The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 29 and 30

The Harry Potter Reread is going to have a slumber party, and you’re all invited! But only once we figure out how to download people into internet-space. So it’s gonna be a while.

This week we’re going to see off the Weasley twins and have a good time after a Quidditch game (for the first time in the long time). It’s chapters 29 and 30 of The Order of the Phoenix—Career Advice and Grawp.

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 29—Career Advice

Summary

Hermione is busy over the Easter break telling Harry that he should go back to Snape for Occlumency lessons (Harry lies and claims that Snape said he could handle things on his own now that he’s got the basics), and drawing up studying timelines for the boys. She asks if Harry and Cho argued again, and when Harry explains that the fight was about Marietta, Ron launches off in tirade, which lets Harry think about the terrible things he saw in the Pensieve. He keeps going over it in his mind, and tries to keep away from people as the break goes on. Ginny finds him in the library bearing a chocolate Easter egg for him from her mom, and asks what’s bothering him. Harry tells her that he wants to talk to Sirius, and Ginny reckons they could figure out a way, saying that after living with the twins her whole life, you sort of believe anything is possible. They’re chased out of the library for having chocolate. (Way to ruin the moment, Madame Pince.)

Career Advice is upcoming for the fifth years, and there are loads of pamphlets for the students to read to consider what they’d like to do. As the trio are looking them over, the twins approach Harry and let them know that they’re planning on a massive diversion the next day, and that it could give him time to talk to Sirius. Harry decides to go for it—using the knife from Sirius to break into Umbridge’s office (since hers is the only fireplace not being watched by the Ministry). Hermione thinks Harry is crazy to attempt it. Harry wakes the next day feeling extremely anxious. He looks out the window and sees Hagrid limp back to his hut from the forest. Hermione tries to deter Harry all day by whispering what terrible things might happen to him if he breaks into Umbridge’s office. They have Potions, and Snape handles the situation by ignoring Harry entirely. Harry actually has a good lesson for once until Draco smashes his potion and Snape decides that’s reason enough to give him zero marks again.

Harry nearly forgets his career counseling session and arrives a few minutes late to McGonagall’s office to find Professor Umbridge there as well. He tells McGonagall that he had thought about being an Auror, and Minerva gives him all the advice necessary if he wants to continue (he needs very high marks, and must be willing to train for a few years after school) while Umbridge interrupts with little coughs every other second. She finally stops McGonagall and points out that Harry is not receiving good enough marks in her class, which leads McGonagall to insult her teaching. This basically leads to the biggest smack down in Hogwarts history (probably), where the two of them continue to shout each other down even after Harry has bolted from the room

Umbridge is in a horrible mood during their DADA lesson, and Hermione is continuing to harass Harry about his plan to break into the woman’s office. (Ron wants Harry to do what he wants.) When the diversion happens, Harry makes the last second decision to bolt for Umbridge’s office. He breaks in and uses floo powder to call up Grimmauld Place. Lupin is sitting at the table in the kitchen and calls Sirius down. Harry tells them what he saw in the Pensieve and both men try to explain to Harry the circumstances of James and Snape’s terrible relationship and reassure him that James grew out of that nasty streak. Lupin asks how Snape reacted to Harry seeing the memory, and Harry tells him that his Occlumency lessons are over, causing both Remus and Sirius to flip out. Harry hears a noise and realizes someone is coming, so he exits the fireplace and gets the Invisibility Cloak over him just in time to hide from Filch, who is in Umbridge’s office to get an Approval for Whipping order against the twins. Harry leaves the office and heads downstairs to see what they’ve have done.

It turns out that they created a swamp inside the school. Most of the students are assembled in the Great Hall as the twins are cornered by Umbridge; Filch arrives and asks permission for the whipping, which she acquiesces to gleefully. But Fred and George have different plans—they announce the location of their new Diagon Alley premises and a discount on their products to any Hogwarts student who uses them to help get rid of Umbridge. Then they call their brooms from her office and sweep out into the evening, leaving behind their formal education for good.

Commentary

It sucks that Harry is freaking out, but I love this all the same:

Ron went into a rant about Marietta Edgecombe, which Harry found helpful. All he had to do was look angry, nod, and say “yeah” and “that’s right” whenever Ron drew breath, leaving his mind free to dwell, ever more miserably, on what he had seen in the Pensieve.

I mean… we’ve all been there, right? Just keep nodding. “Yeah.” “Uh-huh.” “Totally.”

What impresses me in Harry consideration of what he saw in the Pensieve is that he fails to really let anyone off the hook. He even notes that Remus stayed out of the incident rather than stepping in and helping. This comes, of course, from Harry’s personal experiences with bullying, his understanding of just what allows bullying to happen and how. I noticed that there are several mentions of Vernon in this chapter, particularly dealing with his various manners of abuse, and I have to figure that he’s been pushed to the front of Harry’s mind due to what he’s seen.

Harry gets all verklempt over the egg that Mrs. Weasley sends him for Easter, clearly wishing that he had a closer parental figure to confide in and itching at his necessary silence with Sirius. Ginny is eager to help and tells Harry that she’s pretty sure anything is possible given her upbringing with Fred and George, and Harry thinks that perhaps the chocolate has made him feel better just then. But I reckon it’s just Ginny. In fact, we could potentially cite this as the first moment when Harry gets an inkling of feeling toward her, now that his breakdown with Cho is basically set. It’s pretty cute.

Career Advice. Ha. Due to how the magical education systems works, it seems that many jobs in the wizarding world come down to your testing scores in various subjects. We only get word of a few that require additional training, but even then, the basis for most of these jobs come down to school requirements. I wonder if people ever bypass them, even if their grades are less-than-stellar? I’d hope so. And then there are the jobs that seem to require very little prep; such as working in Muggle relations, which only requires that you have taken your O.W.L.s in Muggle Studies. Which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the importance that the magical world places on those relations.

The twins tell Harry that they’ve got a diversion planned that can give him time to talk to Sirius, and this reminds me that I forgot to mention last time how aggravatingly obvious Umbridge’s comment about her fireplace is. She’s like “The Ministry is watching all fireplaces except for mine, teehee.” And maybe she thought she was being smart, that she’d catch Harry doing precisely what he ends up doing by slipping him that piece of info, but it’s like a sledgehammer subtlety wise. THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT IN A CHAPTER OR SO. Also, we know that Harry was given a special something from Sirius for communicating purposes, and it just irks that he doesn’t remember it.

Hermione badgering Harry about not going through with the Umbridge office break-in is just a bit over-the-top in this chapter, but we do get this hilarious gem:

“What do you think about this?” Hermione demanded of Ron, and Harry was reminded irresistibly of Mrs. Weasley appealing to her husband during Harry’s first dinner at Grimmauld Place.

D’awwww. Now you know how they’re going to be as parents. Not terribly surprising.

Harry gets to Potions and is happy to be ignored by Snape (a tactic that he notes was a favorite of Vernon’s like I mentioned above), and actually manages to have a good class since he’s not being belittled and tripped up by his professor—he makes a successful potion and has a relatively easy time of it, too. So, there you go. We’re given clear indication that Harry might actually be fine at Potions if Snape would stop being a crappy teacher and singling him out every lesson. Further proven when he manages to turn in good work, and Snape refuses to give him points because Draco breaks his vial.

Then Harry gets to his career advice session, and we get one of the best confrontations of the whole series, provided to you by Professor McGonagall’s sheer perfection as a human being. It’s all passive-aggressive teeth-gritting until Umbridge tries to make light of Harry’s aptitude for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Suddenly, things get interesting:

“I’m terribly sorry to contradict you, Minerva, but as you will see from my note, Harry had 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.”

…AW YISS McGONAGALL, DO IT.

“I think you’ll also find,” said Umbridge, her voice very cold now, “that the Ministry looks into the records of those applying to be Aurors. Their criminal records.”

“— unless you’re prepared to take even more exams after Hogwarts, you should really look at another —”

“— which means that this boy has as much chance of becoming an Auror as Dumbledore has of ever returning to this school.”

“A very good chance, then,” said Professor McGonagall.

IT IS HAPPENING, ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE.

“Potter has no chance whatsoever of becoming an Auror!”

Professor McGonagall got to her feet too, and in her case this was a much more impressive move. She towered over Professor Umbridge.

SPEAK, MY AMAZONIAN HIGHLAND QUEEN.

“Potter,” she said in ringing tones, “I will assist you to become an Auror if it is the last thing I do! If I have to coach you nightly I will make sure you achieve the required results!”

WHERE IS THAT BOOK, THO? I NEED THAT BOOK. HARRY POTTER AND THE YEAR THE McGONAGALL KICKED HIS ASS FOR AUROR EXAMS.

“The Minister of Magic will never employ Harry Potter!” said Umbridge, her voice rising furiously.

“There may well be a new Minister of Magic by the time Potter is ready to join!” shouted Professor McGonagall.

OH YOU KNOW SHE WENT THERE.

“Aha!” shrieked Professor Umbridge, pointing a stubby finger at McGonagall. “Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Of course! That’s what you want, isn’t it, Minerva McGonagall? You want Cornelius Fudge replaced by Albus Dumbledore! You think you’ll be where I am, don’t you, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister and headmistress to boot!”

“You are raving,” said Professor McGonagall, superbly disdainful. “Potter, that concludes our career consultation.”

LIKE SHE GOTTA WORK THAT HARD TO GET YOUR JOB DOLORES. LIKE IT’S EVEN GONNA BE. THAT. HARD.

*gets down from office chair* *makes cup of tea* *calms breathing* I’m… I’m okay now.

And then Harry runs off while they’re still busy screaming at one another, and can the book just be over now? I feel like that was all I really needed. For my health.

Hermione lays into Harry again about the inadvisable decision he’s about to make breaking into Umbridge’s office, and this time Ron tells her to quit, which I appreciate. She’s viewing the behavior as reckless, but the fact of the matter is, recklessness typically belies a lack of forethought. And that’s kind of the opposite of Harry’s M.O. He has his moments as a person where he does supremely stupid things, but as he thinks back to Snape’s memory in this chapter, he’s not like his dad—risk doesn’t make things fun for him. And when something is dangerous to him or anyone else (provided that he truly believes it’s dangerous), Harry agonizes over it his head. He never really takes his actions lightly. So if he really needs to do something, you just kinda have to let him.

And he does have to talk to Sirius, so he goes for it and gives a call to Grimmauld Place. He gets both Sirius and Remus on the line, which I feel is extra important in this case—Remus has a leveler head than Sirius, so his judgement carries more weight. But even Harry’s godfather is in top form here; he makes himself present and helpful to his godson, knowing that it’s an incredibly important talk. In fact, we can see here all the ways that Sirius might have continued to mature if the circumstances had been different. When Harry points out that James only started in on Snape because Sirius was bored, we get this interesting exchange:

“I’m not proud of it,” said Sirius quickly.

Lupin looked sideways at Sirius and then said, “Look, Harry, what you’ve got to understand is that your father and Sirius were the best in the school at whatever they did — everyone thought they were the height of cool — if they sometimes got a bit carried away —”

“If we were sometimes arrogant little berks, you mean,” said Sirius.

Lupin smiled.

Two things. 1) Sirius is completely willing to admit that he screwed up as a young person and it was not okay. That’s remarkably self-aware given his behavior of late, and gives us a better idea of what Sirius would have evolved into given time to heal away from that horrible house. It’s more the remarks you would expect from the man we saw in GoF, the same one who talked of judging a man by how he treats those who are less privileged than him. 2) Lupin’s reactions here seem to indicate that he is actually surprised to hear Sirius admit those things. Sirius says he isn’t proud of himself, and it earns him a sideways glance, as though Remus is caught off-guard by the frankness and shame implicit in those words. That isn’t a statement by the man he knew as a teenager, that is a statement from an adult who takes responsibility for his actions.

There are several other aspects here that I’d tag for importance. The behavior that Harry marks as aggravating in James (playing with the Snitch, mussing his hair) trigger nothing but fondness in Sirius and Remus. Part of this is certainly wrapped up in the recollection of a loved one who has passed, but it’s also true that the dumb stuff you and your friends do as kids become sort of cute to recall when you get older. (Case in point: a friend and I used to practice stage combat between the aisles at our local Borders Bookstore when we were teens, and I know for a fact that we frightened lots of parents. But it’s hilarious to think back on.) Unlike the acts of bullying, those other behaviors James displayed are basically harmless, hence the positive associations. Additionally, Remus takes responsibility for never standing up to his friends, but Sirius allows that he had the ability to make them feel incredibly guilty when occasion called for it. I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t a direct reference to Remus’ reaction following the Whomping Willow incident—though I am sure there were plenty of other situations where Remus made his friends feel bad. He’s a Marauder, and that comes with a certain penchant for manipulation and bending environments to your liking, after all.

Thing is, I don’t think readers tend to give Remus enough credit as a character. There’s this idea that because he was so excited to have friends as a werewolf, he just let said friends walk all over him. And I find that really hard to buy. Look, Remus likes trouble-makers and pranksters—his relationship with Tonks is a clear signal there. It seems more than likely that he did his fair-share of the Maraudering. I doubt his brand was as mean-spirited as James or Sirius’ could get, but that doesn’t make him an angel. On the other hand, Remus is far more mature than Sirius or James were ever capable of getting, thanks to the years he was allowed to live following Voldemort’s fall. And given that, I can’t help but be interested by his insistence that adult James was not the man Harry saw in that Pensieve. I’m sure that he wants Harry to think well of his father, of course, but I also think that he wouldn’t be quite so forgiving if he didn’t believe what he were saying. Unreliable narration is a factor here because they were friends, but Remus is going to be less prone to rose-colored past glasses than Sirius just by virtue of being a pragmatist. And he still insists that this memory is a bad incident to judge James Potter by.

Why is that? I think that Remus’ lack of sympathy for Snape here gives us a pretty good idea of the regular dynamic between Severus and James, one that I think gets entirely lost once we’ve witnessed the memory—the endless back-and-forth of their rivalry. James’ actions that day after O.W.L.s were not their usual playbook. Normally, they were going at each other like Harry and Draco. (Although I’d argue that the positions are reversed, and James is more like the Draco of that rivalry—family background-wise that reversal is spot on for both.) None of this diminishes the horrific aspects of that memory even a little, but it’s relevant that this was not how they normally interacted with Snape. If it were, I’d expect a lot more cringing on Remus’ end, and a lot more apologizing. In fact, given Sirius’ forthrightness in this chapter, I’d expect it from him too. They make the point that this antagonism never ended between James and Snape—Harry asks if his mom was okay with that, and Sirius says that James just never hexed him in front of her. To me, that implies that Lily knew this dynamic never fixed itself, and she simply turned away from it.

So the real problem comes back to the same issue I mentioned before; there’s just not enough information about the development of this generation, and we have to do a lot of guessing. I think this chapter was intended to make the reader feel a bit better about James, the same way it was meant to calm Harry, but it was the wrong way to counter. Instead, we wind up with more questions.

But lets move on to something better, and talk about the departure of the Weasley twins, which has been a long time coming. (Basically this whole book.) You know, as much as we can go back and forth on what we think of Fred and George’s antics, this moment cements their ultimate rightness for me. I don’t mean morally necessarily, but… they’re sort of the physical manifestations of chaos and unpredictability when you get right down to it. Think about it—Hogwarts, which is busy fighting back against Umbridge and Ministry interference, basically wraps the twins up in a big hug and sends them on their way. Their recruitment of Peeves to the cause is the tidy bow on top of that statement because we know that no one gets Peeves to bend to their whims. And despite how awful the poltergeist is in a practical sense, there is nothing more “Hogwarts” than his very presence.

“Give her hell from us, Peeves.”

And Peeves, whom Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset.

I mean, if that doesn’t choke you up a bit. Come on.

 

Chapter 30—Grawp

Summary

The departure of the twins is already the stuff of school legend, and Umbridge and Filch cannot seem to remove their swamp from the fifth floor. Peeves causes havoc non-stop now, and the students are using all sorts of Weasley Wizard Wheezes to cause trouble and get out of class; everyone is using the Skiving Snackboxes in DADA specifically. Montague’s parents show up, and the trio discuss whether or not they should tell Madam Pomfrey about how he obtained his injuries. Then Hermione starts badgering Harry about his Occlumency lessons again (he’d had to pretend that was the reason he’d called on Sirius, since he doesn’t want to tell them about Snape’s memory). When Harry finds out that Ron told Hermione that he is still having dreams, he pretends it’s a dream about how Ron sucks at Quidditch to get back at him. Low blow, Harry.

They head to the final match between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, but Hagrid finds Hermione and Harry in the stands and asks them to come with him into the forest. He’s on the outs with the centaurs for saving Firenze’s life; apparently half of Firenze’s herd tried to beat him to death when he decided to teach at the school. But that’s not the reason Hagrid wants Harry and Hermione to come with him. He chose the match so Umbridge might not notice their absence and takes them to deep into the heart of the forest. He tells them that he’s worried he might get sacked any day and that someone has to be around for who they’re about to meet—Hagrid’s half-brother Grawp. Hagrid brought him back because Grawp is something of a runt to giants, and the other ones were mean to him; Hagrid’s mother left Grawp behind when he was young because of how small he was. Hagrid is keeping him in the forest tied to a couple massive trees, since he can’t just roam free. He’s trying to teach him English, and wants the trio to help him if he has to leave.

Harry and Hermione have already agreed to these terms (though they wish they hadn’t), and Hagrid introduces them to Grawp, who almost plucks Hermione clear off the ground, then hits Hagrid when he’s stopped. As they leave the forest they are cornered by Firenze’s herd, who only leave Hagrid be because he’s got kids with him and they won’t harm “foals.” Hermione is beside herself that Hagrid would do this to himself or them. When they make their way back to the pitch, the match has already completed and students are singing “Weasley is Our King”… except this time it’s a complimentary version being sung by Gryffindors. Somehow, the team miraculously won and nabbed the Quidditch Cup. Harry and Hermione decide to leave the news about Grawp for a later date so Ron can bask in glory.

Commentary

“Pull a Weasley” as a euphemism for ‘swanning off in a fabulous fashion’ is perfect, by the way.

So, at this point all bets are off and the school is ferociously combating Umbridge. It’s so vindicating; the swamp sticking around on the fifth floor, Peeves trashing the castle, the teachers being complicit in the disruptions, the students using the Skiving Snackboxes and insisting that they’ve come down with Umbridge-itis. The narrative says the headmistress puts four classes in detention, but she can’t very well use that special quill on all of them, can she? She’s losing every inch she’s gained.

Hogwarts doesn’t want you—Hogwarts is going to depose you.

Montague’s parents show up, and Hermione suggests that they tell Madam Pomfrey how he got injured so that she can better treat him, and this section is actually very confusing to me. Is the point that Montague is unable to tell her due to the condition he’s in? At the very least it should be clear to Pomfrey that this is an Apparation accident, since they are well-known in the wizarding world. Does Hermione think that the Vanishing Cabinet further influenced the accident?

Hagrid finally shows his hand and we find out about Grawp. And this relationship is pretty much what Hagrid’s entire character has been building to; the gentle half-giant who believes that all these violent monsters are really just cuddle bugs has to face that aspect of himself and his family, and try to salvage what little of his family is left. While the idea of Hagrid basically dragging Grawp back to the U.K. doesn’t sit well with me, it genuinely does seem that his little brother wouldn’t have been safe with the giants for much longer. There’s a lot to say about Grawp’s development, though it will come at a later date, and I think the most relevant part is Hagrid refusing to believe that his brother’s violent tendencies mean that he is cruel or unfeeling. Because he’s right.

On the other hand, asking the kids to babysit him if he has to leave is bonkers.

We get the run-in with the centaurs, and it might be the rudest we’ve seen Hagrid toward creatures that he normally shows such respect for. No one wants to see Firenze torn apart by his herd, but the thing that sticks with me in their protests is the word “servitude.” That is how they view his employment by Dumbledore, and it makes me far more interested in the intricacies of centaur culture and how they evolved alongside wizard kind. It plays into that aspect of thinking it beneath them to let a human ride on their back, from the first book—centaurs are very concerned with being exploited by humanity in ways that make them appear mere beasts or servants. We never really find out how much of this is bound up in earlier encounters with wizards, but probably a lot of it.

Harry and Hermione make it back to find that Gryffindor has won the Quidditch Cup and Ron is a hero. And though it shouldn’t need saying, I’ll state the obvious; the reason why Ron does well in this match is because he decided beforehand that it was already as bad as it could get for the Gryffindor team. He had basically divorced himself from worry before he ever stepped out onto the field, and is able to do well as a result. Ron’s propensity for failure is primarily in his head, and it really does make you wonder how much better he could do if he were encouraged a bit more convincingly.

Emily Asher-Perrin is not sure she’d be able to keep that promise to Hagrid. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

31 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!