"We thought it was a bog-standard chicken until it started breathing fire."
-- Bob (surname unknown) (OP7)
Arthur Weasley takes Harry to the Ministry of Magic for his scheduled hearing and Harry gets a look at the Ministry building and the setup of its offices.
Calendar and Dates
The action of this chapter takes place on Thursday, 12 August 1995. We know that it was a Thursday because the previous evening was said to have been a Wednesday (OP6).
Interesting facts and notes
This chapter is the largest single source of information about the organization of the Ministry of Magic, as of the release of HBP.
The blank picture on the wall sniggered again.
The unseen subject of the portrait (who is lurking just out of sight beyond the frame) is Phineas Nigellus. We'll be properly introduced to him much later, at Christmastime. His earlier sniggering happened back in OP4, the night Harry arrived at Grimmauld Place.
We need to be a bit more careful, [Scrimgeour]'s been asking Kingsley and me funny questions...
As of OP, we had not yet met Scrimgeour. In HBP, we learned that he was head of the Auror Office.
The hearing's on my floor, in Amelia Bones' office. She's Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she's the one who'll be questioning you.
Here we have a few nuggets of information both about the floorplan of the Ministry offices and about standard procedure in disciplinary hearings; the latter is of interest, since it is not followed in this case.
Regarding the floorplan, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has her office on the same floor as the rest of the department employees, rather than (to name one possibility) being on a separate floor with other heads of department.
The procedural question is of great interest, since due process of law in the wizarding world seems quite fragile during the years of the wars against Voldemort. For the sake of discussion, I am going to assume that Arthur's information about where Harry is to go and who is to question him come from his knowledge of standard procedure in such a case.
Harry has received a prior warning from the Improper Use of Magic Office (in CS2). His current troubles arise from being accused of a second, and more serious, offence. (Note, by the way, that no mention is made of the possible presence a representative of the Improper Use of Magic Office on this occasion, which might have been expected.)
The expected procedure on this occasion is that the underage wizard will appear for his disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic, but that it will not involve a trial by jury or by a panel of judges. Instead, he will appear before the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to be questioned in her office, rather than in a courtroom. (As we will see, however, the expected procedure is not that which will be followed.)
The law's on your side. Even underage wizards are allowed to use magic in life-threatening situations.
So far, this is consistent with the development of Muggle law throughout history: self-defence is permitted. Regarding wizarding law as it applies to underage wizards who have not yet learned to control their magic, this is a recognition of the pragmatic facts about underage wizards: they will instinctively use their magic to protect themselves from a threat, just as Neville bounced when dropped out a window at the age of eight (PS7), and as Harry once found himself on the school roof after being chased by Dudley's gang (PS2).
Something very cold trickled down the back of Harry's neck; for a moment he thought someone was putting a Disillusionment Charm on him again...
Harry is indeed about to be disillusioned (as if he needed it) about the relationship between wizarding law, Magical Law Enforcement, and justice.
Let's see...six...two...four...and another four...and another two...
The phone number to dial in the telephone box to enter the Ministry, 6-2-4-4-2, spells M-A-G-I-C.
Every few seconds a witch or wizard would emerge from one of the left-hand fireplaces with a soft whoosh; on the right-hand side, short queues of wizards were forming before each fireplace, waiting to depart.
These, of course, are the Atrium's connections to the Floo Network, and because of the heavy traffic they've been organized as the Floo Network equivalent of one-way streets.
Visitor to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium.
Not surprisingly, visitors to the Ministry of Magic must register their wands upon arrival. However, as we learned in QA, wizarding folk have for centuries had the right to keep their wands on them at all times, so even the Ministry of Magic's security does not have the right to confiscate a visitor's wand upon arrival.
All proceeds from the Fountain of Magical Brethren will be given to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries
Apparently wizards and witches toss coins into fountains just as Muggles do, and as is often the case in the Muggle world, the proceeds are donated to charity.
If I'm not expelled from Hogwarts, I'll put in ten Galleons, Harry found himself thinking desperately.
I'm glad to say that Harry kept his promise, as we see at the close of OP8. He seems to be quite diligent about keeping such self-imposed promises, even when nobody else is aware of them (such as his resolution to buy Dobby a pair of socks for every day in the year in thanks for Dobby's help with the Second Task, GF26).
A badly shaven wizard in peacock-blue robes looked up...
Since only one watchwizard is present, we can't tell if the robes are a uniform or not. The peacock-blue robes are a subtle touch; in Greek mythology, the peacock was created in honor of Argus, an ever-watchful, many-eyed guardian. Filch's given name comes from the same source.
It would be quite interesting, given later events, to know if this wizard has just begun his working day, or if he's on the night shift and is just about to go off duty. His poorly-shaven appearance might be due to either.
From the timing of Perkins' announcement later on, it is very near eight o'clock when Arthur and Harry pass through security, probably just before the hour since the journey from the Atrium to Arthur's office takes a little time. If the wizarding shift system resembles that in the Muggle world, Eric is probably the night-shift watchwizard, and will go off-duty when his relief shows up.
The wizard held up a long, golden rod, thin and flexible as a car aerial, and passed it up and down Harry's front and back.
In essence, this isn't very different from Muggle security, although since this unnamed device detected the presence of Harry's wand (a piece of wood with a magical feather at its core), it is not a metal detector. At a guess, the device detects the presence of enchanted artifacts.
Harry produced his wand. The wizard dropped it onto a strange brass instrument, which looked something like a set of scales with only one dish. It began to vibrate. A narrow strip of parchment came speeding out of a slit in the base.
From the contents of the strip of parchment, this unnamed security device identifies the wand-wood and magical core of a wand, and indicates how long it has been in use.
Thank you, Eric.
Putting this together with the Daily Prophet report in OP14, this security guard is watchwizard Eric Munch, who will arrest Sturgis Podmore for trespass and attempted robbery at one o'clock in the morning on 31 August.
We thought it was a bog-standard chicken until it started breathing fire. Looks like a serious breach of the Ban on Experimental Breeding to me.
As might be expected, the fire-breathing chicken is being taken to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, as we see later when Bob gets off the lift on that floor. It seems a reasonable assumption that Bob works for that Department.
The Ban is also mentioned in FB, as a number of the more exotic entries therein are living proof of why the Ban was written into law in the first place (forbidding the creation of new species of magical creatures).
I'd be interested to know why Draco Malfoy doesn't seem to have tried to take the easy way out of Blast-Ended Skrewt lessons, when he could have just written to ask Lucius (or his mother, for that matter) to report Hagrid to the Department for a possible violation of the Ban. He shouldn't have needed Rita Skeeter's interest to prod him into getting a clue...
The phrase 'bog-standard' is an odd one, one which appeared in British vernacular in the 1980s seemingly out of nowhere. It means 'common and ordinary." No one is really sure where the phrase came from.
Level seven, Department of Magical Games and Sports, incorporating the British and Irish Quidditch League Headquarters, Official Gobstones Club, and Ludicrous Patents Office.
The Ludicrous Patents Office is interesting. The word "ludicrous" means "absurd" in English, but it comes from the Latin word for "game"; the wizarding community may use "ludicrous patents" to refer to game-related enchantments. We know from QA, for example, that Braking Charms can be patented; this office might be in charge of that sort of thing.
Level six, Department of Magical Transport, incorporating the Floo Network Authority...
Arthur Weasley referred to the Floo Regulation Panel in GF4; possibly they have had a reorganization over the past year.
From Remus' remarks earlier (OP3) and from later events, the Floo Network Authority has the ability to monitor the network, and can eavesdrop on conversations therein, much as Muggle telephones can be wiretapped.
...Broom Regulatory Control...
There has never been any mention of licensing requirements in order to use broomsticks, even racing brooms like Harry's Firebolt. Broom Regulatory Control may be responsible for regulating the manufacturers of magical broomsticks rather than policing their users.
From Fudge's blustering at Dumbledore in OP36, we know that Portkeys are required to be authorized. From Remus Lupin's remarks in OP3, it seems to be possible to detect the use of aPortkey. Consequently, it seems like a reasonable deduction that the Portkey Office is responsible for authorizing the creation of Portkeys (and possibly may regulate their use once they have been created, as well).
Since Portkeys (according to Arthur Weasley in GF6) are often made from items that look like rubbish, and since there are restrictions on enchanting Muggle objects for fear of their falling back into Muggle hands at some future date, it seems reasonable that objects enchanted to function as Portkeys should be kept track of.
...and Apparition Test Center.
We know from the experiences of the various Weasley brothers, as recounted in GF, OP, and HBP, that a wizard (or witch) must be of age (17) and have a license in order to Apparate, and that to get a license he or she must pass a test.
...several paper airplanes swooped into the lift... they were a pale violet color and he could see MINISTRY OF MAGIC stamped along the edges of their wings.
"Just Interdepartmental memos."
Does this count as a spell, or is the stationery specially made (in which case it counts as a device)? Decisions, decisions...
Level five, Department of International Magical Cooperation, incorporating the International Magical Trading Standards Body...
Judging from Percy's cauldron-bottom report, this is where he was employed when he first joined the Ministry.
...the International Magical Office of Law...
We don't know much about this, or how it relates to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
...and the International Confederation of Wizards, British Seats.
Dumbledore, of course, was Chairman of this body until the beginning of August (OP5).
Level four, Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures...
As mentioned by Newt Scamander (FB), this is the second-largest department of the seven making up the Ministry.
...incorporating Beast, Being, and Spirit Divisions...
As mentioned by Newt Scamander (FB), ghosts objected to the prejudice against the living-impaired implicit in their being classified as Beings (they consider themselves Has-Beens), so they're handled by the Spirit Division.
...Goblin Liason Office...
Since the wizarding banking system is dominated by goblins, this is probably an extremely important part of the Ministry.
...and Pest Advisory Bureau.
Scamander uses the name "Pest Sub-Division" to refer to this, but the Department may have been through a reorganization since the last edition of FB was published. According to FB, some of the responsibilities of the Pest Sub-Division are:
- providing assistance with serious Bundimun infestations of wizarding homes
- dealing with serious infestations of Chizpurfles
- the Ghoul Task Force (possibly)
- maintaining a pack of a dozen albino bloodhounds, to deal with Nogtails
Level three, Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes...
Cornelius Fudge worked for this Department at the end of the first war against Voldemort (PA10).
...the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad...
This crew handled the deflation of Marjorie Dursley the summer before Harry's third year (PA3).
Obliviators mostly seem to be responsible for modifying the memories of Muggle witnesses to anything that the wizarding community wishes to cover up.
...and Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee.
A government committee whose official job is to manage cover-ups.
Level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement...
According to Newt Scamander (FB), this is the largest of the seven departments of the Ministry (give or take the Department of Mysteries).
...including the Improper Use of Magic Office...
Notice that Harry is not being sent here.
...which, I regret to say, is a cube farm, albeit a cheerful one.
...and Wizengamot Administration Services.
Court administration, in other words.
Those are enchanted windows; Magical Maintenance decide what weather we're getting every day.
Magical Maintenance is presumably in charge of maintaining the lifts and ensuring that the Atrium fireplaces are supplied with Floo Powder, in addition to less magical forms of maintenance such as tidying up.
We had two months of hurricanes last time they were angling for a pay rise...
Having been through an assortment of hurricanes myself, I can say that the effect would've been impressive, and much more fun to watch if one knew it weren't real. I wonder what wizarding performance reviews are like...
"A regurgitating toilet?"
According to Arthur (much later, OP22), this was due to a jinx, rather than being a magical item or device as such.
I've just sent an owl to your home but you've obviously missed it -
Post owls normally seem to be directed to the recipient rather than the recipient's location, but Hedwig has always been represented as being unusually intelligent about that sort of thing, so Perkins' owl may just not be quite as clever as Hedwig.
...an urgent message came ten minutes ago -
And since it's already five minutes past the hour, the message was received at 7:55, leaving five whole minutes for Arthur to bring Harry to the hearing.
It's the Potter boy's hearing - they've changed the time and venue -
That is, the jurisdiction as well as the time of the hearing has been changed, and Harry's judgement will be delivered by a different authority than that which would've applied.
- it starts at eight o'clock now and it's down in old Courtroom Ten -
That is, the hearing has been moved up one hour, and to another level of the Ministry complex.
If you'd missed it it would have been catastrophic!
In the Muggle world, this would've been very bad - possibly resulting in being found in contempt of court - but due process would ensure that the defendant could not be found guilty without a hearing.
The wizarding world, on the other hand, does not seem to operate this way.
"Aren't - aren't you coming with -?"
"No, no, I'm not allowed."
Harry is going into a disciplinary hearing facing serious charges, and he is being permitted no formal adult support at all; neither a lawyer nor a guardian is to be present. True, Mr. Weasley is not Harry's legal guardian, but no provision whatsoever has been made for someone to look after Harry's interests.
Exceptional character moments
In Tonks' opinion, Amelia Bones is fair and can be expected to give Harry a chance to present a defence.
Molly, fussing over Harry's breakfast, clothes, and hair before he leaves for the hearing.
Remus, seeking to reassure Harry through cool logic by reminding him that he has a right to use magic in self-defence.
Sirius, seeking to reassure Harry by promising to go after Amelia Bones if she doesn't acquit him.
Arthur, throughout, looking after Harry as though he were one of his own young sons in trouble.
Arthur's erratic grasp of the correct words for describing Muggle concepts (ironic, given his job). He corrects Kingley's use of "firelegs" when Kingsley meant "firearms", but he himself later used "pumbles" to refer to "plumbers" in conversation with Harry.
Arthur's and Kingsley's little charade about how Arthur just doesn't seem to be assisting the hunt for Sirius Black properly, and how Kingsley isn't reading Arthur's reports carefully enough.
"We thought it was a bog-standard chicken until it started breathing fire."