Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Reread Review (Mario)

I used to think that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was one of my favourite books in the series, but after rereading the fifth book really have to disagree with myself. It’s a good book, most definitely, but the more complex Rowling’s universe becomes, the more there are inconsistencies and small plot holes. That’s in addition to how the story also starts to feel bloated. I’m not sure how to feel about it. When I was rereading the fourth book, I knew going in that I had issues with some of the plot points, but I didn’t recall having issues with this book. Really though, what upsets me the most is just how fucking annoying Harry is. He’s fifteen and whinier than ever. I just want to sit him down and have an intervention. Dumbledore also acts rather irresponsibly. Maybe I should have a sit down with him too. Really though, that’s the most frustrating thing about this book: how some members of the regular cast seem to have lost their marbles or are just incredibly annoying. Many of the new characters, despite their short appearances, really flesh out the world of Harry Potter and leave a lasting impression. It’s in great part because of the new characters and the explosiveness of Rowling’s continuous world building that makes Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a memorable read, despite its flaws.

There was an enormous amount of pressure on Rowling to write yet another successful Harry potter novel with The Order of the Phoenix. I would argue more so than any of the previous novels in the series. The fourth book ended with several huge “what if” and “what next” questions. Voldemort's return was an absolute game changer, but none of the readers really knew why or how. Mostly we didn’t know how because our imagination isn’t on par with Rowling’s. With only a vague sense that nothing would ever be the same, millions of Harry Potter fans around the world eagerly awaited the arrival of the fifth volume. I remember there being so many questions that I wanted answered. Voldemort is evil but what does he want? What are his plans? What is Dumbledore doing? How will the Wizarding Community react? Will anything change at Hogwarts? I remember being worried that what made the series good so far would get lost in any of the new stuff Rowling would undoubtedly throw into the next book. I’ll say it again, Voldemort getting a new body was a game changer and I was worried the whole series would change for the worst. Sure, the first four books all more or less follow a set formula, but see how Rowling continued to use the formula in different ways to varying degrees of success was one of the things that made for a successful series. With Voldemort back, how could she prevent losing the formula or having to discard it completely in favour of something new? I shouldn’t have worried. Rowling succeed with seemingly little effort. Book four was announcing a change and book five delivered the goods. Rowling walked the tightrope between keeping Harry Potter familiar while continuously pushing the series in the direction she’s been developing since the first book. Rowling’s been writing with an end goal in mind and while that required a lot of ground work to set up, she was also skilled enough to provide great individual novels along the way.

I’m of the opinion that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an excellent book, it really is. But, it might also be a contender for the worst book in the series because the ratio of good and bad elements favours the bad more than most books in the series. I might be exaggerating a bit due to the one-two punch of bad that is The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix but it’s important for me to mention that since the amount of bad elements in the books have increased with their page count. I’m being vague, I’ll start to clarify. First up, it’s the stuff that doesn’t work.

What’s Wrong with Harry?
The beginning of HP5 shows us Harry at his most unpleasant. He's asking like a self-important brat. His reunion with Ron and Hermione leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. We can sympathize with him being stuck at the Dursleys for several weeks, but he acts as if he's the most important person around. It's frustrating to read about him acting as if he's been the sole defence against Voldemort's return to power. He even makes an argument for it to Ron and Hermione, completely forgetting their invaluable help along the way. His ego is rotting his brain.

Harry's incredibly annoying in this book. While at the Dursleys he complained about his lack of involvement in the everyday events of the Wizarding World. As soon as he's back in that world he complains about how small his role is. So he tells himself everything will be awesome at Hogwarts. Surprise, Harry, it's OWL's year and you've gotta have your nose in books all year long. “No, I don't wanna! I jus' wanna play Quidditch with Ron and yell about Voldemort and how he's reaaaaal. Why won't you listen to me? I've faced the most evil wizard in the history of evil wizards and Malfoy is still the worst person I know. I want Hagrid! I'm so lost and alone without Hagriiiid!” That’s pretty annoying right? That’s how it reads to me. Every time I read about Harry complaining I would think really hard that he should stop complaining and take action. I thought it really hard, hoping that I would be able to change his behaviour with my mind. Truthfully, I was getting annoyed at Rowling for writing a teenage protagonist so convincingly. It was a glorious moment when she stopped telling me how awful Harry’s life is and how nobody cares about him or his fight against the Dark Lord and gave Harry something to do.

The creation of Dumbledore’s Army is an example that Harry is too involved in his own thoughts that he’s losing touch with his friends. He'll fight for what he thinks is right, which is great. He'll even do it alone if he has to, but he doesn't have to and that’s kind of the point. He has plenty of people who will stand with him but he's too wrapped up in his own head that he doesn't realize it. He's worrying over silly things like how Dumbledore hasn't taken the time to hang out with him since the end of the last school year. Well big freaking deal dude. You've spent several weeks without talking to the big D (Dumbledore, not Dudley) before why is this different? Oh, because Voldemort is back? Well Dumbledore is obviously a little busy with running a school and fighting a war on two fronts, against the Ministry's tyrannical reign and the big bad himself: Voldemort. It took his friends, mainly Hermione, to help him realize that he doesn’t have to be part of the Order of the Phoenix in order to help in defending the Wizard World against Voldemort. It also helped him realize that spouting his version of the facts (well, stating the facts outright) against people such as Umbridge will only help to further single him out as a person to silence as opposed to garnering him more supporters. Certain it has an impact on the opinions of others, yes, but it’s a poor way to increase awareness of the reality of what is going on outside of Hogwarts. Dumbledore’s Army had a positive impact on my enjoyment of this book. Harry’s character becomes much more centered on doing things then it is on thinking and complaining about the helplessness and difficulty of his situation. I like him in an active role, not a contemplative one.

I think it’s important to point out that Harry’s behaviour is consistent with how he’s been portrayed in the series so far. He’s bullied by the Dursley for most of his life and it’s impacted how he behaves with others. He doesn’t accept it when others push their weight around and belittle others. He stands up to them. He’s also the kind of person that will do what he believes is right, even if that means doing something very dangerous to his wellbeing. He will break rules if it means helping someone else. That’s why he’s so frustrated during his fifth year at Hogwarts. Having witnessed Voldemort’s return, he knows more than anyone just how serious a threat this is. He may not have lived and experienced the First Wizarding War but his entire life has been informed by it and the frightening power of Voldemort. Since the first chapter of the fourth book, we’ve known that Harry and Voldemort share a headspace and with his full return to the world of the living, their bond has also become closer. Every day he is faced with the reality of the situation and he’s being called a liar, his warnings are being dismissed as the wild imaginings of a boy and the people who believe him, the people who form the Order of the Phoenix, are explicitly forbidding him to help. They didn’t realize it until the end of the book, but that was a very cruel thing for them to do. Harry, you’re very annoying in this book but, when I take a moment and think about how you must feel, it all makes sense to me. I’m sorry that I called you a whinny bitch. It must have been incredibly difficult for you to go about trying to live a normal life at Hogwarts knowing the truth about Voldemort’s return and not being allowed to help.

I’m still divided on how I feel about Harry’s behaviour in the book. Rowling wrote a very convincing teenager. He’s got angst, but he’s not overflowing with it. He has moments of maturity and self-confidence that are believable to me as a reader and inspiring to many characters in the story. He’s also surprisingly doubtful of his ability to do much good, but has a burning desire to try and help. He’s also a bit of a prick when it comes to how he enjoys being praised. He doesn’t actively seek praise and worship, but he enjoys it when he gets it. The mutual existence of all of these behaviours, some of them contradictory, work because of the situation Harry is in. He’s the Boy Who Lived and they’re entering the Second Wizarding War. Everybody is acting a bit differently from before and that’s normal considering the circumstances. Rowling did a very good job writing characters in a way that presents them differently than before, due to the in-story events taking place, but also maintaining some important consistencies with how they’ve behaved in previous stories.

Take Mrs. Weasley for example. She’s still the overbearing mother she’s always been. She lovingly bosses around the kids and also strictly forbids them from taking part in any of the activities tied to the Order’s work. Yet she’s also hysterical at time. During the First Wizarding War her children were just little kids. They probably didn’t understanding too much of what was going on but now, they’re mostly all grown up. Some of them will want to participate and she can’t deal with the knowledge that her children might come into harm’s way. She’s always had to contend with Mr. Weasley’s safety, but since her kids are all out and about in the world, none of them staying under her direct protection and watchful eye, she’s finding it all overwhelming. It doesn’t completely take over her character. She’s still the same Molly Weasley we’ve all learned to love in the first few books, but in The Order of the Phoenix she (understandably) breaks down occasionally such as when the boggart transforms into her family members, dead. While I found many of these inconsistencies in character behaviours to be annoying, they can mostly all be justified by the story itself. These people are all varying degrees of terrified and it shows itself through how they act throughout the book.

Revisiting Established Characters:
One of the reasons I really like the books in the second half of the series is that characters from previous books pop up from time to time. I also like just how much the cast has expanded since The Philosopher’s Stone. It really helps to give the series a sense of scale and that Hogwarts doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There is an entire Wizarding Community and having so many members of that community regularly show up in the books (or at least be talked about by the regular cast) is important in establishing the Harry Potter series as being an entire world apart from our own. I like it when characters like Lockhart pop up in later books because it makes us realize that the stories in the books expand beyond the immediate narrative. Lockhart’s life, though drastically changed (or not, depending on your point of view) continues even once he’s left Hogwarts. It creates an illusion that there is a real universe outside of what the reader gets to experience by reading the books and following the narrative mostly from Harry’s point of view. It’s in part because of how Rowling uses the expanded cast that things such as Harry Potter fan fiction and Pottermore are still popular years after the end of the series (though you could argue the series never really end and continues to evolve and expand to this day). Secondary and tertiary characters have made an impression on readers and we continue to be interested in them even after their main appearances in the series are over. 

I find some characters are even more interesting in their second appearance. A couple examples of that are Rita Skeeter, Madame Maxime and Professor Lupin (though he’s not a professor anymore). Even omnipresent characters such as Snape get to evolve along with the series. In the case of Snape, the sixth book, The Half-Blood Prince not only continues his character arc but also changes how the readers picture him as a character. Actually, that begins in this book during the occlumency lesson where Harry gets a glimpse of Snape’s memories. We get a different (and more interesting) perspective on Snape’s character as well as those of James and Lily Potter and Sirius Black. Rowling revisits previously established characters to show the reader how the events affecting the main cast of characters also affect the expanded cast. She also uses these moments to present character growth and do a bit of fan service.

Not all of the characters worth revisiting are used effectively though. Cho Chang is a good example of a character that continues to be a part of Harry’s life, but doesn’t become more interesting. In the past, I've always been alright with Harry's budding relationship with Cho. I liked that Rowling was making her characters interact with students from other houses, but the romantic angle of things did feel forced to me. The more I think about it, the more it feels wrong. Harry Potter has never been a series in which there is interesting and believable romance. I'm not saying there isn't any romance at all (the Molly and Arthur Weasley are obviously still in love) but a lot of the budding romances are awkward and forced. It's as if Cho and Harry feel like they have to connect with each other because of the impact of Cedric's death in their lives. Furthermore, they think if they become close it has to be romantic because two teens of the opposite sex having feelings must automatically mean romantic love, right? I would have preferred it if their relationship was one of friendship. It would have much more believable and interesting than what we get in this book. I can’t help but shake the feeling that Rowling introduced a romantic relationship for Harry because she’s writing a series of books that focus on teenage characters. It would be odd if there was no romance for the main character at all. If it wasn’t for their mutual connection to Cedric, Cho and Harry’s relationship might have worked but as it stands, it doesn’t work.

Weasley is our king by DeviantArt user Alooockhard.
The Order of the Phoenix is Ron’s year. He does so much interesting stuff and it all feels right for our favourite inferiority-complex character of the series. He becomes a Prefect, he joins the Quidditch team and he joins Dumbledore’s Army and becomes one of their more proficient members. It’s rewarding to finally see him do things that aren’t directly related to what Harry is doing it. Hermione’s been doing stuff on her own at least since The Prisoner of Azkaban, but Ron’s mostly been playing the role of wingman. I find it interesting to watch him try to live up to his brothers’ reputations while also fulfilling his own dreams. He’s still always thinking about how others think of what he does, but he’s not letting that stop him from doing things. It’s also difficult for him to get out from Harry’s shadow, but it’s important for him to do so he tries. Being known as Harry’s best friend and his family’s widely known status as a very poor family doesn’t stop him from doing thing. I stress this point because it would be all too easy for him to become withdrawn. Instead of retreating to the back of the room and making himself invisible, he’s putting himself out along the Quidditch goals and trying his best to attain his dreams. It’s nice to see him do his own thing while still maintaining his friendship with those around them.

As for Hermione, it’s wonderful to have characters acknowledge their surprise that she wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw. She's obviously intelligent enough, and even though her intelligence is a big part of who she is, it's not her only defining characteristic. Hermione is very gutsy and she shows quite a bit of initiative (polyjuice potion). She also firmly believes in standing up for what she feels is right. When I think of intelligent people I often think of social awkwardness or at them having a complete disinterest in social aspects of life. Hermione doesn't flaunt her intelligence, but she doesn't shy away from it. Instead, she uses it regularly for various reasons. Much like Neville, she's proven time and again that she truly doesn't stick out in Gryffindor's midst. She really belongs there.

Hermione certainly would have fit in Ravenclaw and just like Harry, the Sorting Hat presented her with that possibility. Hermione knows she's smart. She's so smart she even started to teach herself magic before ever stepping foot at Hogwarts. Hermione making the choice not to go into Ravenclaw, the obvious fit for her, might be her first real sign of courage in the books. Also, Hermione’s compassion and desire to help others, even when it proves difficult to do so, is another example of how well her personality fits with the personality traits most associated with Gryffindor. Her compassion is equally important to her character as her intelligence. I also love that she’s bossy, but she bosses her friends around for their own good. She never loses that part of her character, but she does show a softer side to her friends as the years go by. She understands that they're not as quick as her to pick up on things and she also understands that she's not the best at everything and that here are loads of things you can't learn from books. But dammit, she's going to try and you best stay out of her way.

I also want to take the time to share some of my personal thoughts on the Sorting Hat. It's important to recognize that it doesn't do its work alone. We've only ever experienced it through Harry's point of view but the Hat was very clear when it said that Harry would easily fit in with the Slytherins, but he makes a choice not to go into that house, and it's not because all Slytherins are evil. Slytherins seek power and for Harry, that's not a priority and even though he might not realize it at the time of his sorting, the Sorting Hat realized it and so put him in Gryffindor instead, a house in which Harry could develop the skills and values important to him. It's important to keep in mind that Harry hated living with the Dursleys but how many children would go off into the unknown (and what's more unknown that the Wizarding World to a preteen who was raised as a Muggle?) if they were given the opportunity? It wasn't just Harry's disdain for the Dursleys that made him go to Hogwarts. He was also motivated by his desire to escape a horrible way of life and that took courage. Once he got to know the Wizarding World, and his place within it, he regularly chooses to defend it and that also takes courage. Dumbledore mentioned at the end of the first novel that courage can take many forms and Harry embodies many different forms of courage as do many other characters (not all of them Gryffindor character even though Rowling often makes courage appear to be synonymous with good). As a sentient object, I consider the Sorting Hat to be a character and he’s one that’s been pretty vocal on the importance of unity, strength in numbers and the development of young witches and wizards. For someone who is stationary he sure plays an important role in the outcome of the story.

I really like the way Rowling can take something simple, such as how someone performs magic, as well as provide additional information about a character. I’m thinking specifically about the different ways she describes the conjuring of chairs between two different people. In this case, McGonagall and Dumbledore. Dumbledore's chairs were big, fanciful and comfortable whereas McGonagall were serviceable, though I imagine they look nice since Rowling doesn’t describe them as ugly. I interpret this difference in chairs in three ways. The first, it could simply be personality differences between McGonagall and Dumbledore. She is strict and practical so a chair that suits the purpose is sufficient and that's what she conjures. Dumbledore who is always richly dress and has expensive tastes, conjures an expensive and carefully crafted chair. The second interpretation is that the chair can represent the situation in which it was magicked. McGonagall's chairs were for students in Dumbledore's office. She doesn't need anything fancy for Ron and Harry. Dumbledore produced chairs at Harry's hearing at the ministry. It's likely that he conjured a high backed and comfortable chair to demonstrate how powerful he is to the Ministry official and exude more confidence in the face of the officials who clearly want to expel Harry. The third interpretation is that the chairs are different because of the skills of the ones wielding the spell. Dumbledore produced a big fancy chair because he can. It's not a big deal for him. McGonagall is more comfortable producing a simpler, but equally effective, chair because that is the limit of her power.

The World Building Continues:
I mentioned in previous posts just how impressed I am by Rowling’s ability to continuously add more and more depth and definition to her fictional world with each subsequent volume. In The Order of the Phoenix, she builds on the Wizarding World in two ways. The first is by adding new characters and the second is by adding depth to existing elements of the story.

A lot of new characters make their first full appearance in this book. Standout characters such as Luna Lovegood, Nymphardora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Grawp and Bellatrix Lestrange to name a few. They really help to round out the cast of the novels and they all play important roles for the rest of the series. Other character introductions serve to flesh out less important elements of the Wizarding World. The introduction of Kreacher (one of the few house elves in the series to receive a name) leads me to believe Dobby might be the only cool house elf. Kreacher is a piece of shit.  Sure, Dobby has his strange moments but compared to Winky and Kreacher, he is the world's best house elf. The Malfoys raised and asshole son but they employed a class act of an elf. It doesn’t add much, but it makes me think about house elves. One of the things Rowling does rather well is demonstrate just how horrific the First Wizarding War was. She does this mostly by introducing us to new characters and having them talk about the experience, often times giving us additional information on death eaters and their past history. Many of the new characters are also friends of deceased witches and wizards who were casualties of the First War and they simply relate their stories from that time. It’s pretty effective and by making these revelations of the conflict with Voldemort anecdotal, we learn as much about the character as we do the war.

I think the most important new character for this book is Dolores Umbridge as this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Say what you will about Umbridge, she’s not a pushover or an idiot. Rowling write her as being quite capable and a skilled witch. Bending Hogwarts to her will required a great deal of organization and gumption. A good example of her skills at magic involve her control of the Floo network as demonstrated by her nearly successful capture of Sirius while he was talking to the trio in the Gryffindor common room. What’s most interesting about her is that she’s the living embodiment of the Ministry’s politics at the time of the story. Disinformation, the reduction of individual freedoms, the tyrannical rule of all facets of life, those are the things that were frightening to me. She’s a vile woman but she’s only one individual in the great machine that is the Ministry for Magic.

We learn a lot about the Ministry in this book, some of it due to Umbridge’s character but information on the Ministry permeates the book. Is it just me or does the Ministry seem to mostly preoccupy itself with preventing, stopping and fixing problems cause by the misuse of magic? Upholding the Ban on Experimental Breeding, underage wizardry, Aurors who hunt down dark wizard, etc. The Ministry doesn’t really govern as much as it impeaches on whatever it considers to be the best for the Wizarding Community. How do they come up with what is the best for the population? There doesn’t appear to be any representatives of the Wizarding Community at the Ministry. Furthermore, most well-known and influential wizards work at the ministry in various jobs that mostly deal with regulating the rest of the community. I can’t shake the feeling that Arthur is often thought of as a joke at the Ministry because of his financial and familiar status. I get the sense he’s continuously being told he doesn’t belong.

A good example of little freedom or privacy wizards have under the Ministry’s watching eye is Harry’s hearing for underage sorcery. It’s a despicable attempt by the Ministry to punish Harry for telling the story of Voldemort’s return and Dumbledore for supporting Harry’s story and spreading the word. Based on events from previous books, the Ministry has ways to detect witches and wizards. These methods are limited because they can’t find Sirius. Maybe they can only track individuals when they use magic or maybe it's limited to wizards who cannot put defences against these magical trackers. My point is that if they can track wizards and they think it's important enough to go ahead and do so, surely they have the method and the desire to track Dementors. Fudge is being a huge asshole denying the presence of Dementors in Little Whinging on the night Harry cast a Patronus. It’s a cover up for Voldemort and his forces.

The other way in which Rowling builds upon her world is by adding depth to existing elements of the series, or altering their meaning, to reflect how the story has evolved since the first book. One of those elements has to do with her theme of love as powerful magic. The love of his mother is Harry’s strongest defence, but love can also prove to be a weakness in certain situations. The biggest example of this is Dumbledore’s love for Harry. After spending years of his life protecting young Harry, Dumbledore grew to love him and it’s that love that prevented him from sharing the horrible truth about Harry’s past and his connection to Voldemort. Even though he probably realized that withholding this information potentially put Harry in more danger (Dumbledore must have known that Harry would try and learn as much as he could about Voldemort and his troops) than it would have otherwise. The decision to keep that information from Harry proved to be a grave mistake and to be quite honest, the death of one person is actually a small consequence compared to how much worse it could have been. Obviously, the death of Sirius has a big impact on Harry personally, but many more witches and wizards could have been seriously harmed or killed because of Dumbledore’s decision.

It’s not just love though. That very information Dumbledore kept from Harry is information that’s been hinted at earlier on in the series but we only understand its full meaning now. The same can be said for certain characters. Neville has always been an enjoyable character but, for the most part, he didn’t have much of an impact on the story. In this book we learn a great deal about his family history and the forthcoming conflict with Voldemort is causing him to change. The most obviously change is his desire to become more proficient in spell casting so that he can help defend the Wizarding Community against Voldemort. This is the beginning of Neville’s progression to becoming one of the really great characters of the series (particularly if you considering him to be the Second Wizarding War’s equivalent of Wormtail – both wars are parallel each other nicely). Neville has always been decent supporting character, but after the fifth book all of his previous appearances in the series read much better.

Not all of the world building works. Some of the larger elements pose a bit of problem (what kind of jobs to witches and wizards have?). There are smaller problem though that pop up but they’re mostly problematic when they relate to the plot. Knowing the different types of jobs available to wizard kind isn’t crucial to the development of the story and, as it stands unexplained, it doesn’t have much of an impact, be it positive or negative. Some smaller additions though have a negative impact on the plot. I have two particular elements I want to point out. The first is the introduction of Thestrals. Aside from being difficult to pronounce, the main problem here is how come Harry hasn’t seen these before? He’s witnessed the death of his mother when he was just a baby. It’s possible he was too young to have truly “witnessed” anything and his memories indicate that he mostly remembers green light. The other death was Cedric’s at the end of the fourth book. Rowling has explained that Harry didn’t see the Thestrals on his way to the train station at the end of the school year because he didn’t fully come to terms with Cedric’s death. All of this confuses the issue as to who can see Thestrals and it distracts from their use in the story. The other things that jumped out at me was the two way mirror. Why didn’t Sirius ever mention it to Harry? Instead, he spoke with Harry by Floo powder which was dangerous because Umbridge was keeping an eye on Hogwarts’s Floo network. It’s idiotic.

Probably the reason I was most excited to read this book when it came out all those years ago was to find out what Voldemort is up to. What’s his plan? He’s been a staple of the book for so long and aside from the second book and the end of the fourth one, Rowling typically didn’t spend nearly as much time writing about the villain than she did writing about the multiples heroes. We get to learn a few things more, like how Voldemort’s war is a eugenics war. His primary concern is to make wizard kind the dominant people on the planet. To do so, he or his allied forces regularly kill muggles and any wizards who aren’t pure blood. There is also a desire to do similar things to sentient magical creatures such as centaurs, goblins and house elves. All in all, we actually do not learn a significantly large portion of information on Voldemort because the book focuses too much on Harry’s personal insecurities and his desire to contribute meaningfully in the defence again Voldemort. Still, it’s no big complaint because she deals with a lot of Voldemort’s history and motivations in the next book. Considering the incredibly high expectations millions of readers around the world had for this particular book, Rowling did a stellar job to further develop everything she’s previously established, add a slew of new characters and elements to her fictional universe and she managed to do it all with good plotting and plenty of action. You just have to be able to deal with Harry’s incessant bitching.

Random Thought:
-Man, who doesn’t love Fred and George leaving Hogwarts? It’s great. I also love that they get to have a character arc that feels so unique to them. It’s very satisfying in part because it’s so believable. I also love the Extendable Ears and the Skiving Snackboxes.

-Luna doesn't share the main trio's fondness for Hagrid. She flat out states that she'd be glad if he was no longer a teacher at Hogwarts. It's a statement we've read before, namely from Malfoy, but Luna doesn't say t with the same vehemence as he does. She's just saying that's not really a good professor and that's a very accurate description of Hagrid. If you don't know him personally, like the trio, you probably feel more like Luna does. That's part of Luna's charm. She provides a new perspective on things and that gives the series a big breath of fresh air in regards to a few subjects.

-Contrary to the formula she’s establish in the previous books, Halloween isn't even mentioned in this book. Rowling swiftly takes us from October to November effectively skipping that part of the formula. It's not a big lose because it was never essential to the story. Rather it was a nice wink to the readers who we're paying attention or, even more probably, letting the reader know when we were situated in the school year without having to tell us which day of the month a particular event takes place. Halloween is a pretty good reference point for that and it works well in the context of a series dealing with witches and wizards. It’s not surprising it was skipped because Rowling follows the new tradition she established in the fourth book, which is to forgo significant portions of the formula she developed for the first half of the series.

-Professor Binns has developed an unjust reputation throughout the years for being a boring ass shit of a teacher but I think that's unfair. Clearly the problem lies with the students because if you can find a way to be uninteresting during an hour and a half long lecture "on the subject of giant wars", there is probably something wrong with you. Get your priorities in order! Those have to be some of the best alternative (a least to our world) history classes.

-Professor Sprout's favourite fertilizer is dragon dung. I wonder how that's procured. It made me think of Charlie Weasley who studies dragons. I don't believe there are too many dragons in captivity so how do they go about procuring it? Especially in large enough quantities to fertilize the Hogwarts greenhouses? Still, it's entirely believable to me that dragon dung is an excellent fertilizer. It seems all parts of a dragon have magical properties, even their poo. I like that idea. I wonder how well unicorn poo works as fertilizer.

-When Rom becomes Keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Katie Bell asks him to try on Oliver Wood's old Quidditch robes. If they fit they'll just replace the name on them and good to go! Are you serious? The poor dude hasn't had enough hand-me-downs in a lifetime he has to have the previous Keeper’s robes? Can’t Madame Hooch just magic him some new robes?

-You know, it seems like Harry, Hermione and the Weasley are usually running late for the Hogwarts Express. I'm pretty sure that students have missed the train before and most people are likely not in the habit of using a flying car to follow the train. So what happens? What do they do? Is there a Hogwarts scenic root train that drops you off at the Hogsmeade station and you walk to Hogwarts? Do they send the Thestrals to pick you up as a punishment? What about house elves. They can apparate anywhere, even inside Hogwarts, maybe they come in handy for tardy students. This is one of the many examples in the series where I'm just as interested as what the "regular" alternative to something is. Not the main character treatment version (flying car).

-One of the many things I like about HP is the large cast of characters. From students to professors to people who work at the Ministry. Rowling usually strikes a nice and realistic balance between male and female characters along with different ethnicities. It's not perfect, but the effort is there and it doesn't feel forced.

-Unfortunately, not everyone in the wider cast is memorable and despite an increase in characters. Most of the memorable student characters were introduced in the first or second books. Others that get added later on never quite seem to has as much depth or importance (Cho, no depth. Cedric, dies and becomes a martyr). The obvious exception is Luna Lovegood. She is the breakout student character of book five.

-I've always wondered about this but I've never really asked anybody else's opinion on the subject. Paintings. Are the people in them the painting itself? Is their knowledge and identity and sentience dated at the time if the paintings completion or are they're spiritual or magical remnants of the people whose physical being they represent? I'm asking specifically in regards to the previous Headmasters of Hogwarts. Where is Dumbledore's painting in the seventh book? What about all the other paintings in the castle? Some of them certainly don't depict actual people, how is their sentience explained? Are there different levels of sentience in paintings based on their accuracy of who they portray, based on whether they're the representation is of a real person and other factors. What about paintings of real people?

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