Chapter 32 – Out of the Fire
- It’s understandable – if still frustrating – why Harry is impatient and doesn’t listen to Hermione’s logical arguments about his vision: it is Sirius who’s supposedly in danger, and there’s nobody left at Hogwarts he can turn to about it. But it is unfortunate that he really thinks Snape doesn’t believe his cryptic statement about Padfoot, rather than thinking that of course Snape can’t be genuine in front of Umbridge.
- It does come as a real shock that Umbridge sent the Dementors after Harry, given that a) many readers will have almost forgotten about that at this point and b) it’s easy to assume that Voldemort did it.
- We know that Umbridge enjoys the suffering of people she dislikes, but her clear excitement at the prospect of using the Cruciatus Curse on Harry is still alarming.
Chapter 33 – Fight or Flight
- Not much to comment on in this chapter: Umbridge finding herself in a situation where her usual means of demonstrating power is totally useless; Hermione failing to appreciate the different perspectives of centaurs; and Harry being initially unwilling to let the others come with him to London, either because he doesn’t want to put anyone else at risk or he’s instinctively inclined to do it alone.
Chapter 34 – The Department Of Mysteries
- Riding on a Thestral must be seriously scary to somebody who can’t see it.
- Another chapter spent exploring a foreign environment, and making it very clear why this is called the Department of Mysteries.
- Only Harry and Luna can hear the whispering from behind the veil, which presumably leads to the afterlife – does it only affect people with deceased loved ones that they want to be reunited with? (Yes, Neville has a dead grandfather, but maybe they weren’t that close.)
- Oh, Harry, why don’t you cotton on that it’s a trap from the lack of feeling in your scar? And why do you just go ahead and take that prophecy down from the shelf?
Chapter 35 – Beyond the Veil
- Harry may have found it strange to be a leader when running Dumbledore’s Army, but now, with him and his friends actually facing a bunch of Death Eaters, he starts being the leader immediately and unconsciously.
- Harry’s curiosity really is one of his biggest weaknesses, and it was quite savvy of Voldemort to try and use it to his advantage.
- The prose in this chapter really gets across what a chaotic brawl this is between the students and the Death Eaters. The students are very impressive – despite Hermione getting taken out early on to make things even harder – but are simply overwhelmed in the end.
- The Death Eater who gets a baby’s head is one of the most disturbing images in the series. I’m glad that’s not in the movie.
- The death of Sirius – the big death for this book – happens so abruptly that it becomes a painful shock. I found I was less sad for the loss of Sirius himself (though I did like him as a character) and more for the fact that Harry didn’t get to spend enough time with him.
Chapter 36 – The Only One He Ever Feared
- It’s very hard-hitting how much Sirius’s death immediately hurts Harry, so much that it seems to temporarily unhinge him.
- There really needed to be an ultimate battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort at some point in the series, and it certainly delivers with its advanced, spectacular spell work. Dumbledore disrespects Voldemort by addressing him as Tom, while Voldemort is smart enough to play on Dumbledore caring about Harry, an issue discussed in more detail in the following chapter.
- Good to see Dumbledore seizing control of the situation, while Fudge – who is supposed to have the real power, and has spent the whole book trying to demonstrate it – doesn’t have a clue what to do.
Chapter 37 – The Lost Prophecy
- Well, there’s certainly a lot to talk about in this chapter.
- The pain that Harry feels at his loss feels incredibly raw and real, down to just wanting to run away from wherever he is – made even worse by the fact that he feels responsible. His shouting that he just wants the whole thing to be over feels awful.
- As is made clear, Dumbledore has a detached approach to some of his actions, given his age and experience – and he approaches grief-stricken Harry in this way, which just infuriates Harry more, even though Dumbledore clearly does understand how he’s feeling. Dumbledore then proceeds to be honest about his questionable behaviour – and it turns out it was motivated by his caring for Harry.
- Harry naturally finds it easy to place blame on Snape for the things that have happened, even though Snape’s attempts to protect Harry, which Dumbledore describes, are praise-worthy.
- Presumably Kreacher never saw Voldemort when he was giving information to the Malfoys? Surely it would have affected him to meet the man who nearly killed him? Or perhaps Kreacher’s need to serve made it irrelevant.
- It feels strange as Dumbledore relates the events of the previous books, because they seem so long ago, and the prose and story elements have matured so much, that they hardly feel connected.
- Dumbledore’s explanation of his grand plan is intriguing. He knew that Harry would grow up to face Voldemort at some point and built his plan around that in the hopes that Voldemort would be defeated – yet as he left that baby on the Dursleys’ doorstep, and even as eleven-year-old Harry arrived at Hogwarts, Dumbledore did not anticipate caring for him to the level that he does. It also feels right to hear him acknowledge Harry as being extraordinary.
- The revelation that Voldemort was motivated to kill Harry by a prophecy doesn’t feel that shocking: it’s a classic trope of fantasy and something along those lines could be guessed at. Yet even with the introduction of a prophecy, which should remove the power of free will, there was choice involved: it could have led Voldemort down one of two paths, depending on whether he chose Harry or Neville. (Dumbledore does go more into the predestination vs free will argument in the next book.) Before I began re-reading this book, Voldemort’s obsession with the prophecy – the ‘weapon’ – didn’t seem entirely justified, but I’ve thought more about it now. The prophecy warned Voldemort of his possible destruction, and did in fact lead to his downfall when he attacked Harry: it makes sense that it would remain very important to him.
- And while it was easy to predict that either Harry or Voldemort would have to kill the other, it’s now been definitively laid down as the direction in which the story is heading.
Chapter 38 – The Second War Begins
- I wasn’t terribly satisfied with Umbridge’s sendoff – getting abducted by centaurs, and attacked by Peeves on her way out, didn’t feel like enough punishment. But what would? Maybe something akin to Ramsay Bolton’s final scene in Game of Thrones.
- With the imprisonment of Lucius Malfoy, the feud between Harry and Draco is now more personal and poisonous than ever before, and is clearly going to have consequences in the next book.
- I’m surprised there’s any mention at all of the house points totals, given how unimportant that is in the whole scheme of things and how biased this year has been. It’s not like they even tell us who wins the championship this year.
- I know I said earlier that Harry’s motivation to not open the package containing the mirror seemed forced, but it still creates a sad moment of bitter irony here: if Harry had known he had that mirror, he could have communicated with Sirius that way and Sirius would still be alive. Then again, when Harry appeared in Sirius’s fireplace to talk about his dad, why didn’t Sirius say, ‘How come you’re not using the mirror?’
- Poor Harry’s head is all over the place in this chapter, having to deal with both the death of Sirius and the revelation of the prophecy. He feels truly isolated, and can currently be forgiven for a little emotional instability. Talking to Luna does seem to help him settle a bit, though.
- It’s very believable that Nearly Headless Nick is often asked by people who have lost loved ones if they might come back as a ghost. Based on what he says, it’s also understandable that most people will accept death and go onto what comes next rather than remaining as ghosts – plenty of people are scared of death, but you’d probably need a real terror of the unknown to choose to become a ghost instead.
- So the book is finally closed on Harry’s feelings for Cho, as he learns that being pretty and good at Quidditch doesn’t automatically make for the perfect girlfriend. Unfortunately, Ginny’s still unavailable for the time being.
- After their misguided treatment of Harry throughout the book, it is nice to see the Order giving Harry more open support in the final pages, as well as Harry accepting it. He’s going to need all the support he can get.
Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, and in-between the main plot of resisting the Ministry and what Harry’s strange visions mean, Rowling uses the extra room for more character development. There’s even more reflection and depth here than in the previous books – and perhaps partly because of that, Order of the Phoenix feels more about Harry growing up than any of the ones I’ve re-read so far. He starts off as angry and angsty, and gradually becomes more mature; he’s very different by the end of the book to how he is at the beginning, definitely more so than in the second and third books, and possibly the fourth.
This was still a hard book to read, with everything that Harry goes through. There were quite a few chapters with details which I hadn’t remembered, since I haven’t been inclined to re-read them over the years. By the end, after reliving all of Harry’s turmoil, I was feeling emotionally wrought.
I am re-thinking calling it my least favourite of the books, though. Surely causing such a strong emotional response, positive or negative, is a good thing in a book. And Order of the Phoenix certainly isn’t the worst in terms of literary quality: so far in this re-read, that’s Chamber of Secrets. Not to mention, mixed in with all the negativity and suffering are some of my favourite moments in the whole series.
With only two books to go in my re-read, I’m really enjoying this rediscovery of the journey, watching Harry Potter grow and come of age. Being able to witness his progression over such a length of time is probably one of the reasons why the series is so well-loved, and another may be that there are so many things we Muggles can relate to despite not being able to experience magic. From worrying about exams, to uncertainties about romance, the Harry Potter books are full of believable things taking place in an extraordinary world.