So, this post is very late, and I was afraid for a while that I wasn’t going to be able to write it at all, which makes me sad because these are two of my very favorite chapters in the whole series. I love them so much that I actually specifically requested them from Ashley, our fearless leader. Then I had to go and get sick this week, probably due to the insane weather here in east Tennessee, which can’t decide whether it wants to be below freezing or just kinda warm and rainy. But I’m not going to let it stop me! I’m going to relive my warm and fuzzy Harry Potter memories! This is called the Harry Potter Medicinal Re-Read, after all!
CHAPTER 28: SNAPE’S WORST MEMORY
After Dumbledore’s FUCKING AWESOME exit , everybody’s worst nightmare comes true and Umbridge serves as interim headmistress. Because Dumbledore is still FUCKING AWESOME, though, she can’t get into his office because it’s sealed itself off to all but the true headmaster. That’s right, Umbridge: suck it. With Dumbledore gone and Umbridge in charge, as you can imagine, everything goes to shit. Umbridge has appointed Draco and a bunch of other unpleasant Slytherins as her “Inquisitorial Squad,” who are like prefects from hell.
Now, Fred and George have always been at the top of my list of favorite characters, but I think these chapters are what really cemented my love for them. They basically decide that without Dumbledore, full-time school is now useless to them, so Umbridge and her enforcers can suck their pygmy puffs. They’re entrepreneurs! They’ll have their own business up and running in less than a year.
Umbridge’s new lapdog, Filch, takes Harry to see the headmistress, who gives him tea and grills him on the whereabouts of Dumbledore and Sirius Black. Harry exhibits some quick thinking and only pretends to drink the tea, recalling the faux Mad-Eye Moody’s habit of never drinking anything he’s given. Probably a good thing because I’d say the tea was mixed with veritaserum at the very least. As Harry is insisting that he knows nothing, loud explosions sound from the corridor. Harry runs out to see fireworks bursting all over the place, and he finds Fred and George — the obvious culprits — hiding behind a tapestry. The twins continue to wreak havoc on Hogwarts, essentially shutting down the school and taking control from Umbridge into their own ingenious hands and wands. The faculty, who despise Umbridge as much if not more than the students, do nothing to stop the twins. Instead, they use the chaos as an opportunity to try to push Umbridge to the brink. They flatly refuse to help her, leaving her to deal with everything on her own and even mocking her strict adherence to her own inane rules and protocol. At the end of the day, Professor Flitwick snidely tells Umbridge that it would have been a cinch for him to deal with the fireworks from the beginning, but he wasn’t sure if he had the “authority,” and oh my gosh I love him so much in this moment.
The twins continue to wreak havoc on Hogwarts, essentially shutting down the school and taking control from Umbridge into their own ingenious hands and wands. The faculty, who despise Umbridge as much if not more than the students, do nothing to stop the twins. Instead, they use the chaos as an opportunity to try to push Umbridge to the brink. They flatly refuse to help her, leaving her to deal with everything on her own and even mocking her strict adherence to her own inane rules and protocol. At the end of the day, Professor Flitwick snidely tells Umbridge that it would have been a cinch for him to deal with the fireworks from the beginning, but he wasn’t sure if he had the “authority,” and oh my gosh I love him so much in this moment.
That’s right, Umbridge: suck it.
The next day, any sort of romantic connection between Harry and Cho completely disintegrates. Even though Cho expresses remorse over the fact that Marietta betrayed Dumbledore’s Army, she also actually tries to defend her, which just makes Harry angrier. They have a spat, and that seems to be it for them. Their relationship was kind of DOA, though, wasn’t it?
Then we come to Snape’s worst memory, and this is an important turning point for Snape as a character. Our perception of him, Harry’s understanding of him, and Harry’s feelings about his father are all about to morph into a complicated bundle of emotions. During their Occlumency lesson, Snape has to go attend to something for Umbridge, so Harry is left alone with Snape’s Pensieve. There’s a memory on the surface that reminds him vaguely of the dreams he’s been having about the Ministry of Magic, so he naturally decides to investigate. Rowling again uses the Pensieve as a genius plot device to give both Harry and us a glimpse into Snape’s background.
During their Occlumency lesson, Snape has to go attend to something for Umbridge, so Harry is left alone with Snape’s Pensieve. There’s a memory on the surface that reminds him vaguely of the dreams he’s been having about the Ministry of Magic, so he naturally decides to investigate. Here Rowling again uses the Pensieve as a genius plot device to give both Harry and us a glimpse into Snape’s background.
Inside the Pensieve, Harry witnesses his father and his buddy Sirius suspending Snape upside down in mid-air, showing his underwear, and laughing. Lily comes to Snape’s defense, and James responds in an utter douchebag manner by suggesting that if she goes out with him, he’ll stop tormenting Snape. Right, because Lily’s company is something to be bartered for at the expense of another student’s dignity. Ugh, I really can’t stand James here, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt of being a stupid teenager. Lily rightfully refuses. Snape meanwhile, feeling humiliated by the whole thing, does not appreciate Lily’s help and even goes so far as to throw the “mudblood” slur at her (just when we were starting to sympathize with you, Snape! Argh!).
Any image we previously had of James Potter is shattered in this moment. Harry grew up underprivileged and bullied by the very people who were supposed to care for his well-being, so to see his own father treat someone that way is nothing less than a personal affront. Up to this point, Harry has kept his father on a pedestal—a hero who faced death to protect his loved ones and a shining example of the life he could have had if not for Voldemort. Now, that image is challenged by his father’s appalling treatment of another human being. Similarly, Harry finds himself feeling unexpectedly empathic toward Snape. Although this new knowledge doesn’t really change their behavior toward each other for the time being, it’s worth noting that Harry, in a way, has more in common with Snape than his own father.
I could write an entire post all on its own about the dichotomy between James Potter and Severus Snape and how it relates to both Harry and Lily, but this is getting rather long as it is, so I’m going to open it up to be discussed in the comments. Discuss away!
CHAPTER 29: CAREERS ADVICE
Because of aforementioned length, this chapter is coming to you in trusty bullet point form:
- Ginny brings Harry an Easter egg from Mrs. Weasley, which makes him feel all sentimental. He misses Sirius, who’s the closest thing to family he’s got besides the Weasleys. Later, Fred and George tell Harry they’ve planned a distraction at 5:00 p.m. the following day so Harry can use Umbridge’s fireplace—the only fireplace that won’t be under her surveillance—to talk to Sirius. You know whatever it is the twins have up their sleeves is gonna be good.
- Hermione is worried, of course, and makes it her mission to convince Harry not to break into Umbridge’s office. Think it’s going to work? Nah, me neither.
- Snape is ignoring Harry after catching him peeking into his Pensieve, which is actually a nice reprieve from the usual mockery and beratement.
- Harry meets with McGonagall to discuss his future career while Umbridge observes. He says he wants to be an Auror, Umbridge tells McGonagall that she’s giving Harry false hope, and some of my favorite dialogue ensues. I’m just going to put it here:
“False hope?” repeated Professor McGonagall, still refusing to look round at Professor Umbridge. “He has achieved high marks in all his Defense Against the Dark Arts tests –”
“I’m terribly sorry to have to contradict you, Minerva, but as you will see from my note, Harry has been achieving very poor results in his classes with me –”
“I should have made my meaning plainer,” said Professor McGonagall, turning at last to look Umbridge directly in the eyes. “He has achieved high marks in all Defense Against the Dark Arts tests set by a competent teacher.”
Professor Umbridge’s smile vanished as suddenly as a light bulb blowing. She sat back in her chair, turned a sheet on her clipboard and began scribbling very fast indeed, her bulging eyes rolling from side to side. Professor McGonagall turned back to Harry, her thin nostrils flared, her eyes burning.
[McGonagall continues advising Harry.]
“I think you will also find,” said Umbridge, her voice very cold now, “that the Ministry looks into the records of those applying to be Aurors. Their criminal records.”
“– unless you’re prepared to take even more exams after Hogwarts, you should really look at another –”
“Which means that this boy has as much chance of becoming an Auror as Dumbledore has of ever returning to this school.”
“A very good chance, then,” said Professor McGonagall.
“Potter has a criminal record,” said Umbridge loudly.
“Potter has been cleared of all charges,” said McGonagall, even more loudly.
Professor Umbridge stood up. She was so short that this did not make a great deal of difference, but her fussy, simpering demeanor had given place to a hard fury that made her broad, flabby face look oddly sinister.
“Potter has no chance whatsoever of becoming an Auror!”
Professor McGonagall got to her feet, too, and in her case this was a much more impressive move; she towered over Professor Umbridge.
“Potter,” she said in ringing tones, “I will assist you to become an Auror if it is the last thing I do! If I have to coach you nightly, I will make sure you achieve the required results!”
- I love it when McGonagall goes to bat for these kids. She is never not a badass.
- At 5:00, Harry grabs his invisibility cloak and Sirius’ knife that can open anything, sneaks into Umbridge’s office, and contacts Sirius. Lupin is there too. They reassure him that his father wasn’t a total dick and was just a silly teenager who eventually grew out of his silliness, settled down, and married Lily. Harry isn’t entirely convinced. When Sirius and Lupin learn that Snape is no longer giving Harry Occlumency lessons, they strongly object. Lupin tells Harry that NOTHING is more important than him learning Occlumency. Hmm, wonder what that’s all about.
- Filch enters and Harry throws on the invisibility cloak just in time. Filch is looking for an “Approval for Whipping” form. He’s super-excited that Umbridge is letting him do some kid-whipping again! Ugh, Filch.
- There’s a commotion in the entrance hall, so Harry runs down to see what’s going on. Fred and George have delivered on their “distraction” by turning the hall into a swamp. Umbridge is threatening punishments all over the place, of course, but the twins accio their brooms and blow that popsicle stand. As they make their grand exit, they yell out the address of their new shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and promise discounts for anyone who uses their products to get rid of Umbridge. IT IS GLORIOUS.
- Fred: “Give her hell from us, Peeves.” Peeves salutes, the students all cheer, and the twins ride off into the sunset. OH, THE FEELS. ILU GRED & FORGE! ❤