In Chapter 8, Harry attends his disciplinary hearing, where there are a few surprises. Let’s go!
This chapter is just so uncomfortable!
Harry walks into the courtroom and immediately recognizes it: it’s the same one that he saw in the Pensieve. He even has to sit in that awful chair with the chains on it, although at least the chains don’t try to tie him down. Cornelius Fudge sits on the front row, along with about fifty other judges, and Percy Weasley who is taking notes.
“Disciplinary hearing of the twelfth of August,” said Fudge in a ringing voice, and Percy began taking notes at once, “into offenses committed under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy by Harry James Potter, resident at number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.
“Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister of Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley –”
“– Witness for the defense, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,” said a quiet voice from behind Harry, who turned his head so fast he cricked his neck.
Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. First, this seems like a lot for someone who really, technically, didn’t do anything wrong. He’s just a kid, and he’s being tried by the entire Wizengamot! Second, Fudge’s middle name is Oswald. I don’t know why I find that funny, but I do. Third, this is our first experience with Umbridge, but it sure won’t be the last! Fourth, Dumbledore to the rescue! Who didn’t feel a huge sigh of relief once he turned up! It’s also interesting how the rest of the court reacts to him: some annoyed, some scared, a few happy to see him. Remember, Dumbledore used to be on the Wizengamot himself, in a pretty high up position (I don’t remember the title offhand — something like Grand Mugwamp or something?). These were his colleagues.
Fudge certainly is not happy to see him. In fact, I would almost guess that the last minute change of time and venue was to try and throw Dumbledore off and get Harry alone. Fudge certainly seems a bit flustered to see Dumbledore, but goes ahead with the charges, reading everything quickly and not giving Harry a chance to explain or say anything other that “Yes,” he did the things they are charging him with. The witch sitting next to Fudge, who I believe is Amelia Bones, is impressed with Harry’s abilities.
“You produced a fully fledged Patronus?”
“Yes,” said Harry, “because –”
“A corporeal Patronus?”
“A — what?” said Harry.
“Your Patronus had a clearly defined form? I mean to say, it was more than vapor or smoke?”
“Yes,” said Harry, feeling both impatient and slightly desperate, “it’s a stag, it’s always a stag.”
Harry falls into the “chosen one” trope a lot, but let’s not forget that the boy has some mad skills. Learning how to produce a Patronus is huge. There are adult wizards who can’t do it. Fudge is quick to say that the fact that the spell Harry cast was “impressive” makes the charges even worse, and that’s when Harry finally blurts out that he only did it because of the dementors. This stops the Wizengamot in mid mutter. Harry tries to explain about seeing the dementors coming and attacking his cousin, but Fudge stops him, smirking all the while. He is quick to accuse Harry of making up a big story, but honestly, if Harry was going to do illegal magic in front of Muggles, why would he pick a Patronus? Sure, it’s impressive, but certainly not the first go-to spell.
Fudge says that there are no witnesses, but Dumbledore stops him, saying that there was a witness, other than Dudley, who can testify. When Fudge tries to deny the witness a chance to speak, Dumbledore appeals to Madam Bones. I really like Amelia Bones, by the way. You can tell this entire time that she does not like what is going on here and is only participating in this charade because of Fudge.
Oh, and Dumbledore’s witness? Mrs. Figg.
It starts off shaky at first. Mrs. Figg has to tell them that she is a Squib, but Squibs can still see dementors just fine. She tries to describe the dementors’ physical appearance, but its their effects that really sells the testimony.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Figg. “I felt them. Everything went cold, and this was a very warm summer’s night, mark you. And I felt . . . as though all happiness had gone from the world . . . and I remembered . . . dreadful things . . .”
Sounds like dementors to me!
Fudge wants to discount the testimony, saying that it was unconvincing, but Madam Bones strongly disagrees. Fudge argues that there is no way dementors could be there and just happen upon them, but Dumbledore has his own opinions on the matter. He believes that someone else is giving the dementors orders. Otherwise, why would the Ministry send dementors after Harry? That doesn’t make sense, now does it!
It’s at this point we hear from who will become one of the most hated characters in the entire series: Dolores Umbridge.
“I’m sure I must have misunderstood you, Professor Dumbledore,” she said with a simper that left her big, round eyes as cold as ever. “So silly of me. But it sounded for a teensy moment as though you were suggesting that the Ministry of Magic had ordered an attack on this boy.”
Yes, that is exactly what Dumbledore is suggesting. And it makes sense. If Fudge claims that no dementors are outside of Ministry control, then the Ministry had to have ordered them to be there. And if there were dementors, then even the rules against underage magic would allow Harry to use magic to defend himself, especially since there is no other way to defend against a dementor.
Fudge still doesn’t believe there were dementors at all, or at least that’s what he’s telling himself, and he wants this taken care of NOW. He brings up the fact that Harry had gotten a notice about using magic outside of school before his second year, but that hadn’t been Harry — that was Dobby. Fudge tries to bring up all the mischief that Harry gets up to at school, but Dumbledore is quick to remind Fudge that he has no jurisdiction over Hogwarts, and certainly had no right to try and expel Harry. Fudge doesn’t like this at all.
“Laws can be changed,” said Fudge savagely.
“Of course they can,” said Dumbledore, inclining his head. “And you certainly seem to be making many change, Cornelius. Why, in the few short weeks since I was asked to leave the Wizengamot, it has already become the practice to hold a full criminal trial to deal with a simple matter of underage magic!”
Oh, Fudge does not like that, and neither does the rest of the court. They all look uncomfortable because Dumbledore is right, and they know it! This whole situation is ridiculous! Dumbledore says that they are there for one specific offense, which they have given their defense on, and now it is time for a verdict. Madam Bones calls for a vote to clear Harry of all charges, and more than half the room votes for it! Only a few vote to convict Harry, including Fudge and Umbridge. So Harry is free to go! He turns to Dumbledore, but Dumbledore immediately excuses himself and leaves, not looking at Harry once.
See you next time for Chapter 9!