The Eye of the Snake

chapter twenty-one of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Hagrid begins teaching again and shows the class Thestrals, though he’s disrupted by Umbridge. Harry then holds a great final D.A. meeting of the term – and Cho corners him afterwards and they kiss. He tells Ron and Hermione about the kiss and then heads off to bed, but is awakened when he dreams about Mr. Weasley being attacked by a snake. McGonagall then arrives and whisks him off to Dumbledore.

Thestral, by Sayurikemiko

A pair of blank, white, shining eyes were growing larger through the gloom and a moment later the dragonish face, neck, and then skeletal body of a great, black, winged horse emerged from the darkness.


Thestrals, by Leela Starsky

“Oh, an’ here comes another one!” said Hagrid proudly, as a second black horse appeared out of the dark trees, folded its leathery wings closer to its body, and dipped its head to gorge on the meat. “Now… put yer hands up, who can see ’em?”


Umbridge, by Michael Greenholt

“‘Appears… to… have… poor… short… term… memory…’” muttered Umbridge, loudly enough for everyone to hear her. Draco Malfoy looked as though Christmas had come a month early; Hermione, on the other hand, had turned scarlet with suppressed rage.


Big - er - Winged Horses, Yeh Know.... by gerre

“I’m sorry?” said Professor Umbridge loudly, cupping her hand around her ear and frowning. “What did you say?”
Hagrid looked a little confused. “Er – Thestrals!” he said loudly. “Big – er – winged horses, yeh know!” He flapped his gigantic arms hopefully.

(by gerre)


These are nice... by gerre

Luna Lovegood entered, looking as dreamy as usual. “Hello,” she said vaguely, looking around at what remained of the decorations… each showing a picture of Harry’s face and bearing the legend: “HAVE A VERY HARRY CHRISTMAS!”…
“These are nice, did you put them up?”

(by gerre)


Luna Under Mistletoe, by bluefooted

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head. He jumped out from under it. “Good thinking,” said Luna very seriously. “It’s often infested with nargles.”


by Leela Starsky

“You’re a r-really good teacher, you know,” said Cho, with a watery smile. “I’ve never been able to Stun anything before.”


by Amanda Grazini

She was much too close. He could see every tear clinging to her eyelashes….


Wet, by gerre

“Well?” Ron said finally, looking up at Harry. “How was it?”
Harry considered for a moment.
“Wet,” he said truthfully.

(by gerre)


Harry's Vision, by bluefooted

“No!” said Harry furiously; it was crucial that Ron understand. “It wasn’t a dream… not an ordinary dream…. I was there, I saw it…. I did it….”


The Witch, by Patilda

“I believe you, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall curtly. “Put on your dressing-gown – we’re going to see the headmaster.”

(by Patilda)


about the chapter


While Umbridge has been beastly to Harry, up to this point she actually hasn’t been too unreasonable towards teachers. She was certainly rude in interrupting their classes, and over-the-top in exerting her authority, but all of the teachers seem to have passed her inspections fairly easily except Trelawney, which is entirely reasonable. But while she’d have had a point to call Hagrid a lousy teacher the previous year, the class on Thestrals is actually one of the better classes we’ve seen Harry take in any subject – until Umbridge shows up and proceeds to drag Hagrid through the gutter, and his confidence with him. And just like that, in the name of improving teaching, she’s actually done far, far more to hurt the students in Hagrid’s classes, for no reason except bigotry. What an awful person.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

Harry’s grateful to see Professor McGonagall when he wakes up from his dream, thinking about how “it was a member of the Order of the Phoenix he needed now.” But even though we know McGonagall is in the Order, we never really get the indication that she’s particularly involved – and interestingly, even though she’s been at Hogwarts since long before Voldemort’s first reign of terror (and was present at Privet Drive when Harry was dropped off there), she wasn’t in Moody’s photograph of the original Order.

It’s also interesting that she’s involved because other than Snape (who is clearly an exception, as his role as a spy is so critical) and Hagrid (who wasn’t a teacher), no other teachers are involved in the Order. Perhaps Dumbledore even kept it this way intentionally, to separate professional from personal when it comes to his staff – otherwise I suspect Flitwick, at least, might have joined too. But he did feel it necessary to recruit McGonagall this time around, and I suspect there’s only one reason for that: she’s Harry Potter’s head of house. Because if you think about it, it’s absolutely critical to the Order that the person called on when Harry has a dream in the middle of the night knows what’s going on. I wonder, if Harry were in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, if Flitwick or Sprout would be in the Order in McGonagall’s place?

Life at Hogwarts

I love this quote, from Harry’s thoughts:

Hermione’s words opened up a whole new vista of frightening possibilities. He tried to imagine going somewhere with Cho — Hogsmeade, perhaps – and being alone with her for hours at a time.

Ingenious, coming up with the idea of a Hogsmeade date. Where the heck else could students go on a date? And since even the oldest students only seem to be allowed to visit Hogsmeade a few days a year, what on earth do they do the rest of the time? (Those who aren’t as clueless as Harry is when it comes to dating, anyway.) Seems like the lake would get a bit boring after a while, but there’s not much else to do. A date to the kitchens, perhaps? The Astronomy tower? Hmmm.

The Boy Who Lived

I also love that Harry sits by the fire after leaving Cho, wishing he could talk to Sirius to get advice about girls. Sirius is a fun godfather and all, and I’m sure he’d be happy to dispense all the advice Harry could ever ask for. But I think if there’s any adult character in Harry’s life that I wouldn’t look to for advice on girls, Sirius would have to be near the top of that list. He seems a little on the immature side to me, no? I wonder if it’s ever occurred to Harry to just ask Hermione….

The Final Word

“Everyone has said to me that Harry saw people die before could see the Thestrals. Just to clear this up once and for all, this was not a mistake. I would be the first to say that I have made mistakes in the books, but this was not a mistake. I really thought this one through. Harry did not see his parents die. He was one year old and in a cot at the time. Although you never see that scene, I wrote it and then cut it. He didn’t see it; he was too young to appreciate it. When you find out about the Thestrals, you find that you can see them only when you really understand death in a broader sense, when you really know what it means. Someone said that Harry saw Quirrell die, but that is not true. He was unconscious when Quirrell died, in Philosopher’s Stone. He did not know until he came around that Quirrell had died when Voldemort left his body.
Then you have Cedric…. Harry had just seen Cedric die when he got back into the carriages to go back to Hogsmeade station. I thought about that at the end of Goblet, because I have known from the word go what was drawing the carriages. From Chamber of Secrets, in which there are carriages drawn by invisible things, I have known what was there…. However, if Harry had seen them and it had not been explained then it would cheat the reader. So, to explain that to myself, I decided you had to have seen the death and allowed it to sink in a bit… slowly…these creatures became solid in front of you.
Anyone who has suffered a bereavement knows that there is the immediate shock but that it takes a little while to appreciate fully that you will never see that person again. Until that had happened, I did not think that Harry could see the Thestrals. That means that when he goes back, he saw these spooky things. It set the tone for Phoenix, which is a much darker book.”
–J.K. Rowling, June 2003 & August 2004

27 Responses to “The Eye of the Snake”

  1. Ron’s response to Harry’s first kiss made me laugh, because it was the exact same reaction I had when my best friend told me he’d been kissed.

  2. GRRR! I really, really hate Umbridge in this chapter for the way she was treating Hagrid, I totally channel Hermione’s rage every time I read this.

    I’ve just read this really interesting essay about thestrals, which suggests they’re actually more closely related to dragons than say Madame Maxime’s winged horses. Here’s the link incase anyone is interested:

  3. Excellent analysis, as always. As for dating, I imagine the Room of Requirement would have been perfect, at least for those DA members and possible others who knew about the room.

  4. Boy, there’s a lot happening in this chapter!

    About McGonogall: She didn’t doubt his story for a second. Being in the Order she probably knows what they are up to, but to me it seems she also must have been told that something like this vision might happen by Dumbledore. Which also means, that Dumbledore must have expected something like this (and I think he actually says so later on). So why weren’t there any Occlumancy lessons any earlier?

    I’m glad JKR explained about the Thestrals.

    Here’s something that I didn’t notice until this time around:
    “… the bruises that had been purple on Saturday night were now tinged with green and yellow and some of his cuts still seemed to be bleeding. Harry could not understand this: had Hagrid perhaps been attacked by some creature whose venom prevented the wounds it inflicted from healing?” Um, nope, that wasn’t Hagrid and it also isn’t for another chapter. Hi hi.

  5. As much as I don’t particularly care for Hagrid, there’s no excuse for Umbridge’s behavior in his class. I think she’s my least favorite character in the series, including Voldemort, because she’s evil but she’s sure she’s on the virtuous side. At least Voldy knows he’s evil.

  6. I think McGonagall is in the Order because Dumbledore wanted an Order member in charge of Hogwarts when he was gone. Someone who could mobilize the school against Voldemort when it came to that. Snape doesn’t count because he sure as hell wouldn’t be able to mobilize the school (except the Slytherins).

    I think if Harry had been planning to ask Hermione about girls, Hermione’s speech about how Cho is feeling would have squashed that plan right away. Girls are intimidating enough already, without getting a whole speech on all the twisted feelings one is having. Having said that, the scene where the Trio discusses the kiss is one of my favorite scenes EVER – I just can’t stop laughing every time I read it!

  7. hpboy13: You stole one of my thoughts exactly! I mean, it would make sense that he wants someone who knows all the resistance stuff to be in charge of the safety of the next generation of magic.

    My favorite line from ANY Harry Potter book: Ron: “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”
    Hermione: “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.” And not to get on too many tangents, I actually enjoy how this scene was portrayed in the films. Especially when Harry (Dan) is looking at Hermione after Ron’s comment about a bit of kissing “cheering her up.”

    I LOVE how loyal (and quirky) Dobby is! I mean, who else would make baubles saying “Have a very HARRY Christmas” all over them? (Besides hardcore HP fans?)

    And, speaking of HP fans, I pretty much just figured that all dates took place in the astronomy tower, thanks (in large part) to fanfic. I suppose you could also go the Quidditch games together, but there aren’t very many of those . . .

  8. Actually, what Americans call “dating” isn’t really a custom in Britain. JKR’s use of the term in the later books is due to the influence of her American fans.

    When Brits are “going out together” we mean what Americans mean by “going steady”. But if you’re not “going out together”, then you’re “just friends”. Culturally, we don’t really recognise an intermediate stage.

    As people have written above, the Hogwarts set-up makes it very difficult to “go on a date” – but also very easy to establish cross-gender friendships. This only reinforces the general British understanding that there is no need to “date” unless you are officially a couple.

    I don’t know what Hogwarts students would do when they wanted couple time. If the binding point is a shared hobby (sport, music, craft or Gobstones) they would simply practise together. I imagine they would also sneak off into corners to talk (or other…) and rely on a general etiquette that other students won’t interrupt a private conversation.

  9. Natalia, I agree about the quote, I think that was very well done in the movies. No normal teenagers would be able to say that stuff with a straight face! In regards to Dobby hanging the baubles, I’m not so sure he did. Are we sure it wasn’t just the Room providing Harry with what he wanted – people to recognize him. Maybe the Room went a little overboard, but that’s my theory.

  10. I think it was Dobby who put up the baubles. Would the room know that Harry was the person using it? And if so, I don’t think the room would have such a… strangely loyal personality.

    With the whole dating thing: I think finding someone would be easy. I mean, there are so many empty classrooms, corners, secret passageways… you get my drift.

  11. If any gossip hungry student ever got there hands on the Maurader’s map then we might know more about who is with whom and just where the most private parts of the castle are!

  12. When Hagrid introduces the thestrals to the class, he says that they’re good for traveling because of they’re strength and sense of direction — even Dumbledore uses them to travel when he doesn’t want to Apparate or use Floo. Why wouldn’t he want to Apparate? Because even now, the Ministry is watching him, monitoring his movements. Perhaps Dumbledore is already on the hunt for Horcruxes…
    And as usual, Hagrid reveals information to students that ought to have been played closer to the chest.

  13. I’m not quite understanding J. K. Rowling’s explanation of allowing the death to “sink in a bit.” Does she mean that even though he saw his mother die, he couldn’t process it on an emotional level since he was only a baby, so he still couldn’t see thestrals until he saw Cedric die?

  14. I love Ron’s line “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode”. Haha.

    Order Picture: The orginal Order picture is very intresting to me. Partly because McGonogall and Snape are both absent (I think others are too. I just can’t figure out who). And because of all the other people. 1: Why did it take 5 Death Eaters to kill Gideon and Fabian Prewett? 2: Why wasn’t Caradoc Dearborn’s body ever found? 3: Why was Dorcas Meadows so important that Voldermort killed her himself? 4: Why doesn’t Harry make a bigger deal about seeing Aberforth? Seems like big news. 5: Why wasn’t Amelia Bones a member of The Order?

    It is a fascinating picture.

  15. Okay I don’t get why people keep pointing out that Snap isn’t in the first Order pic. Of course he isn’t in it because when the pic was taken he was still a Death Eater. It isn’t until right before the Potters’ death that Snap becomes a spy.

  16. Here Rowling actually explains, why Harry didnt see thestrals at the end of his 4. year.
    About his mothers death: perhaps Harry actually didnt see his mother die. He heard her scream and saw the green flash, but it is not mentioned he would have seen her die.

  17. I don’t think it’s about having literally “seen” death so much as having witnessed and understood death. You have to have sensed it happen and known what you were sensing.

  18. Oh Umbridge makes me furious in this chapter! Her blatant prejudice and manipulation, in front of witnesses who just can’t do anything about it, is sickening. Poor Hagrid. :(

    Harry, and Josie, have a point though – with the exception of the flobberworms and the skrewts Hagrid’s choice of creatures hasn’t been that bad. Hippogriffs may have been a bit ambitious for a first class but once you know how to handle them they’re fine, and quite interesting too. He carried on the lessons with unicorns, bringing the baby ones to class which the girls loved. Then salamanders, which were alright. And Nifflers, which was a fun lesson. And then Thestrals, which were alright too. If it weren’t for the silly superstitions about them being unlucky, and Umbridge not letting Hagrid properly explain about them, the class might have reacted a little better to them. I think that’s basically all the creatures they’ve studied with Hagrid. No need to ignore a 5/7 success rate because the other two were unmitigated disasters. :)

    @hpboy, but Dumbledore didn’t yet know that there would be a ‘when he was gone’, leastways not while the war was still going on. He didn’t know that until he picked up the curse from the ring. I think McGonagall just wanted to join this time, perhaps because of Harry.

  19. In regards to Harry seeing his mother die – J.K Rowlinh has stated that Harry didn’t see Lily die as he was in his crib and couldnt see out – he just saw the flash and heard Lily & Voldemort.

  20. Rowling* :)

  21. As far as asking Sirius for advice on girls. He was IMO the best choice, aside for Hermione but asking another girl wouldn’t occur to a teenage boy even though. Sirius may be slightly immature but he is always described as very good looking and was one of the cool guys in school, so he probably has a lot of experience in dating Hogwarts age girls even if hes not experienced with adult relationships.
    Its highly unlikely that Dumbledore wouldn’t want McGonagal In the Order. She is a very talented and powerful witch who has a lot of the same characteristics as Dumbledore himself and she never loses her cool. I guess its possible that she wasn’t in the order the first time around because she though it was in the best interest of her students safety. That’s a very Mcgonagal thing to do, but I highly doubt Dumbledore didn’t invite her.

  22. Harry being able to see thestrals has always confused me. When Cedric is killed in the graveyard, Harry’s eyes are shut against the pain of his scar. He sees the green light of the curse from behind his eyelids, but doesn’t actually see Cedric die; he just hears him fall to the ground, and when Harry opens his eyes Cedric is already dead. Would this really be enough to allow him to see the thestrals?

  23. Gabrielle, I think the answer to your question is yes. Seeing thestrals isn’t just about witnessing a person die as they die, it’s about witnessing death in the broader sense. Until you’ve seen the absence of a soul behind dead eyes, you don’t quite understand death. And Harry sure as hell saw Cedric’s lifeless eyes. And then over the summer, Harry became accustomed to the fact that Cedric had died, unlike the very end of the year, where he was in that, shall we say, “slump”? He hadn’t really processed any of it until during the summer, which is basically what Rowling said.

    Kim, I also realized this time around that by the way McGonagall is acting at the end of this chapter, Dumbledore had foreseen this happening, and told her to be on the lookout for it. I think the reason he waiting on Occlumency was not just to make sure that he was correct (as he second-guesses himself much of the time), but also waiting to see if this would develop as something more sinister that needed to be handled immediately. Almost like an emergency backup, if you will.

    And Josie, I know I’ve already brought up my thoughts on this on a previous chapter, but I’d like to bring it up again as it’s relevant to the discussion on this one as well. I am of the belief the McGonagall *was* in the Order last time. I think we’re all putting a little bit too much faith in the photograph. I think it possible that some original Order members weren’t in the photograph. Arabella Figg, for one, I don’t believe is in the photograph, and as Dumbledore says in GoF, she’s part of the “old crowd”. Dumbledore himself is also not in the photograph, and he’s the leader! I think it’s possible that some of the Order members were busy at the time of the photo, having been at Hogwarts working or something. Hagrid could have been in the photo because his job isn’t as demanding as a professor’s job (or so I would think. I would think being gamekeeper, you get a little bit more time off, as Hagrid is going to the pub often, and whenever HRH show up, he seems to be around to some degree). I don’t know, this is just my two cents. I don’t want to believe someone like McGonagall wouldn’t be in the Order the first time. Especially since she was in-the-know enough to show up on Privet Drive in the very first chapter of the series, while the rest were out grieving and/or celebrating (she is the type to skip over those kinds of festivities, yes? Dumbledore is surprised that she isn’t out doing that like the rest of the wizards and witches he knows). Well, it’s a thought anyway =]

  24. a question-who took the order picture anyway? imagine DD taking one through a handicam!

  25. i wonder if sometimes couples found the room of requirement at times and used it to their advantage?

    and maybe professor Mccgonagall wasn’t in the picture because it was taken during the school year?

  26. Another idea about the OOTP original picture. From what we have seen at Grimmald Place, its obvious that the members come and go very frequently and often only stay for short periods of time. So perhaps this is reflected in the picture- it was a spur of the moment thing( as so many “family” pictures are) because MOST of the members were there- perhaps some members simply couldnt be there at the time (due to work for the order or some other reason).

  27. What J.K. said about death sinking in is very true. Every Sunday I visited my great-grandmother and my former neighbor in the nursing home. When my great-grandmother died, after a month I went to go and visit my former neighbor again. I almost turned into her room several times. When my former neighbor died, I wondered why we weren’t going so I asked my mom, and then I remembered.

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