Here’s our run-down of some important moments that happened in January…
Alright, we don’t know exactly when Harry discovered Tom Riddle’s diary after it had been discarded by Ginny in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. But it was definitely after Christmas and some time before Valentine’s Day, so late January seems likely.
Regardless of the exact date, the fact that Harry was the one to find and keep it was pretty significant, because that diary was his first real interaction with Voldemort. Much later, Harry’s connection with the wizard formerly known as Tom Riddle would be marked by scar-hurtingly real dreams and visions, but in those early days, Riddle used his diary to reveal certain aspects of his self to Harry. It also underscored the similarities between Harry and Voldemort in a way that would come back to haunt him: both bought up in a Muggle world; both orphans who felt more at home at Hogwarts than anywhere else. The fact that Riddle twisted the truth and manipulated Ginny into opening the Chamber of Secrets also gave Harry first-hand insight into his mind, and these insights would later prove invaluable when it came to defeating him.
Harry might initially have been motivated to ask Lupin to teach him how to ward off Dementors after plunging headfirst off his broom, but learning how to form a Patronus helped him do much more than win the Quidditch Cup. Without Lupin’s instruction, Harry would never have been able to rescue Sirius from the Dementor’s Kiss, save Dudley from an unexpected Dementor attack in Little Whinging, or help shepherd Muggle-borns to safety when he, Hermione and Ron infiltrated the Ministry of Magic in disguise.
And so one of Harry’s greatest magical achievements began in an empty History of Magic classroom, one Thursday evening in early January, with Professor Lupin, a Boggart, and a deep-seated desire not to lose control during a Quidditch match ever again.
Rita Skeeter’s scoop about Hagrid being a half-giant was seemingly published shortly after Christmas, and when the students of Hogwarts returned in January, Hagrid was nowhere to be seen. He’d hidden himself away in shame, and – in a move that was most unlike Hagrid – he also refused to see Harry, Ron and Hermione and even resigned from the teaching role he’d previously loved.
Luckily for everyone (except perhaps those who preferred Professor Grubbly-Plank’s style of teaching), Dumbledore was also in a refusing mood and would not accept Hagrid’s resignation. Which meant Hagrid could hold his head high and return to his teaching post, with everyone knowing the truth.
Like his Anti-Dementor lessons with Lupin, Harry’s foray into that mystical mind-reading branch of magic called Occlumency with Snape also began in the dark days of January. Overall this extra tuition was much less successful, though, perhaps in part because Harry’s motivation was severely lacking. He’d requested Anti-Dementor lessons himself, but with Occlumency, it was Dumbledore who suggested he needed the help.
Except of course the most obvious factor in the failure of his Occlumency lessons was his teacher. Not because Snape wasn’t good – even Lupin acknowledged that Snape was a superb Occlumens – but because the animosity between Snape and Harry was never going to make for a positive teaching environment. Who wants to let their mind be attacked by any teacher, let alone a teacher with such an obvious dislike as Snape had for Harry? Still, the failure of those lessons paved the way for Harry to reject everyone else’s assertion that he should shut Voldemort out, and later he was able to actively use that connection to ultimately help him defeat Voldemort.
It wasn’t all doom, gloom and pent-up anger in the Pensieve though: whilst waiting for his first Occlumency lesson Harry also (with a little prompting) managed to ask Cho Chang out on a real, actual date to Hogsmeade.
OK, the date didn’t go well, and by the end of the school year Harry had much bigger things to worry about than the failure of his fledgling relationship with Cho, but never mind, at least he asked her out. And we did tell you that not every new start lasted that long. Even in the wizarding world, January’s January, after all.