For Harry, the massive and unexpected power of his bond with the Dursleys is the ultimate irony. Before Hogwarts, Harry had known only the Dursleys’ version of family, which was based, in large part, on criticism and exclusion. The Dursleys found unity by joining together to deride and exclude Harry, which, undoubtedly, only aggravated Harry’s already tragic loss. The home where Harry feels safest, Hogwarts, is actually where he is most vulnerable, and he must continue to call Four Privet Drive “home” in order to ensure his own safety. Even though Harry is disappointed to learn of this link since it means he must continue to spend most of his breaks with the Dursleys, he is happy to finally understand why Dumbledore has always insisted on his timely return to Four Privet Drive.

Harry’s passionate search for Sirius demonstrates what Dumbledore soon confirms is true: Harry’s heart is both his ultimate weakness and his greatest strength as a Wizard. Dumbledore says that Harry’s heart is the one thing that separates him from Voldemort. He considers Harry’s heart and his capacity for love to be his ultimate power. However, Harry’s strong and uncompromising heart also guarantees that he feels things deeply, and Harry, plagued throughout his life with loss, finds the grieving process extraordinarily difficult. Sirius’s death is a devastating blow, and in the pages that follow his murder, Harry again appears as very different young man. He is sullen and highly introspective, avoiding his friends and refusing to partake in the Great Feast to close the school year. Sirius was the closest thing to real family Harry ever had, his last real connection to his mother and father. Now, Harry is left only with the dreaded Dursleys, who have never treated Harry with any kind of respect or love.

Unlike the death of his parents, who died when Harry was still an infant, Sirius’s death is a tremendous and instantly palpable loss, made worse by the fact that Harry feels at least partially responsible for it. Harry didn’t adequately hone his Occlumency skills; he was tricked by Voldemort; and, in rushing off to the Ministry to save Sirius, he ultimately led Sirius to his death. Even when Lupin and Dumbledore tell Harry that Sirius is gone for good, Harry cannot stop pursuing him. He screams into the mirror Sirius gave him, eventually breaking it in frustration, chases down Nearly Headless Nick, and tries his best to believe Luna’s assertion that the voices behind the curtain are the voices of the dead.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix closes on a subdued and vaguely uneasy note. Voldemort has not returned to full power, but he has not been destroyed, either. Many of his Death Eaters have been corralled by Dumbledore and returned to Azkaban, but Bellatrix Lestrange has escaped unharmed. Sirius has died, and Harry is having trouble accepting the finality of his death. Now, still in mourning, Harry must return for another awful summer with the Dursleys. Over the course of the novel, Harry makes many rash and misinformed decisions and has had to suffer the consequences of those decisions. Making mistakes and dealing with them is an integral part of the learning process, and as Harry begins another summer stifled at Four Privet Drive, he teeters precariously on the awkward ledge between childhood and maturity.