Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry’s victory at the Ministry of Magic is slightly ruined by a run-in with Lucius Malfoy and Ron learning that he’s become prefect of Gryffindor. But then his life (and recent) events are put into perspective when he discovers the effects of Mrs. Weasley and a boggart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.


All of my friends, everyone I have ever known, loved, met, or will know, love, or meet, will die someday.

I didn’t really concern myself much with death, or ever give any fleeting thoughts to it, until my father passed away in 2006. I knew he was dying, but it was an abstract concept that didn’t have any real world connotations to me. I knew that the cancer in his brain was spreading, that his Alzheimer’s was causing him to forget more crucial details and memories of my family’s life with him, and that he decided to refuse treatment. He’d made his peace with whatever he believed lived on after him, and he was ready to go.

Part of me simply didn’t believe he could die. While I was in high school, my mom got lung cancer and everyone told us she wouldn’t make it. She suffered and I’d pray to the god my mom told me was real to save her and take me in her place if he would just stop making her hurt.

She survived. She’s still alive today.

My dad died suddenly and quietly during the summer of 2006. I actually remember the day because it was the day after I met the guy who would become my first serious boyfriend. I can still vividly recall sitting in the old Buzznet offices in MacArthur Park, the sun reflecting off the whiteboard behind me, spraying white light onto the smooth concrete floors of the loft we occupied. My brother called me; I’d become accustomed to his frequent phone calls because he was giving me updates on my dad. “He forgot what the cat’s name is, the cat in the garage.” “He wouldn’t get up from the recliner today, but his breathing’s all right.” “He’s glad you came and saw him.”

“Mark….” I could hear gasps of air from my brother, sucking in oxygen rapidly in panic. “Dad died. Mark. He’s dead.”

I collapsed a bit and felt my knees buckle as I stood up and did my best to walk towards the door to the loft, to get away from the people in the room so they couldn’t hear me, and to move away from the light that suddenly seemed to bright and unnatural for me. It was hot and I was sweating and my brother was telling me that he was going to come get me, but I couldn’t really say anything. I mumbled an affirmation and hung up.

I remember fragments of the moments of the next few hours. Coworkers escorting me to my brother’s car. Watching him tear up on the drive over while I sat in the passenger seat and did nothing. Texting a friend to cancel plans for the day. Calling this new guy I’d just met to tell him we couldn’t go on a date the following day. Sorry man, my dad’s dead.

My memories seem to kick in right at the moment I walked into the house I spent most of my childhood in. I walk in to the door and see the empty hospice bed, white sheets dangling precariously off the side, IV and oxygen tank silent and unused. My mom’s coming towards me and I can’t seem to stop crying and sobbing and making these horrible sounds that embarrass me and I keep thinking that it’s just going to be a few moments and then Dad will walk back through the door and he will give all of us one of his awkward hugs that aren’t very firm and everything is just going to be ok.

My dad never walked back through the door.

His death numbed me for at least a month and it wasn’t until his funeral in Hawaii, his native home, that I broke down again. We were already at the cemetery, with the Ko’olau Mountain Range looming behind us with those squiggly mountains they always seemed to show on LOST and I’m walking away from my mom this time, telling her that I don’t want to do this, that funerals are fucking stupid, why are we remembering his death, this is too fucking depressing. She hugged me, again, like she did that day I came home to an empty hospital bed, and said that if I wasn’t going to face it now, I would certainly avoid facing it later.

I’ve lost a couple friends over the years and recently watched a friend “clinically” die in a hospital bed in the ICU, only to return to the world four days later, telling me they remembered dying and experienced nothing but a floating blackness on the other side. It helped me realize that my fear of death doesn’t involve me, which is strange. It only seems to involve other people. That feeling of vacancy and loss is something that still hasn’t escaped me, four years later, when I think about my father. And I think about what a messed up feeling that is and it gives me comfort to feel that I don’t have to worry about that for myself when I die because I don’t sense that there’s anything for me once my body expires.

But other people? My fear of dealing with other people passing on absolutely overwhelms any fear of my own death.

There’s a lot of great stuff in this chapter, stuff I’d normally spend some time dissecting, such as the weird theories I have regarding Lucius Malfoy and Fudge, or Sirius’s growing immaturity and loneliness, and the predictions I have regarding the conflict between Ron the Prefect and Harry the student.

But the scene where Harry walks in on Mrs. Weasley fighting a boggart and it turns out her greatest fear is losing everyone she loves was triggering enough to put aside any whining or silly predicting I might have to spend a moment talking about how my own fear coincides with hers.

I think often these days about someone in my life, even people I only know superficially, disappearing, and about the onset of vacancy and loneliness and terror that brings. (Admittedly, that’s a pretty selfish way of interpreting things; they’re dead, for christ’s sake.) I don’t know how to deal with that sort of loss because my past didn’t prepare me for it. I was so used to being alone, depending on myself and my thoughts and my motivations, that when I finally lost someone I loved, I didn’t know how to cope with the sensation that I’d been sent back to those years when I felt like I had no friends and had no family and had nothing beyond the thoughts in my head.

In that sense, I relate a lot to Harry’s reaction to Moody showing him the photo of the original Order of the Phoenix, running through them like a checklist of tragedy, explaining how each of them died, and then finally arriving at Harry’s parents, who wave at him, both while standing next to Wormtail, the man who would eventually provide the means to their death. Moody’s almost indifferent to their death, which is fine, but the brash way in which he assumes that Harry must be the same way is off-setting. I guess, in that way, Harry and I are the same, in that we both interpret death of the people we know and love to be the very worst in all terrible things.

Goddamn, J.K. Rowling. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME.

Quick note: Keep your F5 and refresh buttons handy tomorrow. Weekend reviews will be in effect, motherfuckers. I have three hefty books to get through before mid-November, so I can ideally see Deathly Hallows: Part I as it comes out. So expect two reviews every day from here on out, unless otherwise announced.

Again, thanks for the unending outpouring of support and the wonderful conversations in the comments. It means the world to me.