Hello again, dearest everyones! I have missed you quite a bit. And I’m going to try and make this one very quick because, well, these are two very short chapters, and I’m behind on my reading of Half-Blood Prince and I gotta get to it and other things.
So. Let’s escape from Hogwarts.
Chapter 32: Out of the Fire
In which Harry recovers from his vision of Sirius and Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries, goes for help, finds his friends, sneaks into Umbridge’s office to use her fire, gets lied to by Kreacher, is apprehended by Umbridge and almost tortured… And then Hermione punks everyone.
“You have a bit of a saving people thing.”
Once you’ve finished this book it’s painfully obvious that nothing is as it has seemed. I don’t even remember how I read this the first time (it was over ten years ago), but I can’t help but think I wasn’t nearly so fooled by Voldemort’s deceit as Harry was. Harry is SO sure that Sirius is in the Department of Mysteries that there’s just no reasoning with him. He falls into the trap and as a result, in just a few short chapters, Sirius will die.
If only he had listened to Hermione.
You’ve noticed that, haven’t you? I didn’t. Not until my dad told me. But I remember, my dad pointed out that Hermione is always right. Rowling’s been more or less upfront about this. Hermione is the character she’s always related to most. She’s the one whom Rowling says is most based upon herself. Honeestly, it’s the most Bella Swan Rowling ever gets. That she doesn’t ever feel like or remind you of Bella Swan is the biggest praise I can say about that.
But Hermione, yes. Hermione is such a fan-favourite. Beloved by millions, possible favourite to at least that many. Hell, she’s my second favourite character in the entire series.
So why am I talking about her here?
Here’s the the thing. I’m obsessed with Hogwarts Houses. I don’t know if I’ve talked about them a lot before, but looking at them now, five books in, it’s become something a bit cumbersome, if not a bit blurred. Houses were important in the first two books. Hufflepuffs featured prominently in Chamber of Secrets (and interestingly enough, Ravenclaws have yet to feature prominently at all) and Draco Malfoy has been representing the Slyterins this whole time. But Malfoy (as I talked about previously) has always been a bit black and white for me.
That’s the problem with the Slytherins. Gryffindors are brave (cool), Ravenclaws are smart (cool), Hufflepuffs are the best friends ever (cool). And those are all great things to be. It’s a positive. Slytherins are cunning. Cunning. Cunning has such a negative connotation. Why would you want to be a Slytherin unless you took pleasure in being a sneaky sneak? That never made sense to me.
Which, in turn, leads me to question the entire House Sorting system. Rowling, herself, does that in the 7th Book when not-really Angeledore says “I think we sort too early.” So… sortings can be wrong, can’t they?
It’s funny how that leaves people sorted at the end of the day. Ron fits in Gryffindor because… well… he ain’t that bright (so no Ravenclaw), he ain’t that cunning (so no Slytherin), and he sure as shit ain’t loyal (see the two times he ABANDONS Harry when Harry desperately needs him; so no way would Helga take him). Which leaves him in Gryffindor. Umbridge is clearly a Slytherin (not because evil, because sly).
But Terry Boot made a good point way back in “The Lion and the Serpent.” Why isn’t Hermione in Ravenclaw? She’s certainly smart enough. Everyone (and I mean everyone) calls her “the smartest witch of her age.” And that clearly puts her in Ravenclaw territory. Even the Sorting Hat knew that would be a thing that would be good for her.
And yet she is in Gryffindor.
The other thing about Hermione is she’s fiercely loyal to Harry. She never abandons or deserts him. She even volunteers to break rules and fuck shit up on the condition that she helps them out. THAT is pure Hufflepuff, isn’t it? The loyal friend. The best friend. she’s got Harry’s back in all situations always. That’s what you want, that’s a Hufflepuff.
And yet she is in Gryffindor.
Then at the end of the chapter she starts to craft a plan. A big plan that will get her and Harry and Ron and Neville and Ginny and Luna out of this impossible predicament. It is cunning. It’s not just smart. It’s CUNNING. So… she’s got a slight predilection for Slytherin.
And yet she is in Gryffindor.
But more than that, it’s the reason why she’s the perfect character in this book to finally bring down Dolores Jane Umbridge.
Let’s back up. I’m fascinated by the Sorting Hat’s song. In previous books it’s been a cute little ditty that Rowling writes because Woo Children’s Literature. But it’s remarked in this book that the Sorting Hat’s song is different. It’s more of a warning, and more of an ominous sorta deal. It warns about what it was like when the Houses all split up and divided and fell when the Founding Members had their falling out. And why put that in this book? Why would that be a thing that Rowling mentions here?
Truth be told, it’s because this is the story about how we need to stand together and be a strong force. If we aren’t together, then we fall down because divided it is easy to take us out. It’s why Dumbledore not talking to Harry is absolutely the wrong move. If he had stood with Harry, Sirius might not have died. If the Ministry wasn’t fighting Dumbledore, perhaps Voldemort wouldn’t have made as much forward momentum in this book as he does behind the scenes here.
Look at Umbridge, then. Who unites everyone under an iron fist. Everyone is united whether they want to be or not. It’s an illusion of unification, but only so much as facism is unification. There’s still going to be resistance, but she does have them unified. It’s why she has SO much power until Harry fights back with Dumbledore’s army, and why she’s such a laughing stock after Christmas. Once there’s people who defy her particular brand of “unification” she loses the power, because it’s based on essentially nothing. She becomes a laughing stock. She becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes. No one likes her, no one respects her, and who was once a menace and terror is reduced to, well, what she is after Christmas.
The only solution, then, is to unite the houses against Umbridge. And here we have Hermione, in this chapter being an example of every single house as exists. She stays loyal to her friends, outthinks and stands up to Umbridge, and outthinks every single person in the room. Suddenly Umbridge’s own house (the Inquisitorial Squad) turns against against Umbridge (Malfoy wants the weapon for himself). Couple that with the fact that Umbridge’s power is based on a made-up social contract that doesn’t mean anything (she tells Snape he is on probation LOL) and she never stands a chance.
And so, we have Umbridge falling because she think she can do it alone.
A Few Quick Hits:
- Umbridge was the one to sic the Dementors on Harry. Bitch.
- Umbridge almost performs the Cruciartus Curse on Harry. Bitch.
- It’s remarkable reading this and realizing just how much of a gamble Harry is taking on all things. That bit about how he has a “saving people thing” is impossibly accurate. And it’s heartbreaking to see Harry not listen to Hermione’s advice, especially because she’s clearly right.
- No, seriously. Umbridge puts Snape on probation. Hilarious.
Chapter 33: Fight and Flight
This book is interesting because it hits this underlying tension where Hogwarts is becoming less and less relevant to the overall narrative of the Harry Potter series. The first three books and the last all have their climaxes on the school grounds (and so too, for that matter, does the sixth, even though that book has a split climax with the first half being the cave and the second half being the Death Eater invasion of Hogwarts). This book, however, a book so concerned with the Ministry of Magic and the government has a climax that could only ever take place at the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries.
Unfortunately, because Rowling writes the novel’s primary concern (The Ministry) into the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, it puts the narrative into a tricky place. She has to get Harry and the DA to the Ministry, but she has to wrap up this sticky narrative outcropping that is Dolores Umbridge and what sort of comeuppance you can get for her.
What we’re left with, then, are two chapters whose primary concern is getting Harry the hell out of Hogwarts so we can do the whole prophecy thing and climax the novel. And that’s all these two chapters are: getting Dolores Umbridge out of the way so that we can do just that.
Fortunately, this chapter is rather short and involves Dolores Umbrige getting carted off into the wood by centaurs in a sequence that I’m fairly sure does imply what I’m sure it implies. At least, that’s how I read it and I’m sure that’s how you’re supposed to. It’s too specific to not be that.
And then of course, there’s the bit where Harry continues to deny everyone of help. Seriously, Harry. This is not the lesson to be taking from this situation. Did you not catch the bit where the DA defeated the Inquisitorial Squad by working together? Did you not catch the bit where if only we had worked together with the Centaurs and made friends with them perhaps the Centaurs wouldn’t be pissed with Hermione’s use of them?
Trust your friends, Harry. Come with them, join with them, bond with them. You need them. They are your House.
And besides, if it wasn’t for any of them you never would have gotten on those Thestrals and gone to the Department of Mysteries. Come now, Harry. Take the lesson, please. Remember what the last shot of this movie is and why it’s so important and good and perfect. There’s a reason it is.
A Few Quick Hits
- Best use of Grawp ever. Given that Grawp is mostly useless (seriously, fight me on this) that’s terribly surprising.
- Watching the Centaurs get so intimidating is scary. Although I must say, I get that they are proud to be separated from people and they’ve been horrendously persecuted by Wizards (who are, let’s remember, assholes), they really do need to get the stick out of their ass and learn to take a fucking joke. Because honestly.
- I love that she brings in Thestrals here. That’s sly and wonderful. And a beautiful image. RIDE THE DEATH HORSES!
- LOL Umbridge gets carted off into the forest by Centaurs. LOL.