After Gretchen’s delightful Christmas at Hogwarts post, we move on to some crazy-ass chapters. Christmas is over, guys. It’s December 27th. Shit is getting real. It is time for frustration, brainwashing, and teen angst. First off, let’s establish where I stand on “Moody Teen Harry”: I love him. He is so real. And guess what? You were a whiny shithead with emotional issues when you were a teenager too. Trust me, you were. Plus, you had way less pressure put on you than Harry does. At least you didn’t have an entire civilization simultaneously berating you and needing you to save their lives. Perhaps we all hate our teen selves a little, but I mostly feel sorry for mine. I still relate to her more than I probably should at 30 years old, but there you have it.
Dolores Umbridge. I hate that chick. We all do. If you don’t, you might have been reading the wrong book. I hate her more than I hate Voldemort. Why? Because we go along, thinking the Ministry of Magic are the good guys and then, all of a sudden, those who are supposed to have our best interests at heart turn into the bad guys and start brainwashing everyone because they are wizard-supremacist cowards. Remember who the enemy is, people. This, my friends, is the face of pure evil:
Here we go. Hold on to your butts.
CHAPTER TWELVE: PROFESSOR UMBRIDGE
Oh, Seamus. One of the Ministry’s brainwashing victims. Way to stand by your friends, dude. Since when to teenagers actually listen to their parents and stay away from friends they deem a bad influence? The teen years: you’re doin’ it wrong. Meanwhile, in the girls’ dormitory, Hermione has been telling off Lavender Brown as well. She probably should have slapped her. Oh wait, I might be projecting things onto Lavender from Book 6. They are, however, eclipsed by Percy’s incredible assholishness, but that’s a story for another chapter.
After Seamus runs out of the dorm like a little twit, Hermione finds the first advertisement for
victims testing subjects for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. She immediately lets the power of being a prefect go to her head and rips the poster down, declaring that she and Ron need to lecture his older brothers, an opportunity he, of course, jumps at immediately. Oh wait. The other thing.
Hermione has better ideas throughout this chapter. She is full of the knowledge, as per usual, declaring the importance of “inter-House unity” and reading the Prophet because “it’s best to know what the enemy are saying.” Plus, she schools Ron about interfering in Harry’s potential love life. Damn. That girl is so SMART. And Reasonable. She’s kind of like Jiminy Cricket but more badass.
Cho comes by without her gang of gigglers, but Harry manages to make her sad about Cedric and Ron does that thing extreme sports fans do where he accuses her of being a Tornados bandwaggoner. So, that’s another successful encounter.
In this chapter, the gang goes to all of their more unfortunate classes. Nothing particularly noteworthy happens until they get to ... dun dun dun… Defense Against the Dark Arts. Like all things carefully regimented by the government, this class has been transformed into something incredibly boring, strict, and ultimately unhelpful. The lesson plan now consists of reading chapters and copying simple notes. They really needed a teacher for that. During this scintillating lesson, Umbridge makes plain the Ministry’s position on Voldy. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they are going to plant their heads firmly in the sand, ostrich style, and hope that nothing bad happens. Not only that, but they are going to vehemently deny that there is any danger, actively working against the safety of the wizard population. Excellent plan.
Moody Teen Harry is understandably angry about this. He fires back at Umbridge and gets sent to McGonagall’s office for his trouble. As punishment, McG gives him a cookie and tells him to keep his head down and not to draw more wrath from the Ministry. Duh, Harry. Listen to Hermione, would you? She’s your Jiminy! Come to think of it, Pinocchio didn’t really listen to his…
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: DETENTION WITH DOLORES (AKA THE SHIT GETS REAL)
I believe He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and I believe you fought him and escaped from him.
Well, you can just go straight to her and ask her to let you off on Friday… and I don’t care how you do it, tell her You-Know-Who’s a figment of your imagination if you like, just make sure you’re there!
She sits him down in a chair and tells him to do lines with her “special quill” and no ink. Turns out, the words “I must not tell lies” CUT THEMSELVES INTO THE BACK OF HIS HAND WHILE HE WRITES THEM OVER AND OVER IN HIS OWN BLOOD. I’m sure the Geneva Conventions outlawed that shit. That is some incredibly disturbing punishment. Very brainwashy and torturous. This is another way in which Harry Potter reminds me of Matilda. Umbridge is Miss Trunchbull, doling out punishments so awful, no parent would actually believe them. She is so bad, Harry theorizes she is being controlled by Voldemort. Nope. Just a psychotic bureaucrat. In between torture sessions, we get the feeling Harry just sort of escapes into making up his homework assignments and distances himself from his friends. The “I must not tell lies” lines are so disturbing that he can’t bring himself to even tell them about it. That shit cuts deep.
And on that note, we end this disturbing set of chapters, which set things up quite well for what’s to come. These mark a distinct shift in the tone of HP. It’s not all magic and Quidditch now, people. Now, it’s politics and torture. And it may just be life and death.