Chapter 29 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Careers Advice
As Spring Break begins, Hermione wonders why Harry's Occlumency lessons have abruptly ended; Harry claims Snape said he was good enough. Seeing that Harry is upset, Hermione asks if he and Cho had a row, and Harry admits they fought about Marietta. Ginny suggests he talk to Cho, but Harry really wants to speak with Sirius, though he knows that is impossible. Ginny feels differently, however.
Meanwhile, a notice has been posted announcing career counseling for all Fifth Years. While Harry, Ron, and Hermione browse career choices, Fred and George approach, saying they have a diversion planned for 5:00 p.m. Monday so Harry can use Umbridge's fireplace to contact Sirius. Harry ignores Hermione's warning, determined to contact Sirius.
On Monday, Harry arrives for his Careers Advice meeting with Professor McGonagall, only to find Umbridge is there to observe. Harry wants to be an Auror, a Dark Wizard catcher, and McGonagall begins outlining what courses he needs. Umbridge interrupts, saying Harry should consider another occupation because his Defence Against the Dark Arts grades are too low and he has a criminal record. Furious, McGonagall retorts that the Ministry fully exonerated Harry, and he has always received high marks from competent Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers. She vows to do everything in her power to help him become an Auror. Umbridge is livid and claims McGonagall is supporting Dumbledore's efforts to depose Fudge, and make herself Deputy Minister and Hogwarts' Headmistress. McGonagall responds that Umbridge is raving and dismisses Harry, who leaves as their heated argument escalates.
Later, Hermione pleads with Harry to forego breaking into Umbridge's office, but Harry, hearing the Twin's diversion upstairs, dons his Invisibility Cloak and enters Umbridge's office and contacts Grimmauld Place. Lupin greets him, then fetches Sirius. Harry asks about his his father. Sirius admits that he and James were once reckless bullies, though Snape was not such an innocent victim. They outgrew their bullying ways and Sirius stresses that James matured into a kind, compassionate man. Harry, hardly soothed, knows he would never behave like his father at that age. When Harry mentions his Occlumency lessons have ended, Lupin strongly urges him to resume.
Exiting Umbridge's office, Harry discovers that Fred and George have been caught. Umbridge threatens severe punishment, but the Twins, proclaiming they have had enough, Summon their confiscated brooms that crash through Umbridge's door. Hopping on, they tell students to visit their new joke shop in Diagon Alley, then give Peeves the Poltergeist a final salute, telling him, "Give her hell from us, Peeves," before zooming off, departing Hogwarts for good.
Umbridge is well aware that Harry was exonerated by the Ministry of all (trumped up) charges for using underage magic, and she had obviously graded him low in her class as a means to further tarnish his reputation. She also seems to deliberately provoke McGonagall in a head-on confrontation. With Dumbledore ousted, Umbridge may be trying to eliminate his most loyal Hogwarts staff, including McGonagall, likely the most formidable threat to her unrelenting drive to control the school.
Harry's self-doubts caused him to hesitate to list Auror as a career choice, fearing he would never be accepted into such an elite group. He is heartened when McGonagall strongly supports this, though her enthusiasm is somewhat reactive against Umbridge's obvious attempts to derail Harry's career goals. Harry is still somewhat unsure what his place is in the Wizarding world, and uncertain what his future will be; McGonagall's promise to do everything she can to help him achieve his goal reassures him that he not only has a place, but a future, in that world.
Although Snape's extreme reaction to Harry witnessing his worst memory was unreasonable, Harry now understands why Snape hates Sirius and his father, and, by extension, him. It also alters Harry's opinion about James, the father he has loved and admired unconditionally, but never knew. However, the father Harry idolizes is a somewhat idealized figure that he has based on other peoples' favorable recollections, and not the bullying boy he views in the Pensieve, though neither version is completely accurate. Despite Sirius' explanation that he and James were uncaring, arrogant youths who acted idiotically, and his assertion that James matured into a kind, compassionate adult, Harry has difficulty reconciling his father's abysmal behavior when he compares it to his own benevolent nature at the same age. But Harry fails to realize that youth are not born to behave in any particular manner, and that each person's unique experiences and influences results in different actions and attitudes that eventually shapes them into the adults they become. James was a pampered, only child in a wealthy household, probably with few cares, responsibilities, or consideration for others. In some ways, he shares traits with Draco Malfoy, though it is to James' credit that the cruel bully Harry witnessed had matured into the good man he became. Nor does it seem fair that Harry should now judge his father based solely on one segment of his life rather than what he knows about its entirety.
Harry's own innate compassion stems more from his own mistreatment and hardships, something he would never want inflicted on others, and it is an experience James never suffered in his own youth. Harry also neglects to consider that he is also descended from his mother. Harry loves Lily as much as James, but it seems he may have overlooked and under appreciated her accomplishments, abilities, and influences on his life and instead focuses more on his father. Harry also fails to realize that James' transformation likely was partially due to Lily's influence.
Although the Twins are caught, Umbridge's pleasure in their capture and planned punishment is thwarted when they hop onto their brooms and, exiting Hogwarts, proclaim they have had enough. Despite their spotty academic achievement and meager O.W.L.s, the Twins are powerful and talented wizards, and their claims that there is little left for them to learn at school is certainly accurate. Mrs. Weasley almost certainly will be distraught when she hears what happened, believing that without graduating, their futures are grim. But Fred and George are well on their way to starting their own successful business, thanks to Harry's financial backing.
Fred and George Weasley are the only students to successfully give Peeves an order in the known history of the school. This might be because the order they give is so closely in line with Peeves' natural inclination.
- Why did Snape end Harry's Occlumency lessons? What are the possible consequences for Harry?
- What might be the real reason Umbridge advises Harry to pursue another occupation? What does McGonagall have to say?
- Is there any validity to Umbridge's accusation that McGonagall wants to take over as Headmistress, and what might be behind it? What is McGonagall's response?
- Why does Harry want to talk to Sirius about his father? What does Sirius tell him?
- Why is Harry still conflicted about his father after talking to Sirius? Is Harry's opinion of the youthful James Potter's behavior unfair? If so, why?
- Why are Fred and George willing to create a distraction so Harry can use the fireplace in Umbridge's office? Is it just to help Harry? Were they concerned if they were caught?
- Harry is having doubts about his idolized, 'perfect' father. Was James ever this way? Will Harry ever feel this way about his father again? How will he feel?
- What does Harry think after talking to Sirius about James? Does Sirius change Harry's opinion?
- Who showed more "moral fibre"? Lily or James?
- In the memory Harry witnessed, Lily Evans defended Snape. Why, then, did Snape call her a "mudblood"? Should he not have been grateful?
- Some readers have suggested that, having discovered the reasons behind Snape's dislike, Harry should apologize for having viewed his memories. Others believe that Harry's knowledge of this event changes nothing, Harry's and Snape's mutual dislike would prevent this happening or even being useful if it did. What is your opinion?
- Should Harry begin to forgive Snape for his hatred, even if Snape does not? Will he?
- Is Snape right in hating Harry so much when it was James, Harry's father, who tormented him?
- Can Snape and Harry ever reconcile? Snape and Sirius? Why or why not?
- Has Harry tended to overlook his mother's accomplishments and influence on him? If so, how and why?
This chapter may foreshadow Harry and Ginny's relationship in the next book. Though Harry feels hurt and somewhat betrayed that his father was not the man that everyone claimed he was, and dreads that Snape may be right about him, it is Ginny who cheers Harry up by suggesting that talking to Sirius about it is not as impossible as it seems. In addition, after talking with Ginny, Harry comments to himself that he felt good, but does not know whether it is because he had "spoken aloud the wish that had been burning inside him for a week", to speak to Sirius, or if it is the chocolate. The reader may suspect that Ginny's presence, and that she seems to believe that talking to Sirius is possible, may also be part of Harry's happiness.
Harry's idealized mental image of his father is mainly based on others' recollections about James Potter, as well as his own feelings. In the previous chapter, Harry witnessed an event in James' early life that directly contradicts Harry's understanding. Sirius explains that Harry witnessed James' behavior when he was only fifteen, to which Harry exclaims, "I'm fifteen!" Harry has yet to grasp what Dumbledore told him in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." James ultimately chose the path leading to his fully admirable maturity.
Harry is not only James Potter's son, but also Lily Potter's. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in Snape's memories, we hear Snape commenting, "He is his father all over again —", to which Dumbledore replies, "In looks, perhaps, but his deepest nature is much more like his mother's." Harry has mainly focused on his father's legacy, largely ignoring his mother's contributions, possibly because everyone frequently comments on how extraordinarily like his father he looks. Also, boys typically identify more closely with their fathers. Snape certainly has trouble getting past Harry and James' similar physical appearance, however unfair that is to Harry. This resemblance to James may explain Sirius' behavior somewhat, as he also identifies Harry with James, treating him like his lost friend, much as Snape considers Harry as his dead enemy. It is apparent that Harry fails to recognize that his gentle nature and consideration for others at age 15 reflects Lily, rather than James.
It is interesting to note that Harry's expectation that James at 15 would behave the same way Harry does at 15 will be repeated. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry will discover that at 17, the same age Harry is then, Dumbledore, with Grindelwald, had been planning what amounts to conquering the Muggle world, "for the greater good." At that point, Harry will discover that yet another hero had been, in his youth, someone radically different from what they later became. Even at 17, and with his father's example before him, Harry will not yet fully accept Dumbledore's maxim that choices matter more than abilities. It is perhaps noteworthy that this maxim comes from Dumbledore's personal experience.