The Second War Begins
Chapter 38 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Second War Begins
Dumbledore is officially reinstated as Hogwarts' Headmaster, and the Ministry of Magic publicly acknowledges that Lord Voldemort has returned. The students who had accompanied Harry have largely recovered from their injuries, though Hermione and Ron are still in the Hospital Wing. Harry goes to visit them, finding Luna, Ginny, and Neville also visiting. Dolores Umbridge is in the Hospital Wing as well, as a patient. Dumbledore personally went into the Forbidden Forest to retrieve her from the Centaurs. Deeply traumatized by her experience, she is barely able to speak. Ron torments her by making soft "clip clop" hoof noises with his tongue, causing the frightened woman to bolt upright in bed, frantically looking around. Hermione and Ginny can barely suppress their giggles.
Hermione laments that the Prophecy was lost; Harry, aware of its importance, says nothing about knowing its content. Finding their continuing speculation about it too difficult to bear, he heads to Hagrid's hut. Along the way, a vengeful Draco Malfoy threatens to curse him in retaliation for his father's imprisonment in Azkaban. Harry, quicker on the draw, has Draco at wandpoint, but Snape intervenes before either can jinx the other. Snape is about to penalize Gryffindor ten points, but sneeringly comments that there are no House points left. Just then, Professor McGonagall arrives from St. Mungo's Hospital, largely recovered but using a walking stick. Seeing that all of Gryffindor's House points were deleted, she awards Harry, Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Neville, and also Luna (of Ravenclaw), fifty points each for alerting the Wizarding world about Voldemort, then subtracts Snape's ten points.
Harry finds no relief at Hagrid's, despite Hagrid pointing out that everyone now knows Harry was telling the truth. With Sirius gone, it feels meaningless to Harry, who finally heads to the lake seeking solitude.
A few days later, Professor Umbridge leaves Hogwarts, but not before getting harassed by Peeves. Professor McGonagall is heard to lament being unable to assist Peeves, as he was using her walking stick to chastise Umbridge.
Rather than attend the Leaving Feast, Harry packs his trunk. He finds the unwrapped Christmas present from Sirius. Inside it is an old mirror, along with a note from Sirius explaining that Harry can contact him with it. Harry thinks it could be a link to Sirius in the afterlife, but only sees his own reflection. Realizing that Sirius did not have its twin with him when he went through the Veil, Harry angrily tosses it into the trunk, shattering it. A thought suddenly occurs to him, and he seeks out Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost. He asks Nick if Sirius could also have become a ghost, but Nick explains that very few wizards choose to remain earthbound as spirits. Nick did so only because he feared moving on to the next world, while Sirius would not.
In the hall, Harry runs into Luna, who is searching for her belongings that other students have hidden. Harry offers to help, but Luna declines, saying everything always turns up eventually. Remembering that she is able to see the Thestrals, Harry asks who it was that she witnessed dying. She says her mother was killed in an accident, but claims she knows she will see her mother again. She believes the voices from behind the veiled archway in the Department of Mysteries are the dead, just lurking out of sight. As Luna heads for the Leaving Feast, Harry surprisingly feels better.
On the Hogwarts Express, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle attempt to attack Harry, but Dumbledore's Army members intervene, jinxing them until they are unrecognizable. Cho Chang walks past in the corridor outside Harry's compartment; she blushes but does not stop. Ron asks if there is anything still going on between them, and Harry truthfully responds there is not. Hermione tactfully mentions that Cho is dating Michael Corner, but Harry is unaffected, feeling it is in his past. Ron is concerned, though, as he recalls Ginny was seeing Michael Corner. Ginny explains that when Gryffindor had beaten Ravenclaw, Michael had gone to comfort Cho rather than celebrating with Ginny, so she dumped him. With a sideways glance at Harry, Ron suggests that she can now find someone better. Ginny responds she is already dating Dean Thomas.
They are greeted at the station by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Lupin, and "Mad Eye" Moody who tell Harry they intend to have a stern talk with his aunt and uncle regarding their treatment of him. The Twins, decked out in new clothes, are also there and say their new joke shop is doing well. The whole group confronts Uncle Vernon, demanding that he improve Harry's comfort over the summer, warning they will be in touch. Harry bids Ron and Hermione goodbye, and Ron promises that they will be seeing Harry very soon.
As the series progresses, the books are getting darker. While Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ended with the death of Cedric Diggory and the re-embodiment of Lord Voldemort, the plot did resolve on something of an upbeat note with Harry's win of the Triwizard Tournament, Harry's escape from Voldemort, and the unmasking of Barty Crouch. Quite plainly, the death of Sirius, a father figure for Harry and one of the few links he has to his parents, is a much greater and more disturbing event. And while we readers can take some comfort both in the defeat of the Death Eaters in the Ministry, and in the vindication of Harry and Dumbledore in the public eye, clearly this provides little comfort for Harry in the face of his loss. Students should note, particularly in this chapter, the methods used to portray both the fact of the victory, and the hollowness of that victory in the lead character's eyes. Note in particular the way interactions with Draco Malfoy and Vernon Dursley are used to show that hope remains for Harry, despite the gloom; and note how these interactions, along with the events surrounding the departure of Umbridge, are used to lighten the atmosphere of this final chapter, to inspire the reader to continue with the next book in the series.
For Harry, Sirius' death creates yet another deep void in his life, as it is the first time he has lost a loved one that he actually knew and had a substantial relationship with. Not only is he filled with grief, but also guilt over his rash behavior and the mistakes he made, which led to the tragedy and nearly cost his other friends their lives as well. Although Harry blames himself for Sirius' death, he fails to recognize that his godfather's reckless behavior also significantly contributed to his own demise. He also blames Dumbledore for withholding information, and Snape, who he believes deliberately waited too long to warn the Order of the Phoenix, despite Dumbledore's unwavering faith. Harry's attempts to contact Sirius in the afterlife indicates his unwillingness to accept that his godfather is truly gone, though Luna's words provide some comfort and bolsters his hope that he may eventually rejoin Sirius.
Throughout this book, Harry has been aware that Voldemort had returned and that he was a great danger to the Wizarding world in general, and to Harry in particular, but he also now knows why Voldemort is singling him out. The prophecy will likely not receive general publication, though we may see Harry pushed forward into the public eye as being the Wizarding world's only hope against Voldemort, possibly purely on the strength of his having survived the killing curse cast on him as a toddler. Indications that this will happen are appearing already in this chapter. At this point, Harry knows that he has allies in the fight against Voldemort, but having seen the injuries his friends sustained in that skirmish, he may be reluctant to involve others in what he now has even more reason to believe is his battle alone.
Harry now knows that returning to Privet Drive each year sustains his mother's protective magical charm, though this understanding provides little comfort as he prepares to endure yet another cheerless summer with the Dursleys. Harry will have time to reflect on what has happened and hopefully learn from his mistakes, though his path to maturity has been more traumatic than most. Mourning Sirius' death will cause him more loneliness, and he may isolate himself, as he often does during stressful times. As a result, he might overlook or shut out those who care for and support him. As he grieves his lost godfather, Ron, Hermione, Lupin, Dumbledore, and others will, we expect, try to draw closer to him; they are his true "family."
We note in passing the progress of Ginny's romantic affairs, and that Ron seems to have hopes that she will settle on Harry as a romantic partner. We note that as early as the second book, Ginny had been romantically interested in Harry. The reader can see, from the way the relationship with Cho Chang proceeded and ended, that Harry is not yet ready for romance, and so Ginny's settling on Dean Thomas seems more reasonable. The student should note how the sequence of romances in the series seems organic, and study how the writing makes the romance an integral part of the story.
- Why does Harry offer to help Luna find her belongings? Why does she decline?
- Why does Harry seek Nearly Headless Nick's advice? What does Nick tell him?
- What does Luna mean when she tells Harry that she will see her deceased mother again? How does that affect Harry?
- Why did Harry wait so long to open Sirius' present? Why does he toss it aside?
- Did Harry's delay in opening the present from Sirius contribute to Sirius' death? If so, how?
- Why does Harry blame himself for what happened to Sirius? Is he right?
- Who else does Harry blame for Sirius dying and why?
- How might Sirius have contributed to his own demise?
Ron's statement that they will be seeing Harry very soon is actually prophetic, though he perhaps does not realize it, and Harry does not believe it. In fact, Dumbledore will collect Harry from the Dursleys' after only two weeks, and Harry will spend the rest of the summer vacation in The Burrow. Harry, not believing that Dumbledore could be taking him away so soon, will not be ready to leave when Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive.
Luna tells Harry that the voices they heard from behind the veiled arch are of those who have died and are merely waiting in the shadows. She believes they will be seen again, she fully expects to eventually be re-united with her mother, and that Harry will be re-united with Sirius. This foreshadows Harry's experience as he walks to his impending death in the final book.
The broken mirror will also play an important role in the last novel. While some fan sites have speculated that the bits of mirror, rattling around in the bottom of Harry's trunk, will be mended by Harry or Hermione at some point, this does not actually happen. However, Harry finds a mirror shard while cleaning out his trunk, and keeps it with him while he searches for Voldemort's Horcruxes (soul fragments), in the final book. On several occasions he glimpses someone's blue eye staring at him in the reflection—an eye that could be Albus Dumbledore's.
Harry's interpretation of the Prophecy is reasonably accurate, but he has missed a loophole. The part of the prophecy which has left Harry feeling like a marked man is, and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. Harry, given what he knows, understands that this must mean that either he must kill Voldemort or be killed by him. As it turns out, while Harry will be the instrument of Voldemort's destruction, the actual fatal spells will be cast by Voldemort himself, and Harry will not have to murder anyone in the course of the seven books. We note a small error in the prophecy: while Voldemort does twice cast a Killing Curse at Harry, at the end of the final battle that curse will be reflected onto, and will kill, Voldemort. As he had done when Harry was one year old, Voldemort will again die at his own hand; but this time his death will be permanent.
Because this series is nominally written for children, the nature of Umbridge's illness is somewhat glossed over in this chapter. Older readers may want to examine the mythology surrounding interactions between centaurs and human females as part of their studies of this chapter. As Umbridge and her fate are very much a side light to this story, what actually happened to her while she was a captive of the centaurs will not be discussed here, except to note that the author clearly has some understanding of the seamier side of this particular myth.
- We see here the magic mirror that Harry received from Sirius at Christmas. Harry will painfully find a broken shard of that mirror in his trunk in the final book. Thinking he sees something in the mirror that looks like Dumbledore's eyes, he will elect to carry it with him on his travels, as a reminder of Sirius and of Dumbledore. Harry will be able to use the mirror shard to summon help later in that book, and it will be revealed finally that the eye Harry saw in the mirror was Aberforth's.