Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’: Chapter 6
In the sixth chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry’s days are spent helping Mrs. Weasley make Sirius Black’s house liveable. During this time, however, he learns about Sirius’s shocking family history and Rowling gets to tackle two tough subjects with style: eugenics and racism. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 6: THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK
I think that I’m beginning to feel prepared for the onslaught of mindfuckery that lies ahead.
I don’t mean to suggest I know what’s coming, aside from the hints at some sort of war between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix. I don’t know anything. (PLEASE DON’T SPOIL ME.) What I mean is that I’m fully aware that this book now has legitimate risks. I’m not naïve enough to believe that any of that applies to Harry himself; clearly, he’s going to survive this book and the next two as well.
But everyone else around him? I’m not so sure of that. With Goblet of Fire, Rowling demonstrated that no one is safe in her series, not even the one character in that book who was, essentially, all good. (He’s portrayed as noble, kind, polite, and willing to help others. A TRUE HUFFLEPUFF lol I can stay on theme.)
And yet…Cedric Diggory is dead. I’m not prepared for another death so much as prepared for the idea of it, or the idea that someone disappears or someone loses power or…basically, what I’m getting at, is that at the end of the Twilight series, no one lost anything. The characters never grew or progressed or lost or risked anything. And just halfway through this massive series, the Harry Potter characters have done just the opposite.
Because of this, I’m grateful for the way these chapters in the Order of the Phoenix HQ are unfolding. Shit is already real, but these are quiet moments full of conversation and reflection. (I don’t mean “quiet” in a sound sense, but an action sense.)
This chapter also definitively, for me, marks an obvious turning point for Harry and the series as a whole: the people around him are also realizing he’s not a kid anymore, both by virtue of the events he’s been subjected to and the reality of his age. As dumb and immature as 15-year-old kids can be (TRUST ME I KNOW THIS DEEPLY), they generally are more astute towards the world than they’re given credit for.
So, reading the extended conversation in the second half of the chapter put a big smile on my face. Gone were the days when the adults in Harry’s life beat around the bush and explained things to him in much simpler terms. As Sirius elaborates on his pureblood past and how it’s come to shape who he is, I noticed that the normal hesitation even Sirius may have exhibited around Harry was gone. I realize that this was sort of spelled out in chapter five, especially during Sirius’s and Mrs. Weasley’s epic argument. Here, though, we see it in action. Sirius doesn’t seem to think twice about imparting on Harry that the world can be an ugly, bigoted place, and that most of the time this is completely unavoidable, even on a familial level.
(A brief thought on the first half of the chapter, where Sirius, the kids, and Mrs. Weasley work on cleaning the house of all the weird creatures hiding in it: I thought it was pretty funny how Sirius essentially acts like a teenager who has been grounded and isn’t allowed to go outside. Short of stomping around and screaming NO I DON’T WANNA YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!, he’s basically a child during these scenes. I’m ok with that, though, and I don’t blame him. Dude is stuck inside ridding a house of doxies and puffskeins, after spending a decade in Azkaban. I doubt his development during those years was in anticipation of this.)
Like the themes of bullying found in Chamber of Secrets or how she dealt with depression in Prisoner of Azkaban or the brilliant way she used Goblet of Fire to address approaching grief, there’s a wonderful political subtext to Sirius’s entire segment about his family history.
We learn Sirius ran away from his home (and was subsequently erased from his family tree) when he was around sixteen. (Full disclosure: I will probably brain vomit about running away from home in the coming reviews because omg I ran away from home around age 16 too. Oh god. Great. Another reason for me to become disgustedly attached to these books. THANKS, ROWLING.) In discussing this with Harry, he’s surprisingly frank about his reasons.
- ”Leave?” Sirius smiled bitterly and ran a hand through his long, unkempt hair. “Because I hated the whole lot of them: my parents, with their pure-blood mania, convinced that to be a Black made you practically royal…my idiot brother, soft enough to believe them…that’s him.
Sirius jabbed a finger at the very bottom of the tree, at the name REGULUS BLACK. A date of death (some fifteen years previously) followed the date of birth.
“He was younger than me,” said Sirius, “and a much better son, as I was constantly reminded.”
“But he died,” said Harry.
“Yeah,” said Sirius. “Stupid idiot…he joined the Death Eaters.”
“Come on, Harry, haven’t you seen of this house to tell what kind of wizards my family were?” said Sirius testily.
Definitely did not expect that reveal at all. It actually makes his story that much more tragic, considering he was the one who spent so much time in Azkaban. 🙁
- ”No, no, but believe me, they thought Voldemort had the right idea, they were all for the purification of the Wizarding race, getting rid of Muggle-borns and having purebloods in charge. They weren’t alone either, there were quite a few people, before Voldemort showed his true colors, who thought he had the right idea about things….They got cold feet when they saw what he was prepared to do to get power, though. But I bet my parents though Regulus was a right little hero for joining up at first.”
Oh man. There is so much going on here. Parallels to eugenics (the aim being to selectively breed to improve the human species and weed out the “degenerate” people, mainly those who are not able-bodied, straight, cisgender, and white), parallels to Nazism, and the idea of people being unable to actually act out their bigotry. Which is real fun, of course.
Rowling, through Sirius, even expands further on the eugenics idea when we learn that Sirius is technically related to the Malfoys:
- ”The pure-blood families are all interrelated,” said Sirius. “If you’re only going to let your sons and daughters marry purebloods your choice is very limited, there are hardly any of us left. Molly and I are cousins by marriage and Arthur’s something like my second cousin once removed. But there’s no point looking for them on here—if ever a family was a bunch of blood traitors it’s the Weasleys.”
Bless the Weasleys.
The conversation turns to Harry’s impending Ministry hearing, and Rowling gut-punches us with one of the most depressing set of sentences to ever exist in any language ever.
- ”I’d feel a lot better about the hearing if I knew I didn’t have to go back to the Dursleys,” Harry pressed him.
“They must be bad if you prefer this place,” said Sirius gloomily.
Harry finds out that Sirius can’t accompany him to his hearing; Dumbledore had actually visited and advised against it. And then:
- Sirius stabbed moodily at a potato with his fork. Harry dropped his own eyes to his plate. The thought that Dumbledore had been in the house on the eve of his hearing and not asked to see him made him feel, if that were possible, even worse.
I won’t write this off as teen angst. This is legitimately sad. 🙁