I think it is safe to say we have now passed the half-way point. I must admit it is bitter-sweet seeing as I am absolutely loving the experience! Alright, I hope I’m up for tackling book 5, I took many notes while reading, as not to forget any blog-worthy details.
So the series is back to its original format, starting at the Dursleys. We are quickly reminded that Voldemort’s rebirth only happened a few weeks prior to the current date and we are now seeing the aftermath, or lack thereof in Harry’s perspective. He is totally blocked-off by all useful communications with the Wizarding World and this frustrates him to no end! Sure he gets the Daily Prophet, but barely reads it thinking anything pertaining to Voldemort would be front page worthy. Perhaps the only interesting tidbit is the recurring dream he has of seeing a locked door at the end of a hallway. I remember not thinking much of this when I first read the books, as there were more captivating things to think about, but reading it again, I fully comprehend the magnitude of this dream. It is really foreshadowing at its best, although foreshadowing through dreams is not that original of a technique. As soon as you start reading this book, you get sucked into a whirlwind of events that don’t stop till the very end of the book.
When Two Worlds Collide
Alright, now that we know all about Rowling’s world building, as noted in previous posts, it was only a matter of time before the two collided. What better way to make that happen than by having dementors show up in Little Whinging? This forces Harry to use magic, in self-defence of course, and manages to repel them and save not only himself, but his “beloved” cousin as well. Then, he finds out that Mrs. Figg knows about the Wizarding World and this baffles him. He has known this woman his entire life and she never said anything! Harry’s worlds were both so close, yet so far from one another. Once the cat is out of the bag, every aspect of life as he knew it at the Dursley’s seems to melt in with his wizarding life. The Dursley’s have an entire conversation revolving around Harry’s other world and Petunia seems to connect with Harry on a certain level. This makes him think she knows more, and has always known more, than what she seems to let on. I’d also like to point out how fast news travels in the Wizarding world. A total of five owls, all delivering letters pertaining to the situation that had occurred mere moments earlier, arrived at the Dursley’s. Talk about efficiency on both the Ministry and Dumbledore’s parts.
Not long after the hype of the situation with his aunt and uncle, Harry is left alone with his thoughts, only to be startled by the arrival of the guards who have come to take him away. The group arrives at the Dursley’s and make quite an impression. Harry meets a few new people, such as aurors Tonks, Kingsley and Moody (the real one this time) as well as Mundungus. He is rather shocked at this unexpected visit, but is hopeful for some news of the other world. Sadly this will all have to wait some more. Everyone is so secretive that Harry is quickly losing patience! So it’s off to 12, Grimmauld Place in this very meticulously planned method of using brooms to fly.
Flood of Information
Once Harry arrives at the Order’s Headquarters, he meets up with Ron and Hermione. He is at this point very on edge and his anger boils over. He confronts his friends as to why they kept him in the dark. Unfortunately, no reason is good enough for Harry, no matter the circumstances. He is irate at everybody for not communicating important information, insisting he had every right to be kept aware! His tactless tactic is unfortunately not working very well as everyone is scared of his temper and walks on eggshells around him. They clearly don’t deserve the way Harry is treating them. Finally, Sirius decides it is time for Harry to find out what has been going on during his seclusion. He sure gets an earful! He learns about the Order of the Phoenix, the secret headquarters, the members and a bit of what Voldemort has been up to. Sadly he is not privy to the major details and the exact missions of the Order. Molly wholeheartedly disapproves of this sharing of information, insisting Harry is too young. Sirius and Molly have diverging points of view when it comes to Harry and his protection.
After having been informed and having a few of his bigger questions answered, Harry is somewhat content, but not entirely. After all, he does have a lot on his mind with the trial looming ever closely. As a way to keep himself busy, Mrs. Weasley gets them all to help clean Grimmauld Place, which happens to be no small task. When they are cleaning, they get rid of myriad wizarding creatures such as doxies and boggarts. (This made me wonder how exactly do magical creatures only plague wizarding households, avoiding Muggle ones. How do they know one place from the next? Also, I am really curious to know what a boggart would turn into for Mad-Eye Moody, the fearless auror?) Also while cleaning; Sirius explains his family tree (which is stuck on the wall) to Harry. This proves a fountain of information! I love this technique for giving background, all while connecting and presenting new characters. The Blacks are linked to both the Malfoys and the Weasleys. We learn that pure-blood families are similar to royal families in that they try to marry only within their own “kind”, rather limiting the choices, hence the multiple connections between them.
Trials and Tribulations
Finally, the day of Harry’s trial has arrived. This is a big deal; Harry’s entire life can change in the blink of an eye if he is expelled. We discover the Ministry of Magic for the first time, and Mr. Weasley makes it as entertaining as possible! We are introduced a few new characters at the trial, including Dolores Umbridge, (more on her later.) Harry had the feeling he was not going to have much support, until Dumbledore showed up. This guy was awesome! He outsmarted the Ministry, who was using every possible tactic and ploy to try and expel Harry, including sending dementors to attack him, although they would never admit to that. The Ministry, more particularly Fudge, is paranoid that Dumbledore is after his post and believes he is making up Voldemort’s return as a way to discredit him. Fudge is such a spineless jellyfish! Harry got off with nothing but a scare and was free to go back to Hogwarts! He can finally start looking forward to going back! This was major foreshadowing, although quite obvious the second time around. The place where the trial is held is exactly where the secret weapon lies! This little trip to the Ministry will prove quite useful in a few months!
Upon Harry’s return to Grimmauld Place, he finds out that Ron and Hermione had been made prefects. This is the first time ever that Harry has been jealous of Ron. The roles have been reversed and Ron is trying his best not to rub it in to Harry, even though he must be overjoyed! Even in his teenage-hormone anger-cocktail, Harry tries to be supportive of his friend’s achievement. However, this is just one more thing that makes him think Dumbledore no longer likes or supports him. He has been keeping a distance from Harry and Harry does not understand the meaning of this sudden shift in the relationship. He almost feels as if it is a personal blow from Dumbledore. Again with the self-centeredness Harry is prone too in this book.
On the train to Hogwarts we meet Luna Lovegood, the quirky Ravenclaw. She is a bit random at times and believes in odd things. Although from the outside, she might not seem to have a lot in common with Harry’s group of friends, she turns out to fit in quite well. People aren’t always what they seem. Luna proved a great asset in the Ministry of Magic battle. Once off the train, Harry sees Thestrals for the first time and thinks he’s seeing things, since no one else seems to be able to see them. That is until Luna explains that she too sees the creatures, and that one only sees them when one witnesses death. As much as Harry did not want to be reminded of what he had witnessed, he was somewhat relieved to have gotten an explanation and a bit of compassion in return. This experience comes as proof of the event that took place a couple months prior.
Harry is very much looking forward to the sort of normalcy he has come to know at Hogwarts. He’s hoping he will finally be in a safe environment to fully come to terms with the situation, all while getting answers from Dumbledore. This is the first time in the series that Harry, Ron and Hermione are privy to the major development that is to take centre stage this year. Rowling therefore diverges from her usual timeline. The trio can start speculating and extrapolating right from the get-go. This means they can start meddling right from the start.
The Sorting Hat’s song resonates quite a bit this year. It warns of external danger to Hogwarts and believes the school should present a united front. The hat took a great liberty in stating this seeing as, even though its job is to explain the different Houses and sort he students, it does not think it right that the students should be sorted, labeled differently. It then tells the story of the founding fathers who ended up feuding with one another. The message is clear: Stand together, be strong from within.
Harry is going through a phase. He’s turning into quite the angered rebel and acting out, just like a real teenager. Finally, he no longer seems like the perfect little boy we’ve seen in previous years. Of course it’s nice that he’s a good person, but everyone loses it at some point and Harry has reached his limit. He’s hot headed and has to realize that there’s a certain way of doing things, and talking to people, and his approach is terribly flawed. He lets his temper get the best of him and in the end; it only makes matters worst for him. He’s got some growing up to do.
Harry is not the only person battling inner demons. Fudge, the Minister for Magic, is paranoid that Dumbledore is after his job. In an attempt to protect himself and the wizarding community, he reverts to discrediting Harry and Dumbledore in the Daily Prophet and goes as far as controlling Hogwarts. Talk about insecurities! This is most selfish behaviour that puts the entire population at risk. Even Petunia knows that Muggles are no safer than wizards if Voldemort were to return!
Power and control are big themes in this book and Dolores Umbridge embodies them very well. So, Fudge being Fudge, has sent a Ministry delegate to do his dirty work at Hogwarts. Dolores Umbridge seems pretty harmless at first, with that fluffy pink exterior, but turns out to be quite a nightmare. She is given powers over the other faculty members and uses it to do harm. She has been given the right to evaluate her colleagues. This is an odd and unusual practice that will most serve as a spying mechanism and a means to an end. She will now have the perfect cover up to gather all sorts of information that will be used as grounds for dismissal. Clearly there are no set requirements; she makes it all up as she goes. It’s nice to see the Ministry is transparent it the way it carries out its business. Now it seems the usual practice for detentions at Hogwarts is that it’s at the discretion of the teacher. Umbridge sees the convenience of this practice and, very discreetly, tortures her students! I mean Filtch would be proud! Surely it is against Ministry protocol to even own one of the quills and I have a feeling she procured it in Knockturn Alley, at Borgin and Burkes perhaps… This is an incognito way to pick on the students of her choice, those who get in her way.
With great power comes a new title. Umbridge is made High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, what a useless position. Sure it proves useful to her, but on the grand scheme of things, there is no need for such a position on the school staff. She is clearly hungry for more power than she already has, and seeing as Fudge is a major pushover, she easily manipulates him in getting what she wants. It’s not Dumbledore Fudge should be afraid of, it’s power hungry Umbridge! The Ministry is convinced that Dumbledore is training the Hogwarts students to form an army against the Ministry. Ludicrous!
Little does the Ministry know, it is by its own doings that Hogwarts students ally to found the DA club. Ironically enough, they taunt at the ridiculousness of the Ministry by calling themselves Dumbledore’s Army. Smart kids! You know things must be really awful at Hogwarts for Hermione to rebel against a teacher. This surprised me a bit, but I guess it’s her obsession with passing all of her OWL’s that drove her to this point. She just has such a big heart that she want’s anyone who desires to learn DADA have the opportunity to do so. It’s a mere case of taking her education into her own hands, or in this case Harry’s. This is just the thing to help get Harry out of his brooding funk. He needs a form of escapism from reality. Although I do find ironic that he was so humble when Hermione first asked him to teach the subject, saying he’s had a lot of experience, not to mention an affinity for the subject. Come to think of it, Harry is a living, breathing embodiment of Defence Against the Dark Arts. He has an inner defence against Voldemort! He is destined to defeat one the most devastating “products of dark magic” to ever roam the earth. No pressure though Harry, I’m sure you can at least manage to share your knowledge on the subject to your classmates.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
One could say there is a lot of truth in this expression, however, for Harry, it is quite the opposite. The boy can see things happening in real time from miles away. He thinks they are dreams, seeing as they occur when he is asleep, however we know that they come to him at that time because that is when his mind is most at ease. Obviously Voldemort fabricates the vision as a method of luring Harry to the Ministry. Finally, we are reminded of the importance of Harry’s scar, it reminds us of the connection between Harry and Voldemort. Now that Voldemort has regained some strength and a human form, this connection is more powerful than ever. Seeing as they are connected, Voldemort can enter Harry’s mind and vice-versa from a distance and without eye contact. This is how Harry manages to save Arthur Weasley’s life. When Nagini bit Arthur, Harry saw the whole scene happen through the eyes of the snake. Since Nagini is one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, he can control her, this is why Harry was also in Nagini’s head so to speak, because she is an extension of Voldemort.
Of course Dumbledore saw right away what was going on and believed Harry’s tale. Had Dumbledore not acted, Arthur would have been yet another victim. This incident confirms Dumbledore’s inklings with regards to the power of the connection between Voldemort and Harry. This is the precise reason for which Dumbledore was keeping his distance from Harry Potter. He knew that, upon discovering this connection, Voldemort would use it to access confidential information from the Order, via Harry’s mind. He therefore thought the best way of protecting that information was to stay as far away from Harry as possible. What a wise man. Naturally, once the confirmed, Dumbeldore insists on Snape teaching Harry occlumency, the art of shutting one’s mind. Of course, Dumbledore chose Snape to distance himself from Harry.
Occlumency lessons are awful because of all the underlying hatred Snape and Harry have for one another. Harry thinks Snape is making him weaker by the whole process while Harry isn’t practicing as he should. While Harry knew it was Dumbledore’s wish he took occlumency lessons, he did not fully understand why. He simply thought Dumbledore did not want him seeing things anymore. Harry, however, saw his gift as a useful one and was therefore torn as to whether he should take these lessons seriously. This new proactive-rebellious Harry wanted to keep having the dreams. Finally, in January, Harry makes the connection that the hallway in his recurring dream is the exact same hallway he passed on his way to his trial in August. The dreams were in the Department of Mysteries! So that took him a while, I guess he was too distracted by his mood to even notice the hallway in August and make the connection. Once he made the connection, he was even less keen to practice emptying his mind as he wanted to know what the door at the end of the hallway concealed. It was a rather foolish risk in my opinion, seeing as this foolish risk ended up costing him what he held most dear in his life, his godfather Sirius.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get worst, they did. Although we saw this one coming, it is best understood at the end of the book. Once Umbridge put professor Trelawney on probation, we knew it was just a matter of time before she would get rid of her. The all mighty and powerful Umbridge sacks Trelawney in a scene-causing kind of way, as to make an example of her to the other professors I assume. Just as she thinks she got rid of her for good, Dumbledore shows up to save the day! Umbridge could not pull a fast one on this guy, he is fully aware of what goes on right under his nose and is always a step ahead of the game. He accepted the firing of one of his professors, respecting Umbridge’s power, but was sure to point out the limitations of said power by saying that Trelawney is to remain living at Hogwarts. Umbridge is quick to point out that, unless the headmaster can find a suitable replacement, she shall have the power to appoint one. Dumbledore answers that he has indeed found a replacement divination teacher: Firenze the centaur. At first, we thought Dumbledore allowed Trelawney to stay at Hogwarts out of sympathy and compassion. We find out; however that Trelawney had been employed for around 16 years which is awfully close to Harry’s age. We later find out that Trelawney, claiming to have the gift, had indeed proclaimed a prophecy relating to Harry and Voldemort’s fates. Dumbledore is wise to keep her safe in the castle, seeing as she is the person who said the prophecy, which happens to be the weapon Voldemort is trying to lay his hands on. This is also partly why Dumbledore employed Trelawney. He thought it wise to keep her close should she prophase once more on Harry Potter, the boy Dumbledore was trying to protect. We know that only the person of whom the prophecy is about can retrieve it from the Department of Mysteries, two people in this case. One particularity about this is that Dumbledore witnessed the saying of the prophecy, therefore having the memory of it. So far, he is the only person to have heard it entirely. I believe this to be the major reason he kept his distance from Harry. Suspecting correctly that Voldemort was trying to get a hold of the prophecy, he better make sure that Voldemort cannot get into his mind, and by restricting the information he shared with Harry, he ensured that. Of course Umbridge is oblivious to all of this, as she is still convinced that Voldemort has not come back.
Something else that was hoping to stay out of mind by staying out of sight was the DA. This group was to function in utmost secrecy, as Umbridge had banned all student groups from forming. With the help of Dobby, the DA had managed to find the perfect meeting place, the Room of Requirements, which provided them with everything they would need to practice. It truly was the perfect plan, that is, until Marietta blabbed to Umbridge. We knew it was her because her face broke out in nasty boils that seemed to be irremovable. We can thank Hermione for that lovely touch, she charmed the parchment everyone signed up on and it served as a sort of contract. Unfortunately, Umbridge, with the help of her Inquisitorial Squad (what a joke), managed to ambush the members at their meeting point. They tried to create a diversion, but unfortunately Harry got caught. He and Marietta were brought to Dumbledore’s office for questioning. Umbridge being the suck up she is, had already arranged for Fudge to be present for the questioning, with all her evidence on hand. She really wanted to trap Harry and punish him for good this time. Dumbledore, yet again, saves the day (I see a pattern in this book – trial, Trelawney and DA). One piece of evidence used was the sign-up sheet, which clearly says the group is called Dumbledore’s Army. Well Fudge pretty much blows his top! This proves that what he was thinking about Dumbledore was right all along, and it still managed to happen under the nose of the Ministry! Dumbledore decided to play right into Fudge’s hand and admit that he was the one responsible for the DA, since his name was on the parchment. He knew that things would be fine at Hogwarts without him for a little while. This absence would allow him to focus on the Order. Unfortunately for Fudge, Dumbledore does not go calmly. He exits in the most dramatic way, escaping the grips of the Ministry. As Kingsley said: “He’s got style”!
Rules are Meant to be Broken
During Dumbledore’s absence, all bets are off! Umbridge is the first to try and break a rule, by simply creating another decree that makes her Headmistress. That part was easy, but she never managed to enter Dumbledore’s office to use in her new function. Ha! Good measure Dumbledore! Umbridge is the perfect example of how corruption goes hand in hand with unchecked power. Drunk by her limitless power, she spits up decrees left and right banning the most ridiculous things. As soon as there is something she does not like or does not agree with, she simply creates a new decree to meet her immediate needs. She is seeking ultimate control over everybody and everything. This makes her think she is untouchable and blurs the lines between what is morally acceptable and what she thinks is acceptable. The only saving grace is that eventually her power becomes meaningless and she is brought back to earth by a most needed reality check. Thank you centaurs and Hermione! Her methods needed to be used on her.
Two of the biggest rule breakers of all time surely seize a great opportunity when it presents itself. Fred and George are definitely an awesome, dynamic duo. These two had a plan right from the start, regardless of how the year was going to play out. Having come of age, having passed their OWL’s and having had a great investment towards their goal, Fred and George simply came back to Hogwarts to test their products for their business venture. Clearly, they have developed many products for their impeding store, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. They simply needed a group of guinea pigs to test them out. They never planned on doing a seventh year at Hogwarts, and seeing as their sixth was turning into a nightmare, they decided it was time to go, and they did so with a bang! With Dumbledore gone, being banned from quidditch and having successfully tweaked their products, there was nothing holding them back. In their support of Dumbledore, their hatred of Umbridge and to help out Harry, they devised a legendary exit. They are sure to go down in history and become the talk of Hogwarts. They create a diversion to allow Harry to use Umbridge’s office by turning a corridor into an enormous swamp. Once they summoned their brooms, they instructed Peeves to give Umbridge hell, which is the first time the poltergeist has taken orders from students. I guess he admired their artful rule-breaking tendencies, he acts on solidarity. I also love how the teachers rather watch Umbridge struggle with the aftermath as opposed to helping her. It is their subtle way of rebelling. Flitwick even leaves a roped off part of the swamp to serve as monument to the Weasley twins’ genius use of magic. This part makes me laugh out loud every time! It is the much needed comic relief in all the darkness of this book.
Now Fred and George have not been the only rule-breakers to frequent Hogwarts. It turns out that in the generation before them, there was a certain group who referred to themselves as the Marauders. Ring a bell? It is with their help that Fred and George gained, shall I say, field experience. We have the privilege of seeing what Harry’s parents and others of their generation were like via one of Snape’s memories. This happened during an occlumency lesson, when Snape was called away, the newly rebellious Harry decided to sneak a peak in the pensive to see just what Snape didn’t want him to see. We sure got an eye-full! It turns out that Snape was an outsider and that James and his friends were more in the cool crowd. James was a vain, self-centered prick in his youth and likes to pick on “Snivelus”. The interesting part is when Lily defends Snape and tells James off. She really seemed to dislike him. I have to say I felt bad for Snape. I really enjoyed this glimpse into the past and felt it materialized the characters of Harry’s parents. They now seemed more relatable than ever before. So far, we’d only ever heard of Harry’s parents and they’ve been somewhat “glorified”. Harry had built himself a perception of his parents based on the accounts made to him by others. This was a big reality check for Harry, as he saw his parents in a different light and started questioning their love and the foundation of their relationship. Like he needed that to be added to the pile of things to question! So we have a bit of background information on Lily, where she came from and her family members. What I would like to know is where does James come from? Who were his parents? Where did their fortune come from? How did they die? If they were pure blood, where do they stand in the Wizarding community, seeing as there are few pure blood families and they all seem to be well known? Perhaps Pottermore will answer these questions in time.
McGonnagall is a very unlikely rule-breaker. In fact, all year she has been trying to reason with Harry and getting him to control his temper. But I guess Umbridge pushed her to the limit! During Harry’s meeting to discuss his future with his head of house, Umbridge was present. Harry revealed he would like to become an auror, perhaps after having been surrounded by them lately. McGonnagall proceeds to explain what classes are needed to achieve his ambition. Umbridge constantly interrupts to say her useless piece and that is when McGonnagall loses it and has a shouting match with Umbridge. This is the first time McGonnagall has taken Potter’s side and publicly defended him. Seeing as McGonnagall would have technically replaced Dumbledore is his absence, she only sees fit to resist Umbridge in every way possible, in the hopes of salvaging what is left of the school.
This next rule-breaker is a usual one. His heart is in the right place, but he sure has a distorted perception of danger! It is therefore not surprizing that Hagrid has yet again gotten himself in a mountain of trouble. He attracted negative attention from Umbridge by missing the first couple months of the school year and by sporting all sorts of injuries. The fact that he is a half-giant does not help his case either because Umbridge is prejudiced of living beings other than humans. It was clearly inevitable that he would end up on probation and was doomed to suffer the same fate as Trelawney. Luckily Hagrid is not oblivious to this fact and prepares for the worst. Unfortunately, this meant he had to divulge his secret to Harry and Hermione. He has brought his giant brother Gwarp back from his journey and has been hiding him in the Forbidden Forest. Talk about a “giant” plot reveal! This was definitely a great part to read, I loved every bit of it! Hagrid did well in asking his friends to take care of him because not long after he was to be sacked. Umbridge, having learned her lesson during the previous firing, chose to do it in the middle of the night, hoping to avoid any resistance from other faculty members. She sent other Ministry workers to do the dirty work, they pretty much ambushed him and tried to stun the giant. Well, Hagrid put up a great fight! McGonnagall tried to intervene and was hit by four simultaneous stunning spells! Talk about a cowardly way of doing business. At least it was not done in vain since Hagrid managed to run away and take refuge in the same cave used by Sirius two years prior.
Just like every other great book, it must eventually come to an end, but not before an epic battle! Once all hell breaks loose at Hogwarts, Neville, Luna, Ron and Ginny managed to escape the Inquisitorial Squad and Hermione and Harry successfully got rid of Umbridge, they are free to come to Sirius’ rescue in the Department of Mysteries. They were made aware of the situation by one of Harry’s dreams. Obviously, they were lured there by one of Voldemort’s many plots; he now knew of his connection with Harry and used it to his advantage. Relying on the fact that the boy likes to play hero, a tendency Hermione also pointed out. These six are putting their DA training to good use; they fight Death Eaters for crying out loud! I just find it odd that Death Eaters don’t think of simple spells like the full body-bind, simple disarming charms and others. I mean this seems like pretty basic stuff, maybe they just over think things now and forget that sometimes simple things work best. Anyway, all that to say that the students were able to hold off the death eaters until members of the Order showed up.
Just as we think things are looking up from here, one of the worst tragedies happens. Sirius Black falls through the veil and dies, just like that! I have to admit it did not affect me the way it did the first time I read it. I remember rereading that passage because if had not sunk in. I even stopped reading for a bit, just to come to terms with what had happened. I guess the shock factor only lasts the first time around. This is a major blow for Harry. He’s already lost his parents and now, after only a short relationship with the closest thing he’s had to a parent, he has to lose him as well. Perhaps this was done to allow Harry to grow as a person. He has witnessed death first hand with Cedric, although it greatly affected him, this time he loses someone who loved him and whom he loved in return. Death only hurts when you feel something, not to say Harry didn’t feel anything when Cedric dies, but it reaches you more when it’s someone you loved. The hurt is deeper and more powerful. After all it is that love power that pulses through Harry’s veins. His mother committed the biggest sacrifice, and in doing so gave her son the most powerful protection anyone could ask for. Harry is a very emotional character, he feels passionately, whether it is love, fear or anger. He cannot but feel guilty for Sirius’ death because he feels responsible for dragging him away from the security of Grimmauld Place. Clearly, Voldemort cashed-in on the fact that Harry would act on emotion when triggered. As much as that can be regarded as a great quality, it can also be considered a downfall when emotions come into play and blur consciousness. He can’t seem to help “playing the hero”. Harry has to learn what his weaknesses are and work with them to make sure they do not hinder him in the future. That said, Sirius proved to be extremely helpful to Harry. He seemed to have a vast knowledge and was more than helpful when Harry needed it. Just look at the gifts he offered him (two-way mirror, knife to unlock any door). He was sort of slacking off in the sense that he depended more on Sirius to help him through the tough times. The prophecy revealed that “either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives”. This means that Harry has to face this on his own. He has got to learn to stand on his own two feet. This reinforces the fact that Harry is the only one who can and has to defeat Voldemort. He will have to overcome many more loses as the series develops, but he can’t lose focus on the end goal. He has a tremendous load on his shoulders, but he cannot let down the people who have all fought and perhaps given their lives for the cause. He has something worth fighting for and must not forget it.
In order to develop character, Harry has to overcome certain obstacles that in turn define him. The phoenix is very symbolic of rebirth. Harry seems to have gone through the cycle many times before, however this time the rebirth is more emotional. Every year, he faces a new challenge. Beats it, and repeats the cycle. Learning new things along the way as well as getting to know himself. When Harry meets Dumbledore at the end of the book, he finally vents all his frustrations and resentments towards Dumbledore, things he has been bottling up all year. He has had enough secrets and wants answers. Dumbledore admits to having been in the wrong by keeping Harry in the dark and finally reveals things he should have told Harry a long time ago (the prophecy, the reason he has to stay with the Dursleys and why he didn’t chose him as a prefect). After this emotional breakdown, Harry can start building his trust in Dumbledore once again. After all, he is now aware of the only possible outcome to defeat Voldemort. He has a lot of trials ahead of him.