Chapter 26 – Seen and Unforeseen
- It’s a curious thing that Hermione, who used to have hardly any social experience, is now the one who has to teach Harry about the complexities of girls.
- I hate to admit it, but Hermione does have a point about Quidditch creating too much bad feeling between houses. Football is much nicer: it doesn’t give me bad feelings towards other countries, just my own.
- Harry’s interview in the Quibbler feels like another much-needed triumph, with even the teachers showing approval, in case we were in any doubt that it was the right move.
- The brief glimpse into Snape’s mind is tantalising: it always seemed likely that he didn’t have the happiest childhood.
Chapter 27 – The Centaur and the Sneak
- I really like Firenze’s forested classroom, plus his own ‘grand scale’ approach to Divination.
- And so Dumbledore’s Army is lost in this chapter – but it’s not nearly as painful as previous parts of the book, as the scene that follows in Dumbledore’s office is so good. We get Dumbledore finally engaging with Harry again just a little; Fudge raising a really quite fair point about how complicated and unbelievable Harry’s stories can be to an outside party; Dumbledore and McGonagall maintaining their superiority despite being on the defensive; and Dumbledore finishing off with some excellent improvisation.
- Since it’s one of my favourite moments in the whole series, let’s have Dumbledore’s quote to Fudge in full and bask in its glory: ‘Well – it’s just that you seem to be labouring under the delusion that I am going to – what is the phrase? – come quietly. I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course – but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.’
- There seem to be two sides to Occlumency – Harry resisting Snape’s direct attacks on his mind through his own will, in a similar fashion to the Imperius Curse, and then clearing his mind of emotion before sleep to stop his dreams – and I’m not quite sure how one really helps the other.
Chapter 28 – Snape’s Worst Memory
- The unfortunate result of Umbridge becoming headmistress: Malfoy getting to do whatever he wants, down to taking points from Hermione for being a Mudblood, and not even trying to hide or justify it.
- Seriously, Harry, why are you delving into Snape’s memory in the Pensieve? You don’t even know how to get out!
- But at least this latest terrible decision from Harry gives us a very interesting flashback scene. It’s great how the characters are described, down to young Snape walking like a spider – plus the characterisations of the Marauders. James and Sirius are classic cool kids – they’re both smart and popular, and they know it. It’s notable that when Snape sees them coming, he goes for his wand immediately, indicating he’s used to what comes next.
- It’s even more interesting to look at Lily’s role in the scene, in the context of what we know from Deathly Hallows. It gives the title of the chapter a whole new meaning: this is not Snape’s worst memory because it’s so embarrassing, but because it’s when he called Lily a Mudblood and broke their friendship. So why does he say it? Did it just slip out because he was so angry and embarrassed? Lily’s reaction – acting coolly and calling him ‘Snivellus’ – also looks more meaningful from this perspective. And then James gets angry at Snape’s use of the word and acts like he’s the good guy in the situation, even though his behaviour overall embodies the negative side of the supposedly heroic Gryffindor House.
Chapter 29 – Careers Advice
- Poor Harry, having his shining image of his parents tarnished. Ultimately it’s a reminder that he doesn’t have much direct information about them, and can only go off the glowing stories from other people he trusts, and what he would like to believe. But again, he’s not being very logical: you’d think he would realise that his dad was only fifteen when he acted so badly.
- I like seeing Harry emotionally engaging with Ginny in the library, particularly in the context of the next book.
- Another reason why Fred and George are more than just one-note comic relief pranksters: they’re thoughtful enough to avoid messing up people’s revision.
- I’m sorry that the Careers Advice battle between McGonagall and Umbridge doesn’t appear in the film, because I would have loved to have seen Maggie Smith sink her teeth into it, in true Dowager Countess style. We see Umbridge’s mask of sweetness completely falling away, and McGonagall being far more frank and forward with her feelings than Dumbledore.
- It’s good seeing Sirius and Lupin reminisce about James, Lily and Snape, as well as briefly returning to one of Lupin’s negative character traits in Prisoner of Azkaban – that his fear of rejection made him too afraid to do what he knew to be morally correct.
- For God’s sake, you people are so adamant that Harry learn Occlumency, but are none of you going to give him a proper reason?! You really expect him to go into those extra lessons with Snape just because you say so?
- Another truly glorious moment as Fred and George make their epic exit, earning a salute from Peeves as they do so.
Chapter 30 – Grawp
- The students’ resistance feels like something out of a wacky 1990s children’s comedy film. You’d half expect it to end with Umbridge being dropped in a vat of gunge.
- The problem I just raised becomes ever more apparent: Harry’s not even trying to practice Occlumency any more because he’s not been given a proper reason why, and the fact that things are kept from him just makes him even more curious!
- Harry does mention Cho a couple of times in this chapter, but he never has a proper interaction with her again in this book. The romantic subplot ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
- The description of Grawp’s appearance is excellent, as is the ominous atmosphere in the Forest leading up to his reveal; but ultimately, as with Norbert, there’s not that much point to Grawp except when he provides some help in one scene later on. Not to mention, I already knew Hagrid could be misguided, but his plan to civilise Grawp takes it to whole new levels. Sorry, Hagrid – I still like you, buddy.
Chapter 31 – OWLs
- Ron’s improvement in Quidditch comes about very suddenly – maybe he and Hermione were right about him being under less pressure – and it’s unfortunate that he goes back to square one in the next book.
- The general nervousness about the exams, and especially Hermione’s attitude, feels very, very familiar to me. Oh, those GCSEs…
- Strange how we’ve never seen these examiners before when they came for other students’ OWLs in Harry’s previous years. I guess Harry and Hermione just weren’t paying attention.
- Just how old is Griselda Marchbanks? If she was already experienced enough to be an examiner when Dumbledore was a Hogwarts student, she must rival the bowhead whale in terms of longevity.
- The exams themselves are quite interesting, feeling like a summary of Harry’s five years of magical learning.
- Unfortunately, I can imagine Umbridge taking quite a bit of pleasure in attacking McGonagall after everything that’s happened.