The Centaur and the Sneak

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Chapter 27 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Centaur and the Sneak← Chapter 26 | Chapter 28 →


Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Firenze begins teaching Divination, but because he, being unable to climb stairs, is unable to access Trelawney's Tower, the class meets in a ground floor classroom that has been enchanted to appear as the evening forest. Firenze greets Harry, saying that it was foretold they would meet again. Harry notes a hoof-shaped bruise on Firenze's chest. Firenze explains that he would have preferred to teach students in the Forbidden Forest, but he has been banished by his herd for being too sympathetic to humans. Harry wonders if the bruise on Firenze's chest would match Bane's hoof.

Firenze says Divination is often inexact, even for Centaurs. They watch the sky for tides or changes so slow and subtle that it may take ten years to determine what they have seen. He dismisses Trelawney's teachings with an abruptness that disturbs Lavender and Parvati. As the class ends, he is unconcerned that none of the students have seen anything that he had told them about.

At the end of class, Firenze takes Harry aside and asks him to tell Hagrid that what Hagrid is doing will not work. Although Harry does not understand, he promises to tell Hagrid. However, with Umbridge now attending all of Hagrid's classes, it is April before Harry can pass on Firenze's message. Hagrid replies that the attempt is working fine, and Firenze does not know what he is talking about.

Harry has begun teaching Dumbledore's Army the Patronus charm, and, overall, the class is doing well. Neville, in particular, has been a revelation to Harry, working hard to master every spell, and improving with each lesson. During the last session before Easter break, Dobby runs in to warn them that Umbridge is on her way. Harry yells for everyone to run. Most escape, but Draco Malfoy catches Harry and turns him over to Umbridge. Harry is forcibly dragged to Dumbledore's office where he finds Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Cornelius Fudge, Percy Weasley, and two Ministry Aurors, including Kingsley Shacklebolt, an Order of the Phoenix member. On Dumbledore's silent instruction, Harry denies knowing why he is there; Umbridge fetches their informant (Cho's friend Marietta). Although Marietta tries to hide her face, giant purple pimples spelling out "SNEAK" can be seen across it, the result of Hermione's jinx to reveal snitches. When Umbridge orders her to tell what she knows, she says nothing, apparently fearing more blisters may break out on her face.

Umbridge accuses Harry of holding an illegal meeting at the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade in October, saying this information came from Willy Widdershins. Professor McGonagall comments that she now understands why Willy was never charged for all those regurgitating toilets. Dumbledore points out that the meeting happened two days before the Decree and therefore was legal. Obviously, meetings since then have been banned, and Dumbledore asks if there is any proof that such meetings had occurred. Harry feels something whoosh past him, and Marietta suddenly has a blank expression and is unable to speak. She silently nods her head in agreement to Dumbledore's assertion that there never was a Defence group. Frustrated, Umbridge produces the "Dumbledore's Army" parchment as proof that the Headmaster was involved. Dumbledore pleasantly admits that he was indeed building a secret wizard army, and says that this was to have been their first meeting. Fudge dispatches Percy to send the meeting notes to the Daily Prophet.

Dumbledore assures Fudge they will be unable to arrest him, and as Fudge orders the Aurors to take Dumbledore into custody, a white light suddenly streaks across the room, knocking out Umbridge, Fudge, Dawlish, and Shacklebolt and leaving the office in shambles. Dumbledore quickly confirms that Marietta, McGonagall, and Harry are all right, and tells McGonagall to thank Shacklebolt for modifying Marietta's memory. He tells Harry that it is important that he continue studying Occlumency with Snape, and taking hold of his Phoenix, Fawkes, disappears in a second flash of flame. Regaining consciousness, the two Aurors and Umbridge run for the Entrance Hall to try and catch Dumbledore.


Firenze, it is noted here, has a very different style of teaching Divination than does Trelawney. While Trelawney seems to be trying to teach that the future can be seen to the finest detail, in Firenze's class, there is considerably less certainty. While it is hard to be certain exactly what Trelawney actually believes, one gathers the impression that she is trying to create the impression that the Seer has some special insight into a fixed, immutable future, so what she is teaching is similar in concept to seeing through a fog bank to view a solid rock mountain. Firenze, on the other hand, is more aware of the mutability of the future, and instead seems to teach method, in a way analogous to the idea that beyond the fog there is yet more fog, but that it is possible to determine shapes in the fog and thus infer possible outcomes. We can see quite easily that Firenze's techniques are similar to those of Native shamans and medicine men, while Trelawney's are the techniques of Muggle fortune-tellers. Contrasting them, one can see that Firenze probably believes in what he teaches, but that Trelawney must be aware that she is teaching fakery.

It is noted that this final meeting of Dumbledore's Army is the first one that Seamus Finnigan attends. This actually is more important than it seems; Harry has consistently had trouble pairing students in DA meetings for practice in dueling, and it would be noticeable if the group was suddenly evenly matched. As Marietta is, at this point, off spilling the beans to Umbridge, it is necessary that one new student arrive to prevent Harry from wondering about why they suddenly came out even.

Harry guesses that Marietta's memory has been altered even before Dumbledore says anything. Kingsley's secretly cast memory charm is apparently what Harry feels brushing past him. Additionally, Harry notices the glassy look in Marietta's eyes; he has seen that before, it is the immediate after-effect of a memory charm.

Although Harry believes Dumbledore has nearly abandoned him, Dumbledore shows here how far he will go to protect Harry from Umbridge and the Ministry by taking full responsibility for Dumbledore's Army. He easily overpowers Umbridge and the others and also knocks out Kingsley Shacklebolt, an Order member, to avoid casting suspicion on him. Before disappearing, Dumbledore stresses to Harry how important it is for him to continue studying Occlumency, although Harry is still unable to understand why.


Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.


  1. Why was Firenze banished from his herd?
  2. What does McGonagall mean when she says she understands why Willy Widdershins was never charged?
  3. What happened to Marietta Edgecombe's memory in Dumbledore's office? Who was responsible and why?
  4. Why does Dumbledore tell Fudge he was responsible for the D.A.? What happens in his office immediately after?

Further Study[edit]

  1. What could Hagrid be doing that Firenze says is not working? Could this have anything to do with Hagrid's battered appearance? Explain.
  2. Why did Marietta Edgecombe betray Dumbledore's Army? Was she truly at fault? Explain.
  3. Considering that it is impossible for anyone to Disapparate in or out of Hogwarts, how was Dumbledore able to escape? Why didn't the Ministry anticipate this?
  4. What does Dumbledore tell Harry just before his spectacular departure? Why does he feel it is so important?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

We will find out shortly what Hagrid is attempting to do in the Forbidden Forest: he has brought his half-brother Grawp back with him from his encounter with the Giants, and is trying to civilize him. In later books, it will be discovered that this has, in fact, worked to some extent; in this case, Hagrid was right, and through sheer persistence has managed to accomplish something that the Centaurs, with their supposedly superior intelligence, had decided was doomed to failure.

Harry's teaching the Patronus charm will prove useful in the final book of the series, when Harry must make his way to the Whomping Willow. His way will be blocked by Dementors, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione will be unable to create Patronuses. The Dementors will be repelled by three DA members, Luna, Seamus Finnigan, and Ernie Macmillan.

It is mentioned in this chapter that the parchment containing the list of Dumbledore's Army members was retrieved by Pansy Parkinson. This also is more important a connection than it would initially seem. Draco Malfoy, in the next book, will be given a task by Voldemort, who will tell him how to get into the Room of Requirement, that being a nominally secret place where Draco can carry out his instructions. Voldemort, having discovered only that one particular form of the Room, will believe that the Room is simply a "junk warehouse" and has no other purpose. Harry will find this aspect of the Room himself when he is looking to hide something later in that book. Draco, having been coached by Voldemort, will only find the room's "junk warehouse" state, thus having a limited idea of what it can do. If it had been Draco who went into the Room of Requirement to retrieve the list, he probably would have realized the Room's full function, and been likely to discover it was the revived Dumbledore's Army hiding place in the final book. As he would have only known how to open its junk warehouse state, and as the room will not open for someone who is asking for an aspect other than the one that is already in use (as we find out in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Draco, if he had guessed where the new DA was hiding, could not have opened it, and likely would have guessed that it had simply been sealed after the events at the end of the sixth book.