Having grown up with his abusive Muggle aunt and uncle as adoptive parents, Harry's experiences of family have been fractured at best. To compensate, Harry relies on Sirius, his godfather and his father's best friend, as well as others who knew his parents, to give him a sense of who his parents were and where he fits into his biological family. However, as the year progresses, Harry learns some unsavory things about his father and begins to question how much he should actually admire him. As Harry grapples with these questions and simultaneously undergoes experiences that impress upon him how important his friends are, Harry begins to come to a more complete understanding of who he is and who's a part of his community. Developing this understanding of the complexity of interpersonal relationships, the novel suggests, is a key element of coming of age and building strong bonds with others.
Harry notes that until he witnesses Snape's memories in the Pensieve, he's never had any difficulty believing his father, James Potter, was a good person. Everyone who mentions James notes how smart, kind, and dedicated he was, and also how much Harry is like him--things that make Harry proud to be James's son. In Snape's memory, however, Harry gets a very different look at James Potter. Snape's memory shows fifteen-year-old James and Sirius tormenting and humiliating young Snape just because they're bored. Harry is sickened to see how self-important James was and watch him show off for girls, including James's future wife, Lily. In this particular memory, Lily seems to loathe James as much as Snape does, something that's just as disturbing for Harry as his father's behavior. Harry begins to question everything he knows about his parents and, importantly, questions whether he actually wants to be like his father or even take pride in people's comparisons between them. This tension begins to get at one of the questions that the novel raises during Harry's conversation with Dumbledore after the battle at the Ministry: how much is a person's destiny foretold, either by prophecy or genetics, and how much is it a matter of choice? Harry's actions to support his friends, behave kindly to those who are less powerful than he is, and fight for good suggest that at least in terms of his identity, Harry does have the power to be better than his father was at age fifteen--and in the same vein, James's later involvement with the Order of the Phoenix suggests that even he went on to make choices that turned him into a beloved resistance fighter.
The idea of choice and recognizing one's ability to decide on important elements of one's identity also maps onto the novel's exploration of the role of chosen family. Because of Harry's unfortunate biological family situation, he relies most often on mentoring relationships with adults and peer-to-peer friendships with Ron and Hermione to fill the gaps created by his parents' deaths. Given Harry's experiences with this chosen family and the fact that they show up for Harry in every situation where he needs help, the novel makes it abundantly clear that chosen family can be just as meaningful and supportive for a person as biological family, if not more so. Harry isn’t the only character who makes this discovery. Harry witnesses Percy Weasley abandon his family in favor of currying favor with the Ministry of Magic, which also demonstrates how an individual can choose identity and allegiance, even when that choice may be a mistake. Harry also watches Sirius fight with his mother's portrait in his childhood home--something that reminds Sirius that he's no longer welcome in his blood family or the place that family called home.
While Dumbledore never seeks to discredit Harry's relationships with chosen family or friends like Ron, Hermione, and the Weasleys (especially given that Dumbledore himself is Harry's greatest mentor and father figure throughout the series), Dumbledore does suggest that there's more to family than quantifiable degrees of support or the lack thereof. Dumbledore explains that Harry must return to the Dursleys every summer because, since Petunia is Lily's sister, Lily's sacrifice for Harry means that living with Petunia will continue to protect Harry from Voldemort thanks to old magic and the power of blood relationships. Importantly, Dumbledore also says that Voldemort scorns this kind of magic, as he doesn't believe that love for other beings (which Dumbledore suggests can be weaponized through families, as with Lily's sacrifice) is powerful or important. This is why Voldemort failed to kill baby Harry in the first place: he never expected that Lily's sacrifice would yield such powerful results--it ultimately turns Harry into the one person who can kill Voldemort. In the same conversation, Dumbledore also tells Harry that his capacity to love, and his choice to love his friends, family, and school, even when it's painful to do so, is what sets him apart from Voldemort.
With this understanding, Harry is able to begin to come to terms with Sirius's death and James's teenage bad behavior: both ultimately chose love, both of their chosen families and of their blood families, and died to protect those that they loved. This realization allows Harry to start to truly come of age and accept that in order to be successful going forward, he will need to dedicate himself even more fully to his friends and his chosen family, for only through loving them will he be able to defeat Voldemort.
Choices, Family, and Love ThemeTracker
Choices, Family, and Love Quotes in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
"I know, Harry. But you see what they're doing? They want to turn you into someone nobody will believe. Fudge is behind it, I'll bet anything. They want wizards on the street to think you're just some stupid boy who's a bit of a joke, who tells ridiculous tall stories because he loves being famous and wants to keep it going."
"Does it matter if she's my cousin?" snapped Sirius. "As far as I'm concerned, they're not my family. She's certainly not my family. I haven't seen her since I was your age, unless you count a glimpse of her coming into Azkaban. Do you think I'm proud of having relatives like her?"
Ron had not asked Dumbledore to give him the prefect badge. This was not Ron's fault. Was he, Harry, Ron's best friend in the world, going to sulk because he didn't have a badge, laugh with the twins behind Ron's back, ruin this for Ron when, for the first time, he had beaten Harry at something?
I sort you into Houses
Because that is what I'm for,
But this year I'll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it's wrong
Though I must fulfill my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether Sorting
May not bring the end I fear.
"I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run at this school," she said, an unconvincing smile stretching her wide mouth, "but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed—not to mention," she gave a nasty little laugh, "extremely dangerous half-breeds."
"Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"You called her a liar?"
"You told her He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?"
Professor McGonagall sat down behind her desk, frowning at Harry. Then she said, "Have a biscuit, Potter."
"I know her by reputation and I'm sure she's no Death Eater—"
"She's foul enough to be one," said Harry darkly and Ron and Hermione nodded vigorously in agreement.
"Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters," said Sirius with a wry smile. "I know she's a nasty piece of work, though—you should hear Remus talk about her."
"Does Lupin know her?" asked Harry quickly, remembering Umbridge's comments about dangerous half-breeds during her first lesson.
"No," said Sirius, "but she drafted a bit of anti-werewolf legislation two years ago that makes it almost impossible for him to get a job."
"You know, I don't get why Fred and George only got three O.W.L.s each," said Harry, watching as Fred, George, and Lee collected gold from the eager crowd. "They really know their stuff..."
He and the D.A. were resisting 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 Creevy 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.
Don't be stupid, you haven't got fangs, he told himself, trying to keep calm, though the hand on his butterbeer was shaking. You were lying in bed, you weren't attacking anyone...
But then, what happened in Dumbledore's office? he asked himself. I felt like I wanted to attack Dumbledore too...
"But that's not all, said Harry in a voice only a little above a whisper. "Sirius, I...I think I'm going mad...Back in Dumbledore's office, just before we took the Portkey...for a couple of seconds there I thought I was a snake, I felt like one—my scar really hurt when I was looking at Dumbledore—Sirius, I wanted to attack him—"
He could only see a sliver of Sirius's face; the rest was in darkness.
"It must have been the aftermath of the vision, that's all," said Sirius. "You were still thinking of the dream or whatever it was and—"
"It wasn't like that," said Harry, shaking his head. "It was like something rose up inside me, like there's a snake inside me—"
"You need to sleep," said Sirius firmly.
"Bitten by a werewolf, poor chap. No cure at all."
"A werewolf?" whispered Mrs. Weasley, looking alarmed. "Is he safe in a public ward? Shouldn't he be in a private room?"
"It's two weeks till full moon," Mr. Weasley reminded her quietly.
"So that's it, is it?" he said loudly. "Stay there? That's all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors too! Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won't bother telling you anything, though, because your tiny little brain might not be able to cope with it!"
He could abandon the plan and simply learn to live with the memory of what his father had done on a summer's day more than twenty years ago...
And then he remembered Sirius in the fire upstairs in the Gryffindor common room... "You're less like your father than I thought...The risk would've been what made it fun for James..."
But did he want to be like his father anymore?
"I'm trying to say—Voldemort knows you, Harry! He took Ginny down into the Chamber of Secrets to lure you there, it's the kind of thing he does, he knows you're the—the sort of person who'd go to Sirius's aid! What if he's just trying to get you into the Department of Myst—"
Still pointing her shaking wand at Magorian, she continued, "Law Fifteen B states clearly that ‘Any attack by a magical creature who is deemed to have near-human intelligence, and therefore considered responsible for its actions—'"
"'Near-human intelligence'?" repeated Magorian, as Bane and several others roared with rage and pawed the ground.
"Like the fact that the person Sirius cared most about in the world was you," said Dumbledore quietly. "Like the fact that you were coming to regard Sirius as a mixture of father and brother. Voldemort knew already, of course, that Sirius was in the Order, that you knew where he was—but Kreacher's information made him realize that the one person whom you would go to any lengths to rescue was Sirius Black."
"Sirius did not hate Kreacher," said Dumbledore. "He regarded him as a servant unworthy of much interest or notice. Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike...the fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward."
"I cared about you too much," said Dumbledore simply. "I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act."