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This week we’re going to find out how one is named a Hogwarts prefect and get our first glimpse of a butterbeer cap necklace. It’s Chapters 9 and 10–The Woes of Mrs. Weasley and Luna Lovegood.
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 9–The Woes of Mrs. Weasley
Harry can hardly believe he’s been cleared of the charges. No one is speaking to him so he tiptoes toward the door, breaking into a run by the time he reaches it. He tells Mr. Weasley the good news, then the judges start to file out and Arthur expresses his shock that Harry was tried by a full court. Everyone ignores them as they pass, including Percy. Arthur tells Harry that he’ll drop him back at Grimmauld Place on the way to fix a jinxed toilet, but they turn the corner and run into Lucius Malfoy talking to Fudge. Harry is thrown, having seen Lucius last in the graveyard where Voldemort tortured him. He wonders why Lucius came down to this level to see Fudge instead of going to his office; Arthur reckons he wanted to sneak into the courtroom. Once in the elevator, Harry asks how they can be sure Fudge isn’t under the Imperius Curse if he’s meeting with Death Eaters alone. Arthur tell him that Dumbledore seems certain Fudge is currently acting of his own volition. Before they leave the Ministry, Harry does as he’d mentally promised himself (if he’d won his case) upon entering the building–he dumps not just ten Galleons, but his entire moneybag into the fountain… though he does acknowledge that the fountain looks incredibly creepy.
Everyone is immensely relieved when Harry arrives back at headquarters. Ron and Hermione are ecstatic, and the twins and Ginny are dancing around chanting “He got off!” over and over again. Arthur tells Sirius about Lucius meeting with Fudge, and Mrs. Weasley gets everyone to sit down to lunch. Ron points out that Harry had to be cleared once Dumbledore showed up. Harry doesn’t mention that he wishes the headmaster had looked at him or spoken to him. As he’s thinking it, his scar acts up again. Sirius starts getting grumpy, and harry thinks it’s probably because he’d sort of been hoping Harry was going to get convinced and stay with him. Hermione insists that he knows Harry should be at Hogwarts, and he shouldn’t be selfish about it. Ron suggests that he probably really wants the company, but Hermione points out that he’ll have plenty of it since this is Order HQ. She thinks that maybe Molly is right, and that Sirius does confuse Harry with his father. When Harry and Ron take exception to that, she says that she just thinks he’s been lonely for too long.
As the holidays wind down, Harry gets keen to return to Hogwarts–headquarters aren’t very fun or interesting when you’re cleaning all the time and Mrs. Weasley won’t allow you in on any of the secret goings on. Eventually their letters arrive with lists for their schoolbooks. The new DADA book indicates that Dumbledore has found a teacher, which the twins tell Harry was apparently very hard to do this year. Ron has an extra piece of paper with his booklist, however… and a shiny new badge. Ron’s been made a prefect. Fred George are shocked–they were certain it would be Harry for Gryffindor. Hermione comes in with her badge and mistakenly thinks Harry has been made prefect too. She is also floored that Ron made the cut. Mrs. Weasley is over the moon, however, and tells Ron he gets a reward for it. He asks for a new broom–not a really expensive one, just a new one. She rushes off to get the supplies and so forth. The twins tease Ron mercilessly before Disapparating upstairs to laugh their butts off. Hermione is annoyed, but Ron is still pleased about his broom. Hermione asks Harry if she can borrow Hedwig to tell her parents the news, which Harry agrees to in a stilted, faux-happy kind of way.
Once she’s gone, Harry sits down and thinks through why he’s so upset–does he actually think he’s better than Ron? He knows that as a student he isn’t, but then he thinks of all he’s done to stop Voldemort and gets upset. Then he realizes that it’s really not fair for him to feel that way, and that Ron never gets rewarded like this. He resolves to be good to his friends and congratulates Ron when he gets back into the room. That evening, Mrs. Weasley throws a party instead of a sit-down meal and lots of people show up. Moody is finally available to confirm that there is a boggart in the writing desk. Tonks says she never made prefect because she couldn’t behave herself. Harry asks Sirius if he ever made prefect, which makes his godfather laugh; both he and James were too much trouble, so Lupin was the prefect. Harry feels better knowing this, and heads over to where the twins are purchasing non-tradeable goods from Mundungus for their Skiving Snackboxes. Harry wants them that Moody could be watching. He overhears Kingsley asking Lupin why Dumbledore didn’t make Harry prefect to show confidence in him. Lupin insists Albus will have his reasons, but now Harry’s feeling weird again. Mrs. Weasley heads upstairs early to take care of the boggart before bed.
Harry gets taken aside by Moody, who shows him a picture of the original Order of the Phoenix. Many of the people in the picture are dead now, and Harry gets his first glimpse of Neville’s parents. (Neville looks like his mom.) He sees Lupin and Sirius, and then his parents, standing on either side of Peter Pettigrew. Moody seems to think he should like the photograph, but Harry finds it disturbing seeing all those dead people and his parents flanking the man who betrayed them. He makes an exude and rushes upstairs, only to hear sobbing coming from the drawing room. It’s Mrs. Weasley, battling a boggart that keeps changing into different members of her family, dead. Eventually it turns into Harry lying dead as well. Harry urges Mrs. Weasley to leave the room, but she’s too caught up–luckily, Lupin, Sirius, and Moody sail in. Remus dispatches the boggart and Molly bursts into tears on his shoulder, admitting that she dreams of her family dead all the time, that she can’t believe they’ll all make it out of this alive, that they haven’t made up with Percy and maybe never will before it’s too late, that she worries what will happen to Ron and Ginny should she and Arthur die.
Lupin assures Molly that this is different from the last time they fought Voldemort; they are better prepared and there are fewer Death Eaters than before. Sirius tells her that once Voldemort is out in the open, the Ministry will come crawling back to them, so everything will be fine with Percy. (He is not keen to forgive them, however.) And Lupin lets Molly know that should anything happen to she and Arthur, of course Ron and Ginny would be taken care of. Molly asks them not to tell Arthur about this and apologizes to Harry for “being silly,” but Harry doesn’t think she’s silly at all. He heads upstairs to bed, amazed that he’d cared so much about a dumb prefect badge this evening. His scar hurts and he tells it to stop–an empty painting in the room tells him that talking to your own head is usually a sign of going crazy.
I’ve always loved the description of Harry sort of edging toward the exit, then speed-walking, then breaking into a run for the door. Mostly because I can recall moments in life when I’ve freaked myself out enough to do the exact same thing. Like, I used to have this game with myself as a kid where if I went downstairs to get a glass of water in the middle of the night, I’d try to be really calm about heading back upstairs. But then I’d start to get weird about the dark, and by the time I reached the staircase I was convinced there were GHOSTS EVERYWHERE and I was bolting up the steps like a rabbit.
So, you know. I feel you, Harry. Get away from those ghosts.
Arthur notes that Dumbledore doesn’t tell him the verdict, and I get that Albus is still probably trying to avoid contact with Harry, but literally all the guy had to do was call “He’s free, it’s gooooooood” as he rushed by to get to the elevator, it’s just not that hard, come on.
So, this is our first encounter with Lucius post-graveyard, and it’s chilling mostly due to Harry’s recollection. Lucius has a tendency to be one of those characters you pass off because he’s not really the top dog, and he’s not that tough. He’s a rich, preppy bully. Then you add to that the delightful portrayal of Jason Isaacs from the movies–who plays the character with a bit more camp and pomp than necessarily comes off on the page–and we’re not left with a guy who feels like much of a threat. Until Harry reminds us that the last time he saw this guy, he was laughing while Harry was tortured, and then we remember, oh yeah, Lucius is a disgusting human being and it’s not funny. But more importantly, Harry notes that it doesn’t make sense for Lucius to be down there for a meeting with Fudge, and that’s a clue; he’s clearly there to check out the Department of Mysteries on Voldemort’s orders. This is also the point at which he puts Order member Sturgis Podmore under the Imperius Curse.
Harry’s back and everyone is thrilled and pretending like they always knew it would be fine, which Harry sees through in a split second. Everything about this scene is pretty adorable, but I think my favorite part is Ron dishing mashed potatoes onto everyone’s plates because he takes after his mother more than he realizes, in that there’s a part of Ron that sort of naturally takes care of people when he’s not caught up in his own stuff.
It’s relevant that the instant Harry thinks of Dumbledore post-trial, the scar flares up, of course. Even more for the fact that he was feeling emotional about it at the time.
So Sirius is kind of pissy over Harry going back to school, and you have to appreciate the very mature way that both Ron and Hermione interpret the situation. Ron understands that Sirius has had it pretty rough lately and is reticent to pile on him, but Hermione wisely points out the most important thing here–Sirius has been lonely for a long time. She seems to think that the Order should be enough, but she’s not considering the fact that these people aren’t really dropping by to hang out with Sirius, and that they spend their time talking about a war that he’s forbidden from fighting in at this point. But the loneliness is really the key here; it’s easy to forget that Sirius had exactly no human contact for the twelve years he was in Azkaban, and then the next year on the run. Now he’s in contact with people, but they’re treating him more like a burden than anything. It’s not good that he sort of wants Harry to stick around, but it’s hardly surprising.
The twins mention Dumbledore’s difficulty in finding a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, which is a harbinger of more badness to come. They cite past teachers as an example of why it’s so hard to find replacements. Harry ticks them off, saying that Lupin was “sacked,” which isn’t actually true so much as “quit so he didn’t have to deal with ignorant prejudice and a potential angry mob.” Of course, it doesn’t really make sense to point this out when we later find out that no one has been able to hold this position for more than a year since Riddle asked for the job, decades ago. In fact, it’s sort of weird that the students don’t know about the “DADA professor curse,” as it’s just the sort of school story that you’d pass down to each new class of incoming students. (More than anything, this suggests that the choice to make it something that Voldemort directly caused was a decision that Rowling made later in the game.)
The prefect badge kerfuffle is sort of silly and sad for the fact that it really should have been addressed by one person with authority right off the bat. Anyone removed from the situation can see why making Ron the prefect instead of Harry was a good move; Harry’s got plenty to worry about without extra duties being heaped onto his plate. Dumbledore knows that Ron’s role in this is deeply important due to his bond with Harry, and is essentially encouraging him to step up by way of the prefect badge. You put it that way and no one gets the wrong idea. Instead, everyone’s riding over the situation roughshod. The twins are being total jerks about it, not bothering to consider that maybe Harry wanted to be a prefect, and razzing Ron for the only major accomplishment he’s been awarded within the ranks of his family. Hermione is surprised Ron got the badge, and does a very poor job of hiding it, which clearly stings. Moody is surprised by the choice and shows it. Kingsley is talking about it to Remus, and Harry overhears it, which leads him to wonder if perhaps Dumbledore doesn’t trust him. It’s just, guys, stop talking about the damn prefect badges. You can celebrate, but other than that, keep your mouths shut.
It helps for Harry to hear that his father was never a prefect, of course. Poor Remus Lupin had that honor, and while it’s hardly surprising, you can imagine how much worse things got among the Marauder set when that decision came down. We’ve got a prefect now! We can get away with anything. REMUS. REMUS, LET US IN THE PREFECT’S BATHROOM. WE WILL LEAVE IT JUST AS WE FOUND IT WE PROMISE. REMUS ADD TEN POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR FOR THE CREATIVE WAYS WE ARE WEARING OUR TIES TODAY. REMUS GIVE US DETENTION IN THE FORBIDDEN FOREST WE WANNA MEET A CENTAUR.
Moody shows Harry that Phoenix Order: The First Generation picture, and it might have been the nice gesture he was intending if he hadn’t insisted on telling Harry how mostly everyone he is looking at is incredibly dead or worse. On the other hand, I get the impression that Alastor has a hard time understanding the emotional states of others on his best days. At least he pays enough attention to follow Harry upstairs with his magic eye, or Molly would have been stuck up there even longer, while the boggart showed her each family member horrifically murdered. That Harry is among their number is obviously important, and Molly’s fears are easy to tap into; she knows there’s a good chance that some member of her family isn’t going to make it. There’s no way to make what she’s seeing funny, which makes you wonder how much harder it is for your average adult to get rid of a boggart. They’re honestly lucky that Remus’ fear is always the moon and that’s easy for him to ignore. I do wonder what Moody or Sirius would see….
Rowling had actually considered killing Arthur off in this book, and I’m dearly grateful that she didn’t. Obviously, killing Arthur would be awful any way you cut it because he’s wonderful. But more that anything, it would make scenes like this just a bit too on-the-nose. Once we’ve made it clear that this is something on Molly’s mind every day, and after she expressly requests that no one tell Arthur about it, losing Mr. Weasley would have had an anvil’s worth of not-subtlety. So it’s just as well.
It does have the helpful affect of allowing Harry to put things into perspective. This is interrupted by ouchy scar times, and the empty painting in his room telling him that he’s probably going bonkers. This very portrait has already laughed at him twice before in the book, and we will later discover that it’s a portrait of former Hogwarts Headmaster Phineas Nigellus Black. His portrait in Hogwarts allows him to report on Harry to Dumbledore. He’s also a douche. Such a lovely house.
Chapter 10–Luna Lovegood
Harry is woken in the morning by Ron who says they’re running late. The twins almost do poor Ginny in when they charm their trunks to go down the stairs magically. Molly and Tonks are taking Harry to Kings Cross, but they’re supposed to wait for Sturgis Podmore on Moody’s orders, or the guard will be a man down. Sirius follows them in dog form, though Molly tries to discourage him. He plays happily outside, chasing his own tail and barking and running at pigeons. Tonks is disguised as an old woman, and tells Molly they should get a move on, with or without Podmore. Everyone makes it to the platform without incident. Moody says they weren’t followed, but he’s going to report Sturgis to Dumbledore because it was the second time he’d been a no-show. Lee Jordan tells Harry he’s got a swell dog. They say rushed goodbyes too all the adults, Sirius attempts to hug Harry, which has Molly scold him for not being more dog-like, and then he runs after the train as it leaves the station.
The twins leave to talk to Lee and Harry suggests they find their compartment, but Ron and Hermione have to go to the prefect’s carriage for instructions. Harry goes with Ginny, noticing how many students stare as he passes, and wondering how many of them believe what the Daily Prophet has been saying about him. They meet up with Neville, who says the whole train is full, but Ginny looks in the compartment he’s just passed and says that only “Loony Lovegood” is in here, and that she’s all right. She opens that door and asks the girl inside if they can sit there. Getting permission, they file in and Harry gets his first look at Luna Lovegood, reading a magazine called The Quibbler, wearing a necklace of butterbeer caps, with her wand tucked behind her ear. She notes Harry and that she doesn’t know Neville. After being sort of flighty and indiscernible (as first impressions go) she goes back to her magazine and doesn’t pay them any attention until Neville reveals his birthday present–a mimbulus mimbletonia, a very rare plant. When he pokes the thing, it blasts everyone in the compartment with Stinksap. At that moment, Cho Chang opens the compartment door to day hello to Harry, then awkwardly leaves. Ginny cleans up the mess.
A hour later, Ron and Hermione show up, exhausted. The prefects for Slytherin are Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. For Hufflepuff, it’s Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbott. For Ravenclaw it’s Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil. At the mention of her name, Luna pipes up that Ron took her to the Yule Ball last year, and that she didn’t think he was a very good date because he wouldn’t dance with her. She then tells Ron that she probably wouldn’t have minded because she’s not big on dancing. Then she ducks back behind her magazine like she never said a word. Ron is understandably perplexed. He mentions that he can’t wait to get Crabbe or Goyle for something when they patrol at night, to which Hermione points out that they can’t abuse their positions. Ron insists that Malfoy will, and that he wants to make Goyle do lines, writing out that he “must not look like a baboon’s backside.” People laugh, but Luna shrieks and squawks and falls off the train seat. Ron thinks she’s making fun, but it’s clearly that amusing to the girl. Harry notices that the copy of the Quibbler she dropped has a headline about Sirius on it, and asks to borrow it. He realize that this must be the copy that Kingsley had given to Arthur to hand over to his godfather.
The article asks whether Sirius is a notorious mass murderer, or in fact, a singing sensation. The article suggests that Sirius is a false name and that the man is actually the lead singer of a band called The Hobgoblins, whose career ended when he was hit by a turnip at a concert and subsequently retired. The woman giving said information insists that he couldn’t have committed the murders “Sirius Black” was accused of because she was having dinner with him on the night in question. Harry assumes this is joke news, and flips to the article on Cornelius Fudge. This article (which, like the last article, contains the phrase BUT DOES HE? written in all caps after the first paragraph) insists that Fudge is trying to rest control of the banks from the goblins to get their gold, and that Fudge murders them on a regular basis. The are other articles that seem even more circumspect. Ron asks if the magazine has anything good in it, and Hermione says that everyone know The Quibbler is garbage. Luna informs them that her father is the editor and snatches the magazine back from Harry.
Draco enters the compartment with his cronies to leer. He teases Harry for not being a prefect and then makes a comment about “dogging” Harry’s footsteps, leading Harry and Hermione to get pretty darn nervous. It gets later and later, and Luna rolls up her magazine in favor of staring at everyone. Eventually the train pulls up and Ron and Hermione have to supervise students exiting the train. When Harry gets out, he notes that rather than Hagrid greeting the First Years, it’s Professor Grubbly-Plank, who took over for Hagrid as Care of Magical Creatures teacher when he was absent briefly the year before. He’s worried, but Ginny urges him on. He gets to the horseless carriages and notes that they are not horseless this year. They are being pulled by strange reptilian, skeletal horses with large bat-like wings. They give him the creeps and he can’t figure out why the school would be using them to pull the carriages when they’ve always moved fine on their own.
Ron and Hermione find him, and Ron expresses concern over Hagrid’s absence as well. He points Ron in the direction of the weird horse creatures, but Ron has no idea what he’s talking about. Harry brings him face to face with one, but he can’t see it. As they get into the carriage, Luna assures Harry that she’s always been able to see them, and that he’s just as sane as she is. He’s not comforted at that thought.
So, it ends up being a bad that Sirius accompanies Harry to the train station, but gosh darn, Sirius as a dog is the cutest flipping thing in the whole world. And if he’s chasing his tail and rushing pigeons, I think we have a pretty good idea of how stir crazy he’s been. Mostly, if I had a relative who could turn into a dog, I would demand it all the time.
Moody is all upset about Sturgis Podmore not showing up for guard times, not knowing that he’s been Imperius’d by Lucius Malfoy and attempted to break in to the Department of Mysteries early that morning. Podmore will be arrested and sent to Azkaban after he refuses to defend himself on trial. The kids all make it to Platform 9 and 3/4 before long, this time leaning stealthily against the barrier, which is one of my favorite mental images of nonchalant magic use. The kids get on board and Sirius bounds after the train and it’s sad, okay? Before that, Sirius-as-a-dog jumps up to give Harry a hug and Molly says something to the effect of “You need to act more like a dog, Sirius,” and clearly she has never seen a dog before because plenty of them hug people like that, but more importantly, it’s maybe more dangerous that you SAID HIS NAME OUT LOUD ON A TRAIN PLATFORM FULL OF WIZARDS.
This is our introduction to Luna Lovegood, who prompts the best response Harry has ever given to the “look, it’s The Boy Who Lived,” greeting:
“Had a good summer, Luna?” Ginny asked.
“Yes,” said Luna dreamily, without taking her eyes off Harry. “Yes, it was quite enjoyable, you know. “You’re Harry Potter,” she added.
“I know I am,” said Harry.
Should have started with that in first year, Harry. Neville finds the commentary hilarious, so Luna goes on to say she has no idea who he is. Neville quickly demurs and insists he’s nobody, but Ginny won’t stand for it and introduces him. You have to figure after going to the Yule Ball with Neville, Ginny is going to be more sensitive to the many ways that Neville drags himself down before others can do it. Of course, he gets a chance to show off his birthday present, an especially gross plant that explodes at the appropriate time to embarrass Harry in front of Cho because he’s a teenager and this stuff has to be horrific for him, even as while he’s busy being chosen and all that stuff.
Notably, Ginny has a hard time not laughing at Luna, but it never struck me as particularly mean-spirited, mostly because Luna is really funny. She may not intend to be, but her hyper-direct delivery is amazing. Does that count as laughing at or laughing with? I suppose the real problem is that Ginny deliberately hides the laughter from her; we can’t know what Luna would make of people finding her commentary humorous if they withhold from her. Also, everything she says about Ron taking Padma too the prom is correct, so high-five, Luna.
Harry gets his hands on The Quibbler, which is a deliberate send-up on old-school tabloids, the kind that were chock full of conspiracy theories. You’d expect stories like Batboy to show up in a rag like The Quibbler. Of course, while the content of its articles are pure conspiracy and full of testimony from unreliable informants, the basics that the articles adhere to are correct–Sirius is innocent, Fudge doesn’t have any respect for goblins. So The Quibbler has got its heart in the right place, just not its facts. Hermione makes the mistake of insulting it without knowing that Luna’s father is the editor, which she gets awkward over after Luna is visibly upset. Again, this is an example of Hermione having a hard time in how she relates to most people; even if Luna’s father weren’t the editor, the fact that she was reading the magazine indicates that she likes the publication. Hermione insisting that it’s rubbish in front of her is still rude.
Draco Malfoy arrives to make everything icky again, and his comment about dogging makes it pretty clear that Sirius’ cover as a dog is blown. So that’s no fun, and neither is his being a prefect, of course. I mean, I get that it’s a cool idea to give some students extra responsibility, but how is it possible that the prefect position isn’t flagrantly abused on a regular basis? And why would you ever give the position to a student who has rivalries of any kind?
This is the first time that Harry sees Thestrals, and we’ll later find out that it’s because he witnessed the death of Cedric–only people who have seen death can see these creatures. Many fans were confused that Harry couldn’t always see them, as he was present for the death of his mother, but he was an infant. The point is that you must understand the concept of death and accept it before you can see them. (This is also why Harry did not see them at the end of fourth year on the way back to the Hogwarts Express–he hadn’t accepted what had happened in the graveyard yet.) Luna was old enough to understand the concept of death when her mother died, so she can see Thestrals. Now Harry can too.
Thestrals are classified as a Beast by the Ministry. They are commonly viewed as omens of evil in the magic community, due to their association with death. Their tail hair is a powerful thing that can only be mastered by someone who can face death: it is a Thestral’s tail hair at the core of the Elder Wand. They are easily lured by the scent of blood and live wild in the forest, though they are domesticated by some wizards. They are predator animals that attack birds, and they are smart enough to understand human speech. (They know where to go when given a specific location, much like owls.) It is suspected that Hogwarts has the only large group of trained Thestrals in Great Britain.
Of course, on a first read, it’s just another occasion when Harry can see (or hear) something that other people generally can’t, so it’s unnerving to him and to us. But they will come in handy later….
Emmet Asher-Perrin thought about the Batboy musical and is going to have those songs playing on a loop in her head all day. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.