Summary: Chapter 17

Umbridge posts an Education Decree forbidding all student organizations, including the Quidditch teams, from meeting again until they receive her approval. Ron and Harry suspect that Umbridge knows about their Defense group, but Hermione explains that she put a jinx on the piece of parchment, and if anyone had snitched, they would know. Later that morning, in History of Magic, Harry sees Hedwig in the window. Her feathers are ruffled, and she is holding her wing at an odd angle. Harry takes Hedwig to Professor Grubbly-Plank. She agrees to mend Hedwig and removes a letter from Hedwig’s leg. The letter is from Sirius, and reads: “Today, same time, same place.”

Umbridge is sitting in on Potions, and Snape is visibly irritated. Later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione study in the Common Room until everyone else has gone to bed. Sirius appears in the fire. Sirius knows about their secret Defense Against the Dark Arts group and encourages them to keep meeting. Their reunion is cut off when Sirius sees Umbridge’s hand groping through the flames, attempting to grab hold of Sirius.

Summary: Chapter 18

Hermione blames Hedwig’s injuries on Umbridge reading Harry’s mail. Harry agrees. After classes, Angelina receives permission to reform the Gryffindor Quidditch team and schedules practice for that evening. When Ron and Harry arrive at the Pitch, it is rainy and cold. Harry’s scar hurts, and he senses that Voldemort is upset that something he wants is not happening fast enough. Studying in the Common Room later, Harry falls asleep by the fire. Dobby, the House Elf, wakes him up. Harry asks Dobby if he knows of a room where the students could practice Defense secretly. Dobby tells Harry about the Room of Requirement, which appears only when it is needed. Harry calls a meeting for the next night. Students arrive, and Hermione suggests that they decide on a name. Cho Chang, whom Harry has had a crush on for some time, suggests the D.A., for Defense Association, and Ginny points out that it can also stand for Dumbledore’s Army. Hermione writes Dumbledore’s Army on a piece of parchment with everyone’s names and pins it to the wall. They begin practicing, and Harry is impressed by their effort.

Summary: Chapter 19

The first Quidditch match of the season, Gryffindor versus Slytherin, approaches. On the morning of the match, Ron is too nervous to speak. The Slytherin team is wearing badges that read “Weasley is our King.” From the stands, the Slytherins sing a song of the same name, mocking Ron’s Keeper skills. Embarrassed, Ron misses several shots. Fortunately, Harry catches the snitch, and Gryffindor wins.

Malfoy and his thugs scream insults, and Harry and George leap at Malfoy, landing themselves in McGonagall’s office. She gives them each a week of detention. Umbridge appears and produces another Decree from the Ministry, this time giving her authority over all punishments. McGonagall is livid,but cannot stop Umbridge from banning Harry, George, and Fred, who was not even involved in the fight, from ever playing Quidditch again. Umbridge confiscates their brooms. Harry is devastated. Later, Hermione realizes Hagrid is back.

Analysis: Chapters 17–19

As Umbridge continues to interfere with Harry’s once-idyllic life at Hogwarts, slowly taking away all the things that made Harry love his school so dearly, Harry grows increasingly despondent. Even though Umbridge claims she’s doing what’s best for Hogwarts, with the school’s best interests in mind, the unhappiness she causes her students is profound. Without Hagrid, Quidditch, or the opportunity to communicate with Sirius, Harry begins to seriously question his once-unmitigated love of school. The irritation and quick temper Harry felt at the beginning of the novel are slowly starting to transform into sadness, hopelessness, and grief. Harry does, however, find solace and a measure of happiness in the D.A. He carries his knowledge of the group and his role in it around with him proudly, his own small and private stand against Umbridge and her crippling regime.

The name the D.A. selects for itself, “Dumbledore’s Army,” is very significant, since with it the students manage to lodge a sly and private dig at a paranoid Cornelius Fudge. Fudge stubbornly continues to insist that Dumbledore is actively recruiting Wizards for some kind of secret army. Most of his paranoia is selfish, as he seems to fervently believe that Dumbledore is after his job. But even though the D.A.’s name is mostly facetious and not known outside of the group, it still contains an element of truth. Most of the students who signed their names to Hermione’s parchment are extraordinarily loyal to their Headmaster and would certainly fight on his behalf if asked to. For most of the student body at Hogwarts, Dumbledore is a wise, grandfatherly figure, representing the antithesis of the Dark Arts—he uses his incredible powers only for good, never evil. Naming a Defense Against the Dark Arts group after Dumbledore seems fitting.

At the first Quidditch match of the season, between Gryffindor and Slytherin, the two Houses seem more divided than ever, and each House’s characteristics are sharply pronounced. As Hermione will later note, Quidditch often seems to magnify hostility between Houses. Slytherin and Gryffindor have always enjoyed a particularly healthy competition, but the Slytherin team’s homemade badges, which read “Weasley is our King,” are an especially ruthless tactic to take against the Gryffindor team, effectively embarrassing and horrifying its newest player. As the Sorting Hat noted at the beginning of the novel, Slytherins are “cunning folk” who will happily “use any means to achieve their ends.” The “Weasley is our King” badges and the accompanying song are perfect examples of the Slytherin House going to any means necessary, even cruel and unfair humiliation, to achieve its goals. The Gryffindor team, on the other hand, does its best to ignore the Slytherin team, reaffirming the House characteristics of bravery, courage, and stoicism.