The Harry Potter Reread has typed “Harry” so many times that it’s starting to mess up from sheer repetition and accidentally type “Haryr” instead. Which just looks hilarious.
We’re about to meet our very first Metapmorphmagus and visit the worse house in all of wizardom. It’s Chapters 3 and 4 of The Order of the Phoenix—The Advance Guard and Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Chapter 3—The Advance Guard
Harry stalks upstairs and writes three identical letters to Sirius, Ron, and Hermione, telling them what happened and that he demands to know when he’s leaving Privet Drive, then waits for Hedwig to return. When she does, he snaps at her and sends her off with the letters, telling her not to return without good long replies. He expects to have them by morning, but three days pass and no word. Vernon tells Harry that he and Dudley and Petunia are going out, and that Harry is not to touch anything in the house and will be locked in his room. Later that night, Harry hears a crash downstairs and his door unlocks itself. He heads downstairs to find nine people crowded into the house, and one of them is the real Professor Moody.
Harry is still wary of this (given his experience last school year with fake Moody) until he hears the voice of Professor Lupin. Standing with him are some new faces who we will later come to know as Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Elphias Dodge, Dedalus Diggle, Emmeline Vance, Sturgis Podmore, and Hestia Jones. They’ve come to collect him. Moody is suspicious, so he makes Lupin ask Harry a question only he would know the answer to (the form of his Patronus). Moody then chastises Harry for stowing his wand in his back trouser pocket. It turns out that the Dursleys were lured away from the house by Tonks, who sent them a letter claiming that they’d won a best-kept English suburban lawn competition. They’re waiting for an all-clear to take him away, but not to the Burrow—to a new, undetectable headquarters that they’ve established. Harry tries to ask them questions, but they refuse to talk where people might be listening. This group all volunteered to guard him on the journey back to headquarters because they have to travel via broom; other methods of travel are out for various reasons.
Tonks goes upstairs with Harry to help pack his things. Her father is Muggle-born, and she’s a Metamoprhmagus, meaning she can change her appearance at will. (She changes her hair from violet to pink in Harry’s room.) She’s also an Auror, as is Kingsley; she only qualified a year ago and almost failed Stealth because she’s pretty clumsy. Harry asks if someone can learn to be a Metamorphmagus, and she divines that perhaps he’d like to hide his scar sometimes. She helps him pack (a bit sloppily, but household spells aren’t exactly her thing) and gets his belongings downstairs.
Lupin leaves a note for the Dursleys concerning Harry, and Moody casts a Disillusionment Charm on him so he can’t be seen. They go outside and mount their brooms once they get two distinct signals. Harry has one guard in front of him, behind him, and below him while the rest circle. At first he’s enjoying the flight, but it’s freezing up in the air, and Moody keeps making them change direction and double back to be certain that they’re not being followed. Finally, they touch down. Moody uses Dumbledore’s Put-Outer to turn out all the street lamps, then hands Harry a piece of parchment telling him that the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is located at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.
Three. Whole. Days.
No note like “Hey, we’re coming to get you, we just need some time, hang tight.” Just no word at all and then a group of people break into your house to take you away. On the flip side, I remember that I didn’t care at all when I first read the book because my favorite character was back, and I honestly didn’t think Harry had anything to complain about when Remus Lupin was standing in the foyer. Look, Harry! Someone nice who you trust! Don’t pout so much lil’ guy!
On a side note: the whole “I’m locking you in your room” bit from Vernon always struck me as particularly goofy from any perspective. Mainly because he must know that Harry could potentially magic open the lock on his door, or he wouldn’t tell him not to “steal” food or touch the television. But he decides to lock the door anyway, which is either incredibly neurotic or just comical overkill.
We get a slew of introductions, only a few of which really matter in the long run here. Dedalus Diggle is notable for being the rando in the top hat who greeted Harry at the Leaky Cauldron on his very first trip to Diagon Alley back in the very first book (and also bowed to him in a shop when Harry was even younger). We will later get to know Kingsley and Tonks better, and we meet the real Alastor Moody properly for the first time. I’ve always found his comment about Harry and other wizards blowing off their buttocks with their wands giggle worthy, but also wonderfully real-world adjacent; people who know their way around guns are usually the first people to wince when movie characters stick a pistol down the waistband of their pants for the same reason. It makes perfect sense for Moody to be that guy.
But still, this crew is on a rescue-and-deliver mission, and while I get that Harry’s got a bit of a legend built up around him, I cannot believe that these people stand in the doorway going “Aw yeah, he does look just like James, except for the eyes, yes, ah yes, he has his mother’s eyes,” like, if it’s really this obvious—and it must be because every flipping person who knew the Potters brings it up—then DON’T YOU THINK THAT MAYBE HARRY DOESN’T NEED TO HEAR IT ANYMORE, COULD YOU MAYBE JUST WHISPER BEHIND YOUR HANDS LIKE NORMAL SCHOOL CHILDREN.
For clarification, my understanding is that the reason why they couldn’t Apparate Harry to headquarters (even if he can’t do it himself, Side-Along Apparition could have still worked out) is because the Fidelius Charm placed on Number Twelve Grimmauld Place prevents it—and they don’t want to tell Harry where the headquarters are until he’s close to it for good reason.
Tonks is pretty adorable from the get-go and has the added bonus of being able to change her appearance at will, which is basically a dream that everyone has in their life at some time or another. She makes mention of both her parents in this chapter, who we will later find out are Ted Tonks and Andromeda… maiden name Black. Andromeda’s sisters are Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy. Needless to say, Tonk’s mother is the black sheep of her family—making her Sirius’ favorite cousin. Doesn’t stop Tonks from hating the first name her mother bequeathed her, Nymphadora. When I first read these books, I didn’t really get what her issue with the name was, but this time around I can’t blame her for loathing it; even the nicknames that you could draw from it don’t suit her in the slightest. Now I’m thinking of little Tonks at school, so pleased that the teachers tend not to use first names, but so aggravated that they keep called her “Miss Tonks.” The cutest.
I love that when Harry comes back downstairs, pretty much all the other members of the guard are poking at the Muggle kitchen oddities, while Remus is responsibly writing a letter on Harry’s whereabouts. <3 Always his lot in life, being one of the few rational wizards on the scene. Then we get our first proper look at/explanation of a Disillusionment Charm, which has the delightful descriptor of creating the sensation that a egg has been cracked over your head and raw yolk is running down. Anyone ever play that slumber party game when they were kids with the list of weird sensations: spider’s crawling up your back, getting bitten, all that stuff? The “crack and egg on your head” part was always the best, in my opinion. Now, Disillusionment Charms can be used to create Invisibility Cloaks, just not ones as god as Harry’s sooper special one. Eventually the charm wears off of those. Also, if wizards want to keep creatures like hippogriffs, they have to cast Disillusionment Charms on them to keep them invisible to Muggles. I feel like that is bound to cause more problems than it mitigates, though….
Now, this scene flying to Grimmauld Place is fairly anti-climatic from a reading standpoint. There’s potential, but nothing happens to them. Moody is paranoid, yet the worst that occurs is everyone freezing their bums off. But when you’re capable of juxtaposing it with what’s coming in the seventh book, when they leave Privet Drive the same way… no no no no. This is intentionally not-all-that horrific because it makes you lower your guard a little the next time, or at the very least makes you realize how different things are only two years on. The next time a trip like this takes place, people are going to die. It makes this blessedly uneventful journey something to cling onto.
Chapter 4—Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place
Harry is directed to think about the address on the note, and it pops up in front of him. (This is an example of how the Fidelius Charm works in realtime.) They tell him not to step too far inside once he enters the house. Moody undoes the Disillusionment Charm, then Molly Weasley greets him and tells him he might have to wait a bit for dinner—there’s a meeting for only the adults in the house, Order members. She leads Harry upstairs to Ron and Hermione; the whole place is dingy and near-derelict, and it looks as though it’s a home that belonged to dark wizards, lots of snake paraphernalia and house-elf heads mounted on the walls. When Harry gets to Ron and Hermione, his mood quickly turns sour. He’s not interested in their excuses about Dumbledore forcing them to keep silent. Eventually he goes off on them, bringing Hermione to tears.
He asks what the Order of the Phoenix is and they explains that it was a secret group started by Dumbledore the last time Voldemort came to power, currently made up of the people who fought against him last time. They haven’t been allowed to the meetings, but they used Fred and George’s Extendable Ears invention to listen in on them before Molly found out about the Ears and flipped. They know that certain members are tailing Death Eaters, and others are recruiting to the cause. And of course, some of them were keeping an eye on Harry. Ron and Hermione have been tasked with decontaminating the house because it’s so old and infested. Fred and George Apparate into the room (proving that they’ve passed their tests), and suggest that Harry chill out and use some Extendable Ears to listen to the conversation downstairs. Ginny comes in and informs them that it won’t work because their mother put an Imperturbable Charm on it, which is too bad because Snape is downstairs giving a very important report. They tell Harry that Bill is part of the Order and took an office job with Gringotts to be closer—one of the perks of that switch is that he seems to be hanging out with Fleur Delacour an awful lot, who got a job at the bank to improve her English. Charlie is also working for the Order from Romania.
Harry asks about Percy and everyone goes quiet. He’s warned not to mention him in front of Molly and Arthur. Apparently Percy got promoted to Junior Assistant of the Minister right after school term—and this was following an inquiry calling his competence into question for not realizing that something was off about Crouch when he’d been working for him last year. When he came to tell the family about it, Arthur called the move into question; it was strange for someone so young to get the position anyway, and apparently Fudge has been making it clear that anyone who supports Dumbledore should clear out of the Ministry. Because Fudge has never thought fondly of Arthur, Mr. Weasley suggests that Percy got this new job because Fudge intends for Percy to inform on the family. They had a massive falling out and Percy now lives in London. Molly tried to make reconciliations, but he slammed the door in his mother’s face. Apparently Percy thinks that Harry is a liar, and has been taking the Daily Prophet’s teachings to heart.
It turns out that Harry was making a mistake in not checking the paper past the front page. Though the Prophet has had no coverage of Voldemort’s return, they have been subtly smearing Harry, bringing up his name in reference to things that are hard to believe or out of proportion. Hermione is sure that it’s an edict from Fudge, trying to discredit him and the paper is building on the articles that Rita Skeeter wrote last year. Hermione says they didn’t report on the dementor attack, which they should have, and she suspects that they’re waiting to talk about the incident when if Harry gets expelled. Mrs. Weasley comes up and the twins vanish. She tells them they can all come down for dinner now because the meeting’s over. She also mentions someone called Kreacher, and when Harry asks about him, Ron explains that he’s a house-elf in this place and a crazy one at that. Hermione scolds him for it, saying Dumbledore agreed that they should be kind to him, but Ron is disturbed by the elf—who, granted, eventually wants his head mounted up on that wall like his mother, in the hallway.
The Order members who aren’t eating there file quietly out of the house, but Tonks knocks over an umbrella stand as they’re sealing the place up, which awakens a portrait of an older woman. She screams at them about being scum and half-breeds and filth who are defiling her home. No one can seem to silence her until Sirius bounds down the hall and gets the portrait curtains shut with Lupin’s help (not before she starts bellowing at him for being a traitor). Sirius turns to Harry and tells his godson that he’s just met his mother.
Number Twelve Grimmauld Place is located in the Borough of Islington, London. An ancestor of Sirius’ (not his mother) magically “persuaded” the Muggle occupants out, then took the house and put appropriate wizarding protections on it. The reason why the house was passed on to Sirius, even though his mother had disowned him, is a magical spin on English laws dealing with Entailed Estate. Basically, inheritance passes to the designated heir regardless of legal action or disinheritance. The only way you can break an entail is if no living descendant meets the conditions set down in the entail. This is why Sirius received a house he didn’t want, but following his death, he was capable of leaving it to Harry—there were no more members of his immediate family to receive it.
Sirius’ father and brother (Orion and Regulus Black) both died in 1979. His mother, Walburga, died in 1985, though it’s unclear how or why; she would have only been about sixty years old. This does mean that she died while Sirius was in Azkaban, which leaves me to wonder whether or not he was informed of it when it happened. If not, Dumbledore likely told Sirius via their correspondence in Harry’s fourth year: “Hey, it’s great to have you back on the team. P.S. Your mom is dead and her house is yours now.”
This does mean that Walburga lived out her last six years alone at Grimmauld Place with only Kreacher for company, and we can presume that the behavior of her portrait is indicative of what she was like toward the end of her life. This is not to say the Walburga Black wasn’t completely odious before those final years (we’ll receive pretty clear evidence that she was), but the unchecked torrential fury directed at anyone who disturbs the painting seems like a substantial mental deterioration. Her death meant that Kreacher was left alone in that house for a decade, which we will see the effects of in upcoming chapters. In other news, Walburga did not become a Black by taking her husband’s name; they were second cousins, both already named Black, which is just extra creepy-making.
So, Harry heads upstairs to talk to his friends, then realizes that he kind of needs to unload on them and make it clear that he’s pissed. And with that, we get the first appearance of what fandom calls CAPSLOCK HARRY, which is what happens whenever Harry decides to scream at people for a length of time. He gets a lot of flack for this as a character, which I don’t think is warranted. No, what he says isn’t nice, but you know what? It’s healthy. Harry is accustomed to hiding his thoughts and feelings from just about everyone because years of abuse have instilled that behavior in him. Even when he’s pushing back against the Dursleys, it comes in the form of sarcasm and blasé-ness. He never unloads. And ranting to his friends is a lot better for him than pointing a wand at his cousin’s throat. Ron and Hermione, being good friends, know that because the explosion isn’t unwarranted, the best they can do is apologize and try to make him feel welcome and included again.
They include Harry by telling them everything they know, which isn’t much at all. The twins and Ginny don’t really know much either, and it’s weighing on everyone. It makes sense that the adults aren’t keen to have a bunch of kids privy to their secret war plans, but it’s hardly surprising that this particular group of kids aren’t happy to be idle… especially considering what’s just gone down with Percy.
There’s so much we don’t see where Percy is concerned, but it takes a special brand of deluded to do what that boy does. Ambition driving you is one thing, but not realizing that your promotion is circumspect when you’ve just been subject to an inquiry at work over a lack of competence involving your superior? Given that specific charge, how would Percy ever imagine that his name would come up as a good candidate to assist the Minister of Magic? Of course, it’s entirely possible that Arthur’s accusations have already crossed his mind, and hearing his father give voice to them made him snap. It’s not a far stretch to guess that Percy has wanted to say all the things he finally lets loose on Arthur for years.
But it’s extremely relevant that one of the earliest effects of this renewed war sees a splinter in the family that very much defines the term family for the entire series. Because wars do that. They break families, they turn friends against one another. There are dangerous, wide-sweeping effects in war as well, but it’s easy to forget the smaller trespasses.
You knew that Harry throwing away the newspaper without reading it through was going to turn out to be a bad idea. We’re getting the full force of just how problematic it is for the wizarding world to be so insular. There is one major newspaper for the UK’s magical community. That newspaper is heavily influenced by the government, to the point where they will gladly take directives from the Minister of Magic. In the previous book, it was all about breaking it to us gently. By this book, there’s no question: the system has been broken for a long time, and this war is only going to make that more obvious.
But one thing I love about this book is seeing Ginny really come into her own as a character. She’s comfortable now and far less shy, and she’s showing every sign of spending too much time with the twins. Only difference is that she’s been smart enough to avoid getting their reputation. After flicking dung bombs at the door where the Order meeting is taking place (to test it for the Imperturbable Charm), her mother asks who left so many of them there:
“Crookshanks,” said Ginny unblushingly. “He loves playing with them.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Weasley. “I thought it might have been Kreacher, he keeps doing odd things like that. Now don’t forget to keep your voices down in the hall. Ginny, your hands are filthy, what have you been doing? Go and wash them before dinner, please….”
Give Ginny Weasley her own spy show. No one will ever suspect because she’s too unflappable. It should be called I Can Get Away With Anything.