Harry, Ron, and Hermione grab Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and scurry off to Hagrid’s cabin. Hagrid’s face is badly bruised and bleeding. Hagrid explains that he had gone into the mountains to talk to Giants and rally support for Dumbledore but ultimately failed to enlist their help. Umbridge knocks at the door, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione duck under the Invisibility Cloak and hide in the corner. Umbridge forces her way into Hagrid’s cabin, but Hagrid refuses to tell her about the Giants. After she leaves, Hermione warns Hagrid about Umbridge and her class inspections, cautioning him against teaching anything too dangerous or unconventional. Hagrid appears unconcerned.
The next day, Hagrid leads his class into the forest. The horrible horse-like creatures Harry saw pulling carriages appear again, and Hagrid asks who can see the creatures. Harry, Neville, and a Slytherin boy raise their hands. Hagrid explains that the creatures are called thestrals and are visible only by those who have witnessed death.
Angelina, the Gryffindor Quidditch captain, chooses Ginny Weasley to replace Harry as Gryffindor Seeker. At the last D.A. meeting before Christmas break, Harry is left alone with Cho Chang. Cho starts to cry and admits that she is thinking about Cedric, her boyfriend. Cedric was killed by Voldemort at the close of Book IV. Standing under the mistletoe, Harry and Cho kiss.
Harry returns to the Common Room and tells Ron and Hermione what happened. Harry falls asleep with his head full of thoughts. He dreams that his body feels smooth and powerful. He is a snake, slithering toward a man sitting on the floor, guarding a door. Harry rears from the floor and strikes the man, plunging his fangs into the man’s flesh. Harry wakes up with Ron standing over him. Harry is sweating and in extreme pain. His scar is burning hotter than ever. Neville arrives with McGonagall. Harry tells her that Ron’s dad has been attacked by a snake. McGonagall nods and takes Harry to Dumbledore’s office.
Harry tells Dumbledore about his vision, and how he inhabited the snake’s body during the attack. Dumbledore calls to the portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses hanging on the walls of his office and asks them to raise the alarm. When the portraits return, they explain that members of the Order have found Mr. Weasley at the Ministry and taken him to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. McGonagall wakes the other Weasley children, and they prepare to travel to Twelve Grimmauld Place by Portkey. As they are leaving, Harry’s scar starts to burn. He looks up at Dumbledore with a powerful hatred, fighting the urge to attack him. He is thrust back to number twelve. Harry tells Fred, Ginny, George, and Sirius about his vision but does not mention that he actually inhabited the snake. A letter from Mrs. Weasley arrives, announcing that Mr. Weasley is still alive.
Mrs. Weasley returns from St. Mungo’s and thanks Harry for his vision, which she believes saved Mr. Weasley’s life. The Weasleys and Harry agree to stay with Sirius for the holidays. Harry tells Sirius the whole truth about his vision, including the rage he felt at Dumbledore right before they left Hogwarts. Sirius tells him not to worry.
The group visits Mr. Weasley. He is heavily bandaged but in very good spirits. After a few minutes, Harry and the Weasley kids leave so Tonks and Mad-Eye can visit. Once outside, Harry, Ron, and the twins decide to use the Extendable Ears to eavesdrop on their conversation. Mad-Eye suggests to Mr. Weasley that Harry could be possessed by Voldemort. Upon hearing this, Harry drops his ear and looks up at the others, who are looking back at him, their faces filled with fear.
Although Harry has dreamed about the Ministry of Magic before, this is the first time Harry has experienced the dream from the point of view of another entity. Harry knows Voldemort is capable of transforming himself into a snake and wastes no time in realizing that in this particular dream, he was Voldemort. Even more upsetting to Harry is the pleasure he seemed to take in the attack. Not only was Harry privy to the snake’s point of view, but he was also able to feel the same emotions the snake experienced—in this case, extreme pleasure. Harry reluctantly admits this to Dumbledore but later lies about it to Sirius and the Weasley children, with the exception of Ron, who witnessed Harry’s confession to Dumbledore. Harry eventually tells the truth to Sirius as well. Harry feels implicated by his perspective on the attack, as if he is somehow responsible for what he saw and the pleasure he experienced. Harry has always been able to tell when Voldemort was feeling an extreme emotion, but in the past, those emotions remained separate from Harry’s own experiences. In the dream, for the first time, Harry couldn’t determine where he himself ended and Voldemort began.
Though the dream was shocking to Harry, Dumbledore doesn’t seem particularly surprised that Harry actively inhabited the body of the snake, and he seems to anticipate that this will be a part of Harry’s story. He seems to ask Harry about it only to confirm his suspicions. Once again, adults seem privy to all sorts of information children are simply not allowed to know, which in this case seems particularly unfair. Harry was the one to experience the disturbing vision, but Dumbledore refuses to grant him access to all the pieces of the puzzle. For Harry, this lack of knowledge brews more confusion and unhappiness, and, later, becomes an essential part of his troubles. In the meantime, he is forced to deal with his confusion on his own.
When Dumbledore hears about Harry’s vision, he immediately turns to the portraits of former Headmasters and Headmistresses hanging on his office walls, and, in doing so, reveals a small bit of the ancient and complex history of Hogwarts. No Headmaster or Headmistress ever actually leaves the school, even though they may die or be replaced. Instead, they line the walls of the current Headmaster’s office, free to move about between their portraits and dispense advice. Although the current Headmaster is certainly in control of Hogwarts, the talking walls of Dumbledore’s office prove that there is also a comforting and supportive balance of opinion in place.
Harry’s ability to see the thestrals recalls the end of Book IV, where Harry watched helplessly as Voldemort brutally murdered Cedric Diggory, Cho Chang’s boyfriend. Most loyal followers of the Harry Potter books will notice that Harry seems to be a very different young man at the start of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and he has changed most likely because of having seen death so closely. Watching Cedric’s murder was traumatic for Harry, and he is more skeptical now, easier to anger, and less responsive to authority figures. His new feelings range from the expected, such as his intense dislike of Umbridge, to the surprising, such as his newfound disappointment in Dumbledore.