sarnath: A hippogriff by Tapia (Harry Potter Hippogriff)
[personal profile] sarnath
With this chapter a plot thread that I thought was handled great in this book and the next starts: the Unity of the Houses. I have rarely been more disappointed over a dropped plot than when it was forgotten in the last book, but I actually do think it's great up until then. Though I've never stopped wondering why it was dropped. It seems sort of important, doesn't it?

Here Luna provides and interesting piece of "outside" observation (Harry's POV is usually very tight, and he doesn't interact with other students much, not even from his own House): the Ravenclaws all think Hagrid is a bit of a joke as a teacher. In a way he's the flipside of Snape: he knows his stuff but is rubbish at leading a class, for various reasons.

And Hagrid may be gone, but someone else it there instead...

She looked, Harry thought, like somebody’s maiden aunt: squat, with short, curly, mouse-brown hair in which she had placed a horrible pink Alice band that matched the fluffy pink cardigan she wore over her robes. Then she turned her face slightly to take a sip from her goblet and he saw, with a shock of recognition, a pallid, toadlike face and a pair of prominent, pouchy eyes.

‘It’s that Umbridge woman!’

I know I'm obsessive about this, but I'm just so happy that it's clear that she wears her cardigan over her robes. I really, really don't like the way the films have influenced book fandom; so much is different in the films, from how people look (especially Harry) to what they wear and do. Even lines have been changed or given to other characters.

Love Dumbledore's outfit too:

deep-purple robes scattered with silvery stars and a matching hat.

He seems to have a thing for purple, doesn't he? And I love the matching hat.

And then we get the Sorting Hat song, and it's fascinating. Especially this part:

For were there such friends anywhere
As Slytherin and Gryffindor? 
Unless it was the second pair 
Of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?

followed by how they stayed friends through creating the Houses, and about how the Houses were meant to work together, not against each other. It's such a strong, unexpected message from an unexpected source, and when I first read it I was so excited. It's yet another instance of Rowling setting the stage, creating and image, and then turning it all on its head and showing us that things are not at all what they seem, characters are not what they seem, or what Harry first suppose them to be.

In a very significant way this book is about Harry waking up to the realities of the wizarding world. He has his illusions shattered one after another, and after this book he has grown and changed a lot.

This is not the first time the Hat has warned the school, though, Nick explains:

‘The Hat feels itself honour-bound to give the school due warning whenever it feels –’

But he's frustratingly interrupted by the Sorting starting up. I'm dying of curiosity to know what it has warned for in the past! Ron asks the somewhat pertinent question of how a hat can know about the school being in danger.

‘I have no idea,’ said Nearly Headless Nick. ‘Of course, it lives in Dumbledore’s office, so I daresay it picks things up there.’

‘And it wants all the houses to be friends?’ said Harry, looking over at the Slytherin table, where Draco Malfoy was holding court. ‘Fat chance.’

It's never been clearer how much Draco represents Slytherin to Harry. Structurally, having them both as main players in a reconciliation was a great idea, and JKR seemed to be on that path all the way through OotP and HBP.

As a shipper, I keep thinking about that old essay comparing them to Lizzy and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice: Draco, who like Darcy is blinded by the pride and conceit of his position in society and his breeding (seriously, Darcy's aunt event comes around to tell Lizzy she can't marry him because she only has the right blood from one of her parents!), and Harry, who like Lizzy accepts first impressions unquestioningly and never bother to look deeper. P&P is about Darcy and Lizzy both learning to look beyond their pride and prejudice and become better and more insightful people, and with Harry and Draco it's much the same, only we only really see Harry's part of it up close, sadly.

Professor Umbridge cleared her throat, ‘Hem, hem,’

You know, I really love this little detail. It's such an innocuous little sound that I by the end of this book had developed a most visceral reaction to. Everything about her is just so wrong, she makes everyone so uncomfortable. Which, by the way, I think is entirely on purpose as a way to use her power. Harry

felt a powerful rush of dislike that he could not explain to himself;

and the teachers aren't impressed either, he notes.

Professor McGonagall’s dark eye-brows had contracted so that she looked positively hawklike, and Harry distinctly saw her exchange a significant glance with Professor Sprout

But while he is observant in some ways, he really doesn't catch on to what Umbridge is actually saying. Then again, neither does any of the students; practically no one except notably Hermione, who has a very fine suspicious mind, manage to keep their attention on her.

I said illuminating, not enjoyable,’ said Hermione. ‘It explained a lot.’

‘Did it?’ said Harry in surprise. ‘Sounded like a load of waffle to me.’

‘There was some important stuff hidden in the waffle,’ said Hermione grimly.

‘Was there?’ said Ron blankly.

Time to really start realising that the small-minded evil bureaucrat is as present in the magical world!

And Harry is not allowed to feel happy to be at Hogwarts for more than a few moments; the smearing campaign has succeeded and the first-years are actually afraid of him. And not only that; not all of his room mates finds him completely believable.

‘You believe all the rubbish he’s come out with about You-Know-Who, do you, you reckon he’s telling the truth?’

‘Yeah, I do!’ said Ron angrily.

‘Then you’re mad, too,’ said Seamus in disgust.

Though he probably wouldn't have been as doubting if Harry hadn't become angry that Seamus' mother believed in the Daily Prophet. Not many people knows what actually happened at this point, and Harry was too angry to explain. But it's still a contrast with Neville, whose aunt simply cancelled the subscription.

And then Harry starts to wonder how Dumbledore has suffered

as first the Wizengamot, then the International Confederation of Wizards had thrown him from their ranks?

and if he's angry at Harry now for getting him involved. As if it were Harry's fault that any of this happened! As if this mess is his responsibility in any way. In a way Dumbledore is actually trying to be responsible here and protect Harry, but really, it's too late for that. It only serves to make Harry desperate as he feels like he's fumbling in the dark.

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