Book #29: Tragedy at the Ministry

Fast facts:

Book Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre/Audience: YA fantasy, fiction, drama

Rating: [Again, amended from my previous rating] 10/10

Worth the read?: Y-e-s

Picture it—my backyard, earlier this afternoon; it’s a beautiful, sunny day, and I’m taking photos of Order of the Phoenix for this very blog post. I have just finished taking my last photo when, suddenly, I drop the book from an arm’s length above my head. It crashes to the ground, the dust jacket ripping off, and lands open, halfway on the concrete parking bumper, halfway on the muddy grass.

Sigh.

It only damaged the book a little bit, but if you ask me, a little bit is a lot too much when you pay hefty prices and travel across the country to buy a book (okay, so buying the book while in Portland had nothing to do with why I traveled there…).

I did get some lovely photos, however…

 

Anyway, Order of the Phoenix is my second favorite Harry Potter book. The story line is unique and stands alone to me as the most action-packed in the series (yes, even more-so than Deathly Hallows). There is near-constant conflict from multiple sources—which can be overwhelming for some. Additionally, a lot of people hate Umbridge so much that they just don’t want to return to the story because her character gets them so heated. I can relate to this, because this is similar to the reason I always dread reading Goblet of Fire.

I don’t mind Umbridge so much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I despise the woman, and in a lot of ways she is harder to read about than Voldemort himself. This is because Umbridge acts as a caricature for the most dreadful, annoying people in our lives. She is terrible all the time, but it’s in a totally different style than Voldemort. She’s easy to hate in a really aggressive, annoying way because she is aggressive and annoying. Voldemort, on the other hand…he’s just scary. But I don’t mind her enough to stop reading. It’s weird, because I really can’t stand her, but I enjoy watching her time at Hogwarts unfold. Also, without Umbridge, we’d have missed an incredible amount of sass from one Minerva McGonagall.

“I’m terribly sorry 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.”

Burnnnnnnn.

In addition to Umbridge, we get to see loads of action from the start. From dementors to the Order members flying with Harry to Grimmauld Place, to that old, dirty house itself, from the Ministry hearing to Umbridge’s placement at Hogwarts…from what lies within the Forbidden Forest to Dumbledore’s departure. From St. Mungo’s to the Department of Mysteries…seriously, is there another book in the series with this much going on? No wonder it’s the longest one!

The sequence of Harry being lured to the Ministry, and the ensuing fight between the Death Eaters, the Order, and the young witches and wizards AWOL from Hogwarts is probably in my top 5 favorite in the series. Rowling does a wonderful job of eliciting the sense of mystery in every room they encounter, and she showcases well the budding skills of Dumbledore’s Army. It feels really triumphant, too, when the Order members arrive, and then again when Dumbledore storms the scene. [Spoilers ahead…as if you didn’t know…]

I must say that, as sad as it is to lose any beloved character, the hardest part about this particular loss is not the death itself, but the reaction of Harry and Lupin.

Lupin, who is definitely my favorite secondary character, absolutely crushed my soul on this reading. I had never noticed his reaction to losing Sirius before, had never really considered how he was losing the last of his dearest friends. And that he had to immediately grab Harry to pull him back, declaring to him that Sirius was gone. Ugh. This wasn’t just some stranger—this was his best friend’s boy and Sirius’ godson.

“He can’t come back, Harry,” said Lupin, his voice breaking as he struggled to contain Harry. “He can’t come back, because he’s d —”

“HE — IS — NOT — DEAD!” roared Harry. “SIRIUS!”

And then,

Lupin’s face was pale. “Let’s — let’s find the others. Where are they all, Neville?”

Lupin turned away from the archway as he spoke. It sounded as though every word was causing him pain.

Remus Lupin spent most of his life as a total outcast until he went to Hogwarts and met James, Sirius and Peter. They became family to him, going so far as to become unregistered animagi just to stick close to him at the full moon. And one by one, Remus watched in horror as his friends disappeared. For a while, he had gotten Sirius back. But now, in the blink of an eye, all thanks to a terribly-located dual, Sirius was quite actually gone forever. Ugh, it hurts. Precious Lupin.

And, so sorry for continuing this depressed-fest, but there is one last piece of the story I have bookmarked to talk about. It comes to us in the book’s final chapter, while Harry is visiting Hagrid:

“Look . . .” Hagrid leaned toward him across the table, “I knew Sirius longer ‘n you did. . . . He died in battle, an’ that’s the way he’d’ve wanted ter go —”

“He didn’t want to go at all!” said Harry angrily.

Hagrid bowed his great shaggy head.

“Nah, I don’ reckon he did,” he said quietly. “But still, Harry . . . he was never one ter sit around at home an’ let other people do the fightin’. He couldn’ have lived with himself if he hadn’ gone ter help —”

I was struck by this exchange because it felt like a conversation I have heard before.

Shortly before my grandma passed away in 2009, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. She was put on oxygen and pretty much told to sit at home and rest until the end of time. She was quite like Sirius, however, and when the church office needed a fill-in secretary for a week, she volunteered with glee.

I was sitting in the office with her when another church employee came in and was shocked to see her. “Margaret,” she said, exasperated. “You should be at home resting!”

And my grandma, the spitfire that she was, looked her in the eye and said, “I’m not going to sit at home on my butt in my big green chair and die.”

Sirius sure as heck wasn’t going to do that, either.

 

Lightening the final mood with more illustrations!! Yay for art!

Until next time, friends! 🙂