Chapter 23

Harry begins to wonder if he himself is the weapon Voldemort seeks. Back at Grimmauld Place, Harry decides the best and safest thing for him to do is leave Hogwarts forever and return to Little Whinging. As Harry packs his trunk, Phineas Nigellus appears in his portrait with a message from Dumbledore, telling Harry to stay where he is. Harry agrees to stay but does not leave his bed.

The following evening, Hermione disrupts Harry’s seclusion. She admonishes him for his behavior. Ginny and Ron join them, and Ginny points out that she’s the only one who knows what it feels like to be possessed by Voldemort and does not believe Harry is experiencing what she experienced. Relieved, Harry finally joins the festivities. At St. Mungo’s, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Harry spot Neville and his grandmother, who are visiting Neville’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom were tortured into lunacy by Bellatrix Lestrange.

Chapter 24

Snape arrives to speak with Harry. Dumbledore has asked Snape to teach Harry Occlumency, which is the defense of the mind against outside penetration. Harry is unhappy about extra lessons with Snape, but he agrees to learn. As Harry leaves for Hogwarts, Sirius hands him a wrapped package, which he claims Harry should use only if he needs him.

Back at Hogwarts, Harry arranges a Hogsmeade date with Cho for Valentine’s Day. Harry reports to Snape’s office for his Occlumency lessons. Snape explains that Voldemort is an expert at Legilimency, which is the ability to extract feelings and memories from another person’s mind, and that Harry must be prepared to close his mind to it. Snape clears his thoughts into a Pensieve. Harry takes out his wand, and Snape uses Legilimency to shoot himself into Harry’s mind, rifling through Harry’s memories. Harry fights back and returns to the present, falling to his knees. They try again, and Harry once again fails to block Snape. The next time, Harry is dragged back into his reccurring dream, in which he is running down a corridor at the Ministry of Magic with Mr. Weasley. This time, Harry recognizes the hallway as leading to the Department of Mysteries. He asks Snape about the Department, but Snape dismisses his question. Later that night, Harry’s scar starts to burn, and he knows Voldemort is very happy.

Chapter 25

The next morning, Hermione’s Daily Prophet reveals a mass breakout at Azkaban. Ten former Death Eaters, including Lestrange, are loose. Harry realizes this is why Voldemort was so happy last night. They also read that a Ministry of Magic worker named Bode died at St. Mungo’s after being strangled by a dangerous potted plant. Ron recalls his father talking about Bode and remembers that Bode worked in the Department of Mysteries. Umbridge has posted a new Educational Decree, banning all Hogwarts teachers from discussing with students anything not directly related to their subjects.

Umbridge attends every Divination and Care of Magical Creatures lesson, and students begin to wonder whether Trelawney or Hagrid will be fired first. Hagrid bans Harry, Ron, and Hermione from visiting his cabin, claiming it’s too dangerous.