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Complete, detailed, and amazing Reader's Guides
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Chapter Eight:
The Hearing


NOTES | CHARACTERS | SETTINGS | TIMELINE / CALENDAR
EXCEPTIONAL CHARACTER MOMENTS
SPELLS | LINKS & RESOURCES | MEMORABLE LINES | STRICTLY BRITISH

Synopsis by Maureen Knight
Notes and links by Steve Vander Ark and Michele L. Worley

U.S. hardcover edition: pages 137 - 151
U.K. hardcover edition: pages 126 - 138
U.K. paperback edition: pages 155 - 170
Timeframe: Thursday, August 12, 1995 [Y15]

In which Harry attends his hearing, Fudge continues to disbelieve him about Voldemort's return, and Dumbledore arrives to assist Harry. Mrs. Figg testifies and Harry is cleared of all charges.

The Hearing (OP8) by Mary GrandPré © 2003 Warner Bros.

Interesting facts and notes about the text of this chapter:

In this chapter, we have our second experience of the wizarding criminal justice system, the first having been through Dumbledore's Pensieve in GF30. Instead of just flashes of the high points of the ending of various trials, this time we experience an entire hearing, and it does not bode well for the fate of civil rights in the wizarding world.

We also learn a number of small details, such as the full names (including middle names) of various members of the court and of those speaking before it.

The walls were bare; there were no windows and no doors apart from a plain black one set at the very end of the corridor.

This is the corridor toward the Department of Mysteries - Harry's seeing this corridor is an important moment upon which the rest of the plot rests, although he doesn't realize it at the time.

The large dungeon he had entered was horribly familiar. He had not only seen it before, he had been here before. This was the place he had visited inside Dumbledore's Pensieve, the place where he had watched the Lestranges sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban.

Harry "visited" this room in GF30. At the time, he had no way of knowing how important the people he was seeing sentenced to Azkaban would be in his life. Barty Crouch Jr. would try to kill Harry not long after the Pensieve incident, and Bellatrix Lestrange would murder Sirius Black. Now here in this grim place Harry faces the entire Wizengamot on trumped-up charges. This courtroom is a forbidding place indeed, and the last time Harry saw it, he saw Dementors escorting some of the prisoners.

A cold male voice rang across the courtroom. "You're late."

Who is this speaking? The assumption is that it is Fudge, although it is somewhat surprising that Harry doesn't seem to recognize him.

"An owl was sent to you this morning. Take your seat."

That this is an obvious attempt to miscarry justice is only more apparent when we hear in a few moments that Dumbledore was intentionally misinformed as the the time as well:
"Dumbledore. Yes. You - er - got our - er - message that the time and -er - place of the hearing had been changed, then?"

"I must have missed it," said Dumbledore cheerfully. "However, due to a lucky mistake I arrived at the Ministry three hours early, so no harm done."
It would seem that Dumbledore was expecting a trick of this kind from Fudge. It's a bit surprising that he didn't warn Arthur to make sure that he and Harry arrived early as well.

When he sat gingerly on the edge of the chair the chains clinked threateningly, but did not bind him.

We saw these chains binding Karkaroff in GF30. For Harry, as with Bagman in that chapter, the chains do not close. Are they controlled from the judge's bench, or do they perhaps only bind a person who has already been convicted or who is deemed to be dangerous?

Percy's eyes, behind his horn-rimmed glasses, were fixed on his parchment, a quill poised in his hand.

Is Percy really in cahoots with Fudge here? He doesn't seem to dare to look at either Dumbledore or Harry. The possibility exists that Percy is actually working as a spy for Dumbledore -- although if that's the case, it seems harsh that the Headmaster would ask Percy to cause so much pain to his parents. The fact that Dumbledore seemed to know that the time and place of the hearing had changed suggests that he might have been tipped off, and Percy could be the source of that information. Although this is possible, it appears far more likely that Percy is actually being as arrogant and pigheaded as he seems. Percy's estrangement from his family is one plot detail which was not resolved at the end of the fifth (or sixth) book.

Harry James Potter, resident at number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.

Here for the first time we learn Harry's middle name. Rowling had revealed this in interviews before. Harry is named after his father, of course.

Interrogators

What an unpleasant title for those who hold the keys to justice in the Wizarding World. This term harkens to terms like Inquisitor, the title Umbridge takes upon herself a few chapters from now. Both these terms sound negative and call up memories of the Spanish Inquisition and other horrors.

Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic

Fudge is called the Minister OF Magic in the US editions of the books. His middle name, Oswald, resonates negatively for Americans, because it is the surname of the assassin who killed President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement

Amelia Bones, we learn later, is the aunt of Susan Bones, a Hufflepuff in Harry's year. It would appear that Susan is named after her famous aunt. As Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Bones seems to be acting as Chief Justice of the Wizarding World, although this may be because Dumbledore has been asked to step down. Even so, it is clear that Fudge, as Minister of/for Magic, is running this particular show.

Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister

Here we are introduced to one of the most delightfully despicable characters in children's literature. The description of this horrible woman, soon contrasted with her ridiculous girlish voice, is at once bizarre, cloying, and downright chilling.

Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley

We learn Percy's middle name here. Ignatius, derived from Latin, means "fiery." One might guess that Molly and Arthur named him this because of his fiery red hair, although his personality matches the term as well.

Furthermore, Rowling is known to use saints' names for a number of her characters. Percy's middle name might also be a reference to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).

St. Ignatius of Loyola's feast day happens to be 31 July, Harry's birthday.

A powerful emotion had risen in Harry's chest at the sight of Dumbledore, a fortified, hopeful feeling rather like that which phoenix song gave him.

Once again, Dumbledore is closely associated with the symbol of resurrection represented by the phoenix. Throughout the books, the phoenix and its song represent new life, sacrifical love, hope, and protection. When the phoenix song fills the air in the graveyard, Harry's parents appear, ready to offer love and support to him. In direct contrast to that song are the horrible sounds of his parents' death he hears when the Dementors fill the air with their putrid, cold breath. Dumbledore strides into a courtroom which is unfairly biased against Harry, a courtroom which would have sentenced him to virtual death, a courtroom in which Harry has even seen Dementors in the Pensieve, and saves the day. The power of these themes in the saga cannot be overstated.

a squashy chintz armchair appeared out of nowhere

This nifty bit of conjuration magic is a repeat from the third book, when Dumbledore "draws up a chair" for Trelawney to join the Christmas feast. Dumbledore, the lover of warm socks and sherbet lemons, creates soft, comfortable furniture. When McGonagall conjures up several chairs in Dumbledore's office (OP22), she comes up with straight-backed, wooden ones.

"We have no record of any witch or wizard living in Little Whinging, other than Harry Potter," said Madam Bones at once. "That situation has always been closely monitored, given...given past events."

It cannot be assumed from this comment that all witches and wizards are registered and monitored by the Ministry. Harry Potter is certainly watched closely, of course, and perhaps this is why he finds himself so easily on the receiving end of owls from Mafalda Hopkirk, and why Fred, George, and others get away with using the occasional spell out of school. This may also explain why Dumbledore chose a Squib for the task of watching over Harry as he grew up. The Ministry would not have to be informed of Dumbledore's arrangements.

Even Bagman wouldn't have bet...

The fate of Ludo Bagman is another plot thread which is not tied up in this book. It is clear from the tense of the verb in this sentence that Bagman is no longer at the Ministry betting on things, but we have no idea where he ended up.

"Oh, I don't think any of us believe the Dementors were there by coincidence," said Dumbledore lightly.
The witch sitting to the right of Fudge, with her face in shadow, moved slightly but everyone else was quite still and silent.

Umbridge, we learn in OP32, is the one who ordered the Dementors to attack Harry. She is reacting here to the fact that Dumbledore is stepping very close to the truth.

"But naturally, you would not care how many times you heard from a witness, if the alternative was a serious miscarriage of justice," said Dumbledore.

Like Crouch many years before, Fudge doesn't really care about serious miscarriages of justice at all. He is using the power of his position to forward his own goals at the expense of justice. Sirius Black was Crouch's victim; Harry is almost Fudge's.

"...he blew up his aunt, for God's sake!"

Fudge uses the name of God as simply an expression here, but it is evident that there is in fact religion in the world of the Harry Potter books. Of course, the simple mention of the name of God in a slang expression doesn't suggest any real form of religion in the Wizarding World itself. The reference is interesting, nonetheless, since in most other cases, we hear wizards say things like "Merlin's Beard" instead of the slang expressions of our own world.

"Oho!" said Fudge. "Not our business what he does at school, eh? You think so?"

Is it perhaps at this point that Fudge hit upon the idea for his Educational Decrees which gave him power over the students and teachers at Hogwarts?

Characters introduced in this chapter:

Characters returning in this chapter:

Characters mentioned in this chapter:

Settings and locations introduced or returning in this chapter:

Settings and locations mentioned in this chapter:

Exceptional character moments:

  • Dumbledore's defense of Harry is great fun, especially when he turns the tables on Fudge, who has just lost his temper talking about Harry blowing up his aunt:

    "And you very kindly did not press charges on that occasion. accepting, I presume, that even the best wizards cannot always control their emotions."

Spells:

Links and Resources:

Memorable lines:

  • "Oh, I don't think any of us believe the dementors were there by coincidence."

Strictly British:

Timeline/Calendar of the Chapter

The action takes place on 12 August, 1995 [Y15], which in the wizarding world was a Thursday.

Sunday, Aug 8 Monday, Aug 9 Tuesday, Aug 10 Wednesday, Aug 11 Thursday, Aug 12 Friday, Aug 13 Saturday, Aug 14
        approx. 8:20 am
Harry appears before the Wizengamot
   
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