Fight and Flight
Chapter 33 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Fight and Flight
Hermione leads Umbridge and Harry, who is trying to look like he knows where they are going, into the Forbidden Forest. Near a clearing, an arrow whizzes through the air, hitting a tree. About fifty Centaurs surround them, demanding to know why the humans are in their forest. Treating them as inferior half-breeds, a haughty Umbridge unleashes an insulting tirade, infuriating the Centaurs. When she binds Magorian, the Centaurs charge. Bane seizes Umbridge. She drops her wand, but before Harry can reach it, another Centaur steps on it, breaking it. As other Centaurs lift up Harry and Hermione, Bane carries the hysterically screaming Umbridge into the woods. Hermione tries explaining the situation to the other Centaurs, hoping to gain their sympathy, but they are only more incensed at being involved in human affairs and want to attack her and Harry. Despite her protests that they are "foals", and Ronan's reminder that they do not attack young humans, the Centaurs consider Harry and Hermione as devious as their adult counterparts.
As they are about to carry off Harry and Hermione, Grawp crashes through the trees. Recognizing "Hermy", he yells for "Hagger" (Hagrid). The panicked Centaurs shoot him with arrows. Enraged, the Giant howls in pain, and flails blindly at the Centaurs. Harry and Hermione get away amid the confusion.
Ron, Ginny, Luna, and Neville have escaped the Inquisitorial Squad and find Harry and Hermione; they have brought along Harry's and Hermione's wands. Harry wants to go to the Ministry in London to find Sirius. Everyone volunteers to go with him, but Harry, feeling Ron is the only capable one, suggests the others follow them later, though they insist they are all going. With all the school's broomsticks locked up, Harry has no idea how they can get to London. Luna suggests flying on the Thestrals that, smelling Grawp's splattered blood on Harry and Hermione, have migrated to the group.
Of all the members of Dumbledore's Army, Luna, Neville, and Ginny are very nearly the last ones that Harry or Ron would have chosen to go with them to London, believing they are the least qualified. They are even reluctant to include Hermione and try to persuade her and the others to remain behind or to come later. But Harry can underestimate or misjudge his friends' abilities, often valuing the popular and seemingly more capable students over the ones who are loyal, determined, and dependable. It is Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna who usually respond first to Harry's distress calls, and they display immense bravery by risking their own lives to help Harry face Voldemort, a fact Harry does not yet fully appreciate.
Although Hermione quickly devised a clever plan to save Harry from Umbridge's Cruciatus curse, she nearly gets them both captured as a result. The Centaurs' hatred of humans usually excludes children, or "foals" as they call them. Hermione counts on this when she leads Umbridge into the forest knowing the Centaurs will resent the intrusion and that Umbridge will probably further infuriate them. Umbridge arrogantly confronts the Centaurs, believing her Ministry-backed authority will intimidate any "sub-human" creature into stepping aside. Even though the Centaurs carry Umbridge off into the forest, Hermione's plan backfires because she underestimated their reaction, and mistakenly believed that if she explained their plight, the Centaurs would be sympathetic. The herd, still outraged over Firenze's "betrayal" to serve Dumbledore, only became more incensed that Hermione used trickery to involve them in human affairs. Hermione and Harry are no longer considered so "innocent", and one Centaur argues that Harry is nearing manhood. If not for Grawp's timely intervention, it is unlikely they would have survived the Centaurs' wrath unscathed.
We see here, also, an instance of Luna's matter-of-fact nature and her willingness to ignore heckling, coupled with a perhaps surprising intelligence, and an awareness of her environment quite out of line with her usual dreamy appearance. It is Luna who connects Hagrid's mention that the Thestrals are excellent fliers with the fact that they are attracted to raw meat and blood. Ignoring Ron's gibes about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, she sticks to her guns, pointing out the arriving Thestrals to Harry and Neville, who she knows can see them.
- Why does Hermione take Harry and Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest and who do they meet?
- What happens to Umbridge in the Forbidden Forest? Why?
- Who wants to attack Harry and Hermione in the Forbidden Forest and why? What stops them?
- What are attracted by the blood on Harry and Hermione's clothing?
- How does Luna suggest getting to London? How do the others react this?
- Ron, Ginny, Luna, Neville, and Hermione insist on going with Harry to the Ministry of Magic to help save Sirius. Why does Harry only want Ron to accompany him?
Up to this point, it has been Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the Trio, who have been the central characters in the series. Harry, with Dumbledore's assistance, has been moving towards his apparent destiny, that of facing and defeating Voldemort, and Ron and Hermione have been traveling alongside. Now, we have a new group of assistants, Neville, Luna, and Ginny. As mentioned, Harry does not want them along, possibly thinking them not as competent as himself, Ron, and Hermione. Circumstances will prove him wrong, however, not only in this book, but in the final two books of the series. When Harry calls up Dumbledore's Army in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to defend the school in Dumbledore's absence, it will be only these three who respond; and Neville will be the core of the resistance to Voldemort's rule of Hogwarts, while both Ginny and Luna will have pivotal roles, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
We can see the beginnings of civilization happening with Grawp, surprisingly. Grawp is looking for Hagrid, and recognizes Hermione. It seems that, despite Hagrid having only missed one visit, Grawp is already feeling his absence. Grawp's progress will happen off-camera for the rest of the series, but he will be civil enough at Dumbledore's funeral at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
It is interesting to note the Centaurs' reaction to Grawp. Despite their vaunted logic and mental superiority, the Centaurs react to Grawp in a singularly emotional manner, bombarding him with arrows when he has not, in fact, directly threatened any of them. We will see later, when Hagrid is carrying the apparently lifeless Harry out of the Forest, that he is able to shame the Centaurs into entering the battle on humanity's side. This may lead us to recognize that the Centaurs are much more emotional than they are willing to admit to themselves. This is also an indication that, despite their belief in their mental superiority over humans, they share the human traits of prejudice and intolerance.