Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 32

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In Chapter 32, Harry has to try and figure out what to do about his vision of Sirius, and as usual, everything goes wrong. Let’s go!

Everything is a mess now. Professor Tofty is trying to get Harry to the hospital wing, but Harry just wants to run to Sirius’s aid. He tries to say that he was just having a nightmare, which does work. Tofty thinks it’s because of all the pressure Harry has been under due to the exams. This time, instead of just running off on his own, he goes to the one person in the school who he knows is a member of the Order – McGonagall.

But McGonagall isn’t there. Remember, she took several Stunning Spells right in the chest the night before. She was transferred to St. Mungo’s. Dumbledore is long gone. Harry feels quite alone right now. After the exam is over, he runs to find Ron and Hermione and tells them what he saw. They react with varying shades of disbelief.

“Harry,” said Hermione in a rather frightened voice, “er . . . how . . . how did Voldemort get into the Ministry of Magic without anybody realizing he was there?”

“How do I know?” bellowed Harry. “The question is how we’re going to get there!”

“But . . . Harry, think about this,” said Hermione, taking a step toward him, “it’s five o’clock in the afternoon . . . The Ministry of Magic must be full of workers . . . How would Voldemort and Sirius have got in without being seen? Harry . . . they’re probably the two most wanted wizards in the world . . . You think they could get into a building full of Aurors undetected?”

As usual, Hermione makes good points, but Harry is beyond using logic. This is Sirius we’re talking about – his only real family at this point. When Hermione tries to point out that it may have just been a dream, Harry says no, it’s not, remember Mr. Weasley. That seemed like “just a dream,” and turned out to be spot on. And it saved Mr. Weasley’s life. This brings Ron around. He says that Sirius may have left Grimmauld Place to get some fresh air since he had been so desperate to leave. Maybe Voldemort caught him and then magicked him into the Ministry somehow. Sirius is known to be a pretty powerful wizard, after all. Plus his brother had been a Death Eater, so maybe Sirius knows more about this mysterious weapon than he’s been telling them.

Hermione is still very skeptical, even though Ron is now on Harry’s side. She also says that maybe, just maybe, Harry has a “saving-people-thing.” Like when he tried to save Gabrielle in the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament. It was very noble of him, but it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t his responsibility. He just did it. Maybe Voldemort is playing this up, making sure that Harry would come to him by taking Sirius. Harry points out again that it wouldn’t matter if that’s why Voldemort did it, Harry still has to save Sirius, even if he gets accused of “acting the hero.” Hermione tries to say that maybe it really was just a dream this time, and Harry can’t take it anymore.

“You don’t get it!” Harry shouted at her. “I’m not having nightmares, I’m not just dreaming! What d’you think all the Occlumency was for, why d’you think Dumbledore wanted me prevented from seeing these things? Because they’re REAL, Hermione — Sirius is trapped — I’ve seen him — Voldemort’s got him, and no one else knows, and that means we’re the only ones who can save him, and if you don’t want to do it, fine, but I’m going, understand? And if I remember rightly, you didn’t have a problem with my saving-people-thing when it was you I was saving from the dementors, or” — he rounded on Ron — “when it was your sister I was saving from the basilisk –“

Hey, don’t start on Ron here, Harry. He’s on your side already!

They are getting louder and their voices carry. The door of the classroom opens and Ginny walks in, followed by Luna. At first Harry brushes them off, but Ginny offers to help. The main thing that Hermione wants to do is to make sure that Sirius really has left headquarters before they run to his rescue. That way if this really was just a nightmare, or if this is some trick, they will know the truth. In order to check, they need to get to Umbridge’s fire in her office again, and this is where Ginny and Luna can come in. They can be lookouts. All they need is a distraction, which will be provided by Ron, who will tell her Peeves is destroying something.

They won’t have much time, and they’ll need to avoid Umbridge, Filch, and the Inquisitorial Squad. But it’s all they can do. Harry runs to get the Invisibility Cloak and they get set up. Harry’s scar is still hurting, but not so bad that he thinks Sirius has been killed yet. That’s something anyway.

Ginny and Luna use the story that the corridor is full of Garroting Gas, which clears it out, and soon the coast is clear. Ron leaves to distract Umbridge and Harry and Hermione enter her office. Harry uses the floo to call Grimmauld Place, but it’s empty. No one is there. He calls out, but only Kreacher answers. Harry asks Kreacher where Sirius is.

“Nobody here but Kreacher!” said the elf gleefully, and turning away from Harry he began to walk slowly toward the door at the end of the kitchen. “Kreacher thinks he will have a little chat with his Mistress now, yes, he hasn’t had a chance in a long time, Kreacher’s Master has been keeping him away from her.”

“Where has Sirius gone?” Harry yelled after the elf. “Kreacher, has he gone to the Department of Mysteries?”

Kreacher stopped in his tracks. Harry could just make out the back of his bald head through the forest of chair legs before him . . . .

“Master will not come back from the Department of Mysteries!” he said gleefully. “Kreacher and his Mistress are alone again!”

Before Harry can do much else, he is dragged away from the fire by Umbridge. She had put Stealth Sensoring Spells around her office after the second niffler, so she knew immediately when someone broke in. Harry’s wand is taken away, as is Hermione’s. Harry tries to lie and say he broke in to get his Firebolt. Soon they are joined by Ron, Ginny and Luna, and also Neville, who tried to stop the Inquisitorial Squad from taking Ginny.

Umbridge demands that Harry tell her who he was talking to, but Harry won’t answer. She sends Draco to get Professor Snape, and this is where Harry realizes his mistake. There was one other Order member in the castle, even if it was one who currently doesn’t like him all that much. Still, I wonder how much Snape would have helped him, especially given that it was Sirius who was in danger. I’d like to think he would have, but I honestly don’t know. I tend to give Snape way more credit than he probably deserves.

When Snape arrives, Umbridge asks him for more Veritaserum. Snape says she took the last bottle he had when she questioned Harry last time, but she should still have some because it only takes three drops. Apparently Umbridge tried to give Harry the whole bottle. I wonder if it’s possible to have Veritaserum poisoning, because that seems like a lot to overdose on! Umbridge asks if he can make any more, to which Snape says that yes, of course he can, but it takes a full month to brew. That doesn’t make Umbridge happy at all. She tries to explain why she needs it, that Harry was trying to communicate with someone, but there isn’t much that can be done. If she had known better, she should know that you can’t just magic up a potion if it takes that long to brew. She’s really not all that smart, is she? Just power hungry.

Snape stares at Harry and, for once, Harry wants Snape to read his thoughts. He tries to concentrate on what he had seen, but knows it isn’t working. Umbridge is furious with Snape’s attitude and puts him on probation for being “deliberately unhelpful.” As Snape turns to leave, Harry knows he has one last chance to try and get someone to help him.

“He’s got Padfoot!” he shouted. “He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden!”

Umbridge doesn’t know what any of this means and demands that Snape tell her, but Snape claims that he doesn’t know either and that Harry is just babbling. At that point, Umbridge is desperate. She needs to do something, and what she finally decides on is that the Cruciatus Curse should force Harry to tell the truth. Yeah, because torture always works. Hermione shrieks that it’s illegal, but Umbridge is beyond reasoning. As far as she’s concerned, the end justifies the means, and if that means she has to work outside of the Ministry’s knowledge, that’s just what she’ll do. After all, that’s what happened when she sent dementors after him last summer. Yes, after all of that, Umbridge admits that she sent dementors into a Muggle neighborhood to silence Harry from speaking the truth.

Wow. Just . . . wow.

As she’s getting ready to cast the spell, Hermione cracks. She shouts that they have to tell Umbridge everything and starts crying. She starts telling a story, a very convincing one at that, and Harry and the others try to keep their faces blank. According to Hermione’s tale, they were trying to contact Dumbledore in the fire, but couldn’t find him. They were supposed to tell Dumbledore that some sort of weapon they were working on for him was ready now. They don’t understand what the weapon is or does — they were just following Dumbledore’s instructions.

It works. Umbridge immediately insists that they take her to the weapon. I have to say, Hermione is a good actress here. She is really laying it on thick and it is working so much.

“Fine,” said Hermione, now sobbing into her hands again, “fine . . . let them see it, I hope they use it on you! In fact, I wish you’d invite loads and loads of people to come and see! Th-that would serve you right — oh, I’d love it if the wh-whole school knew where it was, and how to u-use it, and then if you annoy any of them they’ll be able to s-sort you out!”

I’m sure that Hermione is probably crying real tears at this point, probably scared out of her wits, but that doesn’t mean she’s still not the smartest witch of her age. These words convince Umbridge that wherever they are going to go to this weapon, she will be taking them alone. No other teachers. No Inquisitorial Squad. Just Umbridge, Harry and Hermione, heading out to . . . . wherever Hermione is going to lead them.

See you next time for Chapter 33!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 31

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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!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 30

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In Chapter 30, we finally find out why Hagrid’s face has resembled raw hamburger meat for the whole year. Let’s go!

The Weasley twins are legends around school. I mean, they probably already were, but they really are now. The story of how they flew off into the sunset has grown immeasurably and now lots of students are fantasizing of doing something similar. Part of the reason for their fame — no one can figure out how to get rid of their swamp. Umbridge and Filch have both tried and can’t do it. Harry is pretty sure Flitwick or McGonagall could have done it, but none of the teachers feel too inclined to help Umbridge and, really, who can blame them?

Plus, now that Fred and George are gone, there are quite a few other students who want that Class Clown title and are going out of their way to cause mischief. Nifflers let loose in Umbridge’s office, dungbombs and stinkpellets dropped all over the place. It’s a mess. Filch is even walking the halls with a horsewhip, but he is vastly outnumbered, as is the Inquisitorial Squad.

Meanwhile it became clear just how many Skiving Snackboxes Fred and George had managed to sell before leaving Hogwarts. Umbridge only had to enter her classroom for the students assembled there to faint, vomit, develop dangerous fevers, or else spout blood from both nostrils. Shrieking with rage and frustration she attempted to trace the mysterious symptoms to their source, but the students told her stubbornly they were suffering “Umbridge-itis.” After putting four successive classes in detention and failing to discover their secret she was forced to give up and allow the bleeding, swooning, sweating, and vomiting students to leave her classes in droves.

Worse than the students? Peeves. The Weasley twins tasked him to do his worst, and he is more than up for the challenge. And NONE OF THE OTHER TEACHERS DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. They enjoy watching Umbridge suffer and, in McGonagall’s case, actually give Peeves some advice on how to unscrew a chandelier.

In the meantime, Ron is not looking forward to the next letter he gets from his mother. He is sure that Mrs. Weasley will somehow blame him for Fred and George leaving school. Not that there was anything he could have done, in fact, it’s obvious that the twins had been planning this for a long time if they already had a shop in Diagon Alley. Ron wonders how they got the money. Hermione wonders if Mundungus hooked them up with stolen goods. Harry decides to admit that he gave them his Triwizard winnings, which makes Ron happy because now, if his mom is mad, she can blame Harry.

Hermione also asks if Harry had gotten up the nerve to ask Snape about resuming Occlumency lessons, which of course, Harry hasn’t. He doesn’t want to go anywhere near Snape. Hermione knows that Harry is still having dreams because Ron told her that Harry was talking in his sleep. He had the dream again in the Department of Mysteries, in the room with all the glass orbs. Hermione asks if he’s still trying to practice Occlumency on his own and Harry lies and says he is. The truth of the matter is that he’s too curious about what is in that room. He doesn’t want to block out the dream, he wants to find out what it means.

The final Quidditch match of the season is Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. Ron says that since Slytherin lost to Hufflepuff in the previous match, Gryffindor still has a chance for the Cup. Besides, Ron can’t get any worse, can he? Hermione guesses that Ron might actually fare better without the twins around to tease him all the time, and she might be right. The twins aren’t there, but the Slytherins still are, singing “Weasley Is Our King” at the top of their lungs.

Harry and Hermione are both beckoned by Hagrid who asks them to come with him while everyone else is distracted by the Quidditch match. Hagrid still looks awful, this time with a nose bleed, but he also looks really sad and hopeless. Hagrid leads them into the Forbidden Forest, carrying his crossbow for protection because the centaur herd is super angry at him right now because he stepped in when they were beating up Firenze.

They go super deep into the forest, deeper than Harry had ever gone. It’s darker than darker in there. They stop for a second so that Hagrid can fill them in a bit. He’s worried that he will be getting fired any day now, especially since Umbridge thinks he put the niffler in her office. Which he didn’t, but that doesn’t matter. Hagrid isn’t worried about getting fired, and figures that he can help the Order even more once he’s left. They finally stop and hear the sound of deep, loud, heavy breathing, as though something large is sleeping. Hermione, as usual, catches on before Harry does.

“Hagrid,” she said in a whisper barely audible over the sound of the sleeping creature, “who is he?”

Harry found this an odd question . . . “What is it?” was the one he had been planning on asking.

“Hagrid, you told us,” said Hermione, her wand now shaking in her hand, “you told us none of them wanted to come!”

Harry looked from her to Hagrid and then, as realization hit him, he looked back at the mound with a small gasp of horror.

The great mound of earth, one which he, Hermione, and Hagrid could easily have stood, was moving slowly up and down in time with the deep, grunting breathing. It was not a mound at all. It was the curved back of what was clearly . . .

A giant. This is a giant. Hagrid admits that no, this particular giant did not want to come back with him, but he couldn’t leave him behind. This is Hagrid’s brother, Grawp. He couldn’t leave him because the other giants were beating him up because apparently even though Grawp is huge, he’s actually small by giant standards. Hagrid wants to prove that giants are harmless, but it’s been Grawp that’s been beating him up all this time. Not on purpose, Hagrid doesn’t think, but Grawp doesn’t know his own strength.

For everyone’s safety, Grawp has been tied down. What Hagrid wants from Harry and Hermione (and Ron) is for them to look after Grawp if Hagrid has to leave. Keep him company. Give him English lessons. Hagrid decides to wake up the sleeping giant (which doesn’t sound like a good idea at all) to introduce them. He’s not a handsome fellow, Grawp. Or, I don’t know, maybe he is for a giant. Grawp has been uprooting trees and tries to take a swipe at Harry and Hermione, catching Hagrid in the face.

They head back, now that introductions are over, and run into the centaurs. They tell Hagrid that he should not have come into the Forest, that he is no longer welcome there. They are very, very angry that Firenze has entered the “servitude” of humans. Which is nothing like what actually happened, but centaurs have strong opinions where humans are concerned, especially when one of their own is willingly sharing their secrets. The centaurs agree to not hurt Hagrid because he is accompanied by his “young.” They don’t hurt the innocent. They are, however, really upset that Grawp is in their forest.

“Hagrid,” said Hermione breathlessly, skirting the patch of nettles they had passed on their way there, “if the centaurs don’t want humans in the forest, it doesn’t really look as though Harry and I will be able –”

“Ah, you heard what they said,” said Hagrid dismissively. “They wouldn’t hurt foals — I mean, kids. Anyway, we can’ let ourselves be pushed around by that lot . . .”

Yeah, nice try, Hermione, but that’s not going to work.

Once they clear the forest, they hear the crowd coming from the Quidditch game. Hagrid tells them to quickly blend in so that no one will notice they’ve been gone. Hermione is incensed. Hagrid has made everything more difficult for them and they don’t know what to do about it. As they walk toward the crowd, they hear a chorus of “Weasley Is Our King.” Hermione wants to avoid the Slytherins, but then they listen more closely to the words they are singing.

Weasley can save anything,

He never leaves a single ring,

that’s why Gryffindors all sing:

Weasley is our King.

They see a group of Gryffindors carrying Ron on their shoulders up to the door to Hogwarts. Ron is so excited, holding the Quidditch Cup over his head. Harry and Hermione are very happy for him, but decide to save their news about Grawp for tomorrow. Let Ron have one more night of innocence before that revelation.

See you next time for Chapter 31!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But did he want to be like his father anymore?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Definitely,” said George.

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

“Give her hell from us, Peeves.”

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

See you next time for Chapter 30!

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!