If Dudley's friends saw him sitting there, they would be sure to make a beeline for him, and what would Dudley do then? He wouldn't want to lose face in front of the gang, but he'd be terrified of provoking Harry ... it would be really fun to watch Dudley's dilemma, to taunt him, watch him, with him powerless to respond ... and if any of the others tried hitting Harry, he was ready – he had his wand. Let them try ... he'd love to vent some of his frustration on the boys who had once made his life hell. (1.72)
Harry's getting into really dangerous territory here. Yes, Dudley has treated him badly in the past. But Harry is enjoying the idea of using his magic on Muggles who can't defend themselves. He wants to "vent some of his frustration" on people who are powerless to respond. How far away is Harry's reasoning from that of the Death Eaters who indulge in some Muggle-baiting at the Quidditch World Cup at the beginning of Book Four? The difference between Harry and those Death Eaters is that Harry doesn't give in to his wish to bully his cousin and his Muggle friends. Still, Harry's anger is leading him down a path that could turn to a Dark wizard anti-Muggle place if he isn't careful.
Halfway down the hall was a fountain. A group of golden statues, larger than life-size, stood in the middle of a circular pool. Tallest of them all was a noble-looking wizard with his wand pointing straight up in the air. Grouped around him were a beautiful witch, a centaur, a goblin and a house-elf. The last three were all looking adoringly up at the witch and wizard. Glittering jets of water were flying from the ends of their wands, the point of the centaur's arrow, the tip of the goblin's hat and each of the house-elf's ears, so that the tinkling hiss of falling water was added to the pops and cracks of the Apparators and the clatter of footsteps as hundreds of witches and wizards, most of whom were wearing glum, early-morning looks, strode towards a set of golden gates at the far end of the hall. (7.66)
This statue at the front of the Ministry of Magic demonstrates the Ministry's official opinion on the status of the different magical creatures in the wizarding world. At the center is a "noble-looking wizard," with a beautiful witch next to him. Then, beneath these magical folk are three creatures looking "adoringly up." Now, a centaur is half-human, half-horse, so how a centaur could look up at a wizard and a witch, we don't know. But this condescending view of house-elves, centaurs, and goblins – that they must all look up to magical humans – underlines Bill Weasley's suspicions in Chapter 5 that the goblins, fed up with mainstream wizard prejudice, might join Voldemort out of desperation. What is more, this statue also suggests that Professor Umbridge's prejudices about half-humans – and perhaps about all magical creatures – is more widespread than magical folk might like to think.
"I think we might have a record of it if someone had ordered a pair of dementors to go strolling through Little Whinging!" barked Fudge.
"Not if the dementors are taking orders from someone other than the Minsitry of Magic these days," said Dumbledore calmly. "I have already given you my views on this matter, Cornelius."
"Yes, you have," said Fudge forcefully, "and I have no reason to believe that your views are anything other than bilge, Dumbledore. The dementors remain in place in Azkaban and are doing everything we ask them to." (8.108-110)
Fudge has an obvious problem with logic. Because the Ministry has no record of dementors being sent to Little Whinging, he cannot believe that anyone in the Ministry can have made the order to the dementors. But he also refuses to entertain the possibility that the dementors are acting on their own, largely because he doesn't want that to be true. He insists that (a) he has absolute control over the Ministry, and (b) the Ministry has absolute control over the dementors. Later, we learn that neither is true: Dolores Umbridge did order the dementors to Little Whinging, and the dementors have gone over to join Voldemort. Fudge is living in a world made up of things he chooses to believe are facts, because to believe otherwise would mean admitting that he has lost control of both the extremist elements in the Minsitry and the dementors of Azkaban. How does J.K. Rowling depict politicians in the Harry Potter novels? What kind of general critique of career politicians does she offer in her representation of Fudge and Professor Umbridge?
"I don't think private matters between myself and the Minister are any concern of yours, Potter," said [Lucius] Malfoy, smoothing the front of his robes. Harry distinctly heard the gentle clinking of what sounded like a full pocket of gold. "Really, just because you are Dumbledore's favorite boy, you must not expect the same indulgence from the rest of us ... shall we go up to your office, then, Minister?" (9.26)
Lucius Malfoy's words to Harry must be music to Cornelius Fudge's ears, since Fudge is trying to encourage the world to hate and distrust Harry, and Lucius Malfoy clearly already does. What is more, Malfoy's "full pocket of gold," which seems connected to the "private matters" between Malfoy and Fudge, indicates the strong corruption in Fudge's administration. Malfoy's deep pockets are allowed to influence Fudge's policy. What lessons might J.K. Rowling be trying to teach about the dangers of money and influence in politics? What problems do you see in Malfoy's ways of interacting with the Minister for Magic?
Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation ... (11.92)
Professor Umbridge addresses the students and staff of Hogwarts at the Welcome Feast. She uses a lot of abstract and elusive language – what is this "progress" that she might want to discourage? What balance does she want to strike "between permanence and change"? The point is, it doesn't matter what she calls tradition and what she calls innovation. The important thing is that Professor Umbridge thinks she can identify what "must be discouraged" in the running of Hogwarts. She has total confidence in her own abilities, which is dangerous.
"Oh, no," said Umbridge, smiling so widely that she looked as though she had just swallowed a particularly juicy fly. "Oh, no, no, no. This is your punishment for spreading evil, nasty, attention-seeking stories, Mr. Potter, and punishments certainly cannot be adjusted to suit the guilty one's convenience. No, you will come here at five o'clock tomorrow, and the next day, and on Friday too, and you will do your detentions as planned. I think it rather a good thing that you are missing something you really want to do. It ought to reinforce the lesson I am trying to teach you." (13.149)
In Book 4, Harry must confront a villain who is fanatically devoted to a cause. Whatever else you may say about Barty Crouch, Jr., he really, really believes in Voldemort. But in this book, the main antagonist doesn't truly seem to care about Truth, Justice, and the values of the Ministry of Magic – she's all too willing to use Veritaserum to force the truth out of Harry about Dumbledore and Sirius Black, which is strictly against Ministry policy. The only thing that seems to be driving Professor Umbridge is her eagerness to cause people suffering and pain. Her wide smile when she gets to refuse Harry his Quidditch practice is totally self-serving and sadistic. It's this trait that makes Professor Umbridge so repellent: with characters like Barty Crouch, Jr., who truly believe in what they are doing, you can understand why they do evil, even if you don't agree. But Professor Umbridge just seems like a petty, self-indulgent sadist. She appears to be evil for the sheer pleasure and power of it, which is just – revolting.
BY ORDER OF THE HIGH INQUISITOR OF HOGWARTS
All student organizations, societies, teams, groups and clubs are henceforth disbanded.
An organization, society, team, group or club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. (17.4)
In the first amendment to the US Constitution, Americans are guaranteed the right to freedom of assembly. Of course, this is Britain and also the wizarding world, so those laws don't exactly apply here. But the civics lesson is the same: why is the right to assemble so important? And why is it so threatening to Professor Umbridge?
"You applied for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post, I believe?" Professor Umbridge asked Snape.
"Yes," said Snape quietly.
"But you were unsuccessful."
Snape's lip curled.
Professor Umbridge scribbled on her clipboard.
"And you have applied regularly for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post since you first joined the school, I believe?"
"Yes," said Snape quietly, barely moving his lips. He looked very angry.
"Do you have any idea why Dumbledore has consistently refused to appoint you?" asked Umbrdige.
"I suggest you ask him," said Snape jerkily. (17.137-146)
We have to give Professor Umbridge credit for one thing: it takes guts to make Professor Snape angry. We would probably avoid it at all costs, but she just barges right in, asking him questions about why he hasn't been appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. She must really have an overinflated sense of her own authority. At any rate, Professor Umbridge is clearly probing Professor Snape's associations with Dark magic. Her interview with Professor Snape reminds us that she still seems to believe that she is on the side of righteousness – even if she's willing to use any means necessary to achieve her goals.
As a matter of fact, Minerva, it was you who made me see that we needed a further amendment ... you remember how you overrode me, when I was unwilling to allow the Gryffindor Quidditch team to re-form? How you took the case to Dumbledore, who insisted that the team be allowed to play? Well, now, I couldn't have that. I contacted the Minister at once, and he quite agreed with me that the High Inquisitor has to have the power to strip pupils of privileges, or she – that is to say, I – would have less authority than common teachers! (19.141)
This exchange between Professor McGonagall and Professor Umbridge really drives home how petty Umbridge is: she is so annoyed that Professor McGonagall overruled her about a Quidditch team that she actually goes to the Minister for Magic to get more official power for her role as High Inquisitor. What kind of a government structure is this, that the Minister for Magic has the time to intervene directly in the running of a school? Do you get a sense of how big (or small) the wizarding world is? How does their government work?
It was true that Harry was the subject of much renewed muttering and pointing in the corridors these days, yet he thought he detected a slight difference in the tone of the whisperers' voices. They sounded curious rather than hostile now, and once or twice he was sure he overheard snatches of conversation that suggested that the speakers were not satisfied with the Prophet's version of how and why ten Death Eaters had managed to break out of the Azkaban fortress. In their confusion and fear, these doubters now seemed to be turning to the only other explanation available to them: the one that Harry and Dumbledore had been expounding since the previous year. (25.48)
The Azkaban prison breakout is the beginning of a change in public opinion in both Harry and Dumbledore's favor. The problem for the Ministry of Magic is that they can only control information so long as the public wants to believe their stories. It seems comforting to dismiss Harry and Dumbledore's account of the return of Voldemort, since Voldemort means war. But once the Death Eaters break out of Azkaban, the public no longer wants to believe that Voldemort has not come back. They want an explanation for the mass breakout, and Voldemort seems more realistic than outright denial. In a sense, this gives us hope: good P.R. and propaganda only work for so long before people start demanding real answers.
Rita gave Hermione a long, hard look. Then, leaning forwards across the table towards her, she said in a businesslike tone, "All right, Fudge is leaning on the Prophet, but it comes to the same thing. They won't print a story that shows Harry in a good light. Nobody wants to read it. It's against the public mood. This last Azkaban breakout has got people quite worried enough. People just don't want to believe You-Know-Who's back."
"So the Daily Prophet exists to tell people what they want to hear, does it?" said Hermione scathingly.
Rita sat up straight again, her eyebrows raised, and drained her glass of Firewhiskey.
"The Prophet exists to sell itself, you silly girl," she said coldly. (25.211-214)
Book 4 contains a much longer critique of journalism than Book 5. Still, Rita Skeeter's extremely pragmatic view of the newspaper business ("The Prophet exists to sell itself") is interesting. The Daily Prophet presents people with news they want to hear, with stories that'll sell. But since the Daily Prophet has so much influence on public opinion, don't they also have a responsibility to be balanced and fair in their reporting? The Daily Prophet’s slanted reporting demonstrates how much damage newspapers with an agenda can do to the political situation in a country. As for Rita Skeeter herself, she just wants to report what'll get her the most fame – whether it's true or not. But since she's so businesslike, it's pretty easy for Hermione to manipulate her into working for them. After all, Rita Skeeter isn't committed to a particular point of view; she'll report anything as long as she can make a name for herself doing it.
"I have testimony from Willy Widdershins, Minerva, who happened to be in the bar at the time. He was heavily bandaged, it is true, but his hearing was quite unimpaired," said Umbridge smugly. "He heard every word Potter said and hastened straight to the school to report to me —"
"Oh, so that's why he wasn't prosecuted for setting up all those regurgitating toilets!" said Professor McGonagall, raising her eyebrows. "What an interesting insight into our justice system!" (27.156-157)
Professor Umbridge is presenting evidence of how she knows that the D.A. has been meeting for the past six months. She is using testimony from a criminal who appears to have avoided prosecution in exchange for his word against Harry. Now, Professor McGonagall finds this exchange totally corrupt. But (at least according to all of the Law and Order we've watched) it's pretty common to swap testimony against other criminals in exchange for a lighter sentence for yourself. Do you think this is a corrupt practice? How does Professor Umbridge's particular deal with Willy Widdershins seem unfair?
The upshot of it all was that Professor Umbridge spent her first afternoon as Headmistress running all over the school answering the summonses of other teachers, none of whom seemed able to rid their rooms of the fireworks without her. When the final bell rang and they were heading back to Gryffindor Tower with their bags, Harry saw, with immense satisfaction, a disheveled and soot-blackened Umbridge tottering sweaty-faced from Professor Flitwick's classroom. (28.99)
Professor Umbridge has been working hard to seize ultimate authority at Hogwarts and now, after getting Dumbledore dismissed from the school, she finally finds the power she's been seeking. But we also see the unexpected drawback with being a power-hungry control-freak. If she keeps insisting that the teachers respect her authority, then they have the leeway to leave everything of importance – including rogue fireworks in classrooms – to Professor Umbridge's personal attention. In short, if you're not willing to delegate and allow other people to do their jobs, you may find yourself "tottering sweaty-faced" from running around doing other people's jobs.
"The Cruciatus Curse ought to loosen your tongue," said Umbridge quietly.
"No!" shrieked Hermione. "Professor Umbridge – it's illegal."
But Umbridge took no notice. There was a nasty, eager, excited look on her face that Harry had never seen before. (32.197-199)
Here's the moment when we really see that all of the rules Professor Umbridge pretends to care about don't mean a d--n compared to her pleasure in gaining power (physical, emotional, whatever) over other people. She's willing to break the Ministry's laws – and she's done it before, by ordering two dementors to Little Whinging to attack Harry Potter. Professor Umbridge isn't a fanatical believer, the way Death Eaters like Bellatrix Lestrange are. She's just attracted to authority because it gets her what she wants: power over weaker people.
"Fine," said Hermione, now sobbing into her hands again. "Fine ... let them see [the weapon], I hope they use it on you! In fact, I wish you'd invite loads and loads of people to come and see! Th - that would serve you right – oh, I'd love it if the wh - whole school knew where it was, and how to u - use it, and then if you annoy any of them they'll be able to s - sort you out!"
These words had a powerful impact on Umbridge: she glanced swiftly and suspiciously around at her Inquisitorial Squad, her bulging eyes resting for a moment on Malfoy, who was too slow to disguise the look of eagerness and greed that had appeared on his face. (32.231-232)
Professor Umbridge manages to draw people like Draco and Argus Filch to her side because she lets them do what they've always wanted to do: bully other people freely, without being punished. Draco loves being able to lord it over the other prefects, and especially the Gryffindors. And Filch is happy at last to be allowed to whip the students as he has always dreamed. But they're not connected by the bonds of loyalty and friendship. Professor Umbridge knows that Draco would double-cross her in a hot second if he thought he could profit by it. So, she has no one to rely on at all – a fear that Hermione plays on in this scene, when she invents a super-weapon to lure Professor Umbridge alone into the Forbidden Forest.
[Harry] kept listening, just in case there was some small clue, not recognized for what it really was by the Muggles – an unexplained disappearance, perhaps, or some strange accident ... but the baggage-handlers' strike was followed by news about the drought in the Southeast ("I hope he's listening next door!" bellowed Uncle Vernon. "Him with his sprinklers on at three in the morning!"), then a helicopter that had almost crashed in a field in Surrey, then a famous actress's divorce from her famous husband ("As if we're interested in their sordid affairs," sniffed Aunt Petunia, who had followed the case obsessively in every magazine she could lay her bony hands on). (1.18)
There are two things that we find striking about this early passage: first, how pathetic is it that Harry has to lie down underneath an open window in order to be allowed to listen to the news? No wonder he's so filled with rage by the end of the summer! Second, the Dursleys are incredible hypocrites: they're terrified of the world knowing they have a weird wizard nephew, so they are always trying to keep Harry hidden from the neighbors. And they love to spy on other people around them: "Him" next door, "with his sprinklers on at three in the morning" and the famous actress with her "sordid affairs." But it never once occurs to them that what is really shameful is the emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive way they treat Harry. What must the people on their street think of the way they speak to Harry? That's really shocking.
Up and down [Harry] paced, consumed with anger and frustration, grinding his teeth and clenching his fists, casting angry looks out at the empty, star-strewn sky every time he passed the window. Dementors sent to get him, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher tailing him in secret, then suspension from Hogwarts and a hearing at the Ministry of Magic – and still no one was telling him what was going on. (3.3)
This passage at the beginning of Chapter 3 basically sums up Harry's state of mind for most of Book 5: "consumed with anger and frustration" because "no one was telling him what was going on." What is it like to read a Harry Potter novel in which Harry Potter is always mad? How does his emotional state change your understanding (and enjoyment) of the character? How is the tone of Book 5 different from previous installments in the series?
Despite the fact that he was still sleeping badly, still having dreams about corridors and locked doors that made his scar prickle, Harry was managing to have fun for the first time all summer. As long as he was busy he was happy; when the action abated, however, whenever he dropped his guard or lay exhausted in bed watching blurred shadows move across the ceiling, the thought of the looming Ministry hearing returned to him. Fear jabbed at his insides like needles as he wondered what was going to happen to him if he was expelled. (6.211)
Again, we get a mini-lecture on the value of healthy activity to stop the brooding angst. As long as Harry has something to do, he's happy (or at least, happier). It's when he has too much time to think that he gets fearful about his Ministry hearing. This lesson repeats itself on a larger scale when Harry starts to participate in the D.A.: once he feels like he's helping people to prepare for the fight against Voldemort, his school year gets a hundred times better.
But the great black dog gave a joyful bark and gamboled around them, snapping at pigeons and chasing its own tail. Harry couldn't help laughing. Sirius had been trapped inside for a very long time. (10.24)
These few moments in the novel when we see Sirius free at last really brings home how trapped, bitter, and miserable his year at Number Twelve truly is. Why do you think J.K. Rowling chose to put Sirius in this position? How does Sirius's situation in Book 5 mirror Harry's? How does Rowling foreshadow Sirius's fate earlier in Book 5?
Dinner in the Great Hall that night was not a pleasant experience for Harry. The news about his shouting match with Umbridge had traveled exceptionally fast even by Hogwarts' standards. He heard whispers all around him as he sat eating between Ron and Hermione. The funny thing was that none of the whisperers seemed to mind him overhearing what they were saying about him. On the contrary, it was as though they were hoping he would get angry and start shouting again, so that they could hear his story firsthand. (13.1)
By shouting out in class, Harry makes a spectacle out of himself. So, all of his peers start to treat him like a spectacle, a show that they want to watch. He no longer seems like a person with real feelings to them; they have become totally distant from Harry. When does the rest of Hogwarts start to remember that Harry has emotions like the rest of them? What makes his classmates believe in him once more?
She turned away, leaving Professor Trelawney standing rooted to the spot, her chest heaving. Harry caught Ron's eye and knew that Ron was thinking exactly the same as he was: they both knew that Professor Trelawney was an old fraud, but on the other hand, they loathed Umbridge so much that they felt very much on Trelawney's side. (15.102)
Professor Trelawney is an old fraud. She makes a mockery of the whole idea of predicting the future, since all she really wants to do is tell people that they're going to die soon, generally in horrible ways. But she's harmless – she occasionally frightens impressionable students, but she doesn't do any damage. Now, Professor Umbridge, she is damaging. So, of course her sadistic persecution of poor, batty old Professor Trelawney is going to excite our sympathy – even if we don't think much of Trelawney herself.
"Oh no, Dumbledore, I am too tired tonight."
Something about Phineas's voice was familiar to Harry, where had he heard it before? But before he could think, the portraits on the surrounding walls broke into a storm of protest.
"Insubordination, sir!" roared a corpulent, red-nosed, wizard, brandishing his fists. "Dereliction of duty!"
"We are honor-bond to give service to the present Headmaster of Hogwarts!" cried a frail-looking old wizard whom Harry recognized as Dumbledore's predecessor, Armando Dippet. "Shame on you, Phineas!" (22.61-63)
So, we have a question about the portraits: obviously, Phineas Nigellus still has a very strong sense of himself. Even though all of the portraits of former Hogwarts Headmasters are supposed to help the current Head, he rebels and drags his feet rather than carrying a message as requested. Yet, we are also told that the portraits are less than fully realized ghosts. J.K. Rowling explains:
[The portraits] are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. (source)
So, if they are just impressions of living people, how is it that Phineas Nigellus seems like such a prickly, well-rounded character – a character who is capable of feeling sorrow and confusion at the end of the novel, when he discovers that his great-great-grandson and the last of the Black family has died? Can you make a distinction between the portraits and the ghosts? What makes a portrait's character different from a living character in the novel?
[Harry] felt dirty, contaminated, as though he were carrying some deadly germ, unworthy to sit on the Underground train back from the hospital with innocent, clean people whose minds and bodies were free of the taint of Voldemort ... he had not merely seen the snake, he had been the snake, he knew it now ... (23.2)
We can totally understand why Harry would feel violated by his connection with Voldemort, his arch-nemesis who murdered his parents. But if you were Harry's friend, how would you feel about the possibility that Harry could be possessed by Voldemort at any time? Would you feel safe with Harry? Would you respond to Harry's link to Voldemort the way Dumbledore does, or would you respond the way that Ron and Hermione do?
"So that's it, is it?" he said loudly. "'Stay where you are?' That's all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors, too! Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won't bother telling you, though, because your tiny little brain might not be able to cope with it!" (23.30)
Clearly, Harry feels that he is being left out of decisions that have a huge effect on his own life. But later on, after the disaster with Sirius, Harry wishes that he didn't have to feel so much, that he didn't have to take so much responsibility. The problem with growing into an adult is that sometimes, you want the responsibility to make your own decisions. But other times, it would be lovely to sign over all responsibility to other people so that you can relax. Harry seems really eager to grow up in Book 5, but then he has to face the awful consequences of taking his own initiative – which is the bad side of being a grown-up.
"Trivial hurts, tiny human accidents," said Firenze, as his hooves thudded over the mossy floor. "These are of no more significance than the scurrying of ants to the wide universe, and are unaffected by planetary movements."
"Professor Trelawney —" began Parvati, in a hurt and indignant voice.
"— is a human," said Firenze simply. "And is therefore blinkered and fettered by the limitations of your kind." (27.45-47)
Firenze is pretty much the only magical creature we have met in the series so far who (a) does not totally hate humans, though most of his herd does, but who also (b) thinks that we are foolish and beneath centaur wisdom. The house-elves we've met in these novels really do look up to us, much as the fountain in front of the Ministry of Magic portrays. But the centaurs have a much different, more patronizing view. Why do you think Firenze has chosen to join Dumbledore? What characteristics do centaurs seem to have as a group? What kinds of belief systems do they adopt? How are their beliefs different from those of humans? How might their culture be incompatible with human culture? And how might it overlap – what do we share in common?
Harry felt as though his head had been split in two. Eyes streaming, he swayed, trying to focus on the street to spot the source of the noise, but he had barely staggered upright when two large purple hands reached through the open window and closed tightly around his throat.
"Put – it – away!" Uncle Vernon snarled into Harry's ear. "Now! Before – anyone – sees!"
"Get – off – me!" Harry gasped. For a few seconds they struggled, Harry pulling at his uncle's sausage-like fingers with his left hand, his right maintaing a firm grip on his raised wand; then, as the pain in the top of Harry's head gave a particularly nasty throb, Uncle Vernon yelped and released Harry as though he had received an electric shock. (1.22-24)
At the beginning of Book 1, the Dursleys clearly abuse Harry, making him do all of their cooking and keeping him locked in a cupboard under the stairs. But it seems almost cartoonish, like the way that Matilda's family treats her in Roald Dahl's novel Matilda. It doesn't seem real. But as Harry gets older and the Dursleys' violence increases (Uncle Vernon just grabbed Harry by the throat through an open window!), their treatment of him seems more and more appalling. It really feels as though it's not just the characters in the Harry Potter series who are growing up; it's the books themselves that are developing as well.
"Hasn't anyone told you? This was my parents' house," said Sirius. But I'm the last Black left, so it's mine now. I offered it to Dumbledore for Headquarters – about the only useful thing I've been able to do."
Harry, who had expected a better welcome, noted how hard and bitter Sirius's voice sounded. He followed his godfather to the bottom of the steps and through a door leading into the basement kitchen. (5.4-5)
In a lot of ways, Sirius's emotions in Book 5 are identical to Harry's, except maybe more intense. Sirius is filled with bitterness and resentment at being left out of the main fight. Sirius is also trapped in a place he doesn't want to be (with Kreacher, which makes things worse). As Sirius watches Harry going off to Hogwarts, he feels a sense of unreasonable envy, envy that he's a little ashamed of (a bit like Harry's guilty envy of Ron's prefect badge). The fact that Sirius feels so much like a fifteen-year old filled with teenage angst tells us that Sirius has a case of arrested development – after all, he hasn't spent much of his adult life outside of prison. No wonder he is so reckless and careless: Sirius isn't really a mature grown-up, no matter how old his body looks.
"Harry, I'm so sorry. What must you think of me?" [Mrs. Weasley] said shakily. "Not even able to get rid of a Boggart ..."
"Don't be stupid," said Harry, trying to smile.
"I'm just s - s - so worried," she said, tears spilling out of her eyes again. "Half the f - f - family's in the Order, it'll b - b - be a miracle if we all come through this ... and P - P - Percy's not talking to us ... what if something d - d - dreadful happens and we've never m - m - made it up with him? And what's going to happen if Arthur and I get killed, who's g - g- going to look after Ron and Ginny?" (9.297-299)
Mrs. Weasley's overprotectiveness is generally funny. Starting in Book 2, with her Howler to Ron about the flying car, her quick temper and constant concern for her family have been reassuring and kind of amusing. But now, in Book 5, as Voldemort has come back and everything is becoming more dangerous, Mrs. Weasley's fear for her family is a much more serious and tangible thing. She seems overbearing to Harry and Ron, but no wonder: every night, she imagines members of her own family dead in the War. And since it's true that half the Weasleys are in the Order of the Phoenix, chances are good that the family will suffer some losses. This is one of the most tragic scenes in Book 5, because even though Mrs. Weasley is willing and even eager to do her best to resist Voldemort, she is all too aware of the terrible cost that her resistance may exact on her nearest and dearest.
"Your father knew what he was getting into and he won't thank you for messing things up for the Order!" said Sirius, equally angry. "This is how it is – this is why you're not in the Order – you don't understand – there are things worth dying for!"
"Easy for you to say, stuck here!" bellowed Fred. "I don't see you risking your neck!"
The little color remaining in Sirius's face drained from it. He looked for a moment as though he would quite like to hit Fred, but when he spoke, it was in a voice of determined calm. (22.106-108)
Sirius is always all too ready to die for what he believes in – he is willing to risk his life at the drop of a hat, just to accompany Harry to the train station at King's Cross or to chat with him in the Gryffindor common room. The problem is that Sirius is also supposed to be a father figure for Harry, and fathers can't be as reckless with their lives as ordinary guys. After all, look how miserable Mr. Weasley's injury makes Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny. Mr. Weasley has a family to look after, so he has to be careful of himself. Sirius, on the other hand, is supposed to be Harry's godfather. He's supposed to be responsible for Harry. But he isn't used to that kind of adult burden. So, he's not really capable of behaving like a father, of not taking those heroic risks that he always wants to take. And his reckless behavior is what leads to his death and Harry's deep sense of loss in Book 5.
If Harry had ever sat through a longer night than this one, he could not remember it. Sirius suggested once, without any real conviction, that they all go to bed, but the Weasleys' looks of disgust were answer enough. They mostly sat in silence around the table, watching the candle wick sinking lower and lower into liquid wax, occasionally raising a bottle to their lips, speaking only to check the time, to wonder aloud what was happening and to reassure each other if there was bad news, they would know straight away, for Mrs. Weasley must long since have arrived at St. Mungo's. (22.122)
This is a nice reversal for Harry: usually, he's the one lying in the hospital wing frightening his friends with his injuries. But in Book 5, Harry gets to see what it's like to worry about other people: first, Mr. Weasley when he has been bitten by Voldemort's snake, and then at the end of the novel, when Hermione and Ron have both been seriously injured in the showdown at the Department of Mysteries.
"No!" [Professor Trelawney] shrieked. "NO! This cannot be happening ... it cannot ... I refuse to accept it!"
"You didn't realize this was coming?" said a high girlish voice, sounding callously amused, and Harry, moving slightly to his right, saw that Trelawney's terrifying vision was nothing other than Professor Umbridge. "Incapable though you are of predicting even tomorrow's weather, you must surely have realized that your pitiful performance during my inspections, and lack of any improvement, would make it inevitable that you would be sacked?" (26.230-231)
Professor Umbridge really enjoys bringing one of her fellow teachers to her knees by firing Professor Trelawney and throwing her out of the castle in the most public and humiliating fashion possible. We're of two minds about this scene: first, it seems like Professor Umbridge is just enjoying the pain that she's causing. She likes having the power to destroy another person as she is destroying Professor Trelawney. On the other hand, could this be a warning to the other teachers in the school not to cross her? Or is it a public performance to attract people who are bullies like Professor Umbridge to join her side? Why do you think Professor Umbridge decides to fire Professor Trelawney so publicly? What is she getting out of it?
Hatred rose in Harry such as he had never known before: he flung himself out from behind the fountain and bellowed, "Crucio!"
Bellatrix screamed: the spell had knocked her off her feet, but she did not writhe and shriek with pain as Neville had – she was already back on her feet, breathless, no longer laughing. [...]
"Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy?" she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. "You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain – to enjoy it – righteous anger won't hurt me for long – I'll show you how it is done, shall I? I'll give you a lesson —" (36.30-32)
Were you surprised when Harry Potter – our hero — tried to cast an Unforgivable Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange? Would you have thought Harry capable of casting a Cruciatus Curse in, say, Book 4? Are there points later in the series when you could imagine him crossing that line again? What does Harry's efforts to cast a Cruciatus Curse here tell you about his character? And about the spell itself?
"There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!" snarled Voldemort.
"You are quite wrong," said Dumbledore, still closing in upon Voldemort and speaking as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks. Harry felt scared to see him walking along, undefended, shieldless; he wanted to cry out a warning, but his headless guard kept shunting him backwards towards the wall, blocking his every attempt to get out from behind it. "Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness —" (36.69-70)
(That "headless guard" is the golden statue from the Ministry's fountain that Professor Dumbledore has spelled to defend Harry from Voldemort's curses.) What evidence have we seen in Books One through Four of Voldemort's extreme fear of death? Do you agree with Voldemort that there is nothing worse than death? Or do you agree with Dumbledore that "there are things much worse than death"? What might be worse than death for Dumbledore, in particular? What do you think he's talking about here?
"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. (37.131-132)
Why can't Harry rage and storm at Dumbledore properly if Dumbledore is being weak? Why do you think Dumbledore is suddenly willing to appear weak in front of Harry? And what changes do you think Dumbledore's appearance of weakness in front of Harry will bring for their future relationship?
[Aunt Petunia] was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the very first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister. He could not have said why this hit him so powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister's) were not narrowed in dislike or anger, they were wide and fearful. The furious pretense that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry's life – that there was no magic and no world other than the world she inhabited with Uncle Vernon – seemed to have fallen away. (2.194)
In our character analyses of Professors Snape and Dumbledore, we've mentioned that one of the projects of Book 5 is to make the characters seem more human and fleshed out. Well, Aunt Petunia gets this treatment, too: she's still a bigot, and she still treats Harry like dirt, but here, for the first time, J.K. Rowling reminds us that she grew up with Lily Potter. She had a witch sister who taught her something about the wizarding world. No matter how much Aunt Petunia tries to deny the effect that this experience has had on her, she still has been influenced by her sister's life – and her tragic, premature death.
[Harry] did not now why it had been such a shock; he had seen pictures of his parents before, after all, and he had met Wormtail ... but to have them sprung on him like that, when he was least expecting it ... no one would like that, he thought angrily ...
And then, to see them surrounded by all those other happy faces ... Benjy Fenwick, who had been found in bits, and Gideon Prewett, who had died like a hero, and the Longbottoms, who had been tortured into madness ... all waving happily out of the photograph forever more, not knowing that they were doomed. (9.267-268)
As Harry gets older, the cost of war with Voldemort becomes more and more apparent. As he looks at these photographs of the first generation of the Order of the Phoenix, he starts to realize what an enormous human cost the war has had, beyond the deaths of his own parents. And of course, Harry starts to wonder who among the new generation of the Order of the Phoenix will be next. Not only does this picture album increase our sense of sorrow over the deaths Voldemort has caused, but it also ratchets up the suspense for future books. We know that J.K. Rowling is willing and able to kill off her characters, and she has warned us with this picture album that Voldemort brings death. So – which characters whom we know and love will she take away from us?
"You survived when you were just a baby," [Cho] said quietly.
"Yeah, well," said Harry wearily, moving towards the door, "I dunno why nor, does anyone else, so it's nothing to be proud of."
"Oh, don't go!" said Cho, sounding tearful again. "I'm really sorry to get all upset like this ... I didn't mean to ..."
She hiccuped again. She was very pretty even when her eyes were red and puffy. Harry felt thoroughly miserable. He'd have been so pleased with just a "Merry Christmas."
"I know it must be horrible for you," she said, mopping her eyes on her sleeve again. "Me mentioning Cedric, when you saw him die ... I suppose you just want to forget about it?"
Harry did not say anything to this; it was quite true, but he felt heartless saying it. (21.135-140)
This dialogue is just one (among many) that demonstrates exactly how doomed a relationship between Harry and Cho would be: Harry was there when Cho's ex-boyfriend died less than a year ago! That's way too much baggage for teenage dating to handle. Why does J.K. Rowling decide to continue on with the Cho/Harry romance at all? What does their romance add to the plot of Book 5? How would Book 5 be different without Harry's relationship problems?
"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. "My son and his wife," she said, turning haughtily to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, "were tortured into insanity by You-Know-Who's followers."
Hermione and Ginny both clapped their hands over their mouths. Ron stopped craning his neck to catch a glimpse of Neville's parents and looked mortified.
"They were Aurors, you know, and very well respected within the wizarding community," Mrs. Longbottom went on. "Highly gifted, the pair of them." (23.200-204)
We spend so much of the series focusing on Harry's personal struggles that it can sometimes be difficult to remember that Voldemort has destroyed many, many lives. It's not always all about Harry – something that Harry slowly comes to learn over Book 5. Meeting Neville in the Spell Damage ward on Christmas shakes Harry out of his own self-centered pain (at least, for a little while). Neville may not be the Chosen One of prophecy, but he still shares Harry's courage and devotion to those he cares about. He's a hero just as much as Harry is, as his showdown with Bellatrix Lestrange, the woman who tortured his parents to insanity, at the end of Book 5 proves.
[Mr. Weasley] and all the other Weasleys froze on the threshold, gazing at the scene in front of them, which was also suspended in mid-action, both Sirius and Snape looking towards the door with their wands pointing into each other's faces and Harry immobile between them, a hand stretched out to each, trying to force them apart.
"Merlin's beard," said Mr. Weasley, the smile sliding off his face, "what's going on here?" (24.60-61)
We're a little troubled by the Hogwarts House sorting system, since it divides kids against each other based on their essential personalities from age eleven onwards. For proof of the long-term damage that these House rivalries can do, we need look no further than Sirius and Snape's ongoing feud. They're both well into adulthood and fighting on the same side of the war against Voldemort, but they're still willing to curse each other at a moment's notice. It takes Harry, the actual teenager in this situation, to break the two of them apart until the Weasleys can come home – a totally inappropriate role reversal.
"D'you think you managed to get all the signs [to identify a werewolf]?" said James in tones of mock concern.
"Think I did," said Lupin seriously, as they joined the crowd thronging around the front door eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. "One: he's sitting on my chair. Two: he's wearing my clothes. Three: his name's Remus Lupin."
Wormtail was the only one who didn't laugh.
"I got the snout shape, the pupils of the eyes and the tufted tail," he said anxiously, "but I couldn't think what else —"
"How thick are you, Wormtail?" said James impatiently. "You run round with a werewolf once a month —" (28.195-199)
It's interesting to observe the group dynamics of the Marauders knowing what happened to all of them a few years down the line. Here, we can see that Peter Pettigrew (a.k.a. Wormtail) is the least secure of the group. And when he asks for reassurance, he gets put down immediately by James. Wormtail clearly hangs around with James, Remus, and Sirius, but they don't take him seriously or respect him at all. It's this deep lack of respect that makes Wormtail turn on the Potters – and it's also this same lack of respect from Sirius that drives Kreacher to Bellatrix Lestrange. This problem of respect seems to be at the heart of a number of the betrayals in the Harry Potter series: Rowling warns us of what might happen if we don't treat our friends kindly!
Lupin had pulled out a book and was reading. Sirius stared around at the students milling over the grass, looking rather haughty and bored, but very handsomely so. James was still playing with the Snitch, letting it zoom further and further away, almost escaping but almost grabbed at the last second. Wormtail was watching him with his mouth open. Every time James made a particularly difficult catch, Wormtail gasped and applauded. After five minutes of this, Harry wondered why James didn't tell Wormtail to get a grip on himself, but James seemed to be enjoying the attention. (28.207)
So, now we see what Wormtail's big contribution to his Hogwarts friend circle was: a complete willingness to flatter his much more powerful friends. Presumably, this early training in flattery of stronger people helped him a lot when he turned to Voldemort. But it really doesn't speak well of James that he liked this flattery so much. What sense do you get of James and Sirius from Professor Snape's memory? How does this memory change your perception of Sirius in Book 5?
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily shouted. She had her own wand out now. James and Sirius eyed it warily.
"Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you," said James earnestly.
"Take the curse off him, then!"
James sighed deeply, then turned to Snape and muttered the counter-currse.
"There you go," he said, as Snape struggled to his feet. "You're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus —"
"I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!"
Lily blinked. (28.251-257)
What do you think of this sudden pivot from Professor Snape? Why does he suddenly turn on Lily in this memory of childhood bullying? Why does she become the target of his rage instead of, say, James and Sirius? How does seeing Professor Snape's worst memory enrich your perception of his character?
[Harry] felt as though the memory of it was eating him from inside. He had been so sure his parents were wonderful people that he had never had the slightest difficulty in disbelieving the aspersions Snape cast on his father's character. Hadn't people like Hagrid and Sirius told Harry how wonderful his father had been? (Yeah, well, look what Sirius was like himself, said a nagging voice inside Harry's head ... he was as bad, wasn't he?) (29.27)
We've said before, in relation to Dumbledore, that Harry is getting to the age where he starts to challenge the authority of the adults around him. As he is growing into an adult himself, he is learning the flaws and weak points of people he had previously always admired. And thanks to Professor Snape's Pensieve, even Harry's idealized impressions of his dead parents get shaken in Book 5. By the end of the novel, has any of Harry's trust in authority been restored? Who or what does he still have faith in?
"How come she married him?" Harry asked miserably. "She hated him!"
"Nah, she didn't," said Sirius.
"She started going out with him in seventh year," said Lupin.
"Once James had deflated his head a bit," said Sirius.
"And stopped hexing people just for the fun of it," said Lupin. (29.208-212)
This whole business of Professor Snape's worst memory really drives home how tragic Harry's situation is. He knows so little information about his parents that one memory – Snape's worst memory, a memory of James and Lily at their worst – seems more real and tangible to Harry than the vague protests of James's best friends.
"Deep down, Fudge knows Dumbledore's much cleverer than he is, a much more powerful wizard, and in the early days of his Ministry he was forever asking Dumbledore for help and advice," said Lupin. "But it seems he's become fond of power, and much more confident. He loves being Minister for Magic and he's managed to convince himself that he's the clever one and Dumbledore's simply stirring up trouble for the sake of it" (5.183)
Professor Umbridge is Book 5's greatest proof that power attracts bad people, but Fudge comes in a close second. He started out okay – kind of bumbling, but generally a good man. However, by this time, he has grown so accustomed to being Minister for Magic that he doesn't want to let it go, regardless of the cost he has to pay to keep it. He's willing to blacken the name of the man who helped him in the early days of his administration just to avoid competing with Dumbledore. However, Fudge's outright denial can only get him so far. Do you think Fudge truly believes that Voldemort has not returned? Do you think he really believes that Dumbledore is lying throughout Book 5?
"I did think [Professor Snape] might be a bit better this year," said Hermione in a disappointed voice. "I mean ... you know ..." she looked around carefully; there were half a dozen empty seats on either side of them and nobody was passing the table "now he's in the Order and everything."
"Poisonous toadstools don't change their spots," said Ron sagely. "Anyway, I've always thought Dumbledore was cracked to trust Snape. Where's the evidence he ever really stopped working for You-Know-Who?" (12.161-162)
Most of Professor Snape's character development throughout the whole series hinges on the fact that he appears evil but he is supposed to be good. It seems almost impossible for Ron, with a relatively black-and-white sense of morality, to believe that Professor Snape can be a cruel, vindictive, petty guy who is still working against Voldemort. At the same time, the villain in Book 5, is a sadistic, bullying monster who works (supposedly) on the side of good, for the Ministry of Magic. As Harry and the rest are getting older, they are moving further and further away from the moral absolutes of Book 1, where evil is easily identifiable because it has Lord Voldemort coming out of the back of its head.
"Potter, use your common sense," snapped Professor McGonagall, with an abrupt return to her usual manner. "you know where [Professor Umbridge] comes from, you must know to whom she is reporting." (12.305)
Harry grows up a lot over the course of Book 5. But one of the worst lessons he has to learn is that the truth is not enough to convince people. As he continues to speak the truth to Professor Umbridge, all it seems to do is give her more power over him, as she throws punishment after punishment at him to break his spirit. When Professor McGonagall warns him to be careful, she doesn't want him to stop telling the truth. She just wants Harry to be more subtle and less reckless. How well does Professor McGonagall abide by her own advice to Harry? At what point does Professor McGonagall start standing openly against Professor Umbridge? What drives Professor McGonagall to her own breaking point?
From something the Minister let slip when telling me you are now a prefect, I gather that you are still seeing a lot of Harry Potter. I must tell you, Ron, that nothing could put you in danger of losing your badge more than continued fraternization with that boy. Yes, I am sure you are surprised to hear this – no doubt you will say that Potter has always been Dumbledore's favorite – but I feel bound to tell you that Dumbledore may not be in charge at Hogwarts much longer and the people who count have a very different – and probably more accurate – view of Potter's behavior. I shall say no more here, but if you look at the Daily Prophet tomorrow you will get a good idea of the way the wind is blowing – and see if you can spot yours truly! (14.191)
Percy has turned his back on the Weasley family and thrown all of his fortunes in with Cornelius Fudge. When he hears that Ron has been made a prefect, he thinks Ron is following in Percy's own footsteps. So, he reaches out to his little bro. But what do you think Percy's motives are in sending this letter? Does he really think that he can convince Ron to dump Harry and shift his allegiance away from Dumbledore? If he does lure Ron to his side, does Percy hope that it will give him vindication that his father and the rest of his family is wrong? Does he want Ron to pass on the messages in the letter to his mother and father? Or does Percy think that Ron might show Harry this letter after all? Is this letter a little jab at Harry? What do you think is going on in Percy's head when he sends this nasty little note?
"Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters," said Sirius with a wry smile. (14.239)
Sirius claims that he doesn't see the world in black and white. He recognizes that Dolores Umbridge doesn’t have to be a Death Eater to be evil. But when it comes to Snape, Sirius isn’t quite as perceptive. He just can’t believe that Professor Snape, who was once a Death Eater, could ever be one of the good guys . J.K. Rowling points out this contradiction in Sirius's character:
Sirius is very good at spouting bits of excellent personal philosophy, but he does not always live up to them. For instance, he says in "Goblet of Fire" that if you want to know what a man is really like, 'look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.' But Sirius loathes Kreacher, the house-elf he has inherited, and treats him with nothing but contempt. Similarly, Sirius claims that nobody is wholly good or wholly evil, and yet the way he acts towards Snape suggests that he cannot conceive of any latent good qualities there. Of course, these double standards exist in most of us; we might know how we ought to behave, but actually doing it is a different matter! (source)
Sirius's own inconsistency is proof of what he is saying: Sirius is a good man, but he has bad sides to his character. His complete inability to forgive Professor Snape or to move on from childhood rivalries indicates his own enduring and dangerous immaturity.
"Yep," said Hagrid sadly, "eighty left, an' there was loads once, musta bin a hundred diff'rent tribes from all over the world. Bu' they've bin dyin' out fer ages. Wizards killed a few, o' course, bu' mostly they killed each other, an' now they're dyin' out faster than ever. They're not made ter live bunched up together like tha'. Dumbledore says it's our fault, it was the wizards who forced 'em to go an' made 'em live a good long way from us an' they had no choice bu' ter stick together fer their own protection." (20.94)
Hagrid's experiences with the giants raises all kinds of questions about the role of magical creatures in the politics of the wizarding world. If there are so few giants left (thanks to their quarrelsomeness), why would they be useful in the war effort at all? How many groups of intelligent non-human magical creatures are there? We know that there are centaurs, house-elves, and goblins, but what about the veela from Book 4? Or the merpeople? Or the leprechauns? Are they all going to choose sides between Voldemort and the Ministry of Magic? What reasons would they have for choosing one or the other side?
Umbridge did not answer; she finished writing her last note, then looked up at Hagrid and aid again very loudly and slowly, "Please continue teaching as usual. I am going to walk," she mimed walking (Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were having silent fits of laughter) "among the students" (she pointed around at individual members of the class) "and ask them questions." She pointed at her mouth to indicate talking. (21.62)
Professor Umbridge's resentment of half-humans is outrageous and appalling. But in this scene, when she's observing Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class, she's also in a (relatively) safe environment, surrounded by her hangers-on (Draco and Pansy) and taunting an instructor who clearly won't fight back. But we're still surprised at how provocative she is with the centaurs, who really can do her damage. Professor Umbridge is clearly a power-hungry monster. But would you call her brave?
"Dumbledore will be back before long," said Ernie Macmillan confidently on the way back from Herbology, after listening intently to Harry's story. "They couldn't keep him away in our second year and they won't be able to this time. The Fat Friar told me —" he dropped his voice conspiratorially, so that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to lean closer to him to hear "— that Umbridge tried to get back into his office last night after they'd searched the castle and grounds for him. Couldn't get past the gargoyle. The Head's office has sealed itself against her." Ernie smirked. "Apparently, she had a right little tantrum." (28.2)
We find Ernie Macmillan's story about Professor Umbridge being unable to get into Dumbledore's office really interesting. It seems to show that the castle itself has some kind of consciousness. With all of the moving staircases and secret rooms, it's obviously a wonderful place, but in this book, Hogwarts appears to have some kind of intelligence. How do you think it accepts or rejects Headmasters? What qualities do you expect a Hogwarts Head has to have to succeed?
"You ought not to have meddled, Hagrid," said Magorian. "Our ways are not yours, nor are our laws. Firenze has betrayed and dishonored us."
"I dunno how yeh work that out," said Hagrid impatiently. "He's done nothin' except help Albus Dumbledore —"
"Firenze has entered into servitude to humans," said a grey centaur with a hard, deeply lined face.
"Servitude!" said Hagrid scathingly. "He's doin' Dumbledore a favor is all —"
"He is peddling our knowledge and secrets among humans," said Magorian quietly. "There can be no return from such disgrace." (30.208-212)
The bigotry of powerful people like Professor Umbridge seems to bring out the worst in the groups that they are persecuting. Both the centaurs (led by Magorian) and the giants whom Hagrid travels to see are becoming more extreme in their hatred of humans. As human bigotry rises, anti-human bigotry among magical creatures gets worse as well. So, extremists like Professor Umbridge encourage non-human extremists like giant Golgomath and, here, Magorian to become more influential. Hatred causes more hatred, seems to be the lesson here.
"Don't call them [half-breeds]!" Hermione said furiously, but Umbridge did not have heard her. Still pointing her shaking wand at Magorian, she continued, "Law Fifteen 'B' states clearly that 'any attack by a magical creature who is deemed to have near-human intelligence, and therefore considered responsible for its actions —"
"'Near-human intelligence'?" repeated Magorian, as Bane and several others roared with rage and pawed the ground. "We consider that a great insult, human! Our intelligence, thankfully, far outstrips your own." (33.33-34)
And here, we have an example of why bigotry is bad: check out how quickly this confrontation between half-human-hater Professor Umbridge and all-human-hater Magorian flares up. They both totally offend each other within a second of speaking, which leads to violence very quickly. If they were willing to be less extreme in their prejudices, this showdown between Professor Umbridge and the centaurs would never take place.
[Harry] had forgotten completely about prefects being chosen in the fifth year. He had been too anxious about the possibility of being expelled to spare a thought for the fact that badges must be winging their way towards certain people. But if he had remembered ... if he had thought about it ... what would he have expected?
Not this, said a small and truthful voice inside his head.
Harry screwed up his face and buried it in his hands. He could not lie to himself; if he had known the prefect badge was on its way, he would have expected it to come to him, not Ron. Did this make him as arrogant as Draco Malfoy? Did he think himself superior to everyone else? Did he really believe he was better than Ron? (9.170-172)
The thing is, J.K. Rowling has told us that the purpose of Book 5 is to show us Harry as "a very human hero" (source). And the problem with humans (at least, in J.K. Rowling's representation), is that we are petty, angry, faulty creatures. Because Harry is human, he cannot help but think (in his heart of hearts) that he is better than Ron because he has faced Voldemort on his own and survived to tell the tale. Even if Harry loves Ron, it's still understandable that he would think he deserves the prefect badge more than Ron. Still, even if it's understandable, it's not admirable. It makes us a little uncomfortable to read about our hero, Harry Potter, being petty and resentful. But again, that seems to be the point J.K. Rowling is making about true heroism: to be a hero, you don't have to be superhuman. You don't have to be more virtuous than everybody else on the planet. You just have to be generally brave, usually kind, and often filled with sympathy. Not all the time – just often enough to help your friends when they need you.
Harry lay back on his pillows while Ron bustled around the next bed, putting his things away. He felt shaken by the argument with Seamus, whom he had always liked very much. How many more people were going to suggest that he was lying, or unhinged?
Had Dumbledore suffered like this all summer, as first the Wizengamot, then the International Confederation of Wizards had thrown him from their ranks? Was it anger at Harry, perhaps, that had stopped Dumbledore getting in touch with him for months? The two of them were in this together, after all; Dumbledore had believed Harry, announced his version of events to the whole school and then to the wider wizarding community. Anyone who thought Harry was a liar had to think that Dumbledore was, too, or else that Dumbledore had been hoodwinked ... (11.168-169)
On their first night back to Hogwarts, Seamus Finnegan – with whom Harry has shared a dorm room for the last four years – tells him point blank that he thinks Harry's crazy for believing that Voldemort is back. If Seamus can think that of Harry when they have lived together for almost a quarter of their lives, how many people out there are going to think Harry's crazy? This is one of the only moments in Book 5 when Harry really feels sympathy for Professor Dumbledore, who is also caught up in this P.R. nightmare. Why does Harry's sense of solidarity with Dumbledore disappear so quickly? Why is it necessary to the plot of Book 5 that Harry and Dumbledore be estranged from each other?
"Yes, Lavender thinks [Harry is lying about Voldemort] too," [Hermione] said gloomily.
"Been having a nice little chat with her about whether or not I'm a lying, attention-seeking prat, have you?" Harry said loudly.
"No," said Hermione calmly. "I told her to keep her big fat moth shut about you, actually. And it would be quite nice if you stopped jumping down our throats, Harry, because in case you haven't noticed, Ron and I are on your side" (12.15-17)
Having a best friend means having someone who forgives you for being a total d-bag when they're just trying to help. Hermione is the voice of reason through much of Book 5, always willing to give Harry a reality check. But because she's (almost) always right, she may seem a little one-dimensional at times. How does J.K. Rowling try to keep Hermione real?
"You can laugh," Luna said, her voice rising, apparently under the impression that Parvati and Lavender were laughing at what she had said rather than what she was wearing, "but people used to believe there were no such things as the Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack!"
"Well, they were right, weren't they?" said Hermione impatiently. "There weren't any such things as the Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack."
Luna gave her a withering look and flounced away, radishes swinging madly. Parvati and Lavender were not the only ones hooting with laughter now.
"D'you mind not offending the only people who believe me?" Harry asked Hermione as they made their way into class. (13.113-116)
Luna believes in Harry wholeheartedly, and it's thanks to her support that he manages to get his interview published in The Quibbler. But she is also so eccentric that people feel no remorse about making fun of her openly. Indeed, in one of her last appearances in the book, she is going around the school pinning up notices for her lost clothes and books because her own classmates have hidden them. She takes all of this bullying in stride and remains absolutely true to her own convictions, though, which is admirable (even if she does seem, well, a bit loony). What do you make of Luna's character? Does she remind you of anyone you know? Does she seem realistic or recognizable to you? What does Luna add to Book 5 as a character?
Don't sit there grinning like you know better than I do, I was there, wasn't I? [...] I know what went on, all right? And I didn't get through any of that because I was brilliant at Defense Against the Dark Arts, I got through it all because – because help came at the right time, or because I guessed right – but I just blundered through it all, I didn't have a clue what I was doing – STOP LAUGHING! (15.245)
When Hermione asks Harry to lead their Defense Against the Dark Arts club, he freaks out. He doesn't want to take credit for everything that has happened to him. He claims that he survived all of his battles with Voldemort through luck, because he "guessed right." But when he first sees Ron's prefect badge, Harry is secretly outraged because he has stood against Voldemort and Ron hasn't – doesn't he deserve a little credit? Harry's about-face as he starts feeling embarrassment about his achievements demonstrates that he is incredibly moody these days. But we have to ask: why is Harry protesting so much at Ron and Hermione's faith in him? Why does he deny their enthusiasm at his skills? Where is this sudden protest from Harry coming from, do you think?
"Winky is still drinking lots, sir," he said sadly, his enormous round green eyes, large as tennis balls, downcast. "She still does not care for clothes, Harry Potter . Nor do the other house-elves. None of them will clean Gryffindor Tower any more, not with the hats and socks hidden everywhere, they finds them insulting, sir. Dobby does it all himself, sir, but Dobby does not mind, sir, for he always hopes to meet Harry Potter and tonight, sir, he has got his wish!" Dobby sank into a deep bow again. (18.145)
Dobby reveals what we have all guessed: that Hermione's knitted hats and socks have not freed a single house-elf. The interesting thing about Dobby is that he is a free elf, but he has still not moved completely beyond house-elf nature. It's just that he has chosen his own master, and that master is Harry Potter. He still regards Harry with the same kind of slavish devotion that Kreacher lavishes on Mrs. Black's portrait and memory. Dobby is different from the rest of his kind, but he's still a house-elf – he's not all that changed.
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.
"[Cho] was the one who started it," said Harry. "I wouldn't've – she just sort of came at me – and the next thing she's crying all over me – I didn't know what to do —" (21.187-189)
When Harry debriefs Ron and Hermione about his first kiss with Cho, Hermione acts as a translator for all the feelings running through Cho – the conflicting feelings that made her kiss Harry and then cry all over him. Harry and Ron are both stunned that Cho could be feeling so much, but for Hermione, it seems obvious. J.K. Rowling is clearly playing on stereotypes that girls at fifteen are a lot more in touch with their own emotions (and those of other people) than boys are. In your experience, do you think that's true?
"See what they've named themselves?" said Fudge quietly. "Dumbledore's Army."
Dumbledore reached out and took the piece of parchment from Fudge. He gazed at the heading scribbled by Hermione months before and for a moment seemed unable to speak. Then he looked up, smiling.
"Well, the game is up," he said simply. "Would you like a written confession from me, Cornelius – or will a statement before these witnesses suffice?" (27.198-200)
In a split second, presented with the evidence that the D.A. has been calling itself Dumbledore's Army, Dumbledore decides to take the fall for Harry and his friends. What do you think his feelings are in reading the heading Hermione had written on top of the list of names? How do you think he feels about leaving the school at this juncture? We never really learn what Dumbledore was doing outside of Hogwarts – what do you think he was up to?
"[Harry's]'s not your son," said Sirius quietly.
"He's as good as," said Mrs. Weasley fiercely. "Who else has he got?"
"He's got me!"
"Yes," said Mrs. Weasley, her lip curling, "the thing is, it's been rather difficult for you to look after him while you've been locked up in Azkaban, hasn't it?" (5.124-127)
So, Mrs. Weasley definitely goes too far with this one: it's not Sirius's fault that Peter Pettigrew framed him for murder, leaving him stuck in Azkaban prison for twelve years. At the same time, this is an example of the kinds of goads that contribute to Sirius's later recklessness at the end of the novel. Harry blames Professor Snape for Sirius's poor state of mind, but it's not just him – Mrs. Weasley, Fred, and George all goad Sirius at one time or another for his lack of participation in the war and Harry's upbringing. By the time Harry heads to the Department of Mysteries, everyone in Sirius's life has made him good and ready to risk everything, no matter what the consequences – he just can't stand to be trapped any longer.
"If my parents could see the use their house was being put to now ... well, my mother's portrait should give you some idea ..."
[Sirius] scowled for a moment, then sighed.
"I wouldn't mind if I could just get out occasionally and do something useful. I've asked Dumbledore whether I can escort you to your hearing – as Snuffles, obviously – so I can give you a bit of moral support, what d'you think?" (6.187-189)
Dumbledore claims, at the end of Book 5, that he just wanted to keep Sirius safe by locking him away at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. But Dumbledore seems to have no respect for psychology: would you call Sirius's current state of mind, when he's so desperate to leave the house that he just wants to turn into a dog and escort Harry to the train station, safe? Keeping Sirius locked up for a year is essentially asking for trouble – what was Dumbledore thinking?
"You belong at Hogwarts and Sirius knows it. Personally, I think he's being selfish. [...] He'll have company!" said Hermione. "It's Headquarters to the Order of the Phoenix, isn't it? He just got his hopes up that Harry would be coming to live here with him."
"I don't think that's true," said Harry, wringing out his cloth. "He wouldn't give me a straight answer when I asked him if I could."
"He just didn't want to get his own hopes up even more," said Hermione wisely. "And he probably felt a bit guilty himself, because I think a part of him was really hoping you'd be expelled. Then you'd both be outcasts together." (9.62-66)
First off, Hermione is fifteen just like Ron and Harry. We know that she's brilliant, but how exactly did she get so wise about the motivations of other people? Sometimes, she does seem almost too brilliant. But anyway, we agree with her assessment of Sirius here: Sirius knows intellectually that it's better for Harry to go back to Hogwarts, but he wishes emotionally that Harry would be expelled so that he could have a friend at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. The problem with the relationship between Harry and Sirius is that Harry is looking for a father in Sirius, while Sirius is looking for a friend (and not so much a son, for whom he would have to be responsible) in Harry. They can't really give each other what they want, so their relationship is probably doomed to tragedy from the start.
I sort you into houses
Because that is what I'm for,
But this year I'll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it's wrong,
Though I must fulfill my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether Sorting
May not bring the end I fear.
Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
The warning history shows,
For our Hogwarts is in danger
From external, deadly foes
And we must unite inside her
Or we'll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you ...
Let the Sorting now begin. (11.39)
The Sorting Hat branches out this year. Usually, before sorting the first years into the four Hogwarts Houses, it just explains the major House traits – Gryffindor = bravery, Hufflepuff = loyalty, Ravenclaw = smarts, and Slytherin = ambition. But this year, the Sorting Hat admits to some guilt about the whole process. By Sorting Hogwarts students according to their basic characteristics, doesn't the Sorting Hat encourage them to compete against each other? As times get hard and Voldemort grows more powerful, Hogwarts students need to stand together, and not allow themselves to be divided by House loyalties. Clearly, the biggest problem in the Sorting system is Slytherin House, which all of the other Houses distrust. If you're Sorted into Slytherin, it seems almost like a foregone conclusion that you'll be a bad person. On the other hand, it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy: by becoming Slytherin, perhaps you have no choice but to live down to the expectations of the other three houses. So, we agree with the Sorting Hat: the Hogwarts House system does seem divisive and potentially damaging, since it separates kids according to their personalities when they are only eleven years old. What do you think of the Hogwarts Sorting system? Does it seem ethical to you? What House would you most like to join?
There was a pause in which Sirius looked out at Harry, a crease between his sunken eyes.
"You're less like your father than I thought," he said finally, a definite coolness in his voice. The risk would've been what made it fun for James." (14.272-273)
When Sirius suggests coming to Hogsmeade in his dog form to visit Harry, Harry says no. He knows that Draco recognized Sirius on the train platform in London, so he fears that it won't be safe for Sirius to go out in the open, no matter what form he's in. But Sirius is so cabin-feverish that he lashes out at Harry for not taking him up on his offer. Sirius is being unfair to Harry in two ways: first, and most obviously, he's sneering at Harry for being "less like" James Potter than he had thought. But the situations are completely different: it's not like Sirius wants to leave school grounds without permission. He wants to go out in public as a convicted Death Eater when he knows that the Malfoys at least can recognize him. Sirius's plan is insanely dangerous, a point that he refuses to acknowledge. Second, Sirius wants Harry to be a chum, a partner in crime. But Harry is actually more mature than Sirius in this case. Harry looks up to Sirius, but Sirius is forcing Harry to be the responsible adult in this pairing. Since Harry is the one who is fifteen, this is really unfair.
"You don't think he has become ... sort of ... reckless since he's been cooped up in Grimmauld Place? You don't think he's ... kind of ... living through us?"
"What d'you mean, 'living through us'?" Harry retorted.
"I mean ... well, I think he'd love to be forming secret Defense societies right under the nose of someone from the Ministry ... I think he's really frustrated at how little he can do where he is ... so I think he's keen to kind of ... egg us on." (18.50-52)
This piece of dialogue is just one among many when Hermione takes a second to suggest that they be careful. In this case, she's wondering if the D.A. is really such a good idea if Sirius is so excited about it. After all, he's not the most reliable of supporters right now. He is trying to live vicariously through Harry, Ron, and Hermione. If the project of Book 5 is to humanize characters like Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape, then what about Hermione? What faults does she demonstrate in the novel? Does Hermione get any additional character development in Book 5? How is Book 5 Hermione different from Book 1 Hermione? Or Book 4 Hermione?
[Professor McGonagall] strode around behind her desk and faced them, quivering with rage as she threw the Gryffindor scarf aside on the floor.
"Well?" she said. "I have never seen such a disgraceful exhibition. Two on one! Explain yourselves!" (19.115-116)
After the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, Draco taunts Harry, Fred, and George into attacking him. This is nothing new – Draco is always mocking Harry, and Harry often rises to the bait (especially now that his temper is on such a hair trigger). What's surprising about this scene is how very angry Professor McGonagall seems to be. Why do you think Professor McGonagall gets so riled up about this particular fight? What does Professor McGonagall seem most concerned about as she yells at the boys?
The teachers were of course forbidden from mentioning the interview [in The Quibbler] by Educational Decree Number Twenty-six, but they found ways to express their feelings about it all the same. Professor Sprout awarded Gryffindor twenty points when Harry passed her a watering can; a beaming Professor Flitwick pressed a box of squeaking sugar mice on him at the end of Charms, said, "Shh!" and hurried away; and Professor Trelawney broke into hysterical sobs during Divination and announced to the startled class, and a very disapproving Umbridge, that Harry was not going to suffer an early death after all, but would live to a ripe old age, become Minister for Magic and have twelve children. (26.108)
These are great examples of passive resistance: the teachers hate Professor Umbridge's guts and they believe in Dumbledore, so they do their best to show their support for Harry after he gives an interview about Voldemort to The Quibbler. But they keep their support for Harry under cover, and they don't rise up against Professor Umbridge openly. Why not? Why do the teachers choose to go along with Professor Umbridge for most of her stay as Headmistress? And how do they show their disapproval for Professor Umbridge? How do they attempt to undermine her authority?
"Harry's not a member of the Order of the Phoenix!" said Mrs. Weasley. "He's only fifteen and —"
"And he's dealt with as much as most in the Order," said Sirius, "and more than some."
"No one's denying what he's done!" said Mrs. Weasley, her voice rising, her fists trembling on the arms of her chair. "But he's still —"
"He's not a child!" said Sirius impatiently.
"He's not an adult either!" said Mrs. Weasley, the color rising in her cheeks. "He's not James, Sirius!" (5.105-10
Harry loves that Sirius treats him like an equal. And Mrs. Weasley is disastrously overprotective in the first couple of chapters of this novel, probably because she is so worried about what is going to happen to her family now that Voldemort is rising again. But the thing is, we do think that Mrs. Weasley is partly right: Sirius is getting confused about who Harry truly is. He encourages Harry to be as reckless and impulsive as possible. But Harry's recklessness drives him to the Department of Mysteries when he has no reason to be there. If Sirius had treated Harry more like a son and less like a partner in crime, a lot of things could have been avoided. J.K. Rowling comments, "I see Sirius as someone who was a case of arrested development. I think you see that from his relationship with Harry in Phoenix. He kind of wants a mate from Harry, and what Harry craves is a father. Harry's kind of outgrowing that now. Sirius wasn't equipped to give him that" (source).
Harry did not read any further. Fudge might have had many faults, but Harry found it extremely hard to imagine him ordering goblins to be cooked in pies. He flicked through the rest of [The Quibbler]. Pausing every few pages, he read: an accusation that the Tutshill Tornados were winning the Quidditch League by a combination of blackmail, illegal broom-tampering and torture; an interview with a wizard who claimed to have flown to the moon on a Cleansweep Six and brought back a bag of moon frogs to prove it; and an article on ancient runes which at least explained why Luna had been reading The Quibbler upside-down. According to the magazine, if you turned the runes on their heads they revealed a spell to make your enemy's ears into kumquats. In fact, compared to the rest of the articles in The Quibbler, the suggestion that Sirius might really be the lead singer of The Hobgoblins was quite sensible. (10.144)
The Quibbler is basically the wizarding equivalent of The Globe or The National Enquirer: a tabloid that no one really believes. Yet, it keeps publishing. What do people get out of reading tabloids? Are there people out there who truly believe those wild tabloid stories? Or do they just get a kick out of reading farfetched headlines?
"They're hats for house-elves," she said briskly, now stuffing her books back into her bag. "I did them over the summer. I'm a really slow knitter without magic but now I'm back at school I should be able to make lots more."
"You're leaving out hats for the house-elves?" said Ron slowly. "And you're covering them up with rubbish first?"
"Yes," said Hermione defiantly, swinging her bag on to her back.
"That's not on," said Ron angrily. "You're trying to trick them into picking up the hats. You're setting them free when they might not want to be free." (13.62-65)
Two things about this quote: first, Harry's fights with Ron and Hermione are so dire that we sometimes overlook how much Ron and Hermione squabble in Book 5. They fight over house-elf rights, over Fred and George, and over Professor Snape. So, clearly that teenage angst that's weighing Harry down is getting to Ron and Hermione too, just in smaller portions. Second, Hermione is continuing her house-elf advocacy that she starts in Book 4. How do you feel about her house-elf work? Why does this particular cause seem so important to her? What does her house-elf work tell you about Hermione's character?
"She says that on no account whatsoever are you to take part in an illegal secret Defense Against the Dark Arts group. She says you'll be expelled for sure and your future will be ruined. She says there will be plenty of time to learn how to defend yourself later and that you are too young to be worrying about that right now. She also" (Sirius's eyes turned to the other two) "advises Harry and Hermione not to proceed with the group, though she accepts that she has no authority over either of them and simply begs them to remember that she has their best interests at heart." (17.219)
Mrs. Weasley is so concerned about the D.A. that she passes on this message to Ron, Harry, and Hermione through Sirius's Firecall. Now, we've gotten some background on why Mrs. Weasley is being so overprotective in Chapter 9, "The Woes of Mrs. Weasley." At the same time, her efforts to prevent the D.A. seem to us to be along the lines of Dumbledore shutting Sirius Black into Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Yes, on the face of it, she is protecting them. But the psychological stress of trying to go along with Professor Umbridge would be so great that they would all crack before too long. The D.A. is dangerous, but it's also necessary activity that gives them hope and energy.
Without preamble, Harry told his godfather every detail of the vision he had had, including the fact that he himself had been the snake who had attacked Mr. Weasley.
When he paused for breath, Sirius said, "Did you tell Dumbledore this?"
"Yes," said Harry impatiently, "but he didn't tell me what it meant. Well, he doesn't tell me anything any more."
"I'm sure he would have told you if it was anything to worry about," said Sirius steadily. (22.136-139)
We've spent most of this module talking about how reckless Sirius is – and we stand by that; he's kind of a loose cannon. At the same time, when Harry levels with Sirius about the vision he has had from the snake's perspective, Sirius doesn't say a word to Harry about what the Order suspects about Harry's link to Voldemort. He does treat Harry as someone who must be protected from the truth. Does this seem out of character to you? Why does Sirius not share information with Harry at this point? How would it change the novel if Sirius did spill the beans about Harry's relationship to Voldemort?
"Well, for a first attempt that was not as poor as it might have been," said Snape, raising his wand once more. "You managed to stop me eventually, though you wasted time and energy shouting. You must remain focused. Repel me with your brain and you will not need to resort to your wand."
"I'm trying," said Harry angrily, "but you're not telling me how!"
“Manners, Potter," said Snape dangerously. (24.198-200)
What do you think of Professor Snape's teaching style as he tries to instruct Harry in Occlumency? Could you have figured out Occlumency from Snape's teaching? Why does Harry find Occlumency so difficult? Is it Professor Snape in particular, or is it Harry's own approach to Occlumency? Does Harry's struggles with Occlumency tell you anything about his character?
You don't get it! [...] I'm not having nightmares, I'm not just dreaming! What d'you think all the Occlumency was for, why d'you think Dumbledore wanted me prevented from seeing these things? Because they're REAL, Hermione – Sirius is trapped, I've seen him. Voldemort's got him, and no one else knows, and that means we're the only ones who can save him, and if you don't want to do it, fine, but I'm going, understand? (32.67)
Harry has this bizarre, irrational break here: he insists that Dumbledore wanted him to study Occlumency to prevent him from seeing things that are "REAL." Why does it never once occur to Harry that Dumbledore might want Harry not to see these things because they are fake? Why does Harry want so badly for his visions to be true? What does he hope to achieve through confronting these visions?
Harry turned to look where Neville was staring. Directly above them, framed in the doorway from the Brain Room, stood Albus Dumbledore, his wand aloft, his face white and furious. Harry felt a kind of electric charge surge through every particle of his body – they were saved. (35.268)
After this whole year of turning his back on Professor Dumbledore, when Harry sees him at the Ministry of Magic, he falls back on his faith that Professor Dumbledore will save them. He still believes that Professor Dumbledore can fix just about anything. But Harry's faith is going to get a final test, as Professor Dumbledore's presence still can't save Sirius from his inevitable fate. And here's another question we want to ask: why doesn't Professor Dumbledore kill Voldemort at the end of Book 5? Why doesn't Professor Dumbledore even try? Do the future books give us a clue?
And notice this, Harry: [Voldemort] chose, not the pureblood (which, according to his creed, is the only kind of wizard worth being or knowing) but the half-blood, like himself. He saw himself in you before he had ever seen you, and in marking you with that scar, he did not kill you, as he intended, but gave you powers, and a future, which have fitted you to escape him not once, but four times so far – something that neither your parents, nor Neville's parents, ever achieved. (37.206)
At the end of Book 2, when Harry worries about how much he is like the young Voldemort, Tom Riddle, Professor Dumbledore tells him that it's his choices that have put Harry in Gryffindor instead of Slytherin. We all have the choice to follow our better natures. But then, here, at the end of Book 5, Professor Dumbledore strongly emphasizes fate: Voldemort has chosen Harry, has given him "powers, and a future." So, where's the choice in that? What tension does this series create between personal choice and fate? Which do you think is more powerful in the Harry Potter world?