Chapter 18 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Dumbledore's Army
Hermione suspects Umbridge caused Hedwig's injury attempting to intercept Harry's mail. She suggests Umbridge's interest in Harry's mail is the real reason Filch had earlier tried to confiscate Harry's letter when he was in the Owlery.
Hermione, despite having been one of the major forces driving its creation, is having second thoughts about Harry's private Defence class, possibly because Sirius supports it. She feels Sirius is somewhat immature and attempts to live through Harry. Her opinion only gets an angry rebuttal from Harry and Ron.
The weather is dreadful, and Fred and George debate skipping Quidditch practice by using a Skiving Snackbox product, but Angelina knows about them. Testing their latest item, Fever Fudge, has given them pus-filled boils in rather private places. Due to this and the bad weather, practice lasts only an hour. When Harry's scar pains him after practice, he tells Ron that Voldemort is angry. Something he wants done is happening too slowly. This feels differently than when he was in Umbridge's office—Voldemort was happy then. And the time before that, he was furious.
Later that evening, Harry falls asleep over his homework in the Common Room, and has the familiar dream about the windowless corridor. He is awakened by Dobby the House-elf returning the healed Hedwig. Dobby is wearing all of Hermione's hidden knitted elf hats and socks. He has been collecting them from Gryffindor tower because the other House-elves find the items insulting and refuse to clean in there anymore. Harry decides not to tell Hermione. When Harry mentions needing a secret meeting place, Dobby tells him about the Room of Requirement, a place he takes Winky to dry her out. Dobby offers to show Harry how to summon the room, and says it will appear fully equipped with whatever is needed.
The next day, Harry passes the word that the first meeting is that evening. Hermione is doubtful, remembering how Dobby's other schemes have failed, but Harry tells her that Dumbledore mentioned this room once. That night, Harry, Ron, and Hermione summon the room; it is perfect, with cushions to catch Stunned students, Dark detectors which Harry thinks were in the false Moody's office the year before, and, most reassuring to Hermione, a full library of Defence Against the Dark Arts reference books. The other students file in, awed by the space's perfection, and the first session begins.
Harry is unanimously elected as the group's leader. Cho Chang suggests naming the group "Defence Association," or D.A. for short. Ginny Weasley notices the initials could also stand for "Dumbledore's Army," and the members choose that, mostly to mock paranoid Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, who fears Dumbledore is secretly organizing a wizard army against the Ministry of Magic. Hermione writes "Dumbledore's Army" at the top of the parchment with the students' names on it and attaches it to the wall. Harry begins the first lesson – the Disarming charm, though Zacharias Smith complains it is too simple. Harry says it served him well enough against Voldemort, but Zacharias is free to leave if he chooses.
Practice goes well, though Cho fumbles her charms whenever Harry is watching. Harry, evaluating the spell-casting, is glad he started with something so simple. The session ends, and the next meeting is Wednesday, a time that does not conflict with Harry's Quidditch practice.
The school Houses' separate identities have created (mostly) friendly rivalries, although Gryffindor and Slytherin have traditionally been more antagonistic. As is so common, an external threat creates an alliance among these more-or-less disparate groups. With the exception of Slytherin, the Houses become united over a common cause: opposing Umbridge and the Ministry. While Umbridge does seem to show obvious favoritism towards Slytherin House, it would seem that they were not deliberately excluded from the DA. Recruiting for the DA was by word of mouth, and so there could not have been any specific exclusion of Slytherin; we assume that those students who were recruiting for the DA simply felt that any Slytherin house members that they knew were untrustworthy. As Voldemort's power grows, this initial bonding between Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff could prove significant later on.
Also, the name, Dumbledore's Army (or D.A.), that the students have chosen for their secret group not only reflects their defiance and willingness to oppose Umbridge and mock Fudge, but it reinforces their loyalty to Dumbledore and Hogwarts. Fudge's ongoing paranoia that Dumbledore is secretly building a wizard army to take over the Ministry is ridiculous; there is simply nothing to support this, and significant evidence against it — we were told by Hagrid in the first book that Dumbledore had been offered the post and declined it — but it shows just how warped Fudge's reasoning now is. Dumbledore's Army becomes an extreme example of Fudge "creating what he fears." Fudge suspecting that an army is being built, for which he has no proof, is in stark contrast to his unbending claims that, despite concrete evidence, Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew are still dead and Sirius Black is indeed guilty. Umbridge supports Fudge's stance, of course, though she has a different agenda.
Dumbledore's once mentioning the Room of Requirement, that Harry alludes to to calm Hermione's fears, was an extremely fleeting moment: at the Yule Ball the previous year, Dumbledore, conversing with Professor Karkaroff, mentioned discovering, and then losing, a room filled with chamber pots. That Harry, based on Dobby's description, recognized it as the Room of Requirement, is rather astute and reflects his growing intellect and logic, even though Harry may have read more into the wink that Dumbledore tipped him at the time than was meant.
Returning to Gryffindor tower, Harry only half listens to Hermione and Ron discussing the meeting; he is also thinking about Cho admitting that she is nervous whenever he is nearby. Harry sees this as the beginnings of the romance he has dreamed about the past year. However, this being tied to Cedric Diggory's death, for which he feels partially responsible, leaves Harry unsure of himself.
Dobby's comments about House-elves' opinions regarding the scattered clothing is quite telling. We understand how House-elves feel about their work and their masters; Dobby's reiteration strongly reinforces that House-elves are deeply devoted to providing for their masters' comfort, in this case the school. Hermione's efforts, as we can see here, would be doomed even if they could be effective: she is powerless to free the House Elves, as she is not their master. But we also see here, from Dobby's comments, that they would refuse freedom if it were offered, and are offended when trickery is attempted.
- Why does Hermione suspect it was Umbridge who attempted to capture Hedwig? What does she think about Filch?
- Why does Hermione express second thoughts about starting the defensive group? Is she justified?
- What does Harry think is the reason his scar hurts during Quidditch practice?
- Why do the House-elves avoid Hermione's gifts of clothing? Why would they find them insulting?
- How does Harry learn about the Room of Requirement? What are Hermione's thoughts about it?
- What do the defensive magic group call themselves? Why is that name agreed on?
- Why does Cho fumble her charm whenever Harry is watching?
- Why is Harry glad he started the students off with such a simple spell?
- Could repercussions result from the name the group chooses for themselves? If so, what might they be?
- Is Sirius, as Hermione believes, trying to "live through" Harry? If so, how and why?
- What is behind Zacharias Smith's current attitude towards Harry and the D.A.? What might cause it to change?
What Voldemort wants done that is not happening quickly enough could be extracting the Prophecy from the Ministry, although, equally, it could be recruiting the Dementors to his side, and the associated jail break. Whatever it is, is never clear, though most likely it is retrieving the Prophecy. Evidence for this is Harry's recurring dream: the passageway he sees will be revealed shortly after Christmas to be the hallway that leads to the Department of Mysteries, where the Prophecy is stored, and the dream represents Voldemort's desires. As Malfoy was tasked with putting Bode under the Imperius Curse, that may be taking too long to suit Voldemort and it may presage the Malfoy family's downfall within the Death Eaters. Alternately, as it was a little over a week earlier that Harry's scar had seemingly reacted to Umbridge, and as we now discover Voldemort was then happy about something, it is quite possible that the earlier event was Voldemort learning that Bode had been put under the Imperius curse, and this could be the occasion of his receiving a report of Bode's continuing resistance. The earlier instance, when Voldemort was furious, occurred before the start of school, and there were actually two. One occurred during the party after Harry's return from the Ministry; the timing of that one seems to have been right for Voldemort's learning from Lucius Malfoy that the attempt to have Harry prosecuted had failed. The second occurred shortly after Harry had left the party which was thrown in part to celebrate Ron's becoming a prefect; that would correspond to Voldemort's receiving news of Sturgis Podmore's failure to break into the Department of Mysteries and his arrest. This latter event was brushed off by Harry, and was not witnessed by anyone else, so we believe that the "earlier event" Harry mentions to Ron was the one witnessed and commented on by Hermione, rather than the later one which Harry experienced essentially alone.
We note that the author is exhibiting a great deal of skill in the off-stage character management. She is determining when Voldemort is likely to learn things that will drive him to emotional peaks and valleys, and is careful to have Harry's scar react correctly at those times. As communication through that channel will become critical to the story, the reader must be convinced of the validity of the channel. Our increasing awareness of the reliability of Harry's scar in detecting Voldemort's emotions, as this book proceeds, is largely responsible for our trust in information received by this method in the final book.
It is curious that Hermione should make the elementary mistake of believing that she could free House Elves by giving them clothes. She should be aware, as the reader is, that dismissal from service can only be done by having the elf's master give him clothes. Harry quite clearly knew this, as he arranged to have Lucius Malfoy give Dobby one of Harry's socks, rather than giving it to Dobby directly. Hermione has also seen Winky's reaction to being threatened with clothes. Why can she not generalize this to recognize that, in their current mental state, most House-elves are frightened of freedom and would refuse it if offered? We believe that the author is using this as a teaching moment, showing the reader that many easy-sounding solutions simply won't work, and that apparently straightforward issues (in this case, "freedom is good for everyone") can actually be quite complex once they are fully understood.
It is Fudge's paranoid belief that Dumbledore is creating a secret wizard army, and the resulting appointment of Umbridge as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, that leads to the D.A. being formed. It, perhaps ironically, becomes the core of the army that helps to battle Voldemort and his Death Eaters, after they have taken control over the Ministry of Magic, as well as Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the meanwhile, when the group is exposed, Fudge will use the group's name as "proof" that Dumbledore was organizing his own private army; this will result in Dumbledore's attempted arrest and dramatic escape.
We note that the specific character who will betray Dumbledore's Army remains concealed at this point, though our suspicion is again focused on Zacharias Smith. The student should take careful note of Cho's friend, and specifically how attention is drawn away from her and towards Zacharias Smith in this meeting of Dumbledore's Army.
As a very small side note, we mention that the effect of the Skiving Snackbox that the Twins are testing in this chapter will reappear. The Twins' friend, Lee Jordan, will receive detention from Professor Umbridge. Harry, knowing what that entails, will recommend the solution of Murtlap tentacles that Hermione had provided in the aftermath of his own detention. Lee will pass this information on to the Twins, who will use Murtlap tentacles in later versions of their Fever Fudge to resolve the problem of boils in private places. We comment elsewhere that Hermione likely would be appalled to know that she was helping the Twins with their efforts, even indirectly.
The Room of Requirement will play a significant role in the next two books. Throughout this book, it becomes the secret meeting place for Dumbledore's Army; in the next book, Malfoy will secretly work on Voldemort's dark task inside it, and in the final book, it will once again be used by Dumbledore's Army. It will also be where Lord Voldemort once hid something quite valuable to him.
- The Room of Requirement, first mentioned the previous year, will prove central to this book. It will also be a running plot element in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and will prove important in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- The pain in Harry's scar is part of the series-long magical connection between Harry and Voldemort.