The Centaur and the Sneak

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

After an interesting first Divination class with Firenze, Harry holds another D.A. meeting but is interrupted when Umbridge finds out what’s going on. Harry is then dragged to Dumbledore’s office, where he meets Fudge – but Dumbledore takes the fall for the group’s existence, and escapes.

The Centaur, by Marta T

“Centaurs are not the servants or playthings of humans,” said Firenze quietly.

(by Marta T)


Trip Jinx, by Snapesforte

“Trip Jinx, Potter!” [Malfoy] said. “Hey, Professor – PROFESSOR! I’ve got one!”


Dolores Umbridge, by White Elzora

“He was heading back to Gryffindor Tower,” said Umbridge. There was an indecent excitement in her voice, the same callous pleasure Harry had heard as she watched Professor Trelawney dissolving with misery in the entrance hall.


Thinking Harry, by LMRourke

Harry fully intended to respond with a defiant “yes” … but as Harry stared at [Dumbledore], he shook his head a fraction of an inch to each side. Harry changed direction mid-word. “Yeh – no.”
“I beg your pardon?” said Fudge… “You
don’t know why you are here?”
“No, I don’t,” said Harry.


The Sneak, by Ani Bester

Marietta gave a wail and pulled the neck of her robes right up to her eyes, but not before the whole room had seen that her face was horribly disfigured by a series of close-set purple pustules that had spread across her nose and cheeks to form the word “SNEAK.”


Dumbledore, by deeterhi

“Well – it’s just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to – what is the phrase? ‘Come quietly.’ I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course – but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.”


Phineas Nigellus, by LMRourke

As [the door] swung closed behind them, Harry heard Phineas Nigellus’s voice.
“You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts… but you cannot deny he’s got style….”


about the chapter


When only five Harry Potter books had been released, the end of this chapter was hands-down my favorite passage of the books. After chapters and chapters of pain and frustration on Harry’s part, not to mention the entirety of Hogwarts taking Umbridge’s tyranny lying down, for someone to finally fight back in some way, and just do something about all the corruption and injustice, was immensely satisfying. And while I would no longer call this my favorite passage, it’s still on the list – and as I’ve been spending the last full month thinking and writing about Umbridge, it’s all the more satisfying this time around, too. There’s just no way around it: Dumbledore is just plain awesome.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

Dumbledore’s mind is pretty incredible, when you realize how quickly he had to think to concoct a convincing story around the circumstances of the D.A. But it’s also fun to read through his fake confession and look for the moments that the other characters pick up on exactly what he’s doing. McGonagall and Kingsley realize instantly that he’s letting himself get kicked out instead of Harry, exchanging quick looks of fear as soon as he mentions it. Fudge takes a little while longer before “understanding blaze[s] suddenly in his face;” Harry takes even longer before he figures it out and protests; and Umbridge is completely silent through the whole affair (perhaps trying to figure out what the heck is going on, but not wanting to look as stupid as she is?). It’s a brilliant piece of writing.

The Power of Magic

I absolutely love Firenze’s style of Divination, not to mention his blunt admission that most of what students have studied in the class for three years is “human nonsense.” But this type of Divination is one that makes sense for the magical world; after all, if someone could truly look into a crystal ball and divine what would happen the following day – and if doing so were simple enough to be effectively taught to any teenager interested in learning – the world would be a very, very different place. Rather, the way the centaurs look a things is muddled, incredibly difficult to discern, and open to a wide degree of interpretation (not unlike another “real” type of Divination we’ll be hearing about down the road).

42 Responses to “The Centaur and the Sneak”

  1. I wonder were did Dumbledore go? He said that was not going into hiding. We can assume that he returned at least once to his office (to seal it and repair damages), but the portraits said that things were dull without Dumbledore (unless they were referring to Hogwarts and not the office itself)…

  2. You’re absolutely right, this is a brilliant chapter! Go Dumbledore!

    I’m not sure if it has been cleared before this point, but here’s the explanation to “Mars is bright tonight” from book 1.

    Again something JKR is so good at: The little things that tie into the story like Willy Widdershins and the regurgitating toilets.

    Grin, I also love how McGonogall explains what it means when a person shakes their head. … However, there exist cultures where it means the opposite.

    So here we see why it’s important that the DA is called Dumbledore’s Army instead of the OotP.

    Before Dumbledore departs he says that Harry will soon understand why his studying Occlumancy is so important. And he will, but probably not the way Dumbledore intended. So what did he mean then?

  3. It’s true about the shaking head–I wonder if they adapted translations of the books to mean what it does in each respective country, or if they left it a shaking head because in Great Britain (where the story takes place) that’s the meaning it has. Seriously, SO MUCH RESPECT for McGonagall.

    And Memory Charms seem extremely scary to me–I mean, it would seem that in order to wipe someone’s memory, you’d really need to block out a set amount of time. However, if that’s the case, how unfair is it to Marietta, with examinations and such, to wipe away months of her memory? However, if you’re targeting certain aspects of bits of knowledge, how do you ensure that’s all you’re removing or hiding? And the best way to learn something is to make several connections (build on past memory, connect with as many senses (hearing, smells, etc.) as possible) so how do you know when to stop where a memory is concerned? Everything is connected to something, somehow. And if you’re doing it on the fly, like Kingsley did, how much are you really concentrating on what you’re removing?

    I think I hurt my own mind, trying to explain that last bit . . .

  4. ^ On that note, which about the pustuals on Marietta’s face? Can they be gotten rid of? Even if they do, that’s going to leave a horrible scar on her face proberly for the rest of her life.

    It just seems like a horrible thing to do. I know the whole DA system works on trust, but still, there’s a moral limit to how far someone should go to punish someone, and Hermione went over it. I really shows a lot about Hermione’s character, I think at least.

  5. Natalia, I agree. Memory charms and time travel both have a tendency to hurt my mind when I try to figure them out. This is one of those times I tell myself JKR must not have fully thought it out to cause myself less pain.

  6. It’s interesting (but not important, as far as I can see) that we never hear Marietta’s voice in the book. Hers is entirely a non-speaking part.

  7. Mickey, or maybe this is one of those times JKR has thought it through so well that no one else has any clue on what she’s talking about.
    With all of the magic around (not just memory charms) I’m surprised the world can work at all. I mean, all of the spells we know probably don’t cover an inch of what there actually is. It hurts to think of what insane spells there are that we DON’T know!
    Also, where does Willy Widdershins come back into the story? Him and his regurgitating toilets?

  8. Concerning the memory charms – judging from Dumbledore’s comment about Kingsley that “He was remarkably quick on the uptake, modifying Miss Edgecombe’s memory like that while everyone was looking the other way” I tend to think that Kingsley didn’t wipe her memory, but (SPOILER) modified her memory in the same way Voldemort did to Morfin in HBP and Hermione to her parents in DH. So he probably just implanted the false memory in her mind that there haven’t been any DA meetings in the past months and that there has only been the one meeting on this day, which Dumbledore had arranged. The true memories are still there, but are somehow overruled by the false memory, which therefore creates a kind of alternative reality for Marietta. And those memories of the past months that are not affected by the new false memory (i.e. everything that didn’t concern the DA – like lessons) are still in her mind unchanged.
    Of course this is only my theory and maybe JKR has a different explanation, but I prefer trying to come up with a solution before saying that JKR just didn’t think it through, although that’s of course also possible :-)

  9. Eliza, the regurgitating toilets are first mentioned when Harry and Arthur Weasley are in the MoM in the summer. Willy himself is first mentioned in chapter 22 when Arthur is in St. Mungo’s. Willy was injured during an explosion of a toilet and needed bandaging. In this chapter it turns out that he was the man in dirty grey bandages in the Hog’s Head when the DA met there for the very first time. He gave this information to Umbridge and as a reward he wasn’t prosecuted.

  10. Poor Marietta Edgecombe. . .
    That’s interesting about her as a non-speaking character.

  11. Eliza and Lorena, I’m sorry my brain is too lazy. And I call myself a Ravenclaw. JKR probably did think it through, especially considering how there was a difference between erasing memory and changing it. Didn’t she say something about that once?
    I wonder if Marietta’s face ever cleared up, because I know it stayed for a while.
    I never knew that about Willy Widdershins. Shows how much attention I pay.

  12. I know she explained Marietta’s face in an interview (which one, I have no idea) and she did the same for the explanation on memory stuff. I just still think it’s intense and makes me confused the more I think about it. :)

    And cool note about Marietta, Brillie, thanks for pointing it out. :D

  13. And happy new year to everyone!

  14. Mickey . I remember reading in an interview with JKR (but no idea which now!) that Marietta’s face fades a bit but doesn’t totally clear up because she (JKR) hates sneaks … or something like that

  15. I’m not sure if this is what you guys were referring to, but
    this is from the transcript of a Web Chat, which I found at It’s very short and no more than auntypsycho has already stated, but I thought some of you might want to know the exact words:

    Louie: Did mariettas pimply formation ever fade
    J.K. Rowling: Eventually, but it left a few scars. I loathe a traitor!

    And about memory charms. Not very deep though:
    Laura Trego: Did hermione really put a memory charm on her parents she says she did but then about 50 pages later tells ron shes never done a memory charm
    J.K. Rowling: They are two different charms. She has not wiped her parents’ memories (as she later does to Dolohov and Rowle); she has bewitched them to make them believe that they are different people.

  16. Those are exactly the quotes that I was thinking of. Thanks for doing the research, Kim! :D

  17. This chapter is indeed great! However, I also remembered that I was kind of angry with Harry. At that point of the book it seemsstupid that Dumbledore takes the fall for Harry. Why let a head of the school leave for a stupid student?

  18. Kim, Harry wasn’t “a stupid student” or even “just a student.” Dumbledore had always considered him to be the “savior.”

  19. Dumbledore says that he can easily escape Azkaban, though it would be a waste of time; I know that he’s is the greatest wizard of his time (maybe ever), but I wonder how Dumbledore would have done it…? I assume his wand would have been confiscated, if he had “gone quietly.” Just wondering…

  20. Dumbledore can do wandless magic yraM.

    Regarding the matter of Hermione’s pustule jinx – recall how Sirius said that “you don’t just hand in your resignation to Voldemort” ??

    Well you don’t just hand in your resignation to Hermione either. At the end of the series she is the one surviving character who is most likely to become the equivalent of the next Dark Lord.

  21. I do love this chapter. Phineas Nigellus’ line at the end has always been one of my favorites – I remember sitting the theater, chanting to myself “say ‘Dumbledore’s got style’; say ‘Dumbledore’s got style'”. I don’t even care it was Kingsley who said it – I was just excited the line made it in!

    A couple of things I find striking:

    1) Dumbledore seemed so touched when he found out the DA was named after him. As utterly brilliant as he was, he still managed to keep his humility. I don’t think he expected his students to be so loyal to him, which made this kind of gesture that much more meaningful.

    2) Dumbledore’s outrage when Umbridge shakes Marietta. Important, I think, because it shows Dumbledore’s care for ALL of his students, not just Harry – even though it’s Marietta’s fault they’re all in this mess to begin with.

    Dumbledore is amazing here. He has absolute control of the entire situation from beginning to end. I love these scenes where we get to see just how powerful Dumbledore is – this kindly old man is a force to be reckoned with.

  22. @Jonathan: Marietta didn’t hand in her resignation to Hermione, she betrayed her by giving her and the entire DA up to the Ministry, when they themselves had given her no reason to, since they were never planning on attacking Fudge’s Ministry. In my opinion, Hermione leaving faint life scars on Marietta is comparable to Aberforth permanently crookeding Albus’ nose – par for the course if you do something fairly lousy, and another example of how all the HP characters are humans capable of emotional vulnerability.

  23. How exactly is what Hermione does to Marietta any different to how Voldemort treats renegade Death Eaters? How is that hex any different in principle from the silver hand that Voldemort gave to Wormtail, which ended up strangling Wormtail when he hesitated to kill Harry? Okay, the hex didn’t kill Marietta, but it still punished her on a permanent basis for doing the opposite of what the caster wanted her to do. Neither Wormtail nor Marietta knew that the respective spells cast on them would exact revenge.

    I can very easily imagine Voldemort permanently disfiguring somebody’s face like that.

  24. I’m not saying that the result of Marietta’s actions weren’t cruel (who wants to be disfigured? Especially on the face?) but the stakes were made clear at the beginning: This is secret. This is against the Ministry’s wishes. We have to be careful. I don’t think the hex would have had quite the same effect had Marietta just stopped coming or talked to Harry/Hermione about not coming to the DA meetings anymore. It’s because she did precisely what each of them had promised they wouldn’t that the results were so drastic.

    Also, somewhere in the back of my mind, I always hoped that when most of the drama was over, Marietta would go to the Trio and apologize for putting so many of them in danger, etc. and Hermione finally releasing her from the spell.

  25. So how exactly is it different from the concept of the silver hand? That only activated when Wormtail acted against Voldemort’s ideas.

    And don’t forget, Marietta was acting out of loyalty to her mother who was being pressured by Umbridge. I do wonder at the disparity between the JKR who can create such sympathetic villains and the JKR who can dismiss the entire matter with; “I loathe a traitor.”

  26. It always bothered me that Marietta’s spots hadn’t gone away in HBP. If it were temporary, or went away when Marietta genuinely felt sorry for what she had done or something, I would have backed Hermione, but permanantly seems too rash. Then again, I’m not really a person who believes in revenge.

    The point about Marietta being a non-speaking part is something I hadn’t actually noticed before. What I find amusing is the fact that until the last book Crabbe and Goyle were both totally non-speaking parts too (except when Harry and Ron impersonate them).

    Dumbledore’s anger at Umbridge manhandling Marietta is one of the reasons I don’t like Dumbledore manhandling Harry in the GoF movie.

    There are excuses that Dumbledore or Harry could have used for the Dumbledore’s Army name, like it was a joke because they recognised the conflict between the Ministry (whose lesson plan they were rebelling against) and Dumbledore (who they agreed with). Which is half true. But since that first meeting had already been established to be legal, and students can’t be expelled for holding an opinion, what can Umbridge or Fudge do?

    Harry also could have said (if he had had more time to think) that if Marietta had actually turned up to the meeting that night (which is the only one that there’s evidence for) she would know that the purpose of it was to see if, with the exams coming up, anyone wanted Harry or Hermione or one of the older students to give them one-to-one tuition. Neither the offered study help nor the meeting that night would have been illegal since Umbridge’s educational decree specifically defines a group, club or organisation as “a REGULAR meeting of THREE OR MORE people.” One-to-one is two people, and that night’s meeting was a one off.

  27. @elizabethauthor: Thanks for the eloquent description of why Dumbledore’s movie moment in GoF bothered me so much. :)

  28. I never worried too much about Marietta being scarred for life. If you recall in the first book, McGonagall asks Dumbledore about removing Harry’s scar and Dumbledore says he won’t because scars can be very useful. So it seems that if the scar left by Voldemort’s curse can be removed, then Marrietta’s could be too. Unless, of course, Hermione is using some really wicked magic.

  29. No no, Dumbledore said that even if he was able to remove it, he still wouldn’t, meaning that he COULD NOT remove it.

  30. Thanks Johnathan. I never caught that before. I guess Marietta is stuck then. Well, I’m still not going to fret over the rotten little snitch.

  31. Was Marietta not talking because of the hex or because of the embarassment of having the word “sneak” written across her face?

  32. @Jeremy. I think she was not talking because she was afraid of making the hex worse.

  33. @Jonathan: I think the fact the hand given to Wormtail did in fact kill him makes a big difference in the morality of Voldemorts versus Hermiones actions. Also, JKR said herself that the marks did eventually fade but there were some scars–leading me to believe that unless you knew what the scars were from, you wouldn’t know… I imagine them almost like acne scars.

  34. @Jose Lopes In Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore did mention to Harry that he (Dumbledore) tried to find out as much about Voldemort’s past as possible. Maybe that’s what Dumbledore was doing when he was forced to leave in Chamber of Secrets.

  35. Perhaps Obliviate is something like Imperio? I know there’s a difference when erasing memories or changing them, but perhaps the spell works something like telling the person to forget a certain bit of information, or rather tell them something happened that overrides it? Just a thought.

    Natalia and Mickey, Jo had also said in her Bloomsbury interview that Marietta still has faint scars from the postules on her face, but they never completely fade away

    I found this scene so disappointing in the film. There is no spectacular display of magic from Dumbledore, and all he does is escape using Fawkes. It was a cool bit of visual effects, but it was still highly disappointing, as this is also one of my favorite scenes.

    Jonathon, I think the difference between all of this is the intention. The DA is a force for good, and Marietta is weakly going to a woman who is clearly evil just because mummy told her to. She doesn’t think at all about how good the DA is, she just breaks down and does the wrong thing, having been convinced it’s the good thing. Wormtail is different. Wormtail is doing something good to make up for a life debt and all the wrong he’s done (having been convinced it’s the right thing to do for wizard-kind). I think it’s quite cruel to say Hermione could easily be the next Lord Voldemort. She has a very good sense of right and wrong, and I do believe if Marietta apologized, Hermione would have taken pity on her. That’s the difference. Voldemort takes no pity on anyone for anything, and feels no remorse at the end of the day for what he did to Wormtail. I’m sure Hermione struggled with herself about whether it was the right or wrong thing to do, and probably hopefully awaited for a heartfelt apology. It’s Marietta’s own ignorance that causes her scars to be permanent, not Hermione’s supposed off sense of right and wrong.

  36. Kim, I know this is two years late, but since DD had Snape to inform him, I’m pretty sure he was talking about what he does with Harry’s dream during his test about Sirius. I’m sure Tom had been planning it long before he set it into action to make sure it went off without a hitch (lol, too bad it still didn’t!!). And I’m sure Snape knew at least something about it.

  37. Hey guys… I’m going to steer this conversation out of movie-land, and make a few edits to the comments above. I don’t mind a bit of discussion about the movies but the point at which we hit a contentious debate over the effectiveness of an actor is probably the point at which the conversation should move to another forum. Thanks!

  38. While I don’t think there’s a strong connection between Hermione and Voldemort, I do think there’s a connection between Hermione and Umbridge.

    Both Hermione and Umbridge permanently scar someone else out of the victim’s “disloyalty” to another (Harry and Fudge, respectively).

    You have to remember that the “Sneak” curse is not a preventative measure, it doesn’t stop Marietta from turning the DA in, but is simply punishment or revenge.

    In the book, Hermione’s actions are meant to be applauded while Umbridge’s are deplored.

    It’s interesting that Jo seems to be going back and forth about Marietta. On the one hand we’re supposed to feel as Harry feels, he “smirks slightly” upon seeing Marietta’s poor attempts to hide her scars in Book 6. Making Marietta a non-speaking part makes it difficult for the audience to feel sorry for her and makes it easier for the audience to accept and even welcome her fate.

    In a sense, she’s not a real person, we know next to nothing about her. She has almost no “voice”, real or otherwise, so there’s no need to show empathy towards her.

    On the other hand Jo gives Marietta a “reason” for her destructive actions. She’s trapped between her “signed” allegiance towards Harry (someone she doesn’t really know personally and thus has no real reason to believe his, frankly, incredible stories) and her bond to her family (which would be much stronger anyway). I think all of us can feel some understanding and sympathy towards Marietta’s predicament based on this knowledge.

    But of course Jo “loathes a traitor”, so Marietta’s scars, like Harry’s, never fully go away.

  39. MartinTenbones, I’m sure you’re right about why Marietta has a non-speaking part. It was to keep us from thinking about the situation from her point of view – or even considering that she might have a point of view. Thanks.

  40. @Heather: I totally agree with what you said about Dumbledore. I’ve always thought that the moment he read what the DA had called themselves would have been quite painful for him, he had ignored Harry all year and treated him quite shamefully, yet Harry was still loyal.

  41. I… I thought it was kind of funny that during the scuffle, you hear frantic footsteps leaving the office and when the smoke clears, only four ministry officials are found on the floor. Percy totally ran for it!

  42. Josie, are there no pieces of art out there for Harry teaching the Patronus spell to Dumbledore’s Army? That scene is one of my favorites of this book. It is a shame that it occurs as the last class before the sneak part, meaning they don’t get to work on it again. I just love that Harry, who learned it two years ago, is teaching this to his classmates, all at ages younger than anyone has learned this spell before. It’s also interesting to see what some of the characters’ Patronuses look like. Some we don’t know till later, but a few like Hermione’s otter are mentioned here.

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