My husband, barely twelve chapters in, describes this book as "sullen." The word I would use is "angry." Anger rises from this book like smoke. Another word is "betrayal", but that just feeds the anger.
Everyone is angry, and with cause. Sirius is trapped in his filthy doxytrap of a house with his mother's shrewish portrait and his traitorous (see?) house-elf. In other words, he's back in prison, guarded with those who want to steal his happiness. He's been free - on the run, but free - for one year out of the past fourteen.
Fred and George are trapped in a school that has nothing to teach them, and are treated like children even though they are legal adults. (BTW. Fred and George are powerful and talented wizards. The skills they've honed for their jokes - poisons/antidotes, controlled explosions, charms and transfigurations - are the same skills you need to produce weapons.)
Dumbledore's control over his school is eroded to the point that he loses it, and the people who have listened - begged for - his advice over the years are now ignoring it to their peril, and that of those around them. And he can't protect his students openly.
And he's angry at himself for being to weak to hurt someone he cares about.
Mrs. Weasley sees the deaths of her beloved sons, including the one she didn't give birth to, and she can't stop it. And one has rejected her values and her jumper.
Vernon Dursley sees his house - really, the only place he has authority - invaded time and again by people he hates and fears. Petunia is reminded of something she'd rather forget.
Snape seems to have been nursing a righteous anger from twenty years earlier.
And everyone is angry at Umbridge - I found myself loving all the teachers for their reactions to her. And feeling sorry for Trelawney.
But no one is as angry as Harry. He's fifteen, which is usually an age of frustration - old enough to not be a child, too young to be an adult. He wants privileges and knowledge and resents that others feel obligated to deny them these things. He also doesn't want to have all the responsibilities of adulthood. And, for a normal fifteen year old, that would mean moodiness. Sullenness, if you will. Minor rebellions like hanging out with a bad crowd or experimenting with drugs or sex.
But Harry isn't a normal fifteen year old, in either our world or his. Privileges are about the only good thing he gets; to deny him Quidditch and Hogsmeade is to rid him of any pleasure he has. And this past summer - he didn't ever get his vacation at the Weasleys.
And, as Dumbledore said at the end, denying him knowledge risks his life. If he doesn't know he's in danger or what he's facing, or even just what's going on in the Wizarding world, he can make decisions that can cause his death and the death of others. And if Harry dies before the final battle, the Dark Lord wins, and if Harry loses too many people close to him, he will lose heart to fight. We've already seen that happen.
And Harry knows this. He's been hungry for information all summer, even to risking his uncle's wrath to hear the Muggle news. And he only gets those bits and pieces that the people who love him think he can handle. Except he can handle everything, because he *has* to handle everything.
But, because he's fifteen, he doesn't know how to articulate this - and because he's stuck at Hogwarts with Umbridge, he has no one he can tell. So, he's angry and he lashes out and because he loves so many of these people, he directs the anger at someone he doesn't love, that he hates.
And so, this book feels different from the other books. The...magic is gone. Hogwarts isn't a happy refuge from Muggledom - it's a fascist regime. And the wizarding world is now affecting the Muggle world - dementors attack him in Little Whinging. He has no safe place at all.
What's missing is the highs, the victories, the *fun*. Someone said that she didn't care about Quidditch if Harry isn't playing, and she's right. We don't. I'm happy that Ron has learned to be a Keeper, and that Ginny is a good Seeker, even if it isn't her preferred position, but I didn't even care that Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup or that they apparently lost the House Cup. And that makes sense because these interHouse rivalries are irrelevent. More. They're dangerous.
Even Draco seems irrelevent, which is probably why I barely noticed his presence.
The only *good* thing was Dumbledore's Army and the fact that Harry is a natural teacher. Thanks to him, Neville has become more confident of his own considerable powers.
Interesting, no, that Fudge's own paranoia caused the creation of the thing he feared? Just as Voldemort did with Harry? Because it might well have *been* Neville but it can't be now. Except that, if it *could* be Neville, that's going to be vital.
I love Neville.
As for the Snape/Harry stuff - I like reading Snape/Harry, to a point, and I think the book works well with jacquez's SA. Because she is a Tease. But maybe I'm blind, or maybe my slash-colored glasses are malfunctioning, or maybe my teacher/student squick is working overtime, but while I loved the Snape teaching Harry scenes *as scenes*, and as character development, and I truly enjoyed Harry's trip through the Pensieve, I did not see anything slashy while reading them.
I didn't even notice the language which could be read as slashy in hindsight. Yes, that language is there, but it didn't penetrate to me. I can't see them as loving enemies because, frankly, I can't see Snape being interested in a boy. And Harry is, right now, non-sexual. Cho is more confusing than anything else, and if he is interested in boys, it's not conscious. And he has far too much other stuff going on to even *think*.
The only slash I saw was Remus/Sirius, which I'm thinking as half-canonical. So. Poor Remus, and Harry doesn't even notice that maybe someone hurts more than he does.
Of course, Harry's fifteen and no one could hurt as much. Like, say, Neville, who has parents who don't know him.
So this book was a long, dark, angry ride with little to make it lighter or happier, and it's going to get worse.