The Harry Potter Reread would quit caffeine, but it’s no quitter. So it won’t quit caffeine. Which means that everyone should probably look out.
This week we’re going to have a super un-fun vision, and then we’re going to visit some people in the hospital. Yeah, tons of laughs. It’s chapters 21 and 22 of The Order of the Phoenix—The Eye of the Snake and St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under theirappropriate 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 21—The Eye of the Snake
Hermione heads down to Hagrid’s hut on the weekend while Harry and Ron work through mountains of homework. She returns later in the day to inform them that Hagrid does not understand her warnings about Umbridge and isn’t likely to change his lesson plans. He also still won’t explain his injuries. Not all the students are pleased to see that Hagrid is back and school either. They head down to their first lesson of the year with him, and he takes the class into the forest and calls Thestrals to them. Harry is relieved, now being assured once and for all that he’s not seeing things. Two other kids in the class can see them as well; Neville and a boy from Slytherin. While Hagrid is teaching, Umbridge shows up and treats Hagrid like he’s slow, throwing him off the lesson. She goes round to the students and asks what they think. The Slytherins predictably throw him under the bus, and when Neville can’t summon an opinion on the Thestrals, Umbridge purposefully interprets his hesitation to mean that he’s too scared of Hagrid to admit he’s frightened of the lesson.
Hermione is furious by her treatment of Hagrid, knowing this is all down to her “half-breed” prejudices. She is pleased with the lesson, particularly with Hagrid’s decision to show them the Thestrals, and expresses a wish to see them herself, which she realizes is a faux-pas when Harry calls her out on it. Ron is surprised that so many kids in their class could see them at all, prompting the Slytherins to tease him about being able to see the Quaffle better if he witnessed a death. December arrives and Ron and Hermione have additional prefect duties along with their mountain of homework. Harry wants to spend Christmas away from Hogwarts for the first time; he can’t do Quidditch, he’s worried about Hagrid, and the D.A. meetings will stop once everyone goes home to the holiday anyhow. Hermione is going skiing with her parents, and only after Harry quizzes Ron about how he’s getting home does his BFF remember to tell Harry that he’s coming home with him for Christmas—Mrs. Weasley invited him weeks back and is expecting him. Now the only thing depressing Harry is the thought of Sirius alone in his mother’s house for Christmas.
Dobby decorates the Room of Requirement for the last D.A. meeting of the year, and Harry is happy he arrived early to get them down because all the decorations have his face on them with the tag “Have A Very Harry Christmas!” (Dobby clearly hasn’t stopped to think over what that would actually entail.) Luna arrives in time to point out the mistletoe above Harry’s head, which he jumps out from under. She tells him that was the correct course of action as mistletoe was often filled with nargles. Then Angeline, Alicia, and Katie show up and inform Harry that they’ve done try-outs for their three needed Quidditch replacements—and the new Gryffindor Seeker is Ginny Weasley. The D.A. lesson goes very well as they review the jinxes they’ve learned. Eventually everyone leaves in twos and threes, and Harry stays behind because Cho hasn’t left. They’re the only two left, and when he turns around… he finds that she’s crying. Cho tell him that she wonders if Cedric would have lived had he known all this stuff. Harry explain that Cedric did, but he didn’t stand a chance against Voldemort’s order to get rid of him. When Cho points out that Harry survived as an infant, Harry reminds her that no one really understands why that happened.
Cho apologizes for bringing Cedric up, divining quite correctly that Harry would rather not talk about someone whose death he witnessed. She tell Harry that he’s a good teacher and then points out that they’re standing under mistletoe. Harry tells her that it’s probably full of nargles. Cho steps closer to him, and….
…we get a rude little jump cut to a half hour later when Harry arrives at the common room. He thinks that maybe he doesn’t want to tell Ron and Hermione what happened, but Hermione figures it out pretty quickly. Ron thinks it’s hilarious until Harry informs them that she was crying through the whole thing. With both Ron and Harry at a loss, Hermione has to explain to the boys why Cho might be feeling conflicted over having a crush on Harry after dating Cedric. She asks Harry is he’s going to go on a date with Cho, and Harry is starting to feel really unsure about it. Ron eventually asks Hermione who she’s writing a long letter to—it turns out to be Krum. Ron grouches about it after Hermione heads up to bed, and Harry absently tries to console him, still thinking about Cho. He goes up to bed and dreams about Cho getting angry with him for not bringing her a bunch of Chocolate Frog cards, and Hermione insisting that he give her his Firebolt instead. But the dream shifts and suddenly Harry has become a snake, and he bites a man who stops him from completing a task.
Harry wakes in incredible pain, Ron standing over him. He vomits over the edge of his bed and struggles to tell Ron that his father has been attacked. Neville rushes to get help and comes back with Professor McGonagall. Harry explains to her what he saw in his sleep. She believes him and instructs him to put on his dressing gown and come with her to the headmaster’s office.
So I get that some of the kids are less-than-excited to have Hagrid back for teaching because he’s not the best teacher… but what about having their groundskeeper back? I mean, we’re never told who’s doing his other job while he’s away. It actually makes you wonder if Hagrid’s job would generally be tended to some other way if he were never around. Does Hogwarts always have a groundskeeper? Or did the role get built around Hagrid more or less?
I’d forgotten that Neville has also seen the Thestrals because of the death of his grandfather. It’s a clever parallel again between him and Harry that eventually bears out by the end of the novel when we find out about the prophecy. But who is the Slytherin boy? Do we ever find out? And then we have Hermione doing her thing, and not thinking about how callous it sounds to wish to see Thestrals.
So Draco talks about how Ron might see the ball better in Quidditch if he had seen someone die in his family. And it’s an awful comment, of course, but it’s also one that works on more than one level in the story… or at least it would have, if Rowling had gone with her original plan in this book. She has said in interviews that she originally planned to kill off Arthur Weasley here, but simply couldn’t bring herself to do it. If she had gone through with it, that would have made Draco’s comments a form of horrible foreshadowing. Which makes it extra terrible to read this time around.
Ron forgets to tell Harry that he’s invited home for Christmas, which can read as carelessness on Ron’s part (it is a bit, for sure), but it also proves just how much Ron considers Harry to be family at this point; it doesn’t even occur to him that Harry wouldn’t know he was coming home for the holidays because for him it’s such a clear given at this point. Aw, boys.
Dobby. Dobby with the decorations. Oh god. The hell. Oy. Dobby, what does having a “Very Harry Christmas” entail? Never mind, please don’t ever tell me.
Zacharias Smith, you are very annoying, and I maintain again that this is the problem with being a character who is created for the sole purpose of antagonizing people. He’s just “that guy” and we’re never given real good reason for it. He’s a haughty jerk and we’re meant to accept that and move on.
Harry gets a chance to talk to Cho following the D.A. meeting, and it starts out so cute and ends up so sad and complicated and made of great big feeling and HOGWARTS NEEDS A COUNSELOR. Seriously, the fact that no one is really available to help Cho work through this is wrong. And then Harry is left to help her work through it, which he’s in absolutely no condition to do. Even Cho knows this, she just can’t think of who else to unburden onto. And then the kissing thing happens.
Everything about Harry’s following conversation with Ron and Hermione is perfect. There are moments in this series when interactions and exchanges work so well to define the characters, and this is definitely one of those because the conversation is funny, awkward, and completely natural to the trio in particular. In fact, they include this conversation pretty much verbatim in the film, if I recall correctly, because you just don’t mess with what ain’t broke. But for all that Hermione is dismissive of Harry and Ron’s lack of emotionally development, the thing I love about this conversation is how Ron really gets how this feels on Harry’s end. He is equally perturbed and Harry needs the solidarity in that moment. Because no matter how insightful Hermione is in this moment (proving that even though she may not be very good at considering other people’s feelings where her interests are concerned, she is excellent at defining them when they don’t concern her), Ron is right. It really is too much to reasonably handle.
And then Harry is thinking that he wishes Sirius would show up in the fireplace and give him advice and about girls, and oh, Harry, no you don’t. You really really don’t.
His dream is hilariously dream-like (give me all your Chocolate Frog cards or your most prized possession for reasons!), though this time when the dream shifts to the snake part and Harry notes that his body “felt smooth, powerful, and flexible” I was like, hey now, that sounded like it was about to go somewhere really dirty and I did not notice that the first time I read the book.
And then he wakes up in excruciating pain, vomiting over the side of his bed while he struggles to tell Ron that his dad has been attacked, and… yeah, how is he really supposed to care about what’s happening with Cho right now? I mean, it’s sad, and you feel bad, but if I were in his shoes, I’d have a hard time keeping perspective as a normal teen when my body was slowly becoming forfeit in a war against ultimate evil that plenty of people didn’t even believe was going on.
Chapter 22—St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries
McGonagall takes Harry and Ron up to Dumbledore’s office where Harry explains the dream to Dumbledore (and is aggravated that the headmaster won’t look at him). Albus asks from what perspective Harry saw this incident and Harry tells him that he was the snake. Dumbledore addresses two portraits of former headmasters, asking them to make certain Arthur is found “by the right people.” After explaining that those headmasters were renowned enough to have portraits in other important wizarding institutions, he wakes Fawkes and tell the bird that they need “a warning.” Fawkes vanishes. He then consults a strange instrument that makes a snake out of smoke, then divides into two when Dumbledore asks something about “essence divided.” Then the headmaster Everard returns to his portrait, explains that he sounded the alarm, and that Arthur was brought up in very bad condition. The other headmaster, Dilys, confirms that Arthur was brought to St. Mungo’s. Dumbledore asks McGonagall to gather the other Weasley children. She asks about Molly and Albus says that Fawkes will tell her once he’s finished “keeping a lookout for anybody approaching,” but notes that she may already know due to her family clock.
Dumbledore then retrieves a kettle, and goes to wake a portrait for an old Slytherin headmaster named Phineas… but Phineas is disinclined to wake. The other headmaster portraits shame and berate him for it—it would seem that all Hogwarts headmaster portraits are honor-bound to help the current headmaster. Dumbledore asks Phineas to send a message to his other portrait, one which Harry realizes hangs in Grimmauld Place, the voice that was razzing him while he stayed there in the summer. Albus tells Phineas to alert Sirius that Arthur was injured and that the Weasleys and Harry are coming to him. The twins and Ginny arrive, all looking shocked. Dumbledore explains what has happened and tells them that they will use the kettle as a portkey to go to Grimmauld Place (it’s easier to get to St. Mungo’s from there). One of Fawkes’ feathers appears as a warning—Umbridge knows something is up, and Dumbledore instructs McGonagall to stall her. Everyone reaches out to touch the Portkey, and in the moment before Harry does, he meets Dumbledore gaze and feels a surging powerful hatred, a desire to strike the headmaster like the snake he’d dreamed he was—
—and then they’re all back at Grimmauld Place, Kreacher making nasty remarks and Sirius shouting him out of the room. Sirius looks unkempt and smells like he’s been drinking, and he asks what’s happened, clearly concerned for Arthur. The twins and Ginny want to know what Harry saw, so he explains what happened in the dream, leaving out the part about him being the snake. The three of them are keen to leave for the hospital, but Sirius stops them, explaining that they can’t simply show up at St. Mungo’s immediately after Arthur has been hurt, before they’ve even notified his wife, that it will throw suspicion on Harry and his abilities. He tells them that this is what being part of the Order of the Phoenix is about, knowing that there are things worth dying for, and that Arthur won’t be pleased if they mess with the delicate work they’re doing. Fred retorts that Sirius isn’t out there risking his neck for anyone, which is very much the wrong thing to say, but Sirius keeps his temper in check and tries to keep everyone calm. Ginny is the first one to see reason, and Sirius passes butter beer and around and encourages them all to settle.
Harry tries to calm himself, but he can’t figure out why he felt as though he was the snake, or why he’d felt such hatred toward Dumbledore before leaving Hogwarts. A message arrives via Fawkes from Molly, and she tells the kids that Arthur is alive, she’s going to the hospital, and they have to sit tight. The night is long and the Weasley children are wrecked, and Harry and Sirius can do nothing but watch them and try not to take up too much space. Mrs. Weasley finally arrives at near-five in the morning and tells them that Arthur is going to be fine, and that Bill is sitting with him now. Sirius call for Kreacher to make breakfast, but the house-elf does not emerge, so he and Harry go about it. Mrs. Weasley stops Harry and drags him into a hug, telling him that they might have found Arthur too late if it weren’t for him. Sirius tells Molly that he’d be happy to have the family stay with him for as long as they need to, Christmas included, and Mrs. Weasley is more than happy to, since they’ll be closer to the hospital that way. Harry takes Sirius aside and explains what really happened in the vision and his feeling toward Dumbledore before they left. Sirius insists that he’s he needs food and rest and that everything is fine.
Harry doesn’t sleep that morning. After a morning nap everyone gets up to go to St. Mungo’s with Moody and Tonks as their escorts. They travel into the center of London and approach what appears to be a closed down department store. Tonks speaks to a chipped dummy about seeing Arthur, and everyone disappears inside. They end up in the reception of a wizard hospital, where Harry learns that wizards call the worker there Healers rather than doctors. The portrait of Dilys Derwent hangs there (it would seem that she was a Healer at St. Mungo’s first before taking up the headmistress position at Hogwarts). They are directed to the ward Arthur is in and the family and Harry head in to see him. Arthur is in good spirits; he feels fine, but something about the snake’s venom is keeping the wounds open, so he has to keep taking Blood-Replenishing Potion for now. He taks about the other people in the ward with him, but the twins want to ask him about what he was doing for the Order, prompting Molly to usher them all out and send in Tonks and Moody. The twins whip out the Extendable Ears to listen in on the conversation, and offer Harry one. They’re talking about the snake, about how it was likely a lookout for Voldemort, since he hasn’t had any luck breaking into the Ministry to get what he wants. Molly points out that Dumbledore seems concerned for Harry now, which doesn’t surprise Moody at all; Harry doesn’t get it, but if Voldemort is possessing Harry…
…and that’s about as far as it gets before all the kids are standing there, dumbstruck.
And now to the first time that we’ve seen Dumbledore since Harry’s trial… and he still won’t look at Harry, and I have to give the kid props for patience, because I would have not been able to keep my mouth shut about it for this long. He hears voices inside the office before they head in, and we find out that Albus has been talking to the headmaster portraits. This is the first time in the series that we’re really finding out about their purpose in all hanging about in the office, and all the work that they do for the school. And most of them seem to be pretty good about it, taking the job very seriously… except for Sirius’ ancestor, Phineas Nigellus Black (the most unpopular headmaster the school has ever had, I remind you).
Phineas died in 1925 at the age of 78, though I’m not certain if he was headmaster at that time. He had a brother named Sirius (the First) who died at age eight. He named his first son after his deceased brother, and had another son also named Phineas, who he disowned for caring about Muggle rights. Ah, prejudice. It’s harder to keep in the family than the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black would prefer.
But back to that portraits–it’s really funny, if you think about it. Getting one made as a headmaster has a very specific purpose; you’re agreeing to help future heads of Hogwarts in having it painted, as the portraits say in this chapter. But we discussed earlier in the reread how portraits work—you essentially have to teach them to be like you, to know what you know. So Phineas gets his portrait made and teaches it to be unhelpful because he honestly just doesn’t give a f*ck. Perhaps his second portrait at Grimmauld Place influenced that too? It brings up an interesting question; if you have more than one portrait, do you only have to teach one to be like you and then it spills over into any other paintings? Or do you have to do it separately each time? The former seems more likely.
Before Harry and the Weasley kids leave, Harry finally looks Albus in the eye and there’s all this hatred and anger and again, everyone really should have told Harry about the mean old Dark Lord in his brain. Because this? This is exactly what you don’t want to happen. We’ll get more into Legilimancy in upcoming chapters, but I’m curious as to how consciously Voldemort is navigating this connection between them at this point in time.
They arrive at Grimmauld Place and Sirius smells like booze and because he’s depressed and unstable and trapped and drinking his feelings. And then he gets everyone else a drink, but that’s only after Fred goes for the low blow and taunts him about being useless to the cause, and I get it Fred, your dad was attacked and you don’t know if he’s okay, but this is not what anyone needs right now. And it helpfully contributes to the pile of issues that eventually lead Sirius’ to extreme recklessness and death. So there’s that.
The kids have to wait, and we get this great moment of connection between Sirius and Harry that I’ve always loved:
Fred fell into a doze, his head sagging sideways into his shoulder. Ginny was curled like a cat on her chair, but her eyes were open; Harry could see them reflecting the firelight. Ron was sitting with his head in his hands, whether awake or asleep it was impossible to tell. And he and Sirius looked at each other every so often, intruders upon the family grief, waiting… waiting…
I think most people know what that feels like. Not belonging to that circle of grief in the same way, but needing to be there to offer whatever is needed. Molly comes in and it turns out that Arthur is all right, and Sirius offers to house everyone because it’s helpful to them but also because we all know he’d love the company. We get foreshadowing when Sirius calls Kreacher down to make lunch and he doesn’t appear, which should be a gigantic red flag, but we’ve been given the sweet relief of knowing Arthur is alive, so it’s easy to miss when you’re first reading the book, I think.
Harry tries to ask Sirius about what’s going on, and he insists that Harry not worry about it. I’m assuming that Sirius knows about Harry’s potential connection with Voldemort, but it’s entirely possible he doesn’t, and if so, that frames their conversation in a completely different light. Hm.
The hospital trip is hilarious, with all of Rowling’s usual wit and commentary with the ward names and the patients and such. And it’s great to see Arthur and to hear about everyone’s strange conditions, but then the kids are shoved out of the room (great job, Fred and George) and they eavesdrop and find out that Voldemort is kind of possessing Harry and THIS IS WHY YOU TELL THE KIDS STUFF, YOU GUYS, BECAUSE THIS IS NOT HOW YOU WANT ANYONE TO LEARN THAT YOUR SUPERKID IS MAYBE TOUCHED WITH ALL THE EVIL.
A lot of really screwy stuff could have been avoided, is all I’m saying.