Summary: Chapter 14

Harry wakes up early on Saturday to write Sirius a letter, including subtle allusions to Umbridge, the pain in his scar, and Hagrid. He takes his letter to the Owlery and gives it to Hedwig. At breakfast, Harry finds an article in the Daily Prophet stating that Sturgis Podmore was sentenced to six months in Azkaban for trying to break into the Ministry. Ron suggests that Sturgis was lured to the Ministry and arrested because of his involvement with the Order. After breakfast, Ron and Harry leave to practice Quidditch, and Hermione studies. At Quidditch practice, Malfoy and the rest of the Slytherin team harass the Gryffindor players, Ron in particular.

The next night, Harry and Ron study in the common room while Hermione knits. Percy’s owl, Hermes, appears, carrying a letter from Percy. The letter congratulates Ron on becoming a prefect and warns him to stay away from Harry Potter. Ron dismisses the letter, and the three resume studying until Harry spots Sirius’s head in the fire. Sirius tells Harry not to be too worried about his scar, since it burns whenever Voldemort feels a powerful emotion. Sirius also agrees that Umbridge is quite unpleasant but does not believe that she is a Death Eater. Sirius does not know anything about Hagrid’s whereabouts but assures Harry he is probably safe. When Sirius suggests transforming into a dog again and accompanying Harry on his next trip to Hogsmeade, both Harry and Hermione protest loudly. Sirius tells Harry his father would have enjoyed the risk and disappears back into the fire.

Summary: Chapter 15

Hermione receives her Daily Prophet. According to the paper, Dolores Umbridge has been named High Inquisitor, granting the Ministry of Magic an unprecedented level of control at Hogwarts. Umbridge will be sitting in on all classes. At Divination, Umbridge paces the classroom with a clipboard, inspecting Professor Trelawney and demanding that she make predictions. Later, in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry loses his temper again, earning another week of detention. Umbridge appears again in Transfiguration, and Professor McGonagall expresses her obvious disdain. Umbridge is also at Care of Magical Creatures and seems delighted with Professor Grubbly-Plank. After classes, Harry retreats to Umbridge’s office for another detention. Later, Hermione suggests that the students form their own study group for Defense Against the Dark Arts, with Harry as their teacher. Harry is skeptical, but Hermione reminds him of all of his accomplishments, including escaping Voldemort. Harry agrees to consider her proposition.

Summary: Chapter 16

Hermione asks Harry if he has thought any more about teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. After much convincing, Harry finally agrees to lead the group. Hermione quietly spreads the word about a meeting to discuss a student-run Defense Against the Dark Arts group on the next Hogsmeade trip and arranges for everyone to meet at the Hog’s Head, a pub, to discuss the details. Hermione tells Harry she expects only a few people to come, but twenty-five arrive. Hermione introduces Harry, explaining that the students need to learn real, practical Defense since Voldemort has returned. Some students murmur in dissent, but all seem interested in Harry’s story about meeting Voldemort face to face. Hermione passes around a piece of parchment, and everyone signs his or her name.

Analysis: Chapters 14–16

By forming their own Defense Against the Dark Arts group, the students of Hogwarts take a firm, self-empowering stand against Umbridge’s faulty teaching philosophies. Rowling puts forth a lesson about the nature of authority here: in order for someone to truly wield power over a group of people, those people must be compliant and willing to be controlled. Umbridge’s students refuse to accept the idea that they should be practically unarmed against the Dark Arts, and instead they unite, organize, and appoint a leader. This show of oneness and solidarity is impressive, particularly since many of the students are still skeptical of Harry’s character and are not sure whether or not to believe that Lord Voldemort has returned. While so much of Hogwarts is internally divided, the student-run Defense Against the Dark Arts group proves that they are still capable of rallying around each other, regardless of their respective Houses.

Though Harry is not necessarily an exemplary student, being terrible at Potions and only passable at most else, he is the most obvious candidate for a student instructor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. He always proves to be an impressive foe when faced with a Dark force, and he is an expert in the practical aspects of Defense Against the Dark Arts. He may not be familiar with the theory and history of magic, but he is undeniably skilled in using his wand to defend himself. This skill set is the opposite of what Umbridge deems important. She is concerned only with having her students read their textbooks and thinks that actually practicing Defense spells is an unnecessary and unsafe pursuit. Despite his qualifications, Harry is visibly uncomfortable being the center of attention, which is not terribly surprising. He has always been unhappy about being an object of contention amongst Wizards, and putting himself up on yet another pedestal is not a very appealing prospect. Still, Harry ultimately agrees to take control of the group and recognizes the importance of sharing his skills with his peers.

In Chapter 14, Sirius makes a bold and dangerous appearance in the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace, which gives Harry, Ron, and Hermione the novel opportunity to exert some control over an adult figure. Though they are very happy to see Sirius, they worry he’ll be caught, particularly since the last time Sirius appeared in public, at the Kings Cross train station (as his dog counterpart Padfoot), he was recognized by the dreadful Malfoys. When Sirius suggests that he might join the students the next time they visit Hogsmeade, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all agree it’s far too dangerous. Here, the children are refusing to allow the adult to do something they feel is too risky, which suggests that in some ways they are able to think more clearly and wisely than the adults who purport to know best.