Harry’s first-hand knowledge of the Wizarding world was pretty limited up to this time. Basically, he had spent all of his life in three places: Diagon Alley in London (and Little Whinging is part of greater London, being in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport), the Burrow which is in south Devon, and Hogwarts, which is in the Highlands of Scotland. He has heard of other places but he — and we — have never visited them.
Then along comes Order of the Phoenix and it seems like the whole world is opening up. We started with Grimmauld Place with all its creepy and fascinating detail. Later in the book we’ll visit St Mungos. But now, in chapter seven, we’re going to finally go to the Ministry of Magic itself.
Harry sat and thought about this while Hagrid read his newspaper, the Daily Prophet. Harry had learned from Uncle Vernon that people liked to be left alone while they did this, but it was very difficult, he’d never had so many questions in his life.
“Ministry o’ Magic messin’ things up as usual,” Hagrid muttered, turning the page.
“There’s a Ministry of Magic?” Harry asked, before he could stop himself.
“‘Course,” said Hagrid. “They wanted Dumbledore fer Minister, o’’ course, but he’d never leave Hogwarts, so old Cornelius Fudge got the job. Bungler if ever there was one. So he pelts Dumbledore with owls every morning, askin’ fer advice.”
“But what does a Ministry of Magic do?”
“Well, their main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there’s still witches an’ wizards up an’ down the country.”
“Why? Blimey, Harry, everyone’d be wantin’ magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we’re best left alone.”
Harry has occasional encounters with the Ministry of the next couple of books, notably with various Ministry officials and employees at the Quidditch World Cup in book four and with the Minister for Magic himself more than once.
So in Order of the Phoenix we finally get to visit the main headquarters, located beneath the streets of central London. But Rowling had actually revealed a lot about the Wizarding government before this, in the two “school books,” Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Fantastic Beasts in particular provides a lot of history and organizational detail about the Ministry, including the fact that there are seven Departments. Hmmm, there’s that number seven again.
We really get a much more detailed look at the various agencies and offices in this chapter, particularly as Harry rides the lift and hears that disembodied voice calmly reading off the main offices found on each floor. We’re going to get a similar floor-by-floor look at St Mungos coming up in chapter 22.
Rowling’s imagination and world building skills are on full display in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
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