Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

by: J.K. Rowling

Summary, Chapters 20–22

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.

Analysis

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.