"Oh, I don't think any of us believe the dementors were there by coincidence."
-Albus Dumbledore (OP8)
Harry attends his hearing for underage magic in front of a Muggle in defending himself and Dudley from Dementors. 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. He sees the Department of Mysteries corridor in the waking world for the first time. Other ministry employees in attendance include Dolores Umbridge, Amelia Bones, and Percy Weasley. (OP7)
The hearing was originally scheduled for 9:00 AM. It was abruptly moved up to 8:00 AM without Harry's knowledge, and he had to hurry to get there. Things probably got underway around 8:20 AM.
12 August 1995 was a Thursday in the wizarding world.
This 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 here 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.
On his way to the hearing, Harry sees 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.
Harry recognizes the dungeon courtroom as the same one in which the Lestranges were sentenced to life in Azkaban. He "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.
When Harry enters the courtroom, an unidentified "cold male voice" states, "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.
Harry is told that information about the time change was sent to Privet Drive via owl. 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.
The chair in which Harry sits has chains, but they are not used to hold Harry 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?
"Interrogators" in quite 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.
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.
The feeling Harry feels when Dumbledore shows up is likened to the feeling Harry experiences when he hears phoenix song. 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.
Dumbledore conjures up "a squashy chintz armchair." 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.
Madame Bones says,"We have no record of any witch or wizard living in Little Whinging, other than Harry Potter." 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.
Umbridge seems to react slightly when Dumbledore suggests that the Dementors were sent on purpose. 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.
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.
Fudge says, "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?
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."
It seems odd that Harry wears a t-shirt to his hearing. Mrs. Weasley cares enough to try to fix his hair and make him look tidy before he leaves for the Ministry (OP7); it seems like someone could have found something better for Harry to wear. He really isn't dressed that much better than Mrs. Figg, for whom Harry is embarrassed for wearing carpet slippers (OP8). -BB