Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Reread: 329/870.
HOGWARTS TIME. Hogwarts Time starts of sad and really uncomfortable as against all advisement, sad dog Sirius pants alongside to see Harry off at the station this is co uncomfortable SO UNCOMFORTABLE AND WORRYING. Good thing: multiple people have already called Sirius out on being clingy and trying to replace James with his wounded child. Bad thing: NO ONE HAS DONE ANYTHING FOR SIRIUS. “People go MAD in Azkaban! Sirius isn’t gibbering so I’m sure that’s all right.” I mean, not that it would matter if they did do something, the best you get in the wizarding world is locked up in St. Mungo’s, WHO, I THINK, IS NOT EVEN A REAL SAINT.
On the train they meet someone else that everyone calls crazy and proceeds to never do anything useful for: the perfect Luna Lovegood! She would not need or want their help anyway. Good thing all they do is talk on about how she is a harmless weirdo. Am I supposed to LIKE Ginny et. al. when they say these things? Luna Lovegood, only clear-headed person in the world, thinks Hagrid is bad at teaching and Ron was mean to Padma, and she can see undead horses. Romanticizing is another side to the coin of pathologizing, Rowling, but I will let it go long enough to LIKE LUNA SO MUCH.
NEVILLE QUESTION:Why does his toad just not have a cage already he has had him for like five years and loses him all. the time. JUST. BUY. A. CAGE.
At Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat gives a dire warning (which people attend to, somewhat, even though it’s really terrible at its actual job of sorting). They all immediately forget the warning as Umbridge, new and worst DADA instructor (worst? worst person, perhaps not worst teacher.) gives an incredibly boring speech that boils down to “here is my plan to take over Hogwarts and crush the rebellion.” Good thing she is a high-voiced, conventionally unnattractive woman, or someone might have noticed! (Hermione noticed because she’s not a fool.)
Meanwhile, two charming developments: Ron becomes Harry Potter’s Xander Harris! This is not a compliment. This means he is a selfish, occasionally quipping sidekick whose self-denigration is the thin veneer over his resentment at the world at large for not giving him every on of his desires. Ron, unlike Xander, does not assault Hermione (Buffy) under the guise of a Magic Made Me Do It, but he still likes taking offense at not being allowed to be an invasive jerk (“I’m not allowed to ask a simple question?” Ron wonders, much as rude privileged people have asked throughout history). Not much later he accuses Cho Chang of being “not a real fan” on the speculation that she might have started liking a quidditch team only after they stopped completely sucking. Okay, buddy, see you at the con.
Second charming development: everyone in the series has picked up a new verbal habit of referring to women they don’t like very much as “That [name here] Woman.” It’s like they’re pointing out a brown stain on their rug. It’s EVERY CHARACTER. They do not do it to men. I think maybe it is not about characters growing up and using grownup language as J.K. Rowling maybe does not like women that much. MAYBE.
Speaking of hateful women, in a blatant parallel to life, Umbridge is bringing government regulated curriculum to DADA and not teaching them to use defensive spells, just to pass the exam. Hermione is putting her hand in the air and demanding to know why and like, the early whispers of revolt are electrifying the air and, MY HEART CANNOT EVEN BEAT FOR THE PARALYZING POWER OF MY PRIDE IN HERMIONE GRANGER. Then Umbridge calls Lupin a dangerous half-breed and the emotion is so intense I HAVE TO PUT DOWN MY BOOK TO BREATHE A LITTLE.
Harry’s life this year is a bit difficult! A bunch of people hate him for being a crazy liar and maybe killing Cedric? Who knows. And McGonagall is on his side but can’t help him because ministry!!!! And Dumbledore won’t be near him at all, and Sirius is continually risking terrible death. Oh, and his squeaky pink evil-femme teacher Umbridge, Dolores, is making him cut into his hand every night for weeks.
UM. THE SELF-HARM DETENTION IS EVEN WORSE THAN I REMEMBERED. IT IS REALLY HORRIFIC. And no one ever reacts to it as strongly as they should. WHY? Also I am impressed that Rowling manages to make it so upsetting in a series where she playfully writes Argus Filtch, Man Who Would Hang Up And Torture Students And Has Recently Done So. Nice about-face.
So Dolores Umbridge (THAT UMBRIDGE WOMAN) is inspectin all the classes and she keeps cuttin Harry up, and Hermione thinks of a GENIUS SECRET STUDY GROUP UNDERGROUND so they can defend themselves against Real Evil, such as Umbridge. Harry thinks that’s brilliant, and then he has a panic attack.
What a great school year so far.