplace watched by the Floo Network Regulators. Did she want to be able to secretly communicate with someone? Who would that be? Or did she want Harry to hear that so that she could set him up for later? Questions that we may never know the answer to.

So back to the boom. Someone (or probably two identical someones) had set off  a huge batch of magic fireworks. Not just normal fireworks. These are bouncing off walls, writing curse words in the air, and exploding all over the place. It’s absolutely brilliant. Umbridge tries to cast a Stupefy spell on one of them to try and take it out of commission, but instead, that makes it explode with even more force. Filch tries to bat at them with a broom, which only sets the broom on fire, while Harry takes off for a secret door he knows about behind a tapestry.

Which Fred and George are hiding behind. They are barely holding in their laughter. George says that if Umbridge tries to Vanish them, they will multiply tenfold. It’s sheer insanity all day long. The other teachers don’t seem to mind. Instead, they decide to lean into the craziness. Every time one of the fireworks ends up in their classroom, they summon Umbridge to deal with it.

The upshot of it all was that Professor Umbridge spent her first afternoon as headmistress running all over the school answering the summonses of the other teachers, none of whom seemed able to rid their rooms of the fireworks without her. When the final bell rang and the students were heading back to Gryffindor Tower with their bags, Harry saw, with immense satisfaction, a disheveled and soot-blackened Umbridge tottering, sweaty-faced from Professor Flitwick’s classroom.

“Thank you so much, Professor!” said Professor Flitwick in his squeaky little voice. “I could have got rid of the sparklers myself, of course, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the authority . . .

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Bless Professor Flitwick! Just bless him!

Gryffindor celebrates that night in the common room. Fred and George introduce the fireworks as “Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-Bangs,” a new item that will be in their shop. Eventually. They used up all their stock for this particular incident, but you can always preorder! I am quite impressed by the twins’ business model. They’re quite good at this! What’s more, the celebratory air even has Hermione feeling rebellious enough to, get this, not do homework that night. Shocker!

Harry dozes off in his chair and has another dream about the corridor and the doors. He makes it through the first door into a circular room with lots of doors, then through another door into a room of rows and rows of shelves with weird glass balls. Harry tries to move forward, but wakes up when another firework explodes near him. He’s particularly worried since he has Occlumency lessons the next day.

The problem also is that Harry hasn’t been practicing at all, and he knows that Snape will be able to tell. The next day, Cho comes up to him to try and sort of apologize for Marietta giving them all up.

“She’s a lovely person really,” said Cho. “She just made a mistake –”

Harry looked at her incredulously.

A lovely person who made a mistake? She sold us all out, including you!”

“Well . . . we all got away, didn’t we?” said Cho pleadingly. “You know, her mum works for the Ministry, it’s really difficult for her –”

“Ron’s dad works for the Ministry too!” Harry said furiously. “And in case you hadn’t noticed, he hasn’t got ‘sneak’ written across his face –“

That’s a fair point and it really makes me think less of Cho for trying to defend Marietta. Her friend almost got them all expelled. If Marietta had felt bad about the club, she could have just stopped coming and kept her mouth shut. The fact that they were able to get away, mostly, was pure luck. Cho makes a snide remark about Hermione’s trick with the jinxed parchment and the conversation pretty much falls apart there. I’m pretty sure Harry and Cho’s relationship, such as it was, is over now. And good riddance. He can do much better.

This means that Harry is already angry before he ever goes into Snape’s Occlumency lesson, which makes everything even worse. Right before they get started, Malfoy comes in. When he hears that Harry is in there for “Remedial Potions,” Malfoy is pretty darn happy about it. Malfoy is there to tell him that Montague, one of the Slytherin Inquisitorial Squad members that the twins had shoved into a vanishing cabinet, has reappeared inside a toilet and is very confused. Snape tells Harry that they will have his lesson the next night since Snape has to deal with this. Harry is quite pleased to hear this, obviously, and after Snape leaves with Malfoy, Harry really should have left too. But he didn’t.

Before each lesson, Snape has been removing memories from his head and storing them in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, which he is apparently borrowing. Obviously these are things that he doesn’t want Harry to accidentally see, so of course, Harry decides he wants to take a look. It would have been better for everyone if he hadn’t done this.

Snape’s memories. Harry sees Snape as a teenager sitting taking his O.W.L. tests, administered by Professor Flitwick. Wow, Flitwick has been there a while! Harry doesn’t pay much attention to Snape. He knows that if Snape is there, that means that his father, James Potter, is also there. He finds him instantly, since they do look so much alike. Harry also sees Sirius and Remus also sitting there, as well as Wormtail.

After the test is over, Harry follows them all out the doors. He sees Snape is walking away and worries that they will go in different directions, because since this is Snape’s memory, he won’t be able to follow the Marauders. They do seem to head in roughly the same direction, so Harry is able to listen into the Marauders’ conversation.

“Did you like question ten, Moony?” asked Sirius as they emerged into the entrance hall.

“Loved it,” said Lupin briskly. “‘Give five signs that identify the werewolf.’ Excellent question.”

“D’you think you managed to get all the signs?” said James in tones of mock concern.

“Think I did,” said Lupin seriously, as they joined the crowd thronging around the front doors eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. “One: He’s sitting in my chair. Two: He’s wearing my clothes. Three: His name’s Remus Lupin . . .”

James is acting goofy, playing with a Snitch that he had stolen. Sirius mentions that he is bored, and they soon see Snape not too far away. They immediately jump him, disarming him and then tormenting him. They are interrupted by a girl, Harry’s mother Lily Evans. She tells them off for attacking Snape after James flips Snape upside down in the air so that his robes fall down and show his underwear. They cast a few more jinxes before stopping. Snape, clearly embarrassed that he needed her help, calls her a Mudblood. That’s enough for Lilly to give up on him and leave, but not before James tries to ask her out on a date. Lilly clearly thinks he’s an arrogant jerk, which he is.

Before Harry can see too much more, the real adult Snape appears and pulls him out of the memory. To say that he’s angry is the biggest understatement in the history of understatements. He throws Harry across the floor and forbids him to tell anyone what he saw, and then tells him to get out and never come back. To be fair, I don’t see Harry ever telling anyone about this, even if Snape hadn’t known what Harry found. This memory is horrible and doesn’t exactly paint his father in a good light. Even to try and get revenge on Snape, I don’t think Harry would use this. He knows what it’s like to be bullied.

It also really hurts because this whole time, Snape has been saying that Harry’s father was a bad person, a supremely entitled brat, a rude and arrogant prick. Harry always denied this, assuming that Snape was just saying these things to hurt Harry, but now it looks like Snape was right all along.

See you next time for Chapter 29.

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 27

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In Chapter 27, they get to know their new Divination teacher and see the end of their D.A. meetings. Let’s go!

Oh, the girls are so happy that Firenze is the new Divination teacher, particularly Parvati and Lavender. They think he is oh so handsome! They are still very sad for Professor Trelawney though, and brought her some flowers, which was very nice of them. Trelawney is very angry about how Umbridge treated her, and really, who can blame her. Hermione knows that this just the beginning.

“I’ve got a feeling Umbridge has only just started being horrible,” said Hermione darkly.

“Impossible,” said Ron, who was tucking into a large plate of eggs and bacon. “She can’t get any worse than she’s been already.”

“You mark my words, she’s going to want revenge on Dumbledore for appointing a new teacher without consulting her,” said Hermione, closing the newspaper. “Especially another part-human. You saw the look on her face when she saw Firenze . . .”

First things first: Ron, you should NEVER say things can’t get worse. That is just asking for trouble. Secondly, Hermione is absolutely right. Umbridge will want to get back at Dumbledore for defying her and making a fool of her in front of the school.

Harry, Ron, Parvati and Lavender head for their first Divination class with their new teacher. It’s in a new classroom (since Firenze wouldn’t be able to climb the ladder to Trelawney’s tower room). A classroom on the ground floor has been fixed up for him to resemble the forest. Firenze remembers meeting Harry back in Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, but the first thing Harry notices is a hoof-shaped bruise on Firenze’s chest.

Firenze welcomes the class to his classroom, set up to look like his natural habitat. He had originally wanted to hold class in the Forbidden Forest itself, but that is not an option since the herd of centaurs has banished him. They did not like the fact that he had agreed to work for Dumbledore. Seems that centaurs don’t think too highly of humans.

The lessons sound so beautiful and relaxing. Firenze makes it look like they are laying on the grass under the stars. As they watch the twinkling lights, Parvati starts telling Firenze what Trelawney had taught them about Astrology. Firenze has a different perspective.

“That,” said Firenze calmly, “is human nonsense.”

Parvati’s hand fell limply to her side.

“Trivial hurts, tiny human accidents,” said Firenze, as his hooves thudded over the mossy floor. “These are of no more significance than the scurryings of ants to the wide universe, and are unaffected by planetary movements.”

“Professor Trelawney –” began Parvati, in a hurt and indignant voice.

“– is a human,” said Firenze simply. “And is therefore blinkered and fettered by the limitations of your kind.”

Ouch. He’s blunt, that’s for sure. Parvati takes offense to this, as do several other students, but Firenze and the centaurs look at things in the long term. He tells them that sometimes it takes ten years to understand what the stars are telling them. He also tells them that humans are rarely good at this sort of thing, but even what the centaurs can learn is not a certainty. None of it is, and that’s kind of the point.

When the bell rings and the students get ready to leave, Firenze asks Harry to stay behind, and says that Ron can stay too. Firenze has a warning for Hagrid and wants Harry to give him the message. Whatever Hagrid is attempting, it isn’t working and he should abandon it. Otherwise, it could stir up a centaur battle, and no one wants that. He doesn’t give any hint as to exactly what Hagrid is attempting, but whatever it is, Hagrid should stop.

The problem is that now Umbridge is watching all of Hagrid’s lessons, and most likely Harry in particular, so Harry doesn’t have much of a chance to talk to Hagrid at all. He finally manages it, but Hagrid brushes off the warning. Harry is worried that now that Umbridge has sacked Trelawney, Hagrid is sure to be next, but Hagrid brushes that off as well and says that some things are more important than a job. He still won’t say what he is up to and he still looks pretty beat up, sporting two black eyes at the moment.

School in general is still stressful, leading up to their O.W.L. tests. Harry is living for their D.A. lessons, where they are finally working on Patronuses. A good idea, since Harry himself had been attacked by dementors. Cho’s Patronus is a swan, Hermione’s is an otter. Lavender, Neville and Seamus (at his first D.A. meeting) can still only produce silver vapor, but at least it’s a start.

They all stop when they see the door open and close by itself. It’s Dobby. He’s come to warn them that somehow, someway, Umbridge has found out where they are and is on her way. They all break out in a run for the door, Harry hoping that they will get away quickly. He is caught by a trip jinx, fired by Malfoy, and picked up by Umbridge, who leads him to Dumbledore’s office.

The office was full of people. Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk, his expression serene, the tips of his long fingers together. Professor McGonagall stood rigidly beside him, her face extremely tense. Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, was rocking backward and forward on his toes beside the fire, apparently immensely pleased with the situation. Kingsley Shacklebolt and a tough-looking wizard Harry did not recognize with very short, wiry hair were positioned on either side of the door like guards, and the freckled, bespectacled form of Percy Weasley hovered excitedly beside the wall, a quill and a heavy scroll of parchment in his hands, apparently poised to take notes.

The gang’s all here. This cannot be good. I really don’t know how Dumbledore can sit there so calmly. Fudge starts questioning Harry, asking him if he knows why he’s there. Harry starts to say yes, but then sees Dumbledore shake his head ever so slightly, and changes his answer to no. He doesn’t know why he’s there or what rules he supposedly broke. Umbridge says she will bring their “informant.” It’s Marietta, Cho’s friend from the D.A. meetings. Marietta is very distraught, not because she’s being questioned, but because her face has broken out with purple pustules spelling the word “sneak.” She had gone to Umbridge and ratted out the D.A., but once she started talking, her face broke out and she became to upset.

Fudge asks if there’s a counterjinx or something to fix it, so Marietta can calm down, but Umbridge grudgingly admits that they haven’t been able to fix it. Of course they haven’t! Hermione designed this! You think you can just undo something Hermione did? SHE’S SMARTER THAN YOU, DOLORES! This doesn’t completely deter Umbridge and she picks up the story.

She knows about the first meeting of the D.A. back in the Hog’s Head because someone else in the bar told her about it. She says that Harry’s purpose was to try and organize an illegal society, but Dumbledore stops her right there. At that time, Harry’s group, a simple Defense Against the Dark Arts study group, would not have been considered illegal because it was before the Ministry decree declaring groups as such. Any subsequent meetings would have been illegal, but they would need proof of other meetings occurring.

Umbridge claims that Marietta was there to confirm that, but Marietta is not talking. She seems terrified that anything she says will make her face look worse. Then, to Harry’s surprise, he feels something brush along side him, like a gust of air, and he sees Marietta shake her head no. Umbridge is taken aback.

“But there was a meeting tonight!” said Umbridge furiously. “There was a meeting, Miss Edgecombe, you told me about it, in the Room of Requirement! And Potter was the leader, was he not, Potter organized it, Potter — why are you shaking your head, girl?”

Well, usually when a person shakes their head,” said McGonagall coldly, “they mean ‘no.’ So unless Miss Edgecombe is using a form of sign language as yet unknown to humans –“

MINERVA MCGONAGALL GIVES ME LIFE!!!! I LOVE HER!!!!

Umbridge can’t stand being in this position of being ridiculed and starts shaking Marietta, but Kingsley stops her. Fudge continues the interrogation, talking about the meeting that night, the one they have definite proof of. Sadly, one of the Slytherins helping Umbridge found the list of names that they had all signed, implicating all the students involved. Fudge is immediately aghast that the name of the group is “Dumbledore’s Army.” Dumbledore immediately picks it up and says that yes, the group is his. He organized it, not Harry. He has been plotting against Fudge and Umbridge all along.

Harry tries to get him to stop, but Dumbledore has no interest in letting Harry take the blame. He also has no interest in getting arrested. He lets loose a silver streak of light, followed by another. Harry is pulled to the ground by McGonagall, who also protected Marietta. Whatever this spell was, it knocked out Fudge, Umbridge, Kingsley, the other Auror Dawlish, and Percy. Dumbledore says that he wished he hadn’t had to knock Kingsley out, but it would have looked suspicious if he hadn’t, and they need Kingsley to be able to stay at his post in the Ministry, for the Order’s sake.

Oh, and it was also Kingsley who quickly and quietly modified Marietta’s memory so that she couldn’t give them away. Before he leaves, Dumbledore tells Harry that he must learn Occlumency. It’s the most important thing. Before the others can wake up, Dumbledore grabs Fawkes’s tail and disappears. Fudge and Umbridge are both furious that he got away, but also baffled by how he did it. Fudge tells McGonagall that she had better watch herself and that she should send both students to bed immediately.

See you next time for Chapter 28!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 26

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In Chapter 26, the article is published. Oh boy. Let’s go!

I love that despite the seriousness of this whole situation, Luna isn’t sure when her dad will publish Harry’s interview. It might have to wait a bit.

Still, Harry doesn’t hold back. He tells Rita everything. His fellow Gryffindors are impressed and a little nervous about it, but Neville says it best: people need to know what Voldemort and his Death Eaters can do.

Hermione also interrogates Harry about his date with Cho once they see her enter the Great Hall. Harry tells her about what happened, and Hermione is rightly exasperated. She says that Harry shouldn’t have brought it up the way he did, but Harry doesn’t understand. Hermione had asked to meet, hadn’t she?

“You should have told her differently,” said Hermione, still with that maddeningly patient air. “You should have said it was really annoying, but I’d made you promise to come along to the Three Broomsticks, and you really didn’t want to go, you’d much rather spend the whole day with her, but unfortunately you though you really ought to meet me and would she please, please come along with you, and hopefully you’d be able to get away more quickly? And it might have been a good idea to mention how ugly you think I am too,” Hermione added as an afterthought.

“But I don’t think you’re ugly,” said Harry, bemused.

Basically, once Harry had mentioned Hermione, Cho started mentioning all the other boys in her life to make him feel jealous. Which didn’t work. It only made Harry confused (with Roger) and then sad/mad (with Cedric). He thinks she should have just asked if he liked her, but Hermione is right that girls don’t usually ask questions point blank like that. We hedge. Ron and Ginny show up, splattered in mud from Quidditch practice, and hear the end of this conversation. He suggests that Hermione right a book for boys to learn how to figure out what girls actually mean. That would only work if you could convince Ron or Harry to actually read a book, which since neither one of them have read Hogwarts: A History yet, clearly Hermione is not able to do.

Oh, and Quidditch is going terribly. After Ron and Ginny leave to get cleaned up, Fred and George come in and confirm how bad it is. They’ve been spying on practices and lament how bad the team will get trounced. Well, except for Ginny. Ginny is actually pretty good. How did she get so good? By breaking into the broom shed back home and borrowing her brothers’ brooms when they weren’t watching. She’s been practicing for years, a fact which George finds rather impressive.

Fred and George also mention that Quidditch was the main reason they had stayed at Hogwarts. Their new products are ready to roll, so why do they need their N.E.W.T. exams?

Their game against Hufflepuff is brutal, ending when Ginny catches the Snitch, so they only lose by ten points. Harry actually compliments her on it, which Ginny shrugs off.

“I was lucky,” she shrugged. “It wasn’t a very fast Snitch and Summerby’s got a cold, he sneezed and closed his eyes at exactly the wrong moment. Anyway, once you’re back on the team –”

“Ginny, I’ve got a lifelong ban.”

“You’re banned as long as Umbridge is in the school,” Ginny corrected him. “There’s a difference. Anyway, once you’re back, I think I’ll try out for Chaser. Angelina and Alicia are both leaving next year and I prefer goal-scoring to Seeking anyway.”

I really like this new, confident Ginny. She’s got skills and she’s not ashamed to say so. Ron is still feeling really bummed about all of this. That makes me sad. He should enjoy being on the Quidditch team, not feel like a complete loser. Fred and George even feel bad for him, so much so that they don’t even have the heart to tease him about it.

It also doesn’t help that during the match, Umbridge was sitting right in front of Harry and kept looking back at him and gloating. She is enjoying the fact that he has to watch his team lose.

That night, Harry has another dream about the door and the corridor, but this time the door is slightly open and he can see blue light coming from the other side of it. As he reaches for it, Ron snores really loud and wakes him up. Aw man, Ron!

The next morning, Harry gets some news. A bunch of news. Tons of news. His article in the Quibbler has been published and it is front page news. The other owls, dozens of them, are from readers. Luna comes over, quite pleased at how the article turned out. As far as the readers go, some are critical of Harry, but some believe him. They feel pretty good about it until Umbridge turns up and asks why he has so many letters. Harry has to explain what he did. After all, he won’t be able to keep this secret.

And he threw the copy of The Quibbler at her. She caught it and stared down at the cover. Her pale, doughy face turned an ugly, patchy violet.

“When did you do this?” she asked, her voice trembling slightly.

“Last Hogsmeade weekend,” said Harry.

“There will be no more Hogsmeade trips for you, Mr. Potter,” she whispered. “How you dare . . . how you could . . .” She took a deep breath. “I have tried again and again to teach you not to tell lies. The message, apparently, has still not sunk in. Fifty points from Gryffindor and another week’s worth of detentions.”

Even though he’s in trouble, I have to say it must have felt good knowing that he completely outsmarted her in this. His story is out there and there isn’t much she can do to stop it. Sure, she can punish him after the fact. Sure, she can try to ban The Quibbler from the school (which she does), but that will not stop people from reading it. In fact, as Hermione points out, banning copies at Hogwarts has only made sure that everyone will read it now. It’s also clear that more and more students are believing Harry’s story, and are taking action to make sure Umbridge can’t catch them with copies of the magazine.

I think my favorite part of this is how the teachers are reacting. They are not allowed to talk to their students about the article, thanks to Umbridge’s previous rule, but they have found other ways to express their feelings.

Professor Sprout awarded Gryffindor twenty points when Harry passed her a watering can; a beaming Professor Flitwick pressed a box of squeaking sugar mice on him at the end of Charms, said “Shh!” and hurried away; and Professor Trelawney broke into hysterical sobs during Divination and announced to the startled class, and a very disapproving Umbridge, that Harry was not going to suffer an early death after all, but would live to a ripe old age, become Minister of Magic, and have twelve children.

It’s not just the teachers either. Cho comes over to apologize to him and tells him that it was really brave to speak out the way he did. Another believer? Seamus. He knows Harry is telling the truth and even sent a copy of the magazine to his mom to try and convince her. The ones who aren’t particularly happy are the Slytherins. Harry knows why: he just named their dads as Death Eaters. Hermione is happy that the Slytherins can’t say one word about it, since to do so would be proof that they had read the article in the first place, which Umbridge has strictly forbidden. It’s perfect.

Harry’s dreams aren’t getting better though. After a celebration in the Gryffindor common room, he has a dream that night about where he is interrogating a man named Rookwood, who corrects him about how Bode (the guy who was killed by the potted Devils Snare) would not have been able to remove “it.” Harry’s voice sounds cold and cruel, not like his normal voice. He asks Rookwood to send Avery to him and when he turns towards a mirror, Harry sees Voldemort’s face staring back at him.

Harry wakes up screaming and tangled up in the bed curtains. Ron helps him out and is immediately scared that someone has been attacked again. They go over the dream and what they know. Rookwood is a Death Eater, one of the ones who escaped Azkaban. Bode had been put under the Imperius Curse to try and get something, which both boys guess is the weapon that Voldemort was supposedly looking for. They keep their voices down once Dean and Seamus come into the room, but Ron really wants Harry to go to Dumbledore. Harry still doesn’t want to tell anyone and blames the situation on his inability to learn Occlumency.

They tell Hermione the next day. As usual, she puts more pieces of this puzzle together than both boys do. They discuss the fact that Lucius Malfoy could easily have put Bode under the Imperius Curse since Malfoy has been skulking around the Ministry a lot lately.

“He was even hanging around that day I had my hearing,” said Harry. “In the — hang on . . .” he said slowly. “He was in the Department of Mysteries corridor that day! Your dad said he was probably trying to sneak down and find out what happened in my hearing, but what if –”

“Sturgus,” gasped Hermione, looking thunderstruck.

“Sorry?” said Ron, looking bewildered.

“Sturgis Podmore,” said Hermione, breathlessly. “Arrested for trying to get through a door. Lucius Malfoy got him too. I bet he did it the day you saw him there, Harry . . .”

Hermione also gets on Harry’s case about having the dream in the first place, since he should have been able to keep the dreams at bay with Occlumency. She makes him promise to practice a bit more.

He’s having a bad week, Harry is. He keeps getting bad grades, he worries about Hagrid getting fired, and he can’t stop thinking about that dream. He wants to talk to Sirius about it, but knows he can’t. He also knows that he can’t just hide his thoughts anymore, thanks to Snape and his Occlumency lessons. Snape sees the image of Harry’s dream about Rookwood and is furious that Harry hasn’t been able to get rid of the dreams after two months’ worth of lessons. Snape accuses Harry of liking having the dreams, that it makes him feel important.

“That is just as well, Potter,” said Snape coldly, “because you are neither special nor importan, and it is not up to you to find out what the Dark Lord is saying to his Death Eaters.”

“No — that’s your job, isn’t it?” Harry shot at him.

In fact, it is. But Snape doesn’t like being challenged like that, certainly not by Harry. They begin again, but this time Harry is able to keep Snape from seeing much, only hazy outlines. He is able to cast a Shield Charm, which causes the spell to reverse. Now Harry is seeing some of Snape’s memories, and Snape is too shocked to stop him. Harry sees Snape as a child watching his parents fight and as a teen getting teased about riding a broom before Snape finally pushes Harry out of his head. Although he admits that it is an improvement, Snape is not happy at ALL about Harry breaking into his head, and Harry knows the next volley will be worse.

Harry can’t defend himself this time. Snape sees the hallway, the door, the opening of the door into a circular room filled with blue-flamed candles and more doors — all things that Harry has been dreaming of. Snape is even angrier now, saying that Harry is obviously not working hard enough at stopping this. Harry comes back at him, asking why Snape calls Voldemort the “Dark Lord,” something he has only heard Death Eaters call him. Before their confrontation can go any further, they hear someone screaming and leave to check it out.

The screams are coming from the entrance hall, from Professor Trelawney in particular. It seems we now know which teacher is getting sacked first. She is shouting in protest that this can’t happen, she can’t leave. Hogwarts is her home and has been for sixteen years. Umbridge is there and is very nasty about it all.

“You didn’t realize this was coming? . . . Incapable though you are of predicting even tomorrow’s weather, you must surely have realized that your pitiful performance during my inspections, and lack of any improvement, would make it inevitable you would be sacked?”

It’s not so much that Umbridge is mean, although she is. She’s just so sadistic. She loves watching these people suffer under her authority, more than anything else. She revels in it. And I’m not trying to say that Trelawney is a good teacher by any means, but she doesn’t deserve this public shaming.

McGonagall goes to Trelawney to comfort her and promises her that she doesn’t need to leave Hogwarts. Umbridge immediately questions her how she can say that, but who’s authority, and turns out — it’s Dumbledore. Dumbledore arrives to say that yes, Umbridge has the right to fire a teacher, but she does not have the authority to banish Trelawney from the castle. He wants Trelawney to stay at Hogwarts as his guest.

Umbridge brings up the problem that what will happen once a new Divination teacher has been appointed and needs Trelawney’s rooms, but Dumbledore, smiling serenely the whole time, that this will not be a problem at all because the new teacher would prefer lodgings on the ground floor. But wait! Umbridge cites “Educational Decree Twenty-Two,” but Dumbledore points out that the wording of the decree says that the High Inquisitor can appoint a teacher only if the headmaster is unable to find one. And she won’t need to because Dumbledore has already taken care of that.

You can really see Dumbledore’s Wizangamot experience shining through here. He’d make an excellent lawyer.

The new Divination teacher? Firenze. A centaur. Exactly the type of person Umbridge would hate.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

See you next time for Chapter 27!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 25

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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!”

Oh boy.

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!

 

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 24

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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!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 23

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In Chapter 23, Harry figures out that he’s not possessed (thanks to Ginny) and have an unforgettable trip to St. Mungo’s (thanks to Neville). Let’s go!

You remember a few chapters back when I said it was so nice to have a feeling of optimism and happiness? It was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it. Now not only does Harry need to worry about Mr. Weasley recovering and everything else going on at Hogwarts, he has to worry that he’s being possessed by Voldemort. He’s literally worried that Voldemort’s face is going to pop out of the back of his head the way Quirrell’s did.

He also remembers back when he arrived at Grimmauld Place, what Sirius had said Voldemort was after. A weapon. Something he didn’t have last time. What if the weapon is Harry? What if Voldemort is using Harry to destroy the Order from the inside out? It would explain why Harry was being guarded all the time.

Mrs. Weasley sees that something is wrong, because of course she does. She’s the best fictional mom ever. Once they get back to Headquarters, she sends him upstairs to go rest, which suits Harry just fine because he really doesn’t want to talk to everyone. He’s afraid to go to sleep though, because what if it happens again? What if he attacks someone else? What if Voldemort is looking through his eyes and now knows where their Headquarters is? What if Voldemort can reach through Harry’s brain and read his thoughts about everything he has learned so far about the Order?

There was only one thing for it: He would have to leave Grimmauld Place straightaway. He would spend Christmas at Hogwarts withouth the others, which would keep them safe over the holidays at least . . . But no, that wouldn’t do, there were still plenty of people at Hogwarts to maim and injure, what if it was Seamus, Dean, or Neville next time? He stopped his pacing and stood staring at Phineas Nigellus’s empty frame. A leaden sensation was settling in the pit of his stomach. He had no alternative: He was going to have to return to Privet Drive, cut himself off from other wizaards entirely . . .

Okay, I see why he might feel this way, but this is really the absolute worst thing he could do. I also think it’s telling that he’s worried about attacking his classmates, but not particularly worried about attacking the Dursleys. In any case, he would be completely open for any sort of attack or plan that the Death Eaters could come up with. Yes, I know that he is protected as long as he is at the Dursleys’ house because of his mother’s sacrifice, but we don’t know how that magic works yet, and Harry certainly doesn’t. Besides, he leaves the Dursleys’ house all the time, which was how the dementors were able to attack him last time. No, Privett Drive is not safe at all.

Luckily, Phineas Nigellus returns to his picture frame and sneers at Harry for running away, saying that Gryffindors are supposed to be brave, and yet Harry is planning to make a break for it. He also has a message from Dumbledore: Stay where you are. That’s it. The whole message. Harry is, rightfully I think, irritated by this.

“So that’s it, is it?” he said loudly. “Stay there? That’s all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors too! Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won’t bother telling you anything, though, because your tiny little brain might not be able to cope with it!”

A lot of people didn’t like Order of the Phoenix because they thought Harry was too angry, in an out-of-character sort of way, but to me, he’s not angry enough. I would be furious if I was going through all of this stuff and everyone around me wanted to just keep me in the dark about everything. Harry lashes out, but he has every reason to. Dumbledore really screwed up in this book, the way he handled all of this.

Phineas is not helping either. He is snide and sarcastic and doesn’t try to make Harry feel any better, instead berating him for questioning Dumbledore in the first place. After he leaves, Harry throws his stuff down and decides to stay. He feels a million miles away from kissing Cho under the mistletoe. As he lays there, he drifts off to sleep and has another dream of the corridor with the big black door, but Ron wakes him up to tell him dinner is ready. Harry doesn’t answer and instead falls back to sleep, waking up early in the morning. Ron is in the other bed, asleep, but Harry can see that Phineas has returned to his frame and is probably keeping an eye on him for Dumbledore. It makes him want to leave again.

Once everyone else wakes up, the house is full of good humor and cheer. Sirius is singing Christmas carols, everyone is decorating the pace. Everyone except for Harry, who is hiding in Buckbeak’s room. He hears someone arrive, but assumes it’s just another Order member reporting in. He does not expect Hermione to come in, especially since she was supposed to be skiing with her parents. She gets Harry to come out of hiding and return to his room, where Ron and Ginny are waiting.

She also gets right to the point, which is another reason why I adore her so much. Hermione cares about her friends, but will not put up with their crap. Harry tries to tell her that he’s fine, but she doesn’t let him lie about this. Harry claims that no one would look at him, but Ginny says that that he won’t look at them.

“‘We wanted to talk to you, Harry,” said Ginny, “but as you’ve been hiding ever since we got back –”

“I didn’t want anyone to talk to me,” said Harry, who was feeling more and more nettled.

“Well, that was a bit stupid of you,” said Ginny angrily, “seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.”

Harry remained quite still as the impact of these words hit him. Then he turned on the spot to face her.

“I forgot,” he said.

“Lucky you,” said Ginny coolly.

Oh yeah, she went there. I’ve always wondered how Ginny coped with the aftermath of the events in Chamber of Secrets. She was only 11 years old and, while obviously she was able to move on, this shows that it wasn’t easy and she still feels the effects. I wonder if seeing Harry go through this has brought a lot of those memories back to the surface for her.

Ginny starts questioning him, mainly asking if there are long periods of time where he doesn’t know what he was doing, basically big black holes in his memory. Harry says no, and Ginny says that You-Know-Who can’t be possessing him then. When she went through it, she lost hours at a time and would find herself in places and not know how she got there. Which sounds pretty damn scary, if you ask me. Harry isn’t experiencing that though.

Hermione pipes in and says that there is no way that Voldemort could have transported Harry out of Hogwarts (will the boys ever read Hogwarts: A History, just to make her happy?), and Ron confirms that Harry never left his bed. It’s enough to set Harry’s mind at ease. He’s not a weapon. His friends are safe.

Christmas at Grimmauld Place is a wonderful thing. I especially love that all the house-elf heads down the hallway are now wearing Santa hats and beards. That is festive and macabre at the same time! It’s not all joyous celebrating though. Mrs. Weasley is upset because Percy sent back her Christmas gift, which is a really mean thing to do. You’re fighting with your family, Perce, I get it. But let your mother give you the sweater she knitted for you. That’s just low.

Hermione has even gotten a present for Kreacher, a patchwork quilt. They leave it at his little den by the boiler and see all the little objects that Kreacher has hidden away, saved from the purge. They all realize that they haven’t seen Kreacher in a while. Sirius says that he couldn’t have left the house, but Harry reminds them all that Dobby was able to back when he still worked for the Malfoys, even though he had to punish himself to do it. Sirius promises to look for him later.

They go back to St. Mungo’s to visit Mr. Weasley that afternoon. Mr. Weasley is doing well, but seems a bit sheepish about something. Mrs. Weasley questions why his bandages were changed early.

“Well — now don’t get upset, Molly, but Augustus Pye had an idea . . . He’s the Trainee Healer, you know, lovely young chap and very interested in . . . um . . . complementary medicine . . . I mean, some of these old Muggle remedies . . . well, they’re called stitches, Molly, and they work very well on — on Muggle wounds –“

Mrs. Weasley is not happy with this at all, and all the kids decide to get a cup of tea before she explodes. They head for the tea room, passing the Spell Damage ward and see a familiar face. Gilderoy Lockhart. He offers to give them all autographs, so he hasn’t changed much. Still doesn’t have his memory back though, or at least, not all of it. He vaguely remembers being famous, but not really why. A nurse comes to take him back to his room and his very happy to see that he has visitors. She asks them to come back to the closed ward with them. It’s a long-term resident ward for permanent spell damage.

The nurse bustles around the room, handing out Christmas presents to the other patients when a curtained off area opens to reveal Neville and his grandmother leaving. Harry suddenly realizes who else is in the closed ward: Neville’s parents. Ron, Hermione and Ginny don’t know the truth about Neville’s parents though. They are surprised to see them. Neville’s grandmother is a very forceful woman who introduces herself to them all and knows who they all are from what Neville has told her. She is very surprised that Neville has never told his friends about his family.

“Well, it’s nothing to be ashamed of!” said Mrs. Longbottom angrily. “You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!”

“I’m not ashamed,” said Neville very faintly, still looking anywhere but at Harry and the others. Ron was now standing on tiptoe to look over at the inhabitants of the two beds.

“Well, you’ve got a funny way of showing it!” said Mrs. Longbottom. “My son and his wife,” she said, turning haughtily to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, “were tortured into insanity by You-Know-Who’s followers.”

Hermione, Ginny and Ron are obviously shocked and horrified by this news. Mrs. Longbottom was clearly proud of her family, saying that they were Aurors, very gifted, and highly respected. She is interrupted by Alice, Neville’s mother, in what is one of the most tragic scenes of this whole series. Alice reaches towards Neville and hands him an empty gum wrapper. Mrs. Longbottom thanks her with false cheer and then tells Neville to throw it away, since apparently his mother gives him gum wrappers every time he visits. Harry sees Neville put the wrapper in his pocket. I’m sure that Neville has never thrown those gum wrappers away, not a single one.

After the Longbottoms leave, Hermione is close to tears. They didn’t know about any of this. Harry confirms that he knew, that Dumbledore had made him promise not to tell, since it was Neville’s story. He also tells them that it was what Bellatrix Lestrange got sent to Azkaban for, which horrifies Hermione, since that was who Kreacher had a photo of in his den. Maybe Kreacher isn’t such a sweet little lost soul, Hermione. Maybe he’s actually evil like the rest of the Black family had been before Sirius turned up. Either way, they have a lot to think about.

See you next time for Chapter 24.

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 22

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In Chapter 22, Harry’s dream turns out to not be a dream at all, and it’s terrifying. Let’s go!

Of all the teachers at Hogwarts, McGonagall is my favorite. She is a tough teacher, but fair, and she genuinely cares about her students. She’s the type of teacher I would like to be if I had ever followed my original career path. The other thing to love about McGonagall: she understands how to handle things. What Harry is telling her doesn’t make any sense at all, but she knows that there are things going on that are way out of her realm of expertise. If Harry is having some sort of vision and he swears it’s real, she believes him and takes him to the one person who will be able to help. Dumbledore.

Since Harry said it involved Mr. Weasley, McGonagall also brings Ron with them.

They approach Dumbledore’s office and hear lots of voices behind the door, but when they open it, Dumbledore is the only person there, other than his phoenix, Fawkes. McGonagall tries to explain what happened, saying that Harry had a nightmare, but Harry interrupts her, saying that it was more than that. It wasn’t just a dream, it was real. Dumbledore asks a very odd question: How did Harry see this happen? When Harry doesn’t get it, he elaborates.

“You misunderstand me,” said Dumbledore, still in the same calm tone. “I mean . . . can you remember — er — where you were positioned as you watched this attack happen? Were you perhaps standing beside the victim, or else looking down on the scene from above?”

This was such a curious question that Harry gaped at Dumbledore; it was almost as though he knew . . .

“I was the snake,” he said. “I saw it all from the snake’s point of view . . .”

It’s enough. Dumbledore immediately asks how badly hurt Mr. Weasley is (the answer is VERY BAD). He gets two of the portraits in his office to help him raise the alarm and make sure Mr. Weasley is found by the “right people.” The two previous headmasters (Everard and Dilys) have portraits in other places and can move between the two locations. As they all sit down to wait, Dumbledore tells Fawkes to warn them if someone comes. He then proceeds to prod some of the weird silver instruments that sits on one of his tables. It produces smoke which takes the shape of a snake, which then splits into two snakes. Whatever it is, Dumbledore seems to understand it. He doesn’t feel the need to explain though, which is frustrating.

The first portrait comes back, Everard, who says that they found Mr. Weasley, but he looks awful. Dilys returns soon after and confirms that Mr. Weasley was taken to St. Mungo’s, the wizard hospital. Dumbledore sends McGonagall to get the other Weasleys out of bed and then creates a Portkey. He then summons another portrait, Phineas, to send another message. At first Phineas pretends to still be asleep, and then tries to beg off doing it because he’s too tired.

“Insubordination, sir!” roared a corpulent, red-nosed wizard, brandishing his fists. “Dereliction of duty!”

“We are honor-bound to give service to the present headmaster of Hogwarts!” cried a frail-looking old wizard whom Harry recognized as Dumbledore’s predecessor, Armando Dippet. “Shame on you, Phineas!”

I love that the previous headmasters are all there, in portrait form anyway, to support the current one. I’m sure they can be very helpful, with their wealth of knowledge and experience. Phineas agrees to take the message. Turns out he is a Black, and his other portrait is in Grimmauld Place. Dumbledore plans to send Harry and the Weasleys there so they will be close to St. Mungo’s and wants to let Sirius know to expect them. Fred, George and Ginny arrive, confused and scared. Before they can say much, Fawkes sends his warning — Umbridge is on the way. Phineas returns to say that Sirius is delighted to have them, and Dumbledore sends them with the Portkey after sending McGonagall to stall Umbridge.

Before they go, Harry looks up at Dumbledore and has something very weird happen. And when I say weird, I mean in comparison to everything else going on.

At once, Harry’s scar burned white-hot, as though the old wound had burst open again — and unbidden, unwanted, but terrifyingly strong, there rose within Harry a hatred so powerful he felt, for that instant, that he would like nothing better than to strike — to bite – – to sink his fangs into the man before him —

That’s not creepy at all.

They arrive at Grimmauld Place, Sirius shouting at Kreacher to get out and his mother’s portrait yelling her head off. He asks what happened, which the other Weasleys also want to know. Harry tries to explain, leaving out the part about him being the snake. Fred and George want to run off to the hospital, but Sirius tells them to stay put. The last thing they need to do is appear to have this knowledge ahead of time or draw attention to the fact that Harry is having visions. Sirius convinces them to at least wait until they hear from Mrs. Weasley.

Harry is completely freaked out, and who can blame him? He had a vision where he attacked Mr. Weasley, and then felt like he wanted to attack Dumbledore. How is this possible? He doesn’t have fangs and never left Hogwarts, but everything was so vivid and strange.

They finally get a message from Mrs. Weasley, who says that Mr. Weasley is still alive and she is on her way to St. Mungo’s. They are to stay put until they hear from her. So good news, since he’s still alive, but the note sure sounds like he’s hanging on by a thread. No one leaves the room and no one says a word. In the early hours of the morning, Mrs. Weasley finally arrives at Grimmauld Place to tell them that Mr. Weasley is going to be okay. He’s sleeping right now, but they are all going to see him later.

The feeling of relief floods the room. I was so so glad that Mr. Weasley is okay. This was so scary the first time reading it! Arthur is such a good guy! You don’t want anything bad to happen to him! Sirius starts breakfast and Harry goes to help, to give the Weasleys some time to themselves, but Mrs. Weasley’s not having that. She pulls him into a big hug.

“I don’t know what would have happened if it hadn’t been for you, Harry,” she said in a muffled voice. “They might not have found Arthur for hours, and then it would have been too late, but thanks to you he’s alive and Dumbledore’s been able to think up a good cover story for Arthur being where he was, you’ve no idea what trouble he would have been in otherwise, look at poor Sturgis . . .”

Harry has got to feel odd about this, since he still feels almost responsible for the attack, and now Mrs. Weasley is thanking him for saving her husband. She also tells Sirius that they might need to stay at Grimmauld Place for Christmas, which Sirius is more than happy to welcome them. Otherwise, he’d have to spend Christmas all by himself, wouldn’t he? Since Harry was going to the Burrow? Harry takes Sirius aside and tells him what he had told Dumbledore, about being the snake in the vision and feeling like he wanted to attack again. Sirius tells him that he’s just in shock and he just needs to rest. He was able to save Mr. Weasley and he should be grateful for that.

Everyone goes upstairs to sleep. Harry goes upstairs too but is afraid to go to sleep in case he accidentally attacks someone else. He pretends that he napped in order to make everyone else feel better and joins the Weasleys as they head out into the city, with Tonks and Mad-Eye to escort them. Tonks asks Harry if he has any seers in his family, which Harry denies, although I’m not sure how he would know. He doesn’t know that much about his family, other than the Dursleys.

The entrance to St. Mungo’s is an old department store that is “closed for refurbishment.” Tonks speaks to the ugly mannequin in the window and then they step through. Once inside, St. Mungo’s looks like pretty much any other waiting room at a hospital, with several people waiting to be seen, healers in green robes walking around, and a front desk. Harry also sees Dilys’s other portrait — she gives Harry a wink before vanishing back to Hogwarts. The witch at the front desk sends them to the second floor.

As they approach the ward for “serious bites,” Harry hangs back with Mad-Eye and Tonks, but Mrs. Weasley pulls him along, assuring him that Mr. Weasley will want to thank him. Mr. Weasley is in good spirits. He can go home if they could only take the bandages off his bite, but it won’t stop bleeding; something in the venom of the snake’s fangs makes the wounds stay open. They are working on an antidote though.

“Is it in the Prophet, you being attacked?” asked Fred, indicating the newspaper Mr. Weasley had cast aside.

“No, of course not,” said Mr. Weasley, with a slightly bitter smile, “the Ministry wouldn’t want everyone to know a dirty great serpent got –”

“Arthur!” said Mrs. Weasley warningly.

“–got — er — me,” Mr. Weasley said hastily, though Harry was quite sure that was not what he had meant to say.

Mr. Weasley is not going to give up any information, not his whereabouts that night or what he was doing there. Mrs. Weasley shoves the kids out into the hallway so that Mad-Eye and Tonks can talk to him, but Fred and George have a remedy for that: Extendable Ears. They offer one to Harry, since he was the reason Mr. Weasley was saved. They listen in as Tonks tells them that no one could find the snake anywhere. It had vanished. Moody thinks the snake was a lookout, so that “he” could investigate closer. Mrs. Weasley also mentions that Dumbledore was worried about Harry.

“‘Course he’s worried,” growled Moody. “The boy’s seeing things from inside You-Know-Who’s snake . . . Obviously, Potter doesn’t realize what this means, but if You-Know-Who’s possessing him –“

That’s all Harry can hear. He drops the Extendable Ear and sees the Weasleys all staring at him. Because this is just what Harry needs. He was already afraid that he was going to attack someone, and now he thinks Voldemort is possessing him! Poor Harry!

See you next time for Chapter 23!