This was the most I have ever liked this book. (And that’s saying something, because I remember losing my mind over it when it was first published.) I’m kicking myself for not writing up some notes after I finished because it’s been since May that I finished this, and I’ve lost most of that newly gleaned insight. Maybe going through these quotes will help bring some of it back.
Also, just know going in, I do not hold with any nonsense about blaming Harry for being whiny or angry this book, and I am going to have things to say about Snape. Also, during the next book. And the one after that.
– – –
“Tomorrow he would have to think of some fresh way to listen to the news. In the meantime, he had nothing to look forward to but another restless, disturbed night, because even when he escaped nightmares about Cedric he had unsettling dreams about long dark corridors, all finishing in dead ends and locked doors, which he supposed had something to do with the trapped feeling he had when he was awake . . .”
“The injustice of it all welled up inside him so that he wanted to yell with fury. If it hadn’t been for him, nobody would even have known Voldemort was back! And his reward was to be stuck in Little Whinging for four solid weeks, completely cut off from the magical world, reduced to squatting among dying begonias so that he could hear about water-skiing budgerigars.”
The opening of this book is so effective. The sense of isolation here always makes me feel depressed, and anxious. The drought is a nice touch, although it’s not touched on in this quote. Harry has just experienced extreme trauma, and then was left to stew alone in his thoughts, in an emotionally abusive household, for months. Anger and frustration are an extremely logical extension of those experiences.
“What did he do to you, Diddy?” Aunt Petunia said in a quavering voice, now sponging sick from the front of Dudley’s leather jacket. “Was it — was it you-know-what, darling? Did he use — his thing?”
I am such a child.
Actually, you know what, JKR wrote it, so. And actually, actually, it’s Petunia that’s the problem, because a) just say “penis” if it’s what you mean, stop attaching shame to body parts; and b) she’s attaching shame to Harry’s wand and drawing comparisons between magic and, I don’t know, illicit? perverted? sex. That’s actually kind of interesting, beyond Petunia saying something ridiculous on the surface. I haven’t thought all these thoughts through yet.
“All dark,” Dudley said hoarsely, shuddering. “Everything dark. And then I h-heard . . . things. Inside m-my head . . .”
What would spoiled, pampered, bullying Dudley have been forced to hear?
I have ALWAYS wanted to know what exactly Dudley is afraid of deep down. What does a child who has been spoiled rotten and taught he was the center of the universe fear? Someone who regularly tries to make himself feel better by putting other people down, physically and mentally. Being made to feel he was unimportant? Actually realizing he was unimportant? I mean, Dudley actually turns out pretty okay after this, so it’s a defining moment. I want to know what he saw!
“I heard — that awful boy — telling her about them — years ago,” she said jerkily.
“If you mean my mom and dad, why don’t you use their names,” said Harry loudly, but Aunt Petunia ignored him. She seemed horribly flustered.
Just another cool moment where you’re meant to think one thing but later you realize it was a clue hiding in plain sight. We’re meant to think, just as Harry does, that Petunia overheard James telling Lily about Azkaban, but in fact it was Snape.
It felt very strange to be standing here in Aunt Petunia’s surgically clean kitchen, beside the top-of-the-range fridge and the wide-screen television, talking calmly of Lord Voldemort to Uncle Vernon. The arrival of the Dementors in Little Whinging seemed to have breached the great, invisible wall that divided the relentlessly non-magical world of Privet Drive and the world beyond. Harry’s two lives had somehow become fused and everything had been turned upside-down; the Dursleys were asking for details about the magical world, and Mrs Figg knew Albus Dumbledore; Dementors were soaring around Little Whinging, and he might never return to Hogwarts. Harry’s head throbbed more painfully.
This is one of my very favorite things about long books or series. Only books with that sense of scope, of sheer length of time spent with characters, can have satisfying moments like this, where worlds collide, and things that were clearly separated before start coinciding and affecting each other. I love the Dursleys here being forcibly confronted with all this stuff. I love Harry’s reaction to their reaction. I love it.
So it went on for three whole days. Harry was alternately filled with restless energy that made him unable to settle to anything, during which time he paced his bedroom, furious at the whole lot of them for leaving him to stew in this mess, and with a lethargy so complete that he could lie on his bed for an hour at a time, staring dazedly into space, aching with dread at the thought of the Ministry hearing.
Harry had no particular feeling about the Dursleys leaving. It made no difference to him whether they were in the house or not. He could not even summon the energy to get up and turn on his bedroom light. The room grew steadily darker around him as he lay listening to the night sounds through the window he kept open all the time, waiting for the blessed moment when Hedwig returned.
This child legit has DEPRESSION and probably a little PTSD and anxiety as well. These are the exact symptoms! The restlessness, the numbness and lethargy. The “aching dread.” The next time I see someone on the internet calling him whiny or moaning about his anger, I cannot promise that I won’t explode.
“Hello, Harry,” said George, beaming at him. “We thought we heard your dulcet tones.”
“You don’t want to bottle up your anger like that, Harry, let it all out,” said Fred, also beaming. “There might be a couple of people fifty miles away who didn’t hear you.”
I have always loved that the twins don’t tip-toe around Harry here, and later. And he responds to them better because of it. (Hermione also takes a more direct approach with him later that works as well. Depressed and angry Harry does not respond well to subtlety.)
. . . also a heavy locket that none of them could open.
Just slipping this in here NBD.
“But I sometimes think Ron’s mum is right, and Sirius gets confused about whether you’re you or your father, Harry.”
“So you think he’s touched in the head?” said Harry heatedly.
“No, I just think he’s been very lonely for a long time,” said Hermione simply.
I would genuinely love to read an in-depth psychological profile of Sirius, particularly his state of mind in this book. He’s so complicated.
“Laws can be changed,” said Fudge savagely.
“Of course they can,” said Dumbledore, inclining his head. “And you certainly seem to be making many changes, Cornelius. Why, in the few short weeks since I was asked to leave the Wizengamot, it has already become the practice to hold a full criminal trial to deal with a simple matter of underage magic!”
The slow yet sudden creep of tyranny is omnipresent in this book and what with everything going on in our real world, it hit me way harder here than it ever has before.
And never since the founders fourwere whittled down to threehave the Houses been unitedas they once were meant to be.And now the Sorting Hat is hereand you all know the score:I sort you into Housesbecause that is what I’m for.But this year I’ll go further,listen closely to my song:though condemned I am to split youstill I worry that it’s wrong,though I must fulfill my dutyand must quarter every yearstill I wonder whether sortingmay not bring the end I fear.Oh, know the perils, read the signs,the warning history shows,for our Hogwarts is in dangerfrom external, deadly foesand we must unite inside heror we’ll crumble from withinI have told you, I have warned you…Let the Sorting now begin
The Sorting Hat is anti-tribalism.
Professor Umbridge talked over him. ‘I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run in this school,’ she said, an unconvincing smile stretching her wide mouth, ‘but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed–not to mention,’ she gave a nasty little laugh, ‘extremely dangerous half-breeds. ‘
‘If you mean Professor Lupin,’ piped up Dean angrily, ‘he was the best we ever–
‘Hand, Mr. Thomas! As I was saying–you have been introduced to spells that have been complex, inappropriate to your age group and potentially lethal. You have been frightened into believing that you are likely to meet Dark attacks every other day–‘
‘No we haven’t,’ Hermione said, ‘we just–‘
‘Your hand is not up, Miss Granger!’
Hermione put up her hand. Professor Umbridge turned away from her.
‘It is my understanding that my predecessor not only performed illegal curses in front of you, he actually performed them on you. ‘
‘Well, he turned out to be a maniac, didn’t he?’ said Dean hotly. ‘Mind you, we still learned loads. ‘
‘Your hand is not up, Mr. Thomas!’ trilled Professor Umbridge. ‘Now, it is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through your examination, which, after all, is what school is all about. And your name is?’ she added, staring at Parvati, whose hand had just shot up.
‘Parvati Patil, and isn’t there a practical bit in our Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL? Aren’t we supposed to show that we can actually do the counter-curses and things?’
‘As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions,’ said Professor Umbridge dismissively.
‘Without ever practicing them beforehand?’ said Parvati incredulously. ‘Are you telling us that the first time we’ll get to do the spells will be during our exam?’
‘I repeat, as long as you have studied the theory hard enough–‘
‘And what good’s theory going to be in the real world?’ said Harry loudly, his fist in the air again.
Professor Umbridge looked up.
‘This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world,’ she said softly.
‘So we’re not supposed to be prepared for what’s waiting for us out there?’
‘There is nothing waiting out there, Mr. Potter. ‘
‘Oh, yeah?’ said Harry. His temper, which seemed to have been bubbling just beneath the surface all day, was reaching boiling point.
‘Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?’ inquired Professor Umbridge in a horribly honeyed voice.
‘Hmm, let’s think . . . ‘ said Harry in a mock thoughtful voice. ‘Maybe . . . Lord Voldemort?’
Ron gasped; Lavender Brown uttered a little scream; Neville slipped sideways off his stool. Professor Umbridge, however, did not flinch. She was staring at Harry with a grimly satisfied expression on her face.
‘Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter. ‘
The classroom was silent and still. Everyone was staring at either Umbridge or Harry.
‘Now, let me make a few things quite plain. ‘
Professor Umbridge stood up and leaned towards them, her stubby-fingered hands splayed on her desk.
‘You have been told that a certain Dark wizard has returned from the dead–‘
‘He wasn’t dead,’ said Harry angrily, ‘but yeah, he’s returned!’
‘Mr-Potter-you-have-already-lost-your-house-ten-points-do-not-make-matters-worse-for-yourself,’ said Professor Umbridge in one breath without looking at him. ‘As I was saying, you have been informed that a certain Dark wizard is at large once again. This is a lie. ‘
‘It is NOT a lie!’ said Harry. ‘I saw him, I fought him!’
‘Detention, Mr Potter!’ said Professor Umbridge triumphantly. ‘Tomorrow evening. Five o’clock. My office. I repeat, this is a lie. The Ministry of Magic guarantees that you are not in danger from any Dark wizard. If you are still worried, by all means come and see me outside class hours. If someone is alarming you with fibs about reborn Dark wizards, I would like to hear about it. I am here to help. I am your friend. And now, you will kindly continue your reading. Page five, “Basics for Beginners”. ‘
Professor Umbridge sat down behind her desk. Harry, however, stood up. Everyone was staring at him; Seamus looked half-scared, half-fascinated.
‘Harry, no!’ Hermione whispered in a warning voice, tugging at his sleeve, but Harry jerked his arm out of her reach.
‘So, according to you, Cedric Diggory dropped dead of his own accord, did he?’ Harry asked, his voice shaking.
There was a collective intake of breath from the class, for none of them, apart from Ron and Hermione, had ever heard Harry talk about what had happened on the night Cedric had died. They stared avidly from Harry to Professor Umbridge, who had raised her eyes and was staring at him without a trace of a fake smile on her face.
‘Cedric Diggory’s death was a tragic accident,’ she said coldly.
‘It was murder,’ said Harry. He could feel himself shaking. He had hardly spoken to anyone about this, least of all thirty eagerly listening classmates. ‘Voldemort killed him and you know it. ‘
I had to copy out this whole sequence because it’s brilliant from beginning to end. The way Umbridge slowly reveals herself to the kids, her abuse of her authority as a teacher to ignore and suppress students and to control the knowledge given to them is so gross, and the way Jo slowly ramps up the tension in the scene is palpable. Reading it always makes my heart pound in sympathy anger with Harry. And Harry can’t stop himself from speaking out, even though doing so hurts. This is both admirable and very stupid of him.
Harry placed the point of the quill on the paper and wrote: I must not tell lies.
He let out a gasp of pain. The words had appeared on the parchment in what appeared to be shining red ink. At the same time, the words had appeared on the back of Harry’s right hand, cut into his skin as though traced there by a scalpel – yet even as he stared at the shining cut, the skin healed over again, leaving the place where it had been slightly redder than before but quite smooth.
Harry looked round at Umbridge. She was watching him, her wide, toadlike mouth stretched in a smile.
‘Nothing,’ said Harry quietly.
The first time I read this section I was so overcome with rage that I quite literally threw my (large, hardcover) book across the room. That is the one and only time I have ever done that. She’s just so vile, and there’s something so viscerally horrifying about that quill and what it does. (And spoilers for the last book, but it stays with Harry for the rest of his life, just like the scar Voldemort gave him.)
‘At least it’s only lines,’ said Hermione consolingly, as Harry sank back on to his bench and looked down at his steak and kidney pie, which he no longer fancied very much. ‘It’s not as it it’s a dreadful punishment, really . . . ‘
Harry opened his mouth, closed it again and nodded. He was not really sure why he was not telling Ron and Hermione exactly what was happening in Umbridge’s room: he only knew that he did not want to see their looks of horror; that would make the whole thing seem worse and therefore more difficult to face. He also felt dimly that this was between himself and Umbridge, a private battle of wills, and he was not going to give her the satisfaction of hearing that he had complained about it.
I didn’t understand Harry’s attitude here for a long time, but I think I do now. Some hurts just cut so deep that you shut down a little, retreat into your foxhole and lick your wounds privately, and this is like that for Harry. As for his battle of wills with Umbridge, that I’ve always understood. Letting anyone, even her, know that he was harmed by what she did is tantamount to victory for her.
‘Dumbledore, then, tell Dumbledore!’
‘No,’ said Harry flatly.
‘He’s got enough on his mind,’ said Harry, but that was not the true reason. He was not going to go to Dumbledore for help when Dumbledore had not spoken to him once since June.
The core of this book are the twin themes of creeping tyranny and what it does to communities, and the need to come together and communicate openly and with trust in order to combat the fear and violence trying to encroach on their lives. Despite how intelligent Dumbledore is, his instincts are really all wrong here. While there was certainly danger for Harry in line with Dumbledore’s fears, there was more danger in keeping him in the dark, emotionally isolating him from one of his main sources of emotional support. Harry’s acceptance of leading Dumbledore’s Army is a direct emotional response to this isolation. The conflict in Harry over his feelings about Dumbledore is deliciously complicated this book. He loves and respects him, but he’s also very angry, and rightfully so. Leading an organization called ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ while simultaneously not having spoken a word to Dumbledore all year sums up the contradictions nicely.
‘Yes, but the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters,’ said Sirius with a wry smile.
One of the most profound quotes in the whole series, all the more powerful because Sirius himself is so flawed.
‘A corporeal Patronus?’
The phrase stirred something in Harry’s memory.
‘Er–you don’t know Madam Bones, do you?’ he asked.
The girl smiled.
‘She’s my auntie,’ she said. ‘I’m Susan Bones. She told me about your hearing. So–is it really true? You make a stag Patronus?’
‘Yes,’ said Harry.
‘Blimey, Harry!’ said Lee, looking deeply impressed. ‘I never knew that!’
‘Mum told Ron not to spread it around,’ said Fred, grinning at Harry. ‘She said you got enough attention as it was. ‘
‘She’s not wrong,’ mumbled Harry, and a couple of people laughed.
The veiled witch sitting alone shifted very slightly in her seat.
‘And did you kill a Basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore’s office?’ demanded Terry Boot. ‘That’s what one of the portraits on the wall told me when I was in there last year . . . ‘
‘Er–yeah, I did, yeah,’ said Harry.
Justin Finch-Fletchley whistled; the Creevey brothers exchanged awestruck looks and Lavender Brown said ‘Wow!’ softly. Harry was feeling slightly hot around the collar now; he was determinedly looking anywhere but at Cho.
‘And in our first year,’ said Neville to the group at large, ‘he saved that Philological Stone– ‘
‘Philosopher’s,’ hissed Hermione.
‘Yes, that–from You-Know-Who,’ finished Neville.
Hannah Abbotts eyes were as round as Galleons.
‘And that’s not to mention,’ said Cho (Harry’s eyes snapped across to her; she was looking at him, smiling; his stomach did another somersault) ‘all the tasks he had to get through in the Triwizard Tournament last year–getting past dragons and merpeople and Acromantula and things . . . ‘
There was a murmur of impressed agreement around the table. Harry’s insides were squirming. He was trying to arrange his face so that he did not look too pleased with himself. The fact that Cho had just praised him made it much, much harder for him to say the thing he had sworn to himself he would tell them.
‘Look,’ he said, and everyone fell silent at once, ‘I . . . I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to be modest or anything, but . . . I had a lot of help with all that stuff . . . ‘
‘Not with the dragon, you didn’t,’ said Michael Corner at once. ‘That was a seriously cool bit of flying . . . ‘
‘Yeah, well–‘ said Harry, feeling it would be churlish to disagree.
‘And nobody helped you get rid of those dementors this summer,’ said Susan Bones.
‘No,’ said Harry, ‘no, OK, I know I did bits of it without help, but the point I’m trying to make is–‘
I just love this moment because it’s not often that Harry gets people genuinely praising him for things he’s actually accomplished, and that he genuinely gets to enjoy it. But I also love how it’s tempered with his dose of realism, that again, great things aren’t accomplished by one person most of the time. Harry most of the time DOES have lots of help, and it’s that attitude that sets him apart from Umbridge and Voldemort and even Dumbledore. He trusts and regularly relies on his friends and circles of support. He doesn’t keep secrets (for the most part) and doesn’t try to go it alone. In fact, earlier when he was alone, he was the most miserable. It’s only when he has a community and a sense of purpose that his anger and depression and anxiety retreat.
‘Saved Weasley’s neck, haven’t you?’ he said to Harry. ‘I’ve never seen a worse Keeper . . . but then he was born in a bin . . . did you like my lyrics, Potter?’
Why does Malfoy think he’s so clever? A five year old could have written a better song than that. The only “good” thing one can say about ‘Weasley is Our King’ is that it accomplishes its main purpose of making Ron feel like shit, but then again, that’s not that hard to do! He has terrible self-esteem and is very sensitive about anyone going after him in any way.
Neville had improved beyond all recognition.
All the Neville feels all the time whenever possible. He just starts coming into his own and it’s so beautiful.
‘Did you kiss?’ asked Hermione briskly.
Ron sat up so fast he sent his ink bottle flying all over the rug. Disregarding this completely, he stared avidly at Harry.
‘Well?’ he demanded.
Harry looked from Ron’s expression of mingled curiosity and hilarity to Hermione’s slight frown, and nodded.
Ron made a triumphant gesture with his fist and went into a raucous peal of laughter that made several timid-looking second-years over beside the window jump. A reluctant grin spread over Harry’s face as he watched Ron rolling around on the hearthrug.
I love Ron here so much, probably because this is the exact reaction I have made on multiple occasions to similar news from friends. In some ways, I have the maturity level of a fifteen year old boy!!!
‘Well, obviously, she’s feeling very sad, because of Cedric dying. Then I expect she’s feeling confused because she liked Cedric and now she likes Harry, and she can’t work out who she likes best. Then she’ll be feeling guilty, thinking it’s an insult to Cedric’s memory to be kissing Harry at all, and she’ll be worrying about what everyone else might say about her if she starts going out with Harry. And she probably can’t work out what her feelings towards Harry are, anyway, because he was the one who was with Cedric when Cedric died, so that’s all very mixed up and painful. Oh, and she’s afraid she’s going to be thrown off the Ravenclaw Quidditch team because she’s been flying so badly. ‘
A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, ‘One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode. ‘
‘Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have,’ said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
So how much of Ron’s befuddlement here is a result of gender socialization (men not being taught or encouraged to examine and deal with their feelings) and how much is just a result of Ron just being Ron? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
‘What’s this?’ said Mrs. Longbottom sharply. ‘Haven’t you told your friends about your parents, Neville?’
Neville took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and shook his head. Harry could not remember ever feeling sorrier for anyone, but he could not think of any way of helping Neville out of the situation.
‘Well, it’s nothing to be ashamed of!’ said Mrs. Longbottom angrily. ‘You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!’
‘I’m not ashamed,’ said Neville, very faintly, still looking anywhere but at Harry and the others. Ron was now standing on tiptoe to look over at the inhabitants of the two beds.
‘Well, you’ve got a funny way of showing it!’ said Mrs. Longbottom.
I really don’t think Neville is ashamed. I don’t think that’s why he hasn’t told any of his friends about his parents. It’s just, that’s very personal information, and it’s very painful, and Neville has enough trouble dealing with the baggage of just being Neville, let alone having to drag around his tortured parents. The constant barrage of attention (negative and positive) Harry experiences, in large part because of his own parents, should be a good indicator of the kind of attention Neville would get.
‘I never knew,’ said Hermione, who looked tearful.
‘Nor did I,’ said Ron rather hoarsely.
‘Nor me,’ whispered Ginny.
They all looked at Harry.
‘I did,’ he said glumly. ‘Dumbledore told me but I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone . . . that’s what Bellatrix Lestrange got sent to Azkaban for, using the Cruciatus Curse on Neville’s parents until they lost their minds.’
‘Bellatrix Lestrange did that?’ whispered Hermione, horrified. ‘That woman Kreacher’s got a photo of in his den?’
There was a long silence, broken by Lockhart’s angry voice.
‘Look, I didn’t learn joined-up writing for nothing, you know!’
Nothing like a Lockhart quote to pop the tension balloon. Also, I didn’t know what joined-up writing was for years. (It’s cursive.)
‘How touching,’ Snape sneered. ‘But surely you have noticed that Potter is very like his father?’
‘Yes, I have,’ said Sirius proudly.
‘Well then, you’ll know he’s so arrogant that criticism simply bounces off him,’ Snape said sleekly.
NEITHER OF YOU BOZOS ARE RIGHT. Harry does have some of his father’s qualities, certainly his looks, but he’s also very different to his father, something which Snape, for all his intelligence, can never see. And Sirius is blinded the other way. Missing his friend, he only sees how Harry is like his father, and not how they are different, and when differences do present themselves unmistakably, he is visibly disappointed.
‘I told you to empty yourself of emotion!’
‘Yeah? Well, I’m finding that hard at the moment,’ Harry snarled.
‘Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord!’ said Snape savagely. ‘Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked so easily–weak people, in other words–they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!’
‘I am not weak,’ said Harry in a low voice, fury now pumping through him so that he thought he might attack Snape in a moment.
‘Then prove it! Master yourself!’ spat Snape. ‘Control your anger, discipline your mind! We shall try again! Get ready, now! Legilimens!’
Fuck Snape, and anyone who thinks like this. Especially anyone who makes anyone else feel like they are weak for experiencing the full range of human emotion. Feeling one’s emotions is not weakness, it’s strength. Bottling them up, trying to control them or hide from them, in my mind that’s weakness. If he wasn’t so vile, I would feel sorry for Snape, but the way he pushes his views onto other people, like a bully, almost entirely makes my pity for him disappear.
Antonin Dolohov, read the legend beneath a wizard with a long, pale, twisted face who was sneering up at Harry, convicted of the brutal murders of Gideon and Fabian Prewett.
It always niggles my brain that it’s not in the books that the Prewetts were Molly Weasley’s brothers. Shouldn’t Ron have mentioned he knew the names when they read this article? Doesn’t he know his own uncle’s names? (P.S. It’s Fabian Prewett’s watch that Molly gives Harry for his 17th birthday.) maybe Molly is too sad about what happened to them to talk about them.
‘Well–it’s just that you seem to be labouring under the delusion that I am going to–what is the phrase?–come quietly. I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course–but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing. ‘
No one in the history of literature has ever (almost) been arrested with such confidence.
‘You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts . . . but you cannot deny he’s got style . . . ‘
Phineas Nigellus agrees with me.
He had no desire at all to return to Gryffindor Tower so early, nor to tell Ron and Hermione what he had just seen. What was making Harry feel so horrified and unhappy was not being shouted at or having jars thrown at him; it was that he knew how it felt to be humiliated in the middle of a circle of onlookers, knew exactly how Snape had felt as his father had taunted him, and that judging from what he had just seen, his father had been every bit as arrogant as Snape had always told him.
Okay, I know I was hard on Snape earlier, and he’s made his choices in life (he chose to take all the bad stuff in his life and transform it mostly into bitterness and bullying of his own), but this moment is key here. The world is not split into good people and Death Eaters. Snape has many negative qualities, but he’s also a flawed human being who is smart and loyal and brave. Harry had him firmly placed in the “villain” category, and his father as a hero, but here that view is completely wiped out. It’s Harry’s father who Harry witnesses being cruel, bullying to the poor kid in the class who no one likes. He witnesses his father being vain and thoughtless. It completely shatters him. And feeling pity for Snape, on top of all that. A central theme of these books is that people aren’t just good or evil (I don’t actually think anyone in all seven books actually calls Voldemort evil? I’d have to check on that). People are flawed, and can make good or bad choices, and those choices and their consequences both shape who they are, and show others what is in their hearts. But people who do bad things can also do good things (Narcissa Malfoy) or be redeemed (Snape), and people who are widely liked and seen as good can be cruel or unkind or immature (James, Ron). What makes Voldemore the villain is his singleminded pursuit of choices that harm others, isolate him, and separate him from his humanity.
There was nobody left to tell. Dumbledore had gone, Hagrid had gone, but he had always expected Professor McGonagall to be there, irascible and inflexible, perhaps, but always dependably, solidly present . . .
Malfoy slowed Harry’s wand inside his robes and left the room smirking, but Harry hardly noticed. He had just realized something; he could not believe he had been so stupid as to forget it. He had thought that all the members of the Order, all those who could help him save Sirius, were gone–but he had been wrong. There was still a member of the Order of the Phoenix at Hogwarts–Snape.
Nobody except Snape. Harry doesn’t associate Snape with the Order, even though Snape could have prevented Sirius’s death. Perhaps there are no good answers here, but Snape was not a great choice for teaching Harry how to avoid painful memories. There is no trust there. And this atmosphere of distrust and secrecy and isolation that Harry has been living in for the whole of his fifth year entirely contributes to this moment where he decides to act for himself rather than see Snape as someone he can trust, because he has been given no reason to.
‘OK,’ she said, looking frightened yet determined, ‘I’ve just got to say this–‘
‘You . . . this isn’t a criticism, Harry! But you do . . . sort of . . . I mean–don’t you think you’ve got a bit of a–a–saving-people thing?’ she said.
I would also read a thesis-length treatise on the psychology of Harry’s “saving-people-thing”.
‘Shut your mouth!’ Bellatrix shrieked. ‘You dare speak his name with your unworthy lips, you dare besmirch it with your half-blood’s tongue, you dare–‘
‘Did you know he’s a half-blood too?’ said Harry recklessly. Hermione gave a little moan in his ear. ‘Voldemort? Yeah, his mother was a witch but his dad was a Muggle–or has he been telling you lot he’s pure-blood?’
Bellatrix’s thing for Voldemort is super gross. I just want to put that on the record.
It was unbearable, he would not think about it, he could not stand it . . . there was a terrible hollow inside him he did not want to feel or examine, a dark hole where Sirius had been, where Sirius had vanished; he did not want to have to be alone with that great, silent space, he could not stand it–
The guilt filling the whole of Harry’s chest like some monstrous, weighty parasite, now writhed and squirmed. Harry could not stand this, he could not stand being himself any more . . . he had never felt more trapped inside his own head and body, never wished so intensely that he could be somebody, anybody else . . .
This is such an accurate portrayal of grief. It makes me sad.
‘I was trying to keep Sirius alive,’ said Dumbledore quietly.
‘People don’t like being locked up!’ Harry said furiously, rounding on him. ‘You did it to me all last summer–‘
Dumbledore closed his eyes and buried his face in his long-fingered hands. Harry watched him, but this uncharacteristic sign of exhaustion, or sadness, or whatever it was from Dumbledore, did not soften him. On the contrary, he felt even angrier that Dumbledore was showing signs of weakness. He had no business being weak when Harry wanted to rage and storm at him.
Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses.
‘It is time,’ he said, ‘for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything. I ask only a little patience. You will have your chance to rage at me–to do whatever you like– when I have finished. I will not stop you. ‘
I feel like I’ve covered this one above . . . but it’s relevant so I’m leaving it.
‘I feel I owe you another explanation, Harry,’ said Dumbledore hesitantly. ‘You may, perhaps, have wondered why I never chose you as a prefect? I must confess . . . that I rather thought . . . you had enough responsibility to be going on with. ‘
Dumbledore <3 That’s . . . sweet. But the effect is the same. Harry didn’t know your reason, and it backfired. I really like that line (should have included it) where he talks about age being at fault when it doesn’t remember what it felt like to be young. It doesn’t even cross his mind that Harry will take not being appointed prefect as a show of distrust.
‘Madam Pomfrey says she’s just in shock,’ whispered Hermione.
‘Sulking, more like,’ said Ginny.
‘Yeah, she shows signs of life if you do this,’ said Ron, and with his tongue he made soft clip-clopping noises. Umbridge sat bolt upright, looking around wildly.
‘Anything wrong, Professor?’ called Madam Pomfrey, poking her head around her office door.
‘No . . . no . . . ‘ said Umbridge, sinking back into her pillows. ‘No, I must have been dreaming . . . ‘
Hermione and Ginny muffled their laughter in the bedclothes.
I was going to do a whole thing about how weird the centaur/Umbridge gets in its implications, but I think I’m just going to leave it alone instead.
Perhaps the reason he wanted to be alone was because he had felt isolated from everybody since his talk with Dumbledore. An invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. He was–he had always been–a marked man. It was just that he had never really understood what that meant . . .
And yet sitting here on the edge of the lake, with the terrible weight of grief dragging at him, with the loss of Sirius so raw and fresh inside, he could not muster any great sense of fear. It was sunny, and the grounds around him were full of laughing people, and even though he felt as distant from them as though he belonged to a different race, it was still very hard to believe as he sat here that his life must include, or end in, murder . . .
Aaaand ironically even after knowing the truth, he still feels isolated. It gets better, though, once he decides to share the burden with Hermione and Ron, though they can only help him shoulder so much. It’s still mostly on him.
He somehow could not find words to tell them what it meant to him, to see them all ranged there, on his side. Instead, he smiled, raised a hand in farewell, turned around and led the way out of the station towards the sunlit street, with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley hurrying along in his wake.