Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’: Chapter 23
In the twenty-third chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry’s terror and paranoia over the realization that he might be Voldemort’s personal slave is put in check by a surprising character. Then another character from years ago makes a return, and the Rowling runs you over with the Dump Truck of Depression. Inrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 23: CHRISTMAS ON THE CLOSED WARD
We have three very, very, VERY important developments to talk about. And this chapter’s not that long, so I’ll be brief.
TOPIC #1: GINNY WEASLEY IS A BADASS
And way overlooked. I’m actually really happy that she’s gotten over her crush on Harry enough to become a much larger character in this book, because she proves again and again what a valuable person she is in this narrative.
Naturally, Harry flips out at the revelation that Voldemore might be possessing him; at one point, he even reasons that running away back to the Dursleys is the best possible thing to do in this situation.
Two people put Harry in check. The first is Phineas Nigellus, via his portrait, who gives an amazing little speech about how fucking unnecessarily whiny Harry is about Dumbledore’s orders:
- ”Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay, that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you ever paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet led you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognize danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realize what the Dark Lord may be planning….”
Can you hear that sound? It is the deafening applause of millions of readers approving of Harry being put in his place. Except Harry doesn’t quite take Phineas’s advice, especially when Hermione shows up the next morning on Christmas and he is STILL SULKING ABOUT, refusing to talk to anyone. And then…..then!!!!!
- ”Well, that was a bit stupid of you,” said Ginny angrily, “seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.”
OH. SNAP. Who completely forgot this tidbit? Besides Harry, YEAH, I TOTALLY FORGOT THIS.
So, Harry actually has an adult conversation about this and they determine it’s pretty much impossible for Voldemort to be possessing Harry.
YAY LET US MOVE ON TO SIRIUS SINGING CHRISTMAS CAROLS.
TOPIC #2: THE RETURN OF….
They all go visit Mr. Weasley later on Christmas Day and when Arthur reveals that he may have experimented with getting stitches and he gets in a fight with Mrs. Weasley, the kids decide to go off and get some tea. Except they end up in the wrong floor, in the SPELL DAMAGE area.
- But as he stepped onto the landing he came to an abrupt halt, staring at the small window set into the double doors that marked the start of a corridor signposted SPELL DAMAGE. A man was peering out at them all with his nose pressed against the glass. He had wavy blond hair, bright blue eyes, and a broad vacant smile that revealed dazzingly white teeth.
“Blimey!” said Ron, also staring at the man.
“Oh my goodness,” said Hermione suddenly, sounding breathless, “Professor Lockhart!”
HOLY SHIT, I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT HIM
They learn he is slowly getting better and is regaining some of his key traits from his years past, most especially his very special…er…ego? It’s honestly a pretty adorable scene. Though I wonder: How does Ron feel during this? I mean, isn’t he sort-of, kind-of the reason he’s here? Rowling briefly says Ron “sound[s] slightly guilty,” but I kind of wish there was more of an elaboration here. Hmmmm.
Which leads us to our final discussion.
TOPIC #3: HOW ROWLING DESTROYS US WITH DUMP TRUCKS OF DESPAIR
I cannot believe how blindsided I felt by the final moments in this chapter. And Rowling did this on purpose: we’re distracted by the absurdity and silliness of Professor Lockhart and then BAM!!!!! we are destroyed.
Because the room Harry and company are is shared by Neville’s parents.
I did not expect to ever meet them and the tragedy of Neville’s past was enough for me with the visual provided here. And that’s probably why this hit me so hard:
- ”My son and his wife,” she [Neville’s grandmother] said, turning haughtily to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, “were tortured into insanity by You-Know-Who’s followers.”
Hermione and Ginny both clasped their hands over their mouths. Ron stopped craning his neck to catch a glimpse of Neville’s parents and looked mortified.
JESUS, GUYS. And if you thought you could handle this, then…oh god.
- Neville’s mother had come edging down the ward in her nightdress. She no longer had the plump, happy-looking face Harry had seen in Moody’s old photograph of the original Order of the Phoenix. Her face was thin and worn now, her eyes seemed overlarge, and her hair, which had turned white, was wispy and dead-looking. She did not seem to want to speak, or perhaps she was not able to, but she made timid motions toward Neville, holding something in her outstretched hand.
“Again?” said Mrs. Longbottom, sounding slightly weary. “Very well, Alice dear, very well—Neville, take it, whatever it is….”
But Neville had already stretched out his hand, into which his mother dropped an empty Droobles Blowing Gum wrapper.
“Very nice, dear,” said Neville’s grandmother in a falsely cheery voice, patting his mother on the shoulder. But Neville said quietly, “Thanks Mum.”
I’d like to continue reviewing, but I can’t because MY FRAGILE HEART HAS SHATTERED INTO A TRILLION, MILLION PIECES.
Good fucking lord, this book.