17

Harry sees a vision of Voldemort tormenting Sirius in the Dept. of Mysteries. This leads him to rush off to try and save him, and when his friends are unable to dissuade him from going, they insist on going too.

If Harry's vision was correct, he would have ended up confronting Voldemort in the Mysteries chamber. Did he really think he had a chance of A) not dying and B) saving Sirius and escaping? Understandably, Harry was in extreme emotional distress seeing Sirius, his only living family and father figure, being tortured and likely killed. His reaction pure dumb bravery, like jumping in front of train to save someone you love who is on the tracks. Why wouldn't one of his close friends, especially someone as smart as Hermione, point out that even as a group they almost certainly would all be killed by Voldemort, doing Sirius no good and causing the very last thing Sirius would want?

I've always thought of this as a plot weakness, and that Voldemort could have used a much more clever pretense to lure Harry there.

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  • 2
    Harry didn't know whether Sirius would survive if they didn't go to the Department of Mysteries to try and save him—but he did know that Sirius would die for sure if he didn't try.
    – Righter
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 6:21
  • 42
    Gryffindors tended to be much weaker in the Brains Department than in the Balls Department.
    – Deepak
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 15:18
  • 11
    Harry manages to do something stupid before breakfast every day. He isn't the best at thinking things through.
    – user136864
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 20:19
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    @Harith "Harry awoke in the Gryffindor dormitory. The other Gryffindors pretended to be asleep but inside they were terrified. What fresh horror would Potter bring on the school this time?" Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 20:57
  • That has got to be a duplicate. Everyone I knew who read the fifth book had this question.
    – J. Mini
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:44

4 Answers 4

35

Hubris

As Harry mentions several times in the books starting in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry's beaten/survived Voldemort once/multiple times, so he's going to do it again! By book five Harry has beaten/survived Voldemort three or four times depending on how you keep score. First as a baby, in what amounts to a deus vult situation. Then in First year when he murders Quirrell-with-voldemort-in-his-head, then second year with Riddle's Diary and a godawful-big magic snake (where he successfully performs a rescue mission), then fourth year with Voldy & his Death Eater pals.

So now we come to Order of the Phoenix where Harry's visions, accurate to this point, show just Voldemort and his captive. Well, Harry's escaped fully-formed Voldy with a bunch of death eaters. Plus he's rescued someone and defeated Voldy-as-contained-in-Riddle's-Diary with a single friend who was more-or-less unarmed (Ron with his broken wand). So the assumption that Harry, with Ron, Hermione, and a few extras just in case can take the most dangerous wizard of all time on their own isn't quite as crazy as it sounds. At least to teenagers. After all, teenagers are known throughout time and across cultures for having a high opinion of themselves, thinking they can do better than their elders, and not really grasping their own mortality. Combine that with the fact that, "Well hell it worked before!" and you have a perfect storm for Bad Ideas!

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    Good point, but I don't think I would use the word murder to describe "having a grown dark wizard attempt to murder me, and then inexplicably die in the process."
    – RC_23
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 16:23
  • 7
    Also, in Book 5 Harry was pretty fresh from being captured and brutalized by Voldemort like a mouse by a cat, only escaping via an inexplicable fluke he didn't understand or control. So it's hard to believe Harry could have any expectation of a chance against him even with a group. I think it was more of a blindly jumping in front of a train reaction. Or a slim hope of distracting Voldemort so Sirius could be rescued.
    – RC_23
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 16:27
  • 2
    I'd add that this is the year Harry was essentially an "Underground teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts" for the students that came with him; not only did he have a few teenagers, he had a few teenagers that were, from a certain point of view, essentially Harry duplicates. 6 Harry's, 1 Sirius, versus 1 Voldemort, 1 Snake, and whoever Voldemort happened to have around to help him around during the session (It appeared to be nobody else to Harry's visions, which was sort of working off of that hubris.) - those are at least lopsided numbers. Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 4:04
17

You could call it a plot weakness, a necessary plot device (or there'd be no plot), or just sheer dumb bravery by all the characters involved.

Note it's not the first time they did something as reckless as this. In the very first book, Harry/Ron/Hermione went after "Snape" to stop him from stealing the Philosopher's Stone, even though they obviously had no chance of beating Snape in a fight. Hermione was in that group too, and she must have known they could not win, yet she went along anyway. Similarly, in book 3, after Sirius (in dog form) took Ron, Harry/Hermione followed, even though they knew it's clearly dangerous.

One more thing: book 5 is the time when they are taking the OWLs. If they pass, then they become fully trained wizards & witches. If anyone is going to defeat Voldemort, it would probably be OWL holders like them. That level of experience may have been a factor in their decision to go.

(Which doesn't change how it was sheer dumb bravery for them to go after "Snape" as first year students.)

8
  • Good points. Given the aftermath of Dumbledore completely owning about a dozen Death Eaters single-handedly, it seems very certain that Voldemort, who was on par with Dumbledore, could have easily overpowered 5 young wizards in training.
    – RC_23
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 13:37
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    Not sure I would call kids thinking that they can do things that they are not capable of a plot weakness. Harry knows that someone who is important to him is in trouble and he can’t find anyone else to save them so he tries.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 15:53
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    I wouldn't say "fully trained". OWLs seem more like the equivalent of a high-school diploma, with years 6 and 7 being university or a trade school. (Remember, they aren't even introduced to Apparition until Year 6. Even passing your OWLs doesn't mean you are ready for the kind of paramilitary operation they are mounting.) After year 5, you know enough to not be a danger to yourself or others in everyday life.
    – chepner
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 16:03
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    @chepner Hogwarts enrolls children as soon as they reach age 11. I would say year 7 corresponds to a final year of high school, not even university. I think it's mentioned somewhere in the books that after year 7 there are places to train outside Hogwarts, notably to become an Auror.
    – Stef
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 18:51
  • 1
    @Stef Age-wise, yes. But given the limited scope of study available at Hogwarts, the levels of education with regard to the wizarding world seems to match 5 years at Hogwarts to secondary school and the last 2 years to college.
    – chepner
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 19:02
13

Dumbledore's army

Harry and company had just spent the better part of a year practicing magical combat, to great success. Many of them learned to successfully cast spells like the Patronus that are repeatedly classified as so advanced that many adults do not know how to properly use them. They have felt great personal growth in their wizarding abilities, and have been preparing explicitly to fight against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. I'm sure that part of their willingness to fight is akin to wanting to play a real game after months of scrimmages.

No one to lean on

Despite years of evidence in their own abilities to handle dangerous situations, the adults in their life that they respect tend to either dismiss concerns or shelter them from danger. On top of that, Umbridge had them locked down pretty thoroughly, making communication with those adults pretty difficult, if not dangerous.

Ultimately, these are kids who have a lot of built up frustration from a year under Umbridge's boot along with a nonstop barrage of disinformation from the ministry of magic. They are afraid of the way the world is changing, but the adults in charge are either denying the danger or actively facilitating it. Reckless or not, they acted out of desperation as much out of arrogance.

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    Adding onto the adults - Dumbledore was missing and McGonagall was in the infirmary. Harry told Snape what happened and (in Harry's eyes) Snape didn't get it (or want to get it).
    – Brian J
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 21:04
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    Re: No one to lean on. Even before Dumbledore went missing, he was deliberately shutting Harry out because of his suspicion that Voldemort was gathering information through the shared connection in Harry's mind. Harry has spent the entire term feeling angry, isolated, and unsupported. He'd always been one to take matters into his own hands, but at this point in the term would hardly have trusted any adult with asking them for help.
    – Kirt
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 22:55
  • @BrianJ Professor McGonagall was at St. Mungo's, actually. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 22:55
1

To add more detail to the other excellent answers:

Earlier in the book, Nagini attacked Arthur Weasley. Harry had a vision of this, and felt responsible because he didn't do anything with that vision. I don't believe the book mentions that guilt, but it's implied. He was living with that guilt. He didn't want to feel that guilt again, with arguably the closest thing to a parent that he's had. He had to take action. You could say that Voldemort planned this sequence of events as Dumbledore/Snape predicted. It's why they pushed Harry into Occlumency. In a strange way, Harry, perhaps through the wand, was allured by the connection to Voldemort. Which sadly, ultimately, led to Sirius passing into the veil.

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