Harry begins to wonder if he himself is the weapon Voldemort seeks.
Back at Grimmauld Place, Harry decides the best and safest thing
for him to do is leave Hogwarts forever and return to Little Whinging.
As Harry packs his trunk, Phineas Nigellus appears in his portrait
with a message from Dumbledore, telling Harry to stay where he is.
Harry agrees to stay but does not leave his bed.
The following evening, Hermione disrupts Harry’s
seclusion. She admonishes him for his behavior. Ginny and Ron join
them, and Ginny points out that she’s the only one who knows what
it feels like to be possessed by Voldemort and does not believe
Harry is experiencing what she experienced. Relieved, Harry finally
joins the festivities. At St. Mungo’s, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and
Harry spot Neville and his grandmother, who are visiting Neville’s
parents. Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom were tortured into lunacy by Bellatrix
Snape arrives to speak with Harry. Dumbledore has asked
Snape to teach Harry Occlumency, which is the defense of the mind
against outside penetration. Harry is unhappy about extra lessons
with Snape, but he agrees to learn. As Harry leaves for Hogwarts,
Sirius hands him a wrapped package, which he claims Harry should
use only if he needs him.
Back at Hogwarts, Harry arranges a Hogsmeade date with
Cho for Valentine’s Day. Harry reports to Snape’s office for his
Occlumency lessons. Snape explains that Voldemort is an expert at
Legilimency, which is the ability to extract feelings and memories
from another person’s mind, and that Harry must be prepared to close
his mind to it. Snape clears his thoughts into a Pensieve. Harry
takes out his wand, and Snape uses Legilimency to shoot himself
into Harry’s mind, rifling through Harry’s memories. Harry fights
back and returns to the present, falling to his knees. They try
again, and Harry once again fails to block Snape. The next time,
Harry is dragged back into his reccurring dream, in which he is
running down a corridor at the Ministry of Magic with Mr. Weasley.
This time, Harry recognizes the hallway as leading to the Department
of Mysteries. He asks Snape about the Department, but Snape dismisses
his question. Later that night, Harry’s scar starts to burn, and
he knows Voldemort is very happy.
The next morning, Hermione’s Daily Prophet reveals
a mass breakout at Azkaban. Ten former Death Eaters, including Lestrange,
are loose. Harry realizes this is why Voldemort was so happy last
night. They also read that a Ministry of Magic worker named Bode
died at St. Mungo’s after being strangled by a dangerous potted
plant. Ron recalls his father talking about Bode and remembers that
Bode worked in the Department of Mysteries. Umbridge has posted
a new Educational Decree, banning all Hogwarts teachers from discussing with
students anything not directly related to their subjects.
Umbridge attends every Divination and Care of Magical
Creatures lesson, and students begin to wonder whether Trelawney
or Hagrid will be fired first. Hagrid bans Harry, Ron, and Hermione from
visiting his cabin, claiming it’s too dangerous.
Harry’s Valentine’s Day date with Cho is a disaster. Harry
tells Cho he has to leave at noon to meet with Hermione, and Cho becomes
jealous and upset. The date ends with Cho in tears. Confused, Harry
leaves to meet Hermione at the Three Broomsticks, where she is sitting
with Luna Lovegood and Rita Skeeter, a reporter for the Prophet and
one of Hermione’s least favorite people. Hermione blackmails Rita,
who is an unregistered Animagus, into writing an honest cover story
about Harry for the Quibbler.
When Harry, overwhelmed with guilt and fear over his connection to
Voldemort, rashly decides to drop out of Hogwarts, Dumbledore reveals
his weaknesses as a leader and friend. Harry is so confused about
his connection to Voldemort that he has begun to think he may actually
be possessed by him, and he becomes certain that disappearing from
the Wizarding world and returning to Four Privet Drive is the only
way to protect those around him. Dumbledore does intervene, dispatching
a portrait from his office to tell Harry to stay where he is, but
this isn’t enough. Dumbledore mistakenly assumes that a short and
cryptic message will be enough to change Harry’s mind—but the days
when Harry would mindlessly follow vague directions are over. He
needs Dumbledore to explain the truth about Harry’s connection to
Voldemort or to explain what Harry’s vision may have meant, but
Dumbledore is secretive and distant. Dumbledore is doing what he
believes to be best for Harry, but he underestimates Harry’s maturity.
Ultimately, Hermione and Ginny, his peers, are the people who convince
Harry to stay.
Harry has never fully trusted Snape, and his Occlumency
lesson is charged with both difficulty and suspicion. Harry learns
that the corridor in his dream leads to the Department of Mysteries,
deep inside the Ministry of Magic, but Snape doesn’t explain what
the Department is or, perhaps more troubling, why Harry must practice Occlumency
so carefully in the first place. Snape instead riffles through Harry’s
childhood memories, a procedure Harry finds mentally, physically,
and emotionally exhausting. Snape tells Harry only to empty his
mind of thoughts, not how or why he must do so. Harry is understandably
wary of trusting Snape’s advice.
When Harry finally gets an opportunity to tell his side
of the story in the Quibbler, he gains a sense
of power he hasn’t felt in a very long time. He can finally defend
himself publicly against the lies spread about him in the Prophet.
Hermione, too, is unexpectedly empowered by the task at hand. Normally
a strict follower of both moral and practical rules, she arranges
for a meeting with the despicable Rita Skeeter in order to blackmail
her into doing something she doesn’t want to do. Hermione, for all
her nagging and homework planning, occasionally does something spontaneous
and surprising. Her behavior is rooted in her loyalty to Harry and
her desire to see his reputation restored—two elements that give
her the power to act differently than she might in other situations.