Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Harry Potter Medicinal Re-Read! What a wonderful thing to be able to write about Harry Potter during this magical time of year. Curl up by a fireplace with your coziest socks (à la Dumbledore) and warm up a cup of something delicious and let’s chat about the introduction of our dear Luna Lovegood and a curious new song from the Sorting Hat.
CHAPTER TEN: LUNA LOVEGOOD
Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light.
Harry awakes to a kerfuffle in the Black residence. Everyone is trying to get out the door at once . Imagine that scene in Home Alone when the entire family manages to sleep in and they almost miss the flight to Paris and leave Kevin behind in the process, only this time throw in a crazed portrait spewing racist profanities in the background. Sirius transforms into Snuffles and accompanies the kids to the train station. Pro: Sirius gets to be out in the open for the first time in ages, experiencing the world and spending time with his beloved godson. Con: All of the dark wizards, some of whom have children at Hogwarts, know about his animagus form and might use this information for their own destructive purposes. Was it the right choice? I dunno, but it was certainly risky.
Most of the Order is there to say so long and farewell to the students. Moody warns them not to put anything remotely incriminating in writing and after spending time with the real Alastor over the past few chapters, it’s amazing to realize just how good of an impression that Crouch, Jr. managed to pull off. Hermione worries that Sirius made the wrong choice in deciding to tag along and we’ll soon see that her concerns are founded. And then it’s time for that awkward moment when Harry realizes that he doesn’t get to sit with Ron and Hermione. They don’t seem happy about it either, but prefect duty calls.
Harry felt an odd sense of loss. He had never traveled on the Hogwarts Express without Ron.
Ow, my heart.
From now on, our troubles will be far away.
As the train carries them away from 12 Grimmauld Placce and closer to Hogwarts, Ginny and Harry run into Neville Longbottom. Together they find an almost empty compartment, occupied only by Luna Lovegood. With just an introductory paragraph, I feel like I have a better sense of who Luna Lovegood is than some people in my real life that I’ve known for years. Here’s the thing. We all know a Luna Lovegood. Maybe we’ve even been a Luna Lovegood at various points in our lives. (*raises hand*)
Luna carries her wand behind her ear and wears a necklace made of butterbeer caps. She’s not a great beauty. She laughs too loudly at jokes. But she’s clever, to be sure. She also doesn’t give a damn about what other people think about her. This makes her a very valuable ally; especially for Harry Potter in a year when he’s going to need to decide if he’s going to let what other people think about him rule his life. Luna is one of the greats.
Neville’s carrying a new birthday present, some sort of rare plant that squirts stinksap everywhere at inopportune moments. Maybe that’s why it’s so rare? Anyhow, Cho Chang walks in to say hi to Harry, which is quite sweet, but Ginny is the one that ultimately casts the charm to clean up the situation. Just sayin’. Hermione and Ron finally come back, full of prefect gossip. They get a glimpse of Luna’s publication of The Quibbler. It’s ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the tripe that the Daily Prophet is putting out these days. Then Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle show up for some minor harassment and to imply that they know that Sirius is hiding in London.
Everyone gets quite tetchy with one another upon disembarkment (can I use that in a non-naval setting?) and it’s made worse because Hagrid is not there. The traditional horseless carriages are there to take them up to the castle, but Harry notices something strange. Black, winged, fleshless creatures haul the carriages. Luna attempts to reassure him that she sees them, too, even if no one else can. The deaths of Cedric and Luna’s mother have unlocked this tricksy little piece of magic, though we won’t know this for a while yet. For the first time, coming back to Hogwarts has not been the reunion that Harry anticipated.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE SORTING HAT’S NEW SONG
Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.
Harry finds some solace in the comfort of the Gryffindor table, even if not every person there seems to be on his side. Four years after the fateful sorting that would place him in Gryffindor, the Sorting Hat awaits a new batch of witches and wizards. Just as we saw in the Goblet of Fire, the Hat makes up new songs. This one gets a little, um, preachy. We learn that Godric and Salazar used to be best friends, as did Helga and Rowena. They each had different opinions about the running of their educational institution and instead of deciding on a united plan, they were like, “LISTEN. We can make this work.” (Really, though, they should’ve just listened to Helga Hufflepuff, whose idea was, “I’ll teach the lot, and treat them just the same.” Hufflepuffs get a bad rap while they are clearly so totally awesome.) Harmony prevailed for a short while, but soon enough, discord tore the school apart and Slytherin left the school for good.
The Sorting Hat wraps up this delightfully cheery little number by essentially saying, “I’m gonna sort y’all ‘cause I have to, but know that I’m not happy about it. This whole schtick is Bad News Bears.” Hogwarts is under siege and unless they unite, the whole school will fall apart once more.
Through the years, we all will be together, if the fates allow.
Dumbledore, bless him, welcomes the students back and says, “There is a time for speech making, but this is not it. Tuck in!” During supper, Nearly Headless Nick is on hand to provide our backstory that Hermione doesn’t know from reading Hogwarts: A History. Sometimes the Hat does give out warnings and it’s wise to take heed.
There have been a few shake-ups with the faculty, as per always, and Professor Grubbly-Plank is temporarily taking over for Hagrid. This year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is Professor Umbridge. (*insert collective shudder here*) Harry recognizes her from his Ministry hearing. She seems out of place, with her pink cardigan in a sea of black cloaks and simpering voice in the presence of, you know, fully-grown adults.
Professor Umbridge freaking interrupts Dumbledore and starts to talk and talk and talk. It’s the worst. She’s the worst and it’s not going to get any better. Hermione immediately sees through the façade and understands that the Ministry is placing its grubby little fingers in the Hogwarts pie. (I’m sorry. That was an unfortunate metaphor.)
Hermione and Ron leave for more prefect stuff, which leaves Harry in the sucky position of dealing with Seamus Finnegan back in the dorm. (Sidebar: Do prefects pick the password for common rooms? I like to think that Hermione selected Mimbulus Mimbletonia just so Neville would finally have a password that he could remember.) Seamus has been drinking the Daily Prophet kool-aid, courtesy of his mother. Ron and Neville and (sorta) Dean jump to Harry’s defense. They don’t win Seamus over quite that easy, even though Harry plans to stick by what he knows to be true.
That’s the beauty of Christmas, though. It brings people together and binds up wounded hearts. This time will come for Harry eventually, although he’s going to have to wait it out. His friends will be near and dear to him, although the fates will not allow that for all of them. But for you, dear reader, I hope you have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
P.S. I made you a gift. I thought of this whenever I read “Elphias Doge” this time around and I couldn’t help myself.