Magic is Might & The Muggle-Born Registration Commission

chapters twelve & thirteen of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

After a month spying on the Ministry (and learning that Snape is now headmaster of Hogwarts), the trio decides to act. They sneak into the Ministry in disguise, but are soon separated. Harry searches Umbridge’s office and then sneaks into a hearing, where she is unfairly interrogating a Muggle-born – and while there, he spies Slytherin’s locket. He, Hermione, and Ron then narrowly manage to grab the locket and escape, helping the Muggle-borns to safety as well.
 

Severus Snape, Headmaster by Laurence Peguy

A large picture of a familiar, hook-nosed, black-haired man stared up at them all, beneath a headline that read:

SEVERUS SNAPE CONFIRMED AS HOGWARTS HEADMASTER


 

Magic is Might, by Jess Paul

A gigantic statue of black stone dominated the scene. It was rather frightening.


 

Harry Realizes that HE is Undesirable No. 1 When he Finds This Poster in Umbridge's Office, by Drew Graham

“Undesirable Number One,” Harry muttered under his breath as he… shut the drawer. He had an idea he knew who that was, and sure enough, as he straightened up and glanced around the office for fresh hiding places, he saw a poster of himself on the wall.


 

The Muggle-Born Registration Commission, by Hannah-Dora

Behind a balustrade sat Umbridge, with Yaxley on one side of her, and Hermione, quite as white-faced as Mrs. Cattermole, on the other. At the foot of the platform, a bright-silver, long-haired cat prowled up and down….


 

Prof Umbridge, by lberghol

“No,” said Umbridge, “no, I don’t think so, Mrs. Cattermole. Wands only choose witches or wizards. You are not a witch.”


 

about the chapter

 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

In some ways the Ministry is enormous, and the reality of this is one of the things that absolutely crushes the trio’s plans to infiltrate it. But in other ways, it’s a very small world. There’s only one set of lifts in the place, after all, and partially as a result of that, Harry, Ron, and Hermione manage to run into a huge number of people they know – Umbridge, the Minister, and both Arthur and Percy Weasley (too bad they didn’t see Tonks or Kingsley, they could have asked for help!). But as it turns out, one of the people they impersonate is someone Harry knows, too, though he doesn’t seem to remember – for it’s Mafalda Hopkirk, who Hermione becomes using Polyjuice Potion, that once sent Harry all of his official warnings for using underage magic.
 

The Wizarding World

I would never deign to suggest that Cornelius Fudge or Rufus Scrimgeour are evil – certainly there have been greater leaders, but I do think both of their hearts were usually in the right place (if not always their brains). However, some of the blame for the pure evil that is the Muggle-Born Registration Commission has to be laid at their feet. For it is their fault, and their fault alone, that Dolores Umbridge holds the position she does – indeed, that a person like her exists at all within the Ministry of Magic. She clearly knows how to make her superiors happy, whoever they are, but Scrimgeour in particular had no business whatsoever letting her stay on at the Ministry after what she did to Harry. Now Scrimgeour is gone, and what happens? This. As anyone but him could have predicted. Yes, the Death Eaters probably would have had something like this in effect without Umbridge. But she’s more than happy to lead the charge. The whole situation is just despicable.
 
On a side note, it’s lucky for me (and for my anger management skills) that Umbridge isn’t around much more in this book, isn’t it? ;)
 

The Power of Magic

As a random side note, I find it interesting that Umbridge is capable of producing a Patronus. It’s fairly well-established that that’s pretty advanced magic – and she made pretty clear in dealing with Fred and George’s antics at Hogwarts that she’s not a particularly capable witch. So it makes me wonder, how did she learn it? And more importantly, why?
 

The Boy Who Lived

When Harry sees a vision of Voldemort killing a family – and Hermione protests that he should be trying to block it out – it’s interesting that Harry chooses not to block it out, but instead “to use it” to his advantage. Harry’s never fully tried to understand just how powerful this connection between him and Voldemort is for Voldemort; for example, could Voldemort flit in and out of Harry’s head whenever he wanted to? It would be exceedingly dangerous if he could, but it seems that he either isn’t able or isn’t interested in trying, given that he clearly has no idea Harry is hunting for his Horcruxes. So perhaps, for whatever reason, the connection doesn’t work the same in both directions. If that’s the case, then as Harry is realizing, that’s an immensely powerful tool to have at his disposal. Either way I’m surprised he doesn’t have a more thoughtful conversation about it with Ron and Hermione – after all, they could seriously strategize about how best to deal with this connection!
 

The Final Word

(Question: “Many of us older readers have noticed over the years similarities between the Death Eaters tactics and the Nazis from the 30s and 40s. Did you use that historical era as a model for Voldemort’s reign and what were the lessons that you hope to impart to the next generation?”)
“It was conscious. I think that if you’re, I think most of us if you were asked to name a very evil regime we would think Nazi Germany. There were parallels in the ideology. I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intent to impose a hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of purity, which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world. People like to think themselves superior and that if they can pride themselves in nothing else they can pride themselves on perceived purity. So yeah that follows a parallel.”–J.K. Rowling, October 2007
 


34 Responses to “Magic is Might & The Muggle-Born Registration Commission”

  1. Wonderful insight, again as usual. I had never thought about Umbridge’s ability to produce a patronus, I just assumed it was something that all ministry employees could do. Then again, given the joy she feels when she’s being cruel, it may be easier for her to find a better memory to harness.

    Another thing with relation to the Magic is Might statue… When I was studying Tsarist Russia, we were given a diagram of the hierarchy with the serfs on the bottom, deformed and holding up the Royal Family, sparking a large comparison between the Russians and the Pure Bloods. I guess I’m just curious if, when Jo was writing the books, she was inspired by other than the Nazis or if it was just a coincidence

  2. I guess if Umbridge is busy ordering dementors around without informing anyone else in the ministry, she’d better be able to produce a patronus, in case they come after her. :)

  3. Josie, I agree that a large part of Voldemort taking over the Ministry like this, the blame falls squarely on Scrimgeour and Fudge’s administyrations. I also agree that this mission to infiltrate the Ministry is quite possibly the most foolish thing the Trio’s ever done (and that’s saying something). They are just completely unprepared, and the Minstry is mighty. I really think they should have risked asking one fo the Order for help – Tonks, Mr. Weasley, Kingsley, or SOMEONE who could at least give them a map of the Ministry!

  4. Oh, and given that I agree that it’s the most stupid/dangerous thing HRH do (breaking into the Ministry), it’s so frustrating that Harry decides to make it 100 x more dangerous by taking Mad Eye’s eye, hence advertising to the whole world that an intruder is there.

  5. I do agree that the two-way connection between Harry and Voldemort raises a few questions. For me, I keep considering fifth year, when Voldemort was able to plant a fake scene in Harry’s head, but then I think about the fact that he couldn’t possess Harry without feeling immense pain. My best guess would be that Voldemort is afraid of this connection, based on Dumbledore’s numerous theories that many (if not all) of Voldemort’s actions have been motivated by fear. I also suspect Mr. Chief Death Eater had a critical case of denial.
    And to quote Ginny (sort of), isn’t something as stupid, noble, and reckless as stealing Mad-Eye’s eye from the Ministry so…Harry? I’d have been astounded if he didn’t do it :)
    On an unrelated note, the HPC is wonderful! You’ve given us such a fun way to think about the books. Keep up the great work!

  6. I was under the impression that Voldemort was unable to use Harry’s mind because of his ability to love. Wasn’t that what drove him out of his possession of Harry in OotP?

  7. Yes, Dumbledore’s words were that “he could not bear” it, which I seem to have overlooked in my musings about Voldemort’s psyche. Thanks for reminding me :)However, I still somehow think he had the choice to continue with the possession even if the chances of it were very, very slim (or, you know, zero) given who he is as a character.

  8. Fred and George seemed to have thought of every variable with their famous fireworks. Doesn’t one of them comment that trying to vanish them actually makes them multiply? Someone not familiar with their trickery would be easily flummoxed, especially with the sheer scale of the pranks that year. I bet the regular Hogwarts teachers were better able to deal with the Weasley antics than Umbridge as they had experienced them over seven years and worked out coping strategies.

    Also, I would have thought that to attain such a senior Ministry position (even pre-Voldemort’s take over), Umbridge would have to be quite a capable witch. And as Anna1 said, if she regularly came into contact with Dementors (perhaps official visits to Azkaban?) conjuring Patronuses would be a necessary skill.

  9. I think Umbridge’s ability to cast a patronus comes from her happy memory. I would hate to think what she thinks of as her happy memory. She was a pain in OotP but I could understand her actions, completely disagreed but could understand why someone would behave like that. However, in DH she was just unbelievably bad, just a horrible, horrible person.

  10. I love how Fred’s and George’s contributions helped the trio at the ministry. It just goes to show how smart Harry was to fund their joke business in the first place. It was impressive to see how they planned everything out to the last detail.. and then ended up getting separated with no clue of how to deal with this except just to roll with the punches, which they do admirably. It was classic angst.

  11. To second Adele’s input, I was pretty well-convinced of Umbridge’s ability to produce a patronus being very circumstantial. She’s out-of-her-mind happy, albeit in a sadistic way. During Harry’s lessons with Lupin, Lupin stressed the importance of the memory or feeling behind the patronus (remarking that Harry’s first thought, flying on a broom, was “not nearly good enough”). This implies that a large portion of being able to produce a patronus relies on the memory at hand. And, when wizards we know to be capable of an amazing patronus encounter situations of a certain severity, they are sometimes unable to bring up that happy thought…and consequently, their patronus. Twice in Deathly Hallows, Harry can’t summon his patronus. But in Umbridge’s case, she’s having the time of her life and under no real duress (at least until the trio show up. :D ). Since a roomful of fifth years produced a patronus in the Room of Requirement, I don’t think having Umbridge (surrounded by other ministry members who give her some measure of protection, and deliriously happy) can bring out a fluffy cat.

  12. I remember being completely caught up in the stress of these two chapters mostly because of the lack of planning that the Trio had done. While they’d been staking out the Ministry and gathering little details about people, they didn’t think of how to deal with basic situations like being separated or unable to encounter Umbridge, had she been visible but not accessible. Why weren’t they thinking of solutions to those problems, too? Why not set up a communications system between the three of them (even something similar to the coins which Hermione made for the DA would have helped here). I think I screamed in frustration more than once. And these two chapters aren’t the only times in this book that I wondered if they were really in over their heads.

  13. If only Harry knew about and was able to cast the Geminio spell on Mad Eye’s eye…It would have changed the (already screwed) situation quite a lot…
    Sad that Harry (and to an extent the Trio) still seems so young some times…

    Always questioned the fact that Umbridge could cast a patronus. I guess the point about the difficulty of the charm is actually using the charm in immensely stressful situations like in front of dementors. It’s not like the charm is meant to be used in “secure, risk-free” situations…
    Remember she couldn’t even overcome a herd of centaurs in OotP. Of course I’m sure her fear kicked in but that’s exactly the point. I don’t think we’re to rejudge her competence as a witch just because she can seemingly cast a corporeal patronus. I think it’s safe to say that she’s just one of those lousy people who ranked high only because of their skill of flattery.

  14. Pzzie, I now have this fantastic mental image of all the Hogwarts Professors having a military-style debriefing on how bets to handle Weasley twins. Kinda reminds me of when an old math teacher told my class that the staff room has a most-wanted list of kids to watch out for.

  15. Josie, maybe it’s possible that people’s magic abilities are sometimes stronger that at other moments. Ity’s clear that Umbridge wasn’t in controll or enjoying herself at Hogwarts, because she couldn’t get grip on the situation. However, at her place in the ministry, towering over people and demanding and abusing her powers, she might be more capable and in control to conjure a partonus…

  16. btw, LOVE the Drew Graham artwork!

  17. Of course the trio were unprepared, they’re kids, really!! I think that is the whole point of the chapter, to show they are young, they are unprepared! We see it again and again. However, doesn’t that just show how resourceful, brave, and capable they are? I actually remember (the first time I read this, many times ago) thinking how great they were to be able to “think on their feet” and how utterly lost I would be :-)

    It is one of the things that draws me to the books; we don’t always foresee what is to come, we just have to do the best we can to overcome all the obstacles life throws at us.

  18. I’ll almost bet that one of the five exceptions to Gamp’s law of Elementar Transfiguration is gold. So the golden locket poses a problem: would the duplicate not be made of gold, maybe something like Leprechauns gold? Would not Umbridge realize, after a while, that the locket was stolen and she was left with a fake?

  19. Interesting point, Jose. Although I bet Umbridge isn’t that good at identifying fake gold from real gold, as long as it doesn’t disappear overnight. On the other hand, once they get away, I don’t suppose it matters if she knows it’s gone.

  20. I’ll bet Umbridge practised *really* hard at producing a patronus – the Dementors are just her kind of creature, and I bet being able to control them was one of her dearest dreams.

    I agree that this chapter shows how young the trio are, how totally out of their depth they really are with all this. Their second plan (Gringotts) is far better planned than this one, so obviously they learned from at least some of their mistakes. But they’ve got so little experience, they really are learning on the hoof. And it’s very impressive!

  21. [Spoiler]
    You raise a good point about Umbridge. She was also wearing the locket – perhaps evil makes her happy? It wasn’t a good patronus – it was described as being weak in comparison to Harry’s but it is an interesting question you raised.

    Also – you mentioned in a previous book analysis that you predict a large majority of wizards and witches probably work in the ministry (which seems likely). I noted in this chapter when Pius and Umbridge were discussing muggle-borns that Umbridge was “shocked” (pleasantly, I’m sure) that one of the muggle-borns was married to a ministry worker. Surely this is not at all uncommon? How rare are muggle borns – or are the majority already fled and she is suggesting it odd that Mary Cattermole hasn’t already fled knowing the situation? Maybe Reg is stupid, afterall.

  22. It wasn’t until I saw Drew Graham’s picture that I properly took in that the “To be punished” note that Harry found stuck to the Undesirable No. 1 poster in Umbridge’s office was written on little pink kitten paper! That’s so twisted. Umbridge gives me the willies!

  23. One thing that makes me wonder about your ‘The Power of Magic’ section is what Umbridge’s ‘happy thoughts’ are in order to produce a patronus charm. Something tells me they’re not what others would consider happy…

  24. That drawing of Umbridge is rather creepy!!

  25. I think Umbridge is a perfectly capable witch, but has the inability to improvise, like was discussed in the chapter “A Place To Hide.” When “Dusty Dumbledore” emerged at Grimmauld place, Harry stayed put and solved the problem; Hermione, a brilliant witch, cowered with Ron on the ground when that happened.

  26. one thing that puzzles me in this chapter is that the polyjuice potion seems to last longer then an hour, we know that B.C. jr was able to take a swig every once in a while in order to keep looking like Mad Eye (RIP) but here it never mentions that they did that, also, off topic, couldn’t George have restored his ear by taking polyjuice potion with Fred’s hair in it, after all they did look identical

  27. Paul, that would probably work for George but I doubt he would want to live his whole life relying on an hourly dose of polyjuice!

  28. I think the sticky note with the picture of a kitten saying “To be punished” sums up Umbridge PERFECTLY.

    I really wonder what happened to the Cattermoles, too. Also I wonder about Mafalda. The movies, at least, always portray her letters as quite nasty, but she seems quite a pleasant person, as evidenced by her Polyjuice potion. Perhaps Umbridge chooses Mafalda to be her secretary at the hearings because she enjoys tormenting the woman, who knows?

  29. I never saw Mafalda as a nasty lady, I just figured her hands were tied by government regulations. And I never thought about Umbridge picking her to torment her but now that you’ve brought it up, it fits her personality perfectly!

  30. Iberghol’s portrait of Umbridge hit the nail right on the spot! It’s exactly how I pictured Umbridge to me.

    The fact that Umbridge is still at the Ministry is pretty repulsive in itself, after all that happened. I felt even more disgusted at her in this chapter.

    I’ve also noticed how quickly and easily the general outlook on Harry changes. You’ve got the Ministry falling all over their knees to protect Harry during PoA. In contrast, OoTP readers saw the poor boy being shunned by the Ministry. By the HBP, we see Harry being considered a valuable asset once more by the Ministry. And now, at DH, he is at large once more. No wonder Harry preferred to blend in with the normal crowd, instead of being the center of attention! The Ministry being easily swayed and having no firm foundation is enough to repulse me.

  31. Sorry for double-posting, but rereading the chapter has made me realize something.

    You’d think that formulating a plan on how to infiltrate the Ministry in a span of a whole month (emphasis on “month”) would have enabled the trio to think about all the possible problems that might crop up and come up with solutions for those. However, they failed to take into account the fact that there is a huge chance that they MIGHT be separated, which is truly what happened. They had nothing to do every single day for a whole month’s duration, except to comb over their plan. But I suppose it’s just their nerves which quite hindered the three of them to think clearly. Indeed, having to infiltrate an institution dotted by your enemies cannot be a pleasant thought to relish.

  32. I know that this is about the books rather than the movies, but I liked the addition in the movie adaptation of Harry, while grabbing the locket from Umbridge, saying to her (about her claim that the locket was an old family heirloom), “Don’t you know that it’s wrong to tell lies?”, mimicking the way she’d spoken to him back in “Order of the Phoenix”.

  33. The new Ministry motto, “Magic is Might”… it reminds me of George Orwell’s “1984” where the mottos are “War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strenght”. A quite interesting paralell…

  34. I have found myself wondering about Ms Rowling and her description of Umbridge’s note on the “Undesirable No. 1” poster. The Ministry has determined Harry to be that no. 1 undesirable. However creepy it is to have Delores Umbridge use her girly voice (hem, hem) and her kittens, and her pink sticky notes for this sort of inquisitorial stuff, there is a bit of redundance to it! I mean, Harry is the most wanted person in British wizardry. Do they need a reminder that this ‘bad boy’ is to be punished? Does she? really?

    So back to what I wonder. Is this a social commentary by Ms Rowling? Just asking, and I hope that I haven’t offended any who might be lovers of “Pink”!

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