So this week, Harry witnessed a violent, life-threatening attack on his best friend's dad, which, yes, horrifying, except that then he throws a tantrum of the highest proportions. Yes, Harry's freaked out and convinced that Voldy's going to burst forth from his head or something, which would be pretty damned scary, except that he's SO full of himself that he completely forgets that poor Ginny was once possessed by old Voldy and doesn't think to go to her for advice.
"I forgot," he said."Luck you," said Ginny coolly. (pg. 500)All of that is to say that Ginny is tough and awesome and could do so much better. Fortunately, Phineas Nigellus is more than willing to tell Harry how self-absorbed and obnoxious he is, so at least he knows. You can rest easy, self.
To prevent future Voldy-Vision, Harry takes Occlumency lessons with Snape! Which is actually pretty cool, because for the whole series up until now, Harry has had constant feelings that Snape could read his mind and hey-o! It turns out that he can. So maybe Harry's not paranoid? I love Snape's description of the mind:
The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing... (pg. 530)Say what you will about Snape, but the man has a way with words. His introductions to Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts were similarly poetic. Despite his many flaws, he is a passionate man who clearly values skill and hard work, two characteristics that our hero lacks in most areas. Of course, Snape is terribly flawed as well - he doesn't just treat students like crap, but seems to have a deep sense of shame, which is probably why he acts the way he does. No matter how defiantly he stood up to James in the memory that Harry invaded, being dangled upside down in front of the girl you like is going to leave you with a deep sense of embarrassment, which clearly morphed into something darker over the years. Before this reading of the series, I never thought all that much about Snape's character development, but I think it's pretty impressive.
As for that memory, first can I point out how much of an ass Harry is for diving into it? The first time he fell into the Pensieve was an accident - he didn't know what it was - but this time is just unacceptable. It's the equivalent of reading somebody's diary, and shows a disturbing sense of entitlement and disregard for the rights of others in Harry's character. It's unforgivable. That said, I do think that it was important for Harry to see it and understand who his father really was. I'm actually kind of surprised that Snape didn't intentionally show him a memory like this (though potentially one less damaging to his own ego) just to take his years worth of taunts a step further. Despite the circumstances, seeing this does take Harry down a peg, which is important in this book especially. I really like the bit where he talks to Lupin and Snape in the fire:
Then Lupin said quietly, "I wouldn't like you to judge your father on what you saw there, Harry. He was only fifteen - "
"I'm fifteen!" said Harry heatedly. (pg. 670)
I know I've complained a LOT about Harry in this book but I really appreciate this moment, when he compares himself to his father and finds his father lacking. Because no matter how annoying Harry is, he has nothing on his self-assured bully of a father. In fact, James may be worse than any of Harry's classmates, Draco Malfoy included. For Harry to see that and say that NOTHING makes it okay shows a fair amount of character on his part. He just needs to make part of himself a bigger part of who he is (which he will in the next book [I'm thinking about the scene on the Scarlet Express]).
A quick minute to talk about the twins and their various escapades? Yes, I think so. First off, the contrast between their brand of troublemaking and James's and Sirius's is worth noting - Fred and George may mess around but they've never been anything but kind-hearted (except maybe to Ron but come on, he's their little brother). What's noteworthy about their antics in this section is that it's not just for fun - they're punishing Umbridge on Dumbledore's behalf in their own special way. Now, I'm not a big fan of fireworks but theirs do sound pretty awesome and when a sparkler floated past the tower, still resolutely spelling out the word POO (pg. 634), I pretty much died. Who mixes fireworks and poo? That is awesome and they are the best. And then when they perform their next antic (this time in Harry's service) and take off, I wanted to cheer with the rest of the students. In that moment, they are saying you can't control us and the rest of the school takes it to heart. This is what really spins Umbridge's reign out of control, giving heart to the school. While Fred and George's characters are rather undeveloped, they do play an important part in the series. Also, I love them!
And off we go to the end of the book and Harry's biggest tantrum yet. Le sigh.