During Harry’s last year at Hogwarts, he finally saw his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, return. Narrowly escaping death, he managed to return to Hogwarts with the body of fellow student, Cedric Diggory, whom Voldemort had murdered. In the fifth installment of the series, Harry is at Privet Drive with his only living family – the detestable Dursleys. Craving for the news of what is happening in the wizarding world, he gets increasingly frustrated and annoyed when his friends, Ron and Hermione, and his godfather Sirius refuse to give away any information in the letters they send him.
In an attempt to relieve some of his tension, Harry takes to walking through the streets of little Whinging on his own. One night when he returns home with his cousin Dudley, they are attacked by Dementors. Saving their lives, Harry uses magic, and the Ministry uses this to expel him from Hogwarts. Dumbledore manages to revoke the suspension, but Harry is informed that he must still attend a hearing at the Ministry of Magic.
Harry is finally fetched by his fellow wizards and taken to nr 12 Grimmauld Place, the secret location of the anti-Voldemort movement. Sirius tells Harry that it the house belongs to him and that he offered it as base to Dumbledore. There, Harry also meets Kreacher, an old houself who despises his current master, Sirius. Sirius in return also has no love for it, since it reminds him of the family he would only love to forget.
On the day of his hearing, Harry is held at full trial by the Ministry of Magic. Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, now despises both Harry and Dumbledore, seeing them as disturbers of peace for spreading (to him) false rumors of Voldemort’s return. Fudge desperately tries to get Harry expelled, but it is on the account of Harry’s Squib neighbor, Mrs. Figg, that Harry manages to escape expulsion. Dumbledore leaves the courtroom without acknowledging Harry, and Harry is stung by his behavior.
The start of the school term doesn’t bring Harry much happiness either. Ron is appointed prefect over Harry, stunning everyone, including Ron’s own family. Forced to face Draco Malfoy’s taunts, who is now also a prefect, Harry’s temper is constantly close to the surface, waiting to bubble over. The opening feast comes with shocks as well – Harry, Ron and Hermione’s favorite teacher, half-giant Hagrid is still on a mysterious mission Dumbledore sent him, and their new Defense Against the Dark Arts (DADA) teacher is Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic. Umbridge rudely interrupts Dumbledore during his speech, and even though Hermione is the only one paying attention to her speech, it is obvious that the Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts.
Harry and Umbridge are constantly at loggerheads with each other. Sirius tells Harry that the ministry thinks Dumbledore wants to raise a secret army to overthrow the Ministry of Magic, and it makes sense when Umbridge tells them that they will not be learning practical defense magic at all. Outraged at the Ministry’s apathy in such dangerous times, Harry soon finds himself constantly in detention. Hermione finally makes a plan, and the three start up a secret Defense group, calling themselves Dumbledore’s Army, in reference to the thing the ministry most fears.
Even in Harry’s dreams he has no rest. Somehow he manages to see into Voldemort’s mind, getting glimpse of what he is up to. It escalates and finally comes to a point where Harry witnesses Ron’s father, getting attacked by Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, in a deserted corridor the Order is obsessed with protecting. They manage to save Mr. Weasley, but Harry now fears he is being possessed by Voldemort. He isolates himself from the others, but Ginny and Hermione finally tell him it would be impossible – Harry couldn’t have gotten out of Hogwarts due to the school’s protective enchantments and Ginny also tells him that if he was possessed, there would be gaps in his memory – and harry remembers everything he did. Cheered up, his happiness is short lived when Snape, his least favorite teacher at Hogwarts, arrives to tell him that he must teach Harry Occulumency (the art of shutting your mind to magical intrusion). Harry is disgruntled by this, least because of Snape, and more of why Dumbledore couldn’t teach Harry himself if it was as important.
Umbridge, now the most hated person at Hogwarts, finally manages to corner Harry and Dumbledore. Marietta Edgecombe, a friend of Harry’s on-off girlfriend Cho Chang, and unwilling member of the DA, splits on the group, and Harry, their leader, is caught. Miraculously, Harry is once again saved from expulsion when Dumbledore takes the blame – as the heading says it is his army. Overjoyed for a reason to arrest Dumbledore, Fudge tries to arrest him, but Dumbledore easily Stuns all the members of the ministry and disappears after telling Harry to continue his lessons with Snape.
The Occlumency lessons ends abruptly and disastrously when Harry sees Snape as a teenager, being bullied by Harry’s father, James. Tortured with the knowledge that his father was possibly not as great as Harry had thought, he manages to speak to Sirius that James had become better with age, and that Snape was just as bad.
During his History of Magic exam, harry falls asleep and witnessing Sirius being tortured by Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries. Enraged and terrified, he, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville and Ginny gets to the Ministry of Magic by flying on Thestrals. When they get there, they realize that Voldemort set them a trap, luring Harry there to pick up a Prophecy made out for him and Harry. Harry takes the prophecy, and is instantly surrounded by Death Eaters. A fight ensues, and the Order of the Phoenix arrives. Sirius is killed by his own cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. Enraged, Harry follows her, and finds Voldemort. Dumbledore protects Harry, but Voldemort finally possess Harry, and tries to lure Dumbledore to killing Harry for the price of Voldemort’s death. Harry, now in mortal agony, welcomes the idea of death, thinking only to be reunited with Sirius. This surge of love and longing is too much for Voldemort to endure, and he leaves Harry’s body. Cornelius Fudge arrives, finally seeing that Dumbledore had been telling the truth the whole time.
Back at school, Dumbledore finally confides everything to Harry. He tells Harry that he was afraid Voldemort would try to possess Harry, and that is why he distanced himself – not to give Voldemort incentive. He tells Harry what stood in the Prophecy, why Voldemort had murdered Harry’s parents. The prophecy, made by Professor Trelawney, stated that a wizard boy, born in June, to parent’s who had thrice defied Voldemort, would become Voldemort’s greatest nemesis, and that neither could live while the other survived. Voldemort, thinking it would be Harry, set out to kill him and his parents. Now Harry finally understands why he must kill Voldemort – for they both cannot live.
This is by far the saddest, most gut wrenching book in the series. Harry is completely different from the young child in the previous books. Now he is growing up, angry and grieving, and is faced with the fact that he will never be safe as long as Voldemort and his supporters live.
It is also one of the funniest books – Fred and George Weasley are two of the most endearing, hilarious characters ever written, and they make many funny moments. Harry also finally gets to date his crush, Cho Chang, and his first encounter with love is hilarious because of everything that goes wrong with it.
I will always wonder what madness made JK Rowling kill Sirius, so soon after Harry found a parent like figure. I will always shed a tear when I read about his death. That said Rowling managed to write a character in that was hated more than Voldemort. Umbridge is despicable, and every reader of Potter united in their hate against her.
It is truly a wonderful book, but I warn anyone attempting to read it – get those tissues ready.
*Please let me know if any links appears in this blog post – I certainly did not create them!