I’ve taken two weeks off of work for the next two weeks to really focus on my writing. Tonight I’m studying how to write an effective chapter opening by reading the beginnings of all the chapters in one of my favorite novels, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix.
I hope you enjoy!
01: Dudley Demented
“The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive. Cars that were usually gleaming stood dusty in their drives and lawns that were once emerald green lay parched and yellowing; the use of hosepipes had been banned due to drought. Deprived of their usual car-washing and lawn-mowing pursuits, the inhabitants of Privet Drive had retreated into the shade of their cool houses, windows thrown wide in the hope of tempting in a non-existent breeze. The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flower bed outside number four.”
13: Detention with Dolores
“Dinner in the Great Hall that night was not a pleasant experience for Harry. The news about his shouting match with Umbridge seemed to have traveled exceptionally fast even by Hogwarts standards. He heard whispers all around him as he sat eating between Ron and Hermione. The funny thing was that none of the whisperers seemed to mind him overhearing what they were saying about him—on the contrary, it was as though they were hoping he would get angry and start shouting again, so that they could hear the story firsthand.”
14: Percy & Padfoot
“Harry was the first to awake in his dormitory next morning. He lay for a moment watching dust swirl in the chink of sunlight falling through the gap in his four-poster’s hangings and savored the thought that it was Saturday. The first week of term seemed to have dragged on forever, like some gigantic History of Magic lesson.
“Judging by the sleepy silence and the freshly minted look of that beam of sunlight, it was just after daybreak. He pulled open the curtains around his bed, got up, and started to dress. The only sound apart from the distant twittering of birds was the slow, deep breathing of his fellow Gryffindors. He opened his schoolbag carefully, pulled out parchment and quill, and headed out of the dormitory for the common room.”
16: In the Hog’s Head
“Hermione made no mention of Harry giving Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons for two whole weeks after her original suggestion. Harry’s detentions with Umbridge were finally over (he doubted whether the words now etched on the back of his hand would ever fade entirely); Ron had four more Quidditch practices and not been shouted at during the last two; and all three of them had managed to vanish their mice in Transfiguration (Hermione had actually progressed to vanishing kittens), before the subject was broached again on a wild, blustery evening at the end of September, when the three of them were sitting in the library, looking up potions ingredients for Snape.”
17: Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four
“Harry felt happier for the rest of the weekend than he had done all term. He and Ron spent much of Sunday catching up with all their homework again, and although this could hardly have been called fun, the last burst of autumn sunshine persisted, so rather than sitting hunched over tables in the common room, they took their work outside and lounged in the shade of a large beech tree on the edge of the lake. Hermione, who of course was up to date with all her work, brought more wool outside with her and bewitched her knitting needles so that they flashed and clicked in midair beside her, producing more hats and scarves.
“The knowledge that they were doing something to resist Umbridge and the Ministry, and that he was a key part of the rebellion, gave Harry a feeling of immense satisfaction. He kept reliving Saturday’s meeting in his mind: all those people, coming to him to learn Defense Against the Dark Arts… and the looks on their faces as they had heard some of the things he had done… and Cho praising his performance in the Triwizard Tournament… The knowledge that all those people did not think him a lying weirdo, but someone to be admired, buoyed him up so much that he was still cheerful on Monday morning, despite the imminent prospect of all his least favorite classes.”
Chapter 19: The Lion & the Serpent
“Harry felt as though he were carrying some kind of talisman inside his chest over the following two weeks, a glowing secret that supported him through Umbridge’s classes and even made it possible for him to smile blandly as he looked into her horribly bulging eyes. He and the D.A. were resisting her under her very nose, doing the very thing that she and the ministry most feared, and whenever he was supposed to be reading Wilbert Slinkhard’s book during her lessons he dwelled instead on satisfying memories of their most recent meetings, remembering how Neville had successfully disarmed Hermione, how Colin Creevey had mastered the Impediment Jinx after three meetings’ hard effort, how Parvati Patil had produced such a good Reductor Curse that she had reduced the table carrying all the Sneakoscopes to dust.
“He was finding it almost impossible to fix a regular night of the week for D.A. meetings, as they had to accommodate three separate Quidditch teams’ practices, which were often rearranged depending on the weather conditions; but Harry was not sorry about this, he had a feeling that it was probably better to keep the timing of their meetings unpredictable. If anyone was watching them, it would be hard to make out a pattern.”
Chapter 22: St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries
Harry was so relieved that she was taking him seriously that he did not hesitate, but jumped out of bed at once, pulled on his dressing grown, and pushed his glasses back onto his nose.
“Weasley, you ought to come too,” said Professor McGonagall.
They followed Professor McGonagall past the silent figures of Neville, Dean, and Seamus, out of the dormitory, down the spiral stairs into the common room, through the portrait hole, and off along the Fat Lady’s moonlit corridor. Harry felt as though the panic inside him might spill over at any moment; he wanted to run, to yell for Dumbledore. Mr. Weasley was bleeding as they walked along so sedately, and what if those fangs (Harry tried hard not to think ‘my fangs’) had been poisonous? They passed Mrs. Norris, who turned her lamplike eyes upon them and hissed faintly, but Professor McGonagall said, ‘Shoo!’ Mrs. Norris slunk away into the shadows, and in a few minutes they had reached the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore’s office.
Chapter 23: Christmas on the Closed Ward
“Was this why Dumbledore would no longer meet Harry’s eyes? Did he expect to see Voldemort staring out of them, afraid, perhaps, that their vivid green might turn suddenly to scarlet, with catlike slits for pupils? Harry remembered how the snakelike face of Voldemort had once forced itself out of the back of Professor Quirrell’s head, and he ran his hand over the back of his own, wondering what it would feel like if Voldemort burst out of his skill…
“He felt dirty, contaminated, as though he were carrying some deadly germ, unworthy to sit on the underground train back from the hospital with innocent, clean people whose minds and bodies were free of the taint of Voldemort… He had not merely seen the snake, he had been the snake, he knew it now…
“And then a truly terrible thought occurred to him, a memory bobbing back to the surface of his mind, one that made his insides writhe and squirm like serpents…”
Chapter 26: Seen & Unforeseen
Luna said vaguely that she did not know how soon Ron’s interview with Harry would appear in The Quibbler, that her father was expecting a lovely long article on recent sightings of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. “And, of course, that’ll be a very important story, so Harry’s might have to wait for the following issue,” said Luna.
Chapter Thirty-Three: Fight & Flight
“Harry had no idea what Hermione was planning, or even whether she had a plan. He walked half a pace behind her as they headed down the corridor outside Umbridge’s office, knowing it would look very suspicious if he appeared not to know where they were going. He did not dare attempt to talk to her; Umbridge was walking so closely behind them that he could hear her ragged breathing.
“Hermione led the way down the stairs into the entrance hall. The din of loud voices and the clatter of cutlery on plates echoed from out of the double doors to the Great Hall. It seemed incredible to Harry that twenty feet away were people who were enjoying dinner, celebrating the end of exams, not a care in the world…”
Chapter Thirty-Five: Beyond the Veil
“Black shapes were emerging out of thin air all around them, blocking their way left and right; eyes glinted through slits in hoods, a dozen lit wand tips were pointing directly at their hearts. Ginny gave a gasp of horror.”