The Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 34-36: Surving The Battle of the Department of Mysteries

Who needs an intro when there’s heartache in your future?


There are times when you want to tell Harry he’s an idiot. That he’s too wrapped in his own twisted relationship with Voldemort, that he has a hard time taking advice objectively, that he can be kind of obsessive. Those things are true. He’s an idiot. Harry has to save Sirius and he believes there’s no one else for the job. They can ask for no help, there’s no time to do anything but get on the flying death horses and go. But the noble thing about Harry is that in a choice between his life and the life of someone else, the someone else wins every time. He will sacrifice himself to save the people he cares about. His entire life has been touched by death and he will do anything to stop any more of it. It’s both beautiful and broken – and it sometimes leads to terrible consequences.


No, not this kind of death horse.

The DA is off to London on the death horses, with Ron especially uneasy at flying through the air on an invisible thestral. The group recieves the most delightful name tags ever – seriously I want Harry Potter, Rescue Misson on a T-shirt – and enter the Department of Mysteries.

In Harry’s dream, he walks down a corridor to the door at the end but the reality is a spinning wall of doors that leaves no trace of where you’ve come from or where you’re going. This is the first sign that something is very wrong. The mood of the exploration is tense, culminating in the discovery of an empty archway that calls to Harry. Luna can hear voices through it but only Harry longs to pass through it. The whole thing is unsettling and a sense of forbidding settles over everything.

And look, how messed up are wizards? The Department of Mysteries is a rough equivalent of a Muggle study of quantum mechanics but Muggles don’t create death. I mean, okay, we have nuclear weapons but the wizards are clearly messing with things that are best left unmessed with. Death and time and brains are complex and frightening things and a group of teenagers are walking through it all, completely unaware of the danger there in.

And then they find a glass orb with Harry’s name on it.


The Death Eaters are waiting in the Department of Mysteries.

ImagePerhaps the most interesting MacGuffin in the series, the glass orb is a prophecy about Harry Potter and Voldemort and the Death Eaters are waiting for Harry to deliver it to them like sending out for pizza. What happens next is a disaster but a couple of points: it’s clear that the kids have no chance (they are completely outmatched by experienced adult duelists) but it’s just as clear that Dumbledore’s Army saves their lives. When it counts, the teens act as a team, they do not panic, and they fight to protect each other. They lose but they live and that’s because of Harry.

When the Death Eaters catch them Hermione is unconscious after a terrible purple flame to the chest, Ron is out of wits and nearly strangled by a brain, Ginny’s ankle is broken, and Bellatrix Lestrange is taking special pleasure in torturing Neville, the son of the couple she, her husband, and his brother Crucioed into madness. Neville shows his character here, insisting that Harry refuse to turn over the prophecy. Harry is on the verge of giving up when in comes the Order of the Phoenix.

I love them. I love them so much. I want a prequel series about the original Order so bad my soul aches for it. The Order battles the Death Eaters with “wands that flash like swords” but the fight is over when Dumbledore arrives. The Death Eaters scatter like cockroaches when the kitchen light comes on.

Except one.

Sirius is dueling his cousin Bellatrix and taunting her, goading her. He is sure he has the fight well in hand when it goes wrong. Bellatrix hits Sirius with a red beam of light and Sirius falls, disappearing through the archway. He is gone.

This is the part where everyone puts the book down and tries to deal with what just happened. Sirius Black, Harry’s father’s best friend, his own godfather, his best hope for a normal life is gone. Because he fell through an archway.

Death takes and it is indiscriminate. There is no reason why. Sometimes, the people you love are simply gone.


Grief does terrible things to a person. Harry has led his friends into a trap and Sirius is dead. Grieving and angry, he does the worst thing he’s ever done: he goes after Bellatrix Lestrange looking for revenge. He wants to hurt her, tries to use an Unforgiveable, but isn’t so far lost that he manages it. And if things aren’t bad enough here comes Voldemort.

Tom Marvolo Riddle: making everything worse since 1982.

Bellatrix grovels for forgiveness because the prophecy has been smashed but Voldemort’s attention is all on Harry. He casts the Killing Curse but Dumbledore intercepts it, sending the Ministry fountain between Harry and his tormentor. Voldemort retaliates by possessing Harry, making Harry long for death and me long for EVERYTHING TO STOP HURTING IT’S ALL TERRIBLE. The Ministry arrives in time to see Dumbledore has been telling the truth about the rise of Voldemort the entire time. There’s a hilarious moment of posturing between the Ministry’s bureaucracy and Dumbledore’s need to get shit done when the Headmaster sends Harry back to Hogwarts via an unauthorized Portkey and tells the Minister he will only give 30 minutes to explain before returning to Hogwarts.

The battle is over and the war begun.

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4 thoughts on “The Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 34-36: Surving The Battle of the Department of Mysteries

  1. Ashley says:

    Because you put a picture of the Headless Horseman in here, I feel like I need to interrupt our discussion of Harry Potter at this point to ask you what you thought of the Sleepy Hollow finale. My two cents: WHAT and also NOOOOOO.

    Anyway, one of my favorite things about these chapters is how Jo manages to pull off that moment when Voldemort can’t possess Harry because of LOVE. It could have been incredibly cheesy, but something about the combo of his love taking the form of grief just cuts the cheese right out of there. She’s so good.

  2. NTE says:

    Yes, this is wonderful, especially this part: “His entire life has been touched by death and he will do anything to stop any more of it.” Because sometimes, as much as we love him, Harry is completely ridiculous and you just want to scream at him to stop pretending that he is a grown up and can handle stuff that he obviously should ask for help handling, but then you remember that (even when he’s being a complete idiot) he’s doing it for so many right reasons. Plus, also, Voldemort’s tagline is basically perfect.

  3. Jennie says:

    When I first read this book, I reread the part where Sirius died like five times because it happens so fast. And, you know, also I didn’t want it to be true. 😦


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