Percy and Padfoot
Chapter 14 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Percy and Padfoot
The next morning, Harry writes to Sirius about Professor Umbridge and his burning scar. He uses a code name and shared experiences to encode the contents (such as saying Umbridge is "almost as nice as your mum"). In the owlery, Harry sends Hedwig off with Sirius' letter. Cho Chang arrives, and she is furious that Umbridge denies Voldemort has returned. Filch also enters and accuses Harry of having ordered Dungbombs, and demands to see Harry's letter. Cho confronts Filch, saying the letter is already gone; Harry is almost inordinately pleased at her defending him.
A story in the Daily Prophet implies Sirius was spotted in London. Harry thinks Lucius Malfoy recognized Sirius' Animagus dog form at King's Cross station. It is also reported that Sturgis Podmore, an Order member, was arrested after attempting to break into a sealed door at the Ministry of Magic. Hermione agrees with Ron that he was probably lured into a trap.
At Quidditch practice, Slytherins hurl abuse at Harry, and also Ron, who is particularly harassed. Flustered, he passes the Quaffle to Katie Bell so forcefully that it hits her face and causes a nosebleed. Fred and George, attempting to stop the bleeding, accidentally feed her a Blood Blisterpod and end the practice.
Percy Weasley writes to Ron congratulating him on becoming a Prefect and says he is relieved Ron has not followed in Fred and George's "footsteps." Percy also advises that Ron spurn their parents' misguided beliefs and urges him to disassociate himself from Harry and Professor Dumbledore. He hints there may soon be a change at Hogwarts before praising Dolores Umbridge, believing she is an asset to the school. Furious, Ron rips up and burns the letter.
Shortly after, Sirius' head appears in the Gryffindor fireplace. He believes Umbridge is not a Death Eater, and Harry's scar hurting was probably just Voldemort having a strong emotion. Sirius claims a paranoid Fudge fears Dumbledore is secretly building a wizard army to take over the Ministry, which is why Umbridge's teaching is non-effective. Sirius knows nothing about Hagrid's whereabouts, but says Dumbledore is unconcerned and warns the Trio against drawing attention to Hagrid's absence. When Sirius suggests meeting Harry and the others in his Animagus dog form at the next Hogsmeade weekend, both Harry and Hermione sternly veto this, stating it is too dangerous. Sirius chides Harry for being so cautious, saying that his father, James, would have loved the risk. And with a faint pop, he vanishes.
Two characters' personalities are becoming more apparent — Sirius and Percy.
Although Sirius is still an attentive and loving godfather, his reckless behavior is increasing. When he suggests meeting Harry in Hogsmeade in his Animagus dog form, it is the students who rebuke the adult for it being too dangerous, remembering that the Malfoys must have recognized Sirius at the train station while he was transformed. Sirius chides Harry for being so cautious, saying that his father, James, loved taking risks. Unfortunately, Sirius' emotional development has been stunted by his years in Azkaban, impairing his judgment and causing him to treat Harry more as his peer than as his ward. Molly Weasley had earlier felt it necessary to remind Sirius that Harry is not James Potter. Sirius will likely further decline mentally as the story progresses. His confinement to Grimmauld Place, a house he has always hated, is merely another prison. He is often left alone there, accompanied primarily by his hate-spewing, mad mother's portrait, and a surly and insulting House-elf. Constantly evading the authorities, unable to live a normal life, and prevented from fighting the war against Voldemort in any meaningful way is depressing and stressful. As a result, Sirius is becoming increasingly sullen and irritable, leading to his careless and rash behavior. Insanity and mental instability are also prevalent in the Black family, and Sirius appears to show symptoms similar to those exhibited by his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. It is debatable as to whether anyone recognizes how serious Sirius' situation may actually be or that he needs help; certainly Order of the Phoenix members are overly burdened, their resources taxed, and they are mainly focused on the overall war effort rather than one individual's needs, but it seems a greater effort could be made on Sirius' behalf.
Readers may wonder how Lucius Malfoy could have recognized Sirius in his dog Animagus form. Peter Pettigrew, having been Sirius' close school friend, would have seen him transform numerous times, as Sirius did Pettigrew. Pettigrew likely reported Sirius' Animagus form to Voldemort, and Voldemort in turn may have passed that on to his Death Eaters. We are never told why Voldemort would have been interested enough in Sirius to prime his Death Eaters to spot him. However, the combination of Pettigrew's confirmation that he was still alive, the fact that he escaped Azkaban, his relationship to Harry, and the likelihood that he would join Dumbledore, made it worth keeping an eye out for him. Voldemort may also be interested because Sirius' late brother, Regulus, was a Death Eater.
Meanwhile, Percy's growing estrangement from his family is reaching a breaking point and his starchy personality combined with his single-minded ambition blinds him to what is actually happening within the Ministry of Magic and the Wizarding world at large: he will continue to adamantly support the Ministry's stance that Voldemort has not been resurrected. The other Weasleys' assertion that he is a Ministry pawn being used to garner information about Harry and Dumbledore only offends Percy. He firmly believes his rapid advancement within the Ministry of Magic is solely due to his abilities, rather than his connections. Whether or not Percy can realign his faulty judgment and reconcile with his family will remain unknown for some time. In the meantime, the rift will only deepen
Cho and Harry take another step in their budding romance. Finally, they have an opportunity to talk, without Stinksap mishaps or Quidditch-inspired animosity, and Harry learns that Cho whole-heartedly supports his and Dumbledore's beliefs. While neither we, nor Harry, have any idea whether their relationship will proceed, this meeting at least gives Harry some hope that he and Cho may become a couple. This is actually an interesting illustration showing how the author chose to avoid certain young-adult fiction stereotypes. The series covers seven years in Harry's life, and therefore should depict his maturation during that time; as most young men at this stage, he will experience romantic thoughts. Harry's relationship with Cho realistically takes time to develop, and is visited by setbacks and issues. The author has rejected the standard scheme that contains a romance within one book, instead having it gradually mature, as a real relationship does, over several years – the reader will recall that Harry first had romantic thoughts about Cho almost two years earlier.
One small highlight also is cast on James Potter's character, when Sirius points out that James would have loved the risk. Readers may begin to wonder here how much Harry is like his father, and how much he is like his mother.
Filch's sudden appearance in the Owlery with an obviously specious story about Harry ordering dungbombs is somewhat odd. Harry himself wonders who tipped off Filch. This question is never answered, but the reader, like Harry, suspects a connection with Umbridge.
- Why does Sirius chide Harry for being cautious? Is this appropriate? Why or why not?
- What does Filch accuse Harry of doing in the Owlery? Could there be another reason he's interrogating Harry about his owl post?
- Why is Ron angry at Percy? Is Ron justified?
- Why does Sirius warn the Trio about drawing attention to Hagrid's absence? Does he know more than he is letting on?
- Why would Percy advise Ron to stop associating with Harry and Dumbledore?
- What does Sirius say that Cornelius Fudge thinks Dumbledore is planning? What would lead Fudge to believe this, and could it be true?
- What is Percy's opinion of Dolores Umbridge? Why might he think that?
- What change at Hogwarts might Percy be hinting at?
Percy remains estranged from his family until the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Finally realizing he was wrong, he arrives at Hogwarts just prior to the final battle, apologizing to his family for his stupidity. He joins forces with Harry and the other allies against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
While Harry and Cho's relationship may now proceed, ultimately it will be doomed by Cho's need to revisit Cedric's death, a loss for which she has not yet reached closure. We do not see this yet, and will not until Christmas, when Harry and Cho kiss under the mistletoe. At that point, Hermione will give Harry and Ron a quick rundown of Cho's current emotional state, which will explain most of her interactions with Harry since September.
Surprisingly, Umbridge seems to realize that having Argus Filch on her side is an asset. Quite possibly, Umbridge recognizes a kindred soul, as she hates the students almost as much as Filch seems to. It is also possible that she recognizes that among the staff, she has no other allies; even the Slytherin Head of House, Professor Snape, seems to disapprove of her appointment. Immediately after Dumbledore's attempted arrest and subsequent escape, we will see that Filch believes he will shortly be allowed to physically torture the students for malfeasance. Many readers believe that Umbridge has promised this to Filch, but has no plans to carry out her promise. It is certainly true that Filch never seems to gain permission to whip or chain any students during the remainder of Umbridge's tenure.
We will note here that on a subsequent Hogsmeade weekend, Filch seems to be sniffing at Harry for evidence of use or possession of dungbombs. This would argue that Filch believed that Harry's messages would have been about dungbombs; any subterfuge would have been on the part of the person, most likely Umbridge, who told Filch this, rather than on Filch's part.
While it is never confirmed, it is likely that Podmore's attempt to break through a sealed door at the Ministry was done while he was under the Imperius curse, trying to retrieve the Prophecy that Voldemort is seeking. A later attempt will involve an Unspeakable, Bode. In that attempt, Bode will be placed under the Imperius curse by Lucius Malfoy. Harry will guess that the reason Lucius was at the Ministry the day of Harry's hearing, was that he was trying to find someone he could curse to retrieve the Prophecy. While Podmore was unsuccessful because he was unable to open a sealed door, Bode will fail due to a curse placed on the Prophecy itself – as an Unspeakable, he is cleared to work in the Department of Mysteries.
In discussions later, Harry will decide that his scar paining him when Umbridge touched him is, as Sirius surmised, incidental, and that at the time, Voldemort had been particularly happy about something. Harry will mention that this felt strange because he was so miserable, and was receiving such happy feelings from Voldemort. While the timeline is never completely laid out, this could be the occasion of Lucius Malfoy reporting successfully putting the Imperius Curse on Bode.
There is very little in this chapter that is carried forward into future books. We do see parts of several plot arcs, notably the romance between Harry and Cho, Percy's estrangement from his family and his sycophant career, and Umbridge's ongoing attempts to increase her own power at the school and in the Ministry; but there are very few events outside of these that either reflect earlier books or are revisited in later ones.