Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix – Summary, Chapters 14–16

Chapter 14
Harry wakes up early on Saturday to write Sirius a letter,
including subtle allusions to Umbridge, the pain in his scar, and
Hagrid. He takes his letter to the Owlery and gives it to Hedwig.
At breakfast, Harry finds an article in the Daily Prophet stating
that Sturgis Podmore was sentenced to six months in Azkaban for
trying to break into the Ministry. Ron suggests that Sturgis was
lured to the Ministry and arrested because of his involvement with
the Order. After breakfast, Ron and Harry leave to practice Quidditch,
and Hermione studies. At Quidditch practice, Malfoy and the rest
of the Slytherin team harass the Gryffindor players, Ron in particular.
The next night, Harry and Ron study in the common room
while Hermione knits. Percy’s owl, Hermes, appears, carrying a letter from
Percy. The letter congratulates Ron on becoming a prefect and warns
him to stay away from Harry Potter. Ron dismisses the letter, and
the three resume studying until Harry spots Sirius’s head in the fire.
Sirius tells Harry not to be too worried about his scar, since it burns
whenever Voldemort feels a powerful emotion. Sirius also agrees
that Umbridge is quite unpleasant but does not believe that she
is a Death Eater. Sirius does not know anything about Hagrid’s whereabouts
but assures Harry he is probably safe. When Sirius suggests transforming
into a dog again and accompanying Harry on his next trip to Hogsmeade,
both Harry and Hermione protest loudly. Sirius tells Harry his father
would have enjoyed the risk and disappears back into the fire.
Chapter 15
Hermione receives her Daily Prophet.
According to the paper, Dolores Umbridge has been named High Inquisitor,
granting the Ministry of Magic an unprecedented level of control
at Hogwarts. Umbridge will be sitting in on all classes. At Divination,
Umbridge paces the classroom with a clipboard, inspecting Professor Trelawney
and demanding that she make predictions. Later, in Defense Against
the Dark Arts, Harry loses his temper again, earning another week
of detention. Umbridge appears again in Transfiguration, and Professor
McGonagall expresses her obvious disdain. Umbridge is also at Care
of Magical Creatures and seems delighted with Professor Grubbly-Plank.
After classes, Harry retreats to Umbridge’s office for another detention.
Later, Hermione suggests that the students form their own study
group for Defense Against the Dark Arts, with Harry as their teacher.
Harry is skeptical, but Hermione reminds him of all of his accomplishments,
including escaping Voldemort. Harry agrees to consider her proposition.
Chapter 16
Hermione asks Harry if he has thought any more about teaching Defense
Against the Dark Arts. After much convincing, Harry finally agrees
to lead the group. Hermione quietly spreads the word about a meeting
to discuss a student-run Defense Against the Dark Arts group on
the next Hogsmeade trip and arranges for everyone to meet at the
Hog’s Head, a pub, to discuss the details. Hermione tells Harry
she expects only a few people to come, but twenty-five arrive. Hermione
introduces Harry, explaining that the students need to learn real,
practical Defense since Voldemort has returned. Some students murmur
in dissent, but all seem interested in Harry’s story about meeting
Voldemort face to face. Hermione passes around a piece of parchment,
and everyone signs his or her name.
Analysis
By forming their own Defense Against the Dark Arts group,
the students of Hogwarts take a firm, self-empowering stand against Umbridge’s
faulty teaching philosophies. Rowling puts forth a lesson about
the nature of authority here: in order for someone to truly wield
power over a group of people, those people must be compliant and
willing to be controlled. Umbridge’s students refuse to accept the
idea that they should be practically unarmed against the Dark Arts,
and instead they unite, organize, and appoint a leader. This show
of oneness and solidarity is impressive, particularly since many
of the students are still skeptical of Harry’s character and are not
sure whether or not to believe that Lord Voldemort has returned.
While so much of Hogwarts is internally divided, the student-run
Defense Against the Dark Arts group proves that they are still capable
of rallying around each other, regardless of their respective Houses.
Though Harry is not necessarily an exemplary student,
being terrible at Potions and only passable at most else, he is
the most obvious candidate for a student instructor of Defense Against
the Dark Arts. He always proves to be an impressive foe when faced
with a Dark force, and he is an expert in the practical aspects
of Defense Against the Dark Arts. He may not be familiar with the
theory and history of magic, but he is undeniably skilled in using
his wand to defend himself. This skill set is the opposite of what
Umbridge deems important. She is concerned only with having her
students read their textbooks and thinks that actually practicing
Defense spells is an unnecessary and unsafe pursuit. Despite his
qualifications, Harry is visibly uncomfortable being the center
of attention, which is not terribly surprising. He has always been
unhappy about being an object of contention amongst Wizards, and
putting himself up on yet another pedestal is not a very appealing
prospect. Still, Harry ultimately agrees to take control of the
group and recognizes the importance of sharing his skills with his
peers.
In Chapter 14, Sirius makes a bold
and dangerous appearance in the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace,
which gives Harry, Ron, and Hermione the novel opportunity to exert
some control over an adult figure. Though they are very happy to
see Sirius, they worry he’ll be caught, particularly since the last
time Sirius appeared in public, at the Kings Cross train station
(as his dog counterpart Padfoot), he was recognized by the dreadful
Malfoys. When Sirius suggests that he might join the students the
next time they visit Hogsmeade, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all agree
it’s far too dangerous. Here, the children are refusing to allow
the adult to do something they feel is too risky, which suggests
that in some ways they are able to think more clearly and wisely
than the adults who purport to know best.