Chapter 6 – The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
- It is a little irritating how firm Mrs Weasley is about keeping the kids from overhearing anything the Order is doing. Even though it’s logically correct because they’re teenagers, the fact that they’re the protagonists does incline me to side more with them. Meanwhile, as with the Dursleys earlier, the adult characters are revealing more sides to themselves with being under pressure.
- The Black family tree is very interesting, but Sirius’s mention of Harry’s grandparents is tantalisingly brief and I would have liked more detail.
- I remember how after Half-Blood Prince, fans were quickly suggesting that the “heavy locket that none of them could open” was Voldemort’s locket. Very attentive, this fan community – and we had to be!
Chapter 7 – The Ministry of Magic
- We know in our heads that Harry has to go back to Hogwarts and will therefore come out of the hearing okay, yet it still feels tense. It’s another one of those situations of nervous anticipation that the reader can easily relate to; and despite their assurances, none of the adult characters seem quite certain that everything will be alright.
- Once again, Harry gets taken to a new magical environment, which is very interesting to see despite the current situation he’s in, particularly the different levels as he takes the elevator.
- When it’s mentioned that Percy has walked out of the family photo on Mr Weasley’s desk, I thought maybe the photo had somehow sensed the family’s current state – but that doesn’t make sense, as in the old Order of the Phoenix photo we see later, everyone’s still waving even though many of them are dead now. Instead, did Mr Weasley direct Percy to leave the photo because he couldn’t stand to look at him every day?
- It’s good how Rowling respects her readers’ intelligence: we can figure out for ourselves that Fudge changed the time of Harry’s hearing at the last minute in the hopes he would miss it, so she doesn’t bother to tell us outright.
Chapter 8 – The Hearing
- This chapter sees the first mention in the books that Harry’s middle name is James, but in fact Rowling had already revealed this in a Q&A – she’s done so many interviews by this point, plus supplementary material like the Comic Relief books, she can start incorporating material from them.
- There may be some ill feeling toward Dumbledore at this point, given how he’s been treating Harry recently, but he’s still awesome in this chapter. Fudge is obviously rushing proceedings as much as he can to get the outcome he wants, and Dumbledore clearly knows full well what’s going on; yet he just smoothly works around everything that Fudge does, all while being perfectly polite and within the law.
- The amount of description given to Dolores Umbridge’s appearance indicates right away that we’ll be seeing her again – and the contrast between her sweet, girly voice and unpleasant face causes her to inspire uneasy feelings right away.
Chapter 9 – The Woes of Mrs Weasley
- Ron does seem an odd choice to be a Gryffindor prefect, even with the knowledge that Dumbledore vetoed Harry as an option. But then, of the other candidates, Neville’s not that good at anything other than Herbology, and there’s no indication that Dean and Seamus are any more capable or responsible than Ron. Ron may be fairly average, especially next to Harry and Hermione, but he often underestimates himself, and helping to save the school more than once certainly counts in his favour.
- Harry’s emotions are all over the place in this chapter: first he’s upset that Ron was made a prefect instead of him, before recognising that he’d be a lousy friend to show it; then he’s happy again upon learning his father wasn’t a prefect; then he goes back downhill after Lupin and Kingsley start questioning the issue as well.
- When Moody looks at the hidden Boggart with his magical eye, does it still take the form of his worst fear, or is he the first person ever to actually see its true form?
- The photo of the old Order of the Phoenix really makes it hit home, in case we were focussing too much on Harry’s desire for respect and inclusion: this is war, and there will almost certainly be casualties.
- The sudden sight of Ron’s dead body definitely made me jump the first time I read this book, especially as it’s positioned at the bottom of a page in this edition.
- The nature of Mrs Weasley’s greatest fear represented by the Boggart – her loved ones dying – seems quite different from most of the things the Boggart turned into in Prisoner of Azkaban, which tended to be actual physical entities that inspired fear in the subject (Professor Snape, a giant spider, etc). This could reflect the difference between the fears of children and adults: Hermione’s fear of failure, represented by Professor McGonagall telling her she’s failed everything, is more abstract than Ron’s Boggart, and Hermione is the most adult and mature of the trio.
Chapter 10 – Luna Lovegood
- The first nine chapters haven’t been too upbeat, and even going back to Hogwarts isn’t as happy as it should be for Harry: first Ron and Hermione have to leave him on the train – where luckily, Ginny steps in to be his companion – and then there’s no Hagrid upon arrival.
- We are introduced to Luna Lovegood, who makes an immediate impression with her bizarre appearance and unique character. As with other characters, I can see a smidgen of myself in Luna, including the brutal honesty and the cracking up at an average joke.
- It’s telling that Cho is actually seeking Harry out rather than randomly bumping into him. And of course our teenage protagonist, inexperienced and insecure in the world of romance, is more concerned with looking cool in front of Cho than valuing the companions he’s got.
Chapter 11 – The Sorting Hat’s New Song
- The Sorting Hat certainly tells an interesting and sad history in its song. It would appear that the inter-house division we’ve seen in the books so far has gone on for some time – the system may be effective in dividing in the students into manageable groups who gel fairly well within themselves, but it’s not really good for them as a whole, and Rowling is aware of it.
- So how come Evan Abercrombie, the boy who looks really scared, goes to Gryffindor? Presumably he’s got some kind of inner courage he needs to uncover, right? I’m sure that’s a fascinating and inspiring story, but sorry, Evan – it’s not your name on the cover!
- I can understand Harry loathing Umbridge on sight even though he doesn’t really know anything about her. That’s how I felt when I first glimpsed Keith Lemon on TV.
- Umbridge’s speech to the school makes it very clear that she’s a politician first and a teacher second.
- That’s the thing about this year: Harry wants and needs some comfortable familiarity but everything around him is changing. And then he gets all angsty again about Seamus.
Chapter 12 – Professor Umbridge
- An alternate title for this chapter would be ‘Harry and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’. His attitude is so bad that even Ron and Hermione lose patience and tell him off; even Potions manages to be worse than usual; and then he blows up and gets detention with Umbridge. The only way this first day back could be any worse is if he stepped on a broom and it whacked him between the legs. You see why I have a hard time reading this book?
- Hello, Cho – again. Very eager for screen time in this book, aren’t you?
- Although Umbridge’s plan to just teach the theory of Defence Against The Dark Arts has rather different motivations behind it than real life, this still appears to be a criticism of teaching practices in many real schools: having a flat, non-engaging teaching plan and believing that exam results are all that matter, because teaching statistics that make the institution and government look good are more important than actually preparing students for the real world.