Christmas on the Closed Ward

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

Harry, fearful of his connection with Voldemort, tries to run away and then hides until Hermione, Ginny, and Ron talk him out of it. He then celebrates Christmas at Grimmauld Place and returns to St. Mungo’s to visit Mr. Weasley. At the hospital, though, the kids run into Lockhart – and Neville, visiting his parents.

After St. Mungo's, by prettyannamoon

“Are you all right, Harry, dear?” whispered Mrs. Weasley, leaning across Ginny to speak to him as the train rattled along through its dark tunnel. “You don’t look very well. Are you feeling sick?”


Lucky You, by Marta T

“Well, that was a bit stupid of you,” said Ginny angrily, “seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.”

(by Marta T)


God Rest You Merrye Hippogriffs, by reallycorking

[Harry’s] heart swelled with happiness and relief, and he felt like joining in as they heard Sirius tramping past their door toward Buckbeak’s room, singing “God Rest You, Merrye Hippogriffs” at the top of his voice.


Dobby's Painting, by Gnatkip

Harry sorted through his presents…. Dobby [had given him] a truly dreadful painting that Harry suspected had been done by the elf himself.
…”It’s Harry!” said George, pointing at the back of the picture. “Says so on the back!”

(by Gnatkip)


Christmas on the Closed Ward, by Leela Starsky

“So this is Kreacher’s bedroom?” said Ron.


Visiting Lockhart, by Marta T

Their ex-Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher pushed open the door and moved toward them, wearing a long lilac dressing gown. “Well, hello there!” he said. “I expect you’d like my autograph, would you?”

(by Marta T)


Bubble Gum Wrapper, by gerre

“What’s this?” said Mrs. Longbottom sharply. “Haven’t you told your friends about your parents, Neville?”

(by gerre)


Sweet Wrapper, by TomScribble

“Bellatrix Lestrange did that?” whispered Hermione, horrified. “That woman Kreacher’s got a photo of in his den?”


about the chapter


Percy is such an unbelievable prat. I can’t get over it. It’s one thing to have a falling out with your parents and move away from home; I can even see, in his situation, where he would want to publicly break contact from them, as he thinks they’re essentially heading to a misguided life of lawlessness and fears being associated with them. But it’s Christmas, and when his mother sent him a Christmas present, he sent it back unopened. Are you kidding me? Is there really any risk involved in getting a Christmas present from your mother, much less risk that’s worth making her feel this overwhelmingly awful? It amazes me that the guy ever managed to find a girlfriend at all, being this thoughtless and heartless.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

I do feel badly for Hermione’s poor parents. She’s their only child (Rowling originally intended her to have a sister but never wrote her in), yet she got unexpectedly sent off to boarding school at age eleven, and while she spent Christmas at home her first year at Hogwarts, she hasn’t spent one with her family since. And now, she’s increasingly spending summers away, too – the only other time her parents get to see her – visiting the Weasleys for the Quidditch World Cup and staying at Grimmauld Place with the Order this year. I know the girl is attached to her friends, but wouldn’t she want to see her family sometime?

The Power of Magic

Gilderoy Lockhart’s Healer mentions that he seems to be regaining some of his personality, and this is evident even from his conversation with Harry and Ron. After all immediately after he accidentally wiped out his own memory, when he learned he was a Professor, this was his response:

When Dumbledore addressed him, Lockhart looked over his shoulder to see who he was talking to.
“Professor Dumbledore,” Ron said quickly, “there was an accident down in the Chamber of Secrets. Professor Lockhart –“
“Am I a professor?” said Lockhart in mild surprise. “Goodness. I expect I was hopeless, was I?” (CS18)

Yet this year, when they meet him in the hospital, he has a very different response to essentially the same question, and it’s a response much more like the Lockhart of old:

Said Harry, “You used to teach us at Hogwarts, remember?”
“Teach?” repeated Lockhart, looking faintly unsettled. “Me? Did I?”
And then the smile reappeared upon his face so suddenly it was rather alarming. “Taught you everything you know, I expect, did I?” (OP23)

The nature of these more permanent types of spells is interesting, and it’s interesting how closely they mirror certain Muggle illnesses as well. Although incidentally, Rowling has said multiple times in interviews that despite this apparent improvement (and the hopes of his Healer), Lockhart never does fully recover. Though as Rowling is quick to point out, “he’s happy where he is.”

The Final Word

After the release of Order of the Phoenix, many of the fans desperately searching for hidden clues to future storylines zeroed in on the Drooble’s Blowing Gum wrapper that Alice Longbottom gives Neville. There were all sorts of theories on secret messages that she was trying to pass him, which in some ways were too bad because the poignancy of the moment was, I think, somewhat lost in the conversation. However, two years later, Rowling did address the gum wrappers in an interview:
“That idea was one of the very few that was inspired by a real event. I was told what, to me, was a very sad story by someone I know about their elderly mother who had Alzheimer’s, and the elderly mother was in a closed ward. She was very severely demented and no longer recognized her son, but he went faithfully to visit her twice a week, and he used to take her sweets. That was their point of connection; she had a sweet tooth, she recognized him as the sweet-giver. That was very poignant to me. So I embroidered the story. Neville gives his mother what she wants, and (it makes me sad to think of it) she wants to give something back to him, but what she gives back to him is essentially worthless. But he still takes it as worth something because she’s trying to give, so it does mean something, in emotional terms. But, the theories on the sweet wrappers, are really out there. I mean she’s not trying to pass him secret messages.”–J.K. Rowling, July 2005

44 Responses to “Christmas on the Closed Ward”

  1. I adore Lockhart in this chapter, and really loved him back in CS when he lost his memory. I just thought it was very well written and it makes me laugh out loud every time I read his words after his memory’s gone! It is just so fitting for him, so full of himself, to have lost his realization of his own importance. He thinks he’s important, but has no idea why, and continues to bluster along, learning joined up writing so he can give autographs although he doesn’t know why people ask for them. Or rather, they don’t ask for them but he still thinks he ought to give them.

    The moment when Neville accepts the gum wrapper and tucks it away into his pocket is wonderful. I would also keep every gum wrapper in that situation, and think that scene is beautiful and horrible at the same time. I think that scene is where it really makes it real for Hermione and Ron.

  2. Do we ever learn what house Lockhart belonged to at Hogwarts? It seems as though it must have been Slytherin, because he doesn’t have a trace of the courage, brains, or loyalty that the other houses look for. Just a self-serving sneaky cleverness that fits all too well in Slytherin House.

    I, too, love this chapter. There’s just so much here. One thing that’s worth remembering is the moment when Ginny reminds Harry that she’s been possessed by Voldemort. In this moment Harry, for the first time, recognizes Ginny as an individual and an equal, not just Ron’s sister.

  3. This chapter has one of my favorite scenes and that’s Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s conversation over stitches: “It sounds as though you’ve been trying to sew your skin back together. But even you, Arthur, wouldn’t be that stupid -”

    I found this quote from JKR on Hermione’s parents, because I’ve always wondered about their relationship too: “I have deliberately kept Hermione’s family in the background. You see so much of Ron’s family so I thought that I would keep Hermione’s family, by contrast, quite ordinary. They are dentists, as you know. They are a bit bemused by their odd daughter but quite proud of her all the same.”

  4. Oh and the picture of Dobby’s painting by Gnatkip is awesome! Marta T.’s are as good as ever! The characters are just as I picture them!

  5. Roonil Wazlib, I love that quote and actually had included it on this page in my original draft, but took it out because its usual placement would have been right along with the quote about Neville’s mom, I decided it seemed a little trite and took it out. But I do still intend to use it – perhaps in DH when Hermione talks about sending her parents to Australia? We’ll see. But thanks for including it. :)

  6. Seeing Neville’s parents is one of my favorite moments of the entire series. TomScribble’s drawing is perfect.

  7. You know, I agree about Hermione’s parents – they get a very raw deal, really. When Hermione says in DH she’s told them all about Harry, I’m forced to wonder WHEN? It seems like she’s barely spent any time at all with them since like book 3.

  8. My guess about Hermione is that she probably told her parents about Harry- right before she wiped their memories and send them to Australia. She doesn’t ahev another moment with them indeed, and a letter would be a bit uncomfortable.
    But maybe that’s also the reason she doesn’t want to visit them so much. How do you explain your adventures and Harry’s story to two muggles, who only hear the danger you’re putting yourself into and care for you a great deal? My guess is that she doesn’t want to face them a lot (though she doesn love them!)

  9. I meant “Does” in the last sentence!

  10. I’m thankful I never had any nor knew about the theories of Neville’s mom trying to send him secret messages, because (I believe) understood this part the way it was intended. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and I love it.

    It’s really well done how we get to see the Kreacher is missing storyline.

    Another chuckle: The healer in the portrait thinks Ron’s got spattergroit. Do you think it might give him an idea later on?

    In the last chapter there was an old man ahead of them in line, asking about Bode. Now Bode’s been sent a plant. I was wondering if there might be a connection.

  11. Ooh, good catch, Kim! It would make sense, now that it’s been pointed out.

    I love Neville and his parents. I’ve also wondered how long his grandmother had to take him to the hospital vs. it being his own idea to go. I mean, not saying that he wouldn’t want to see his parents but, for a younger child especially, it would be a very difficult thing to witness. And it just makes me love him all the more, to see how strong a person he is to handle and deal with everything that happens in his life.

    And, to echo Billie, I love how much of a strong character Ginny becomes in this chapter. There’s just so much going on at this point in the books. It’s crazy how much we’ve seen happen even in the last couple of chapters! And, as always, I love the art you chose to post, Josie.

  12. I always wondered if Percy had a redirect on his mail. He seems like the sort of person who would tell his owl “send back any letters from my family” without actually looking up from whatever “important business” he was working on.

  13. Kit – That’s likely. What if his family had serious news, such as a death? He wouldn’t know, he’d just have his owl send it back. What a prat. He could’ve at least thrown the gift away.

    I’ve always thought Hermione’s parents would be mentioned a lot more than they are. It’s bad enough that her and her parents are from two different worlds and can’t really understand each other, but Hermione goes to Ron’s at every opportunity since book 4. And If her parents knew what happened at Hogwarts, I would think that they’d try to stop her from coming back. Wouldn’t you if you were her parents? Do they know how often she ends up in the Hospital wing? Put yourself in the Grangers’ shoes. I’d be quite scared, to be honest. I know they love each other, but it seems like a very strained relationship to me.

    (Interesting essay on Hermione’s parents)

  15. @Billie

    I think, that Lockhart never was at Hogwarts. I would estimate Lockhart about the same age as Snape, but he appearantly didn´t know him. Also the older teachers and Dumbledore appearantly neither know nor ever had taught him, or else thew would know about his incompetence.

    I think, that Lockhart didn´t attend any wizarding school at all, and claimed, that he was at any other school than Hogwarts, p.e. Beauxbaton.

  16. Hullo. Barbara here. Long time lurker, now butting in.
    I think this is the chapter in which Neville grows up. I think we now realise that what has been inhibiting him all along is his terror that his school fellows will find out about his mother and father and tease him and laugh at him for having parents in “the looney bin” / “the nut house” / “the funny farm”. Now his dreadful secret has been found out by Harry of all people and the Weasleys – and they DON’T LAUGH AT HIM. I think for Neville this is liberation. From this point on he beings to mature as a person and as a member of the DA.

  17. I really admire GInny here, she shows incredible restraint and grace. How hurtful is it when the boy you have a crush FORGETS that you almost died from the hands of an then-aspiring Dark Lord? It is awful enough a person you know forgets that you almost died, let alone the one who saved you. I would have gone berserk if I were Ginny. This is the problem I have with Harry/Ginny: he doesn’t seem to notice or care about Ginny beyond a casual, sexual attraction level.

    Sorry for sidetracking here, but I would really like others’ input on this: since Harry knows that the diary is a Horcrux in Book 6, why doesn’t he share this bit with Ginny? Maybe he wants to protect her from the even more horrible truth, but it seems odd that he never thought to use GInny’s connection to the diary to help him about the Horcruxes.

  18. Has anyone else noticed that St. Mungos doesn’t appear to have a maternity unit? Where on earth do pregnant witches go to give birth?!

  19. Irene, St. Mungo’s is a hosptial for “magical maladies and injuries.” Since birth is technically neither, they probably have a freestanding birthing center somewhere. Or they do it at home with mid-witches. When Tonks had her baby, there was no indication she “went” anywhere. Of course, that could just have been left out.

    Also, not to duplicate what has already been written, but I just want to agree that Neville and Ginny shine in this chapter. I love over the series how Neville blossoms into a true hero.

  20. Something I noticed on re-listening: how come Neville’s gran didn’t recognize Ginny? She says to Ron & Ginny that they “must be Weasleys” presumably because of their hair. But Neville took Ginny to the Yule Ball in GoF. Wouldn’t there have been at least one photo his gran would have seen? Neville didn’t go on that many dates. Wouldn’t she at least have known Ginny’s name as more than a generic Weasley?

  21. Re: Maternity Ward – the only reason Muggles really need to be in a hospital is in case complications arise with childbirth, they need the equipment to be present. But it seems to me that wizards wouldn’t have equipment (aside from a few potions), and Healers could pack their potions up and do their jobs just as effectively in someone’s home. Furthermore, they could be summoned to someone’s home literally in an instant. So it seems to me that giving birth in a hospital wouldn’t make any sense for wizards; why not just do it at home? They even have the means to clean up the mess instantaneously.

  22. YOU’RE BACK!!!!

  23. Thanks Josie and Anna for answering my questions regarding the maternity ward, you both made a lot of sense!

  24. I have nothing of any real value to contribute, I just habe to share with likeminded readers the immense love I have for the gum wrappers. That scene is full of such heart and humanity, it gives me goosebumps (and maybe possibly a tiny hint of moist eyes) every time. TomScribble’s picture is beautuful.

  25. Lockhart can not be cured maybe because he was misdiagnosed. Remember he was hit by Ron’s backfiring wand. He is then treated at the Spell Damage department of St Mungo’s on the fourth floor. However, according to the floor guide of the hospital, Artefact Accidents department on the ground floor is for “wand backfiring”. Maybe nobody explained the healers that Lockhart was not hit by an ordinary memory charm but by a backfiring wand. And we know some St Mungo’s staff are not very attentive when laywizards are telling them something. Poor Lockhart.

  26. Mehmet Ali Özdemir, that’s an interesting catch! I hadn’t noticed that before. Although I don’t know that I would assume the Healers got his injury wrong – it could be that he was originally treated on the ground floor and then, when it was clear he would need long-term care, was moved up to the long-term ward on the fourth floor. I doubt they have a long-term resident ward on every floor, after all, and he’s already been in the hospital for two and a half years by this point.

    Another clue in this direction is that Broderick Bode is present – his too was artifact damage (he touched a prophecy that didn’t have his name on it). I would bet there’s only one long-term ward.

  27. This is the point where, between the two boys, I feel sorrier for Neville than Harry. Sure, Neville’s parents are still alive, but only just. At least Harry’s parents are at peace, whereas the Longbottoms simply exist in a half-life, really, and Neville can only watch.

    As horrible as it is to think about, I wonder how long the Lestranges must have tortured the Longbottoms to break two Aurors so thoroughly. Must have been…hours. I wonder how Neville survived.

  28. Gillian,
    I never thought that Harry forgot that Ginny was possessed and that he rescued her; it was more of he didn’t see her possession as the same as his therefore it wouldn’t occur to him to talk to her about it. And she is Ron’s little sister whom he rescued. Not exactly an inspiring confidante with whom to share war stories!

  29. The Longbottom scene is terrible (in the emotional sense. Not the writing or story). It is such a sad a event but it shows a lot about Neville. It must be very strange from him to grow up with his Grandma. One thing I’ve never understood is why the other kids never asked Neville where his parents where. They have known him for 5 years and they never think to ask? I get Harry not asking but everyone else has parents.

    Very intresting how similar Harry and Neville’s turn out to be. Both lead the DA at one point. Both are parentless. Both come from a great wizarding family. Both of there parent used to ne in The Order. Both are could have been the prophocy boy. Both are Gryffindor’s. Both really only excel in one subject (Harry in DADA. Neville in Herbology)

  30. Dear Josie Kearns, thank you for your comment with which I respectfully disagree. Boderick Bode was cursed by a normally functioning prophecy acting exactly as it was intended to. Artifact Accidents department is for harms resulting from artifacts NOI working as expected: A cauldron exploding, a broom crashing or a wand backfiring (as Ron’s did). Take Katie Bell who was affected from a cursed necklace. Since the necklace was also functioned as designed, she would probably end up on the fourth floor — Spell Damage and not on the first floor — Artifact Accidents. Of course this is more of a guesswork but at least one source ( agrees. I think admittance to various departments of St Mungo’s has nothing to do with the time to be spent at the hospital, but it is rather related to etiology. And we have no evidence that the only long-term ward of St Mungo’s is on the fourth floor. On the contrary, judging from the small number of patients at the Janus Thickley Ward, I might guess there are other wards with long term patients. For example, before the recent invention of wolfsbane potion, they were probably keeping warewolves in private rooms of Mungo’s for lifetime (as suggested by Mrs Weasley).

  31. Mehmet, we actually do have evidence that there’s only one long-term ward – when Harry first meets the Healer up there, she mentions to him that “This is our long-term residents’ ward.” To me this implies pretty strongly that there’s only one; otherwise wouldn’t she say “one of our long-term residents’ wards?” Also, given that Lockhart is in for a wand backfiring, which would place him on the ground floor according to the sign in the lobby, I think it makes much more sense to assume there’s only one long-term ward than it does to assume that he was misdiagnosed and placed in the wrong area.

    As far as I can tell, there’s no evidence at all to help us choose between spell damage and artifact accidents for Bode. I can see your argument that it would be spell damage, but you could make a strong case for an artifact accident, too. It doesn’t really fit either of the descriptions on the sign.

  32. Josie, you are right at pointing to that. Yet the healer might have been speaking of long term residents ward of the spell damage department, not of the whole hospital. There is nothing on the floor guide about long term residents’ ward being on the fourth floor. It might well be that every floor has wards for long and short term patients.

    I am speculating here, but if Lockhart was misdiagnosed, this would not be the only case in the series. Remember Ron’s freckles were thought to be spattergroit.

  33. Mehmet, I agree that the scenario I put forth isn’t the only possibility, but I am definitely convinced it’s the most likely one. And Ron’s freckles weren’t diagnosed by a Healer, so much as pointed out by a painting in St. Mungo’s (and we’ve seen plenty of crazy paintings… think of Sir Cadogan, or Violet, or the drunk monks, or Barnabus. Or Phineas, for that matter).

  34. And the wizard who diagnosed the spattergroit was medieval, so perhaps it’s just that his methods are obsolete. Of course, he could easily be crazy as well…

  35. Off topic but I wanted to ask, how come the comments for the previous chapter are closed?

    I love that we see Lockhart again in this book. And Alice Longbottom was just horrible to hear about.

    @Gillian, I don’t think Harry forgot, just forgot to remember, if you know what I mean. He was in such a temper that he kind of abandoned rational thought a bit. This is another time when I think people may be irritated by Harry’s behaviour, but I think it shows an understanding on Jo’s part. Anger, by nature, is irrational. For example:

    Hermione: Look, the others have told me what you overheard last night on the Extendable Ears –
    Harry: Yeah? All been talking about me, have you? Well I’m getting used to it.

    It’s like mild delusions of persecution, but that’s how people are when they’re angry. They WANT to be angry and will (only semi-seriously) imagine whatever allows them to stay that way or heighten the rush. Because anger produces adrenalin, and people like adrenalin. It gives them a high. Anger doesn’t exactly feel good but it can be incredably satisfying. Which doesn’t excuse anything you may say or do, because it should be correctly channeled, but it’s just the nature of the thing. At least in my experience. :)

    Btw, I also really like Hermione in that scene. “Oh, stop feeling all misunderstood.” Lol.

  36. 2 things…Hermione did spend some time with her parents, in POA she went on vacation in Southern France with them for long enough to get a dark tan….. and I really hoped that when Bella and Voldy met their demise Neville’s parents would come back to their senses (maybe they did, but it never said so)

  37. I was also extremely mad at Percy during this chapter, but I have to say I somewhat know where he’s coming from. I don’t agree with his actions, but I have experienced something like this within my own family, although to a lesser degree. This past Thanksgiving I had gotten in a fight with my mother the night before, and absolutely refused to sit through Thanksgiving dinner. To be a little bit fair to myself, she did say it wouldn’t matter to her if I didn’t show up at dinner, and at that point you’re so mad you think to yourself, “fine! I won’t then!” But anyway, I digress. The point is that Percy, at this point, is so determined to continue to be angry with his family, even though the anger is probably ebbing away, that he is determined to do every single injustice to them that comes his way. I don’t think he would have just said “send back anything I get from my family,” I think he probably sat there, sad beyond belief, with the sweater in his hands, about everything that had gone wrong, and decided he couldn’t live with having the sweater in his possession, so he sent it back. We never quite know his state of mind, we all just assume he’s being the biggest prat in the universe, just from our own background knowledge of what he’s like, and from Fred and George’s opinion of him. While I do believe what he did was wrong, I’m not entirely convinced that he meant it to be so. Just a thought.

    About Hermione and her relationship with her parents, well I kind of feel like, because of Jo’s love for the character, just can’t go so long without writing her in somehow. I bet while writing the past chapters, she’s always thinking to herself of what Hermione would do/say in this situation, and then eventually broke down and brought her back. I feel like this is the reason why Hermione spends so much time away from her parents. Jo just loves the character so much, she can’t help but put her in the situations of the book!

    I agree with Mehmet that there’s probably a long-term ward on each floor. When I read that line from the Healer (“this is our long-term ward”) I always thought of it as “this is the long-term ward for *our* floor”.

  38. A bit off topic but, shouldn’t Hermione have recognized the Devil’s Snare given to Bode? I mean Harry notices it, but just doesn’t recognize it. I would imagine that Hermione would have noticed it, too, and therefore recognized it. Could have led to a very different ending.

  39. Ari, or Neville, for that matter. Herbology *is* his subject, after all. Granted, by that point, Neville was too preoccupied with Harry and the rest seeing his parents, and of course, his mum and her gift (tear up every time) to notice by this point.

  40. ari, maybe hermimone was to preoccupied to realize the devils snare?

  41. An interesting thought about Hermione’s family (and all muggle-born families) I wonder if there has ever been a family that said that their child would not be educated in magic? Would dumbledore insist? or preform some sort of _suggestion_ charm on the parents? How would that child fit in- with untrained magic bursting at the seems? Could it be suppressed by lack of use? Just an interesting thought…

  42. I really love this site, and I like the Neville scene as much as anyone here. You can really feel Neville’s sadness about his parents and his longing for communication with them.

    One thing that always pops into my head when I read this chapter is the “somebody else’s problem” from the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. When Fred, George and Ron stepped through the glass.. “Harry glanced around at the jostling crowd; not one of them seemed to have a glance to spare for window displays as ugly as those of Purge & Dowse Ltd; nor did any of them seem to have noticed that six people had just melted into thin air in from of them.”
    JKR never explains how the wizarding world takes care of this problem, but I like to think it just the “somebody else’s problem”-effect :) Does anyone else think of that too?

  43. @Thestral: I always figured it was one of the anti-Muggle charms, like they used at the Quidditch World Cup more than a folks purposely not taking notice. I mean, they have those charms that make you suddenly think of urgent business elsewhere if you get too close to magic, and I can see that being applied here.

  44. A bit late here…oh well. Thestral, I don’t know if I ever consciously connected that scene with “somebody else’s problem,” but THAT. IS. AWESOME. Thanks for the insight, and the laugh!

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