The Hearing

chapter eight of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry is whisked into a courtroom, where the full Wizengamot tries him for a breach of the Statute of Secrecy. Cornelius Fudge presides, and clearly works very hard to get Harry convicted, disregarding dozens of laws along the way; fortunately for Harry, Dumbledore arrives to defend him and calls Mrs. Figg as a witness, and Harry is acquitted as Dumbledore sweeps from the room.

Harry, by Sebastian Theilig

Feeling rather sick [Harry] looked up at the people seated at the bench above.


The Hearing, by thepolestar

There were about fifty of them… all staring down their noses at him, some with very austere expressions, others looks of frank curiosity.


Askance, by Florence Minowa

” – 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. Dumbledore was striding serenely across the room.


Mrs. Figg Testifies in Harry's Defense at the Hearing, by Drew Graham

Harry felt a horrible sinking in the pit of his stomach. Whatever Mrs. Figg might say, it sounded to him as though the most she had ever seen was a picture of a Dementor, and a picture could never convey the truth of what these beings were like: the eerie way they moved, hovering inches over the ground; or the rotting smell of them; or that terrible rattling noise they made as they sucked on the surrounding air…


That Umbridge Woman, by LMRourke

The witch spoke in a fluttery, girlish, high-pitched voice that took Harry aback; he had been expecting a croak. “I’m sure I must have misunderstood you, Professor Dumbledore,” she said with a simper…. “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!”


by Amanda Grazini

“As far as I am aware, however,” Dumbledore continued, “there is no law yet in place that says this court’s job is to punish Harry for every bit of magic he has ever performed. He has been charged with a specific offense and he has presented his defense. All he and I can do now is to await your verdict.”


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

We’ve already learned that Mrs. Figg is working with Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix, and it seemed to make sense that she would be the one to keep an eye on Harry, given that the witches and wizards in the order have more important work to be doing. But it’s clear here that there is another reason her status as a Squib is useful to the Order – because as Madame Bones mentions, any witches or wizards living close to Harry would have been closely tracked. By placing a squib nearby instead of a wizard, Dumbledore can have someone he trusts keeping an eye on Harry without the Ministry realizing he’s doing so – and it pays off in a big way when he’s able to call her as a witness to Harry’s trial.

The Wizarding World

The number of times and ways in which Cornelius Fudge appears willing to ignore and break laws to serve his own political purposes is so sickeningly disgusting I can hardly take it. The fact that the rest of the Wizengamot appears willing to let him do so, and doesn’t begin to discuss impeaching him the moment this trial is over, is equally disheartening. The corruption in the wizarding world appears to run very deep, as does the susceptibility of even the most powerful wizards to coercion and propaganda. Remember that all that’s happened to discredit Harry is a couple of articles written by a reporter known to make up facts, followed by a series of inappropriately snide remarks thrown into the Daily Prophet. And yet the Wizengamot lets Fudge carry on like this…. it just makes me sick.

Life at Hogwarts

Fudge’s attempt to overstep his bounds by expelling Harry from Hogwarts lends an interesting insight into the relationship between the Ministry of Magic and the only school within its jurisdiction. Dumbledore makes it clear that the Ministry doesn’t have power to punish students for things that happen at Hogwarts, which means that it’s not just the classes, but the entire school property, which seem to be excepted from the laws regarding underage magic. And while we’ve heard before of a Board of Governors that controls the school (they are the ones with the power to fire the headmaster, not the Ministry), the Ministry seems to be in charge of testing students – though we don’t get any indication of ramifications for Hogwarts if the tests don’t go well. It’s an intricate relationship, but clearly one designed not to give anyone too much power. Not that that stops Cornelius Fudge from trying, of course.

Something to Remember

With Harry’s emotions running high, he doesn’t stop to think about everything Dumbledore says in the trial. But one of Dumbledore’s points is particularly ominous, and worth another thought. Specifically he mentions that there are really only two possibilities for why dementors would have been in Little Whinging: either they are beginning to move outside of Ministry control, and were ordered there by Voldemort; or someone at the Ministry ordered them there instead. I don’t like either of these two options even a little bit, given what they portend for Harry’s future….

The Final Word

“Squibs [like Mrs. Figg] would not be able to attend Hogwarts as students. They are often doomed to a rather sad kind of half-life (yes, you should be feeling sorry for Filch), as their parentage often means that they will be exposed to, if not immersed in, the wizarding community, but can never truly join it. Sometimes they find a way to fit in; Filch has carved himself a niche at Hogwarts and Arabella Figg operates as Dumbledore’s liaison between the magical and Muggle worlds. Neither of these characters can perform magic (Filch’s Kwikspell course never worked), but they still function within the wizarding world because they have access to certain magical objects and creatures that can help them (Arabella Figg does a roaring trade in cross-bred cats and Kneazles, and if you don‘t know what a Kneazle is yet, shame on you). Incidentally, Arabella Figg never saw the Dementors that attacked Harry and Dudley, but she had enough magical knowledge to identify correctly the sensations they created in the alleyway.”–J.K. Rowling,

37 Responses to “The Hearing”

  1. That illustration of Umbridge by LMRourke just brings up all the emotions that I feel when I read about her. Ugh!

  2. I agree with wizardinventor, that picture of Umbridge is wonderfully horrible. You can see the toad and that bow….. Ick. Thankfully the rest of the pictures give relief from “her”.

  3. I don’t think Filch ever punished a student as horribly as he claimed to the children… i think he was just trying to scare them… Dumbledore would never allow that on a student and he was headmaster at Hogwarts long before Filch got there….although Apollyon was rough on Arthur

  4. hmm.;.. this chapter made me so angry. First because like you already said josie, Fudge is bending his own rules so incredibly far, second, not one of the adult-wizards is stopping him, and third because this is the first time we see dumbledore acting indeed strange to Harry. Before this chapter, I assumed that it was partly in Harry’s head that he felt left out. Now you know as reader that he has a point.
    No one is acting in this chapter as they should be… (mumblegrumble)

  5. I have always liked LMRourke’s artwork. I agree with both wizardinventor and Loader Lady. Somwthing else to remember, I noticed these two lines from the US edition of OOTP.

    “Oh, I don’t think any of us believe the dementors were there by coinsidence,” said Dumbledore lightly.
    The witch sitting to the right of Fudge with her face in shadow moved slightly, but everyone else was quite still and silent.

    The witch sitting next to Fudge is Umbridge. Keep that in mind at the end of the book.

  6. Umbridge’s gall always amazes me here – she accuses Dumbledore of making unfounded accusations of the Ministry, when she knows they’re actually true. Honestly, there isn’t a single character I hate more than Umbridge in these books.

  7. The portrait of Umbridge is chilling. Since watching the film, Imelda Staunton has become the Umbridge in my head when I read the books. That’s great, because her “hem hem” is perfect, but her appearance just doesn’t scream “toad!” to me. LMRourke’s drawing brought all my first impressions back…

    Poor Harry. This book depresses me more than any other, because he’s seeing for the first time how political agendas win out over common sense and basic ethics all too frequently. It’s such a bitter lesson.

  8. Isn’t it a sad statement about Umbridge’s character that I’d rather spend time with Voldemort than her? Ugh, this book was so frustrating- this chapter in particular! I remember staying up to read it when it came out (23.5 hours!) and wanting to shout at the pages, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” so many times!

  9. Yay, I’ve finally caught up with listening.

    Great Final Word with the background information on Mrs. Figg.

    Yes, there’s lots to be frustrated with in this chapter, but there’s also a lot of humor in the writing.

    The Umbridge in my head looks very different from the one in the movies. I always picture dispatch manager Roz of Monsters, Inc.

  10. I’d much rather be hanging with bad ol’ Voldy rather than Umbridge as well Jessi. Especially after seeing “A Very Potter Musical” on YouTube. Oh, it’s so hilarious.

  11. Could somebody slap Fudge?

  12. Wait! “…Incidentally, can Squibs see dementors?” he added, looking left and right along the bench where he sat.
    “Yes, we can!” said Mrs. Figg indignantly.
    Then she goes on to talk about seeing the dementors. Is anyone else confused?

    Roonil Wazlib – Gladly. *Jumps into book and slaps Fudge… then slaps Umbridge and throws Dungbombs in their faces for good measure.* Your welcome!
    That picture of Umbridge is amazing, by the way. I think it’s better than the illistrations in the books, although both are wonderully horrible. I would also like to note that I love Imelda Staunton’s acting skills. I wanted to hit her the entire movie, so I know she was doing her job right.
    And last comment… politics suck, if you’re a Muggle or a wizard.

  13. Mickey: There’s a quote from JKR somewhere where she states Mrs. Figg did not see the dementors but recognized the effects they were causing. This is why she was able to describe the depressing feelings they caused better than her feeble description of their feeble appearance. And thank you for slapping Fudge! :)

  14. *physical appearance. Really should proofread before hitting submit. Ha, ha!

  15. Roonil Wazlib, the quote you’re referring to is on this page… right under ‘The Final Word’ ;)

  16. Yay, found it! Ha, ha!

  17. Josie, the business of the Ministry controlling O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s is just the way the education system works in Britain. The Muggle government funds the schools, the exam boards and the O.F.S.T.E.D. inspectors. (I’ll write more about the latter at the appropriate chapter.) Having external exams is a method of quality control as well as a means of awarding qualifications to students. The wizarding government also finances the wizarding school and ensures some kind of external quality control. As you say, Fudge is clearly attempting to over-step the mark and take far too much control of the school. People who disapprove on principle may well support him in practice because they are worried about Dumbledore’s mad ideas.

  18. I think your comment about Fudge – and Umbridge, later in the book – being real dungheads (and getting away with it) sums up why book 5 is my least favourite in the series. It’s a show-stopping problem, in my opinion. Harry has consistently proven that he’s a good chap, and all it takes is a couple of bad articles and, boom, he’s Britian’s biggest bad boy? And Dumbledore, who everyone (except maybe the Slytherins) seemed to think was the best wizard since Merlin himself, was also labeled a nut just because he backed up Harry?

    Like I said, it’s a critical error for me, something that would reappear (to a lesser degree) in book 7.

  19. Kim- I find your Umbridge/Roz comparison to be great. Though I can’t decide if that is at all an insult to Roz….

  20. Public opinion is often easily swayed. No one wants to believe Voldemort is back and the Daily Prophet offers a way out – Harry (who has already been publicly, repeatedly discredited) is making it all up with Dumbledore, who everyone knows is getting on in years. Fudge has always been intimidated by Dumbledore – Voldemort coming back on his watch would (and, in the end, does) spell the end of his career, so he believes Dumbledore created this story to discredit him and gain the Ministry. As Hermione points out later, the Prophet has had all summer to poison people’s mind against Harry and Dumbledore – because Harry doesn’t read the Prophet himself, we don’t see the full extent of their vitriol against him.

    As far as we know, the Prophet is the only newspaper in the Wizarding World (excepting the highly-dubious Quibbler), thus giving them a complete monopoly over the flow of information. All the Ministry would have to do is bribe a few higher-ups and any story contradicting the current narrative about Harry or Dumbledore never sees the light of day.

  21. Heather – you said everything that I was thinking.
    As far as the Wizengamot goes, all of these folks have been through at least one, some of them two serious and bloody wizarding wars. They are (presumably) well educated, prominent members of society who keep up with current events (aka The Prophet) staring down at this young boy who can’t POSSIBLY be quite right, you know. Just think of all the TRAUMA he’s been through in his short life. And who KNOWS what kind of long term effects that curse scar of his has left behind? And wasn’t he somehow mixed up in the Chamber of Secrets nonsense a few years back? And wasn’t he found with that Diggory boy’s body last spring? Whisper, whisper, whisper, long before the possibility of a trial fell into Umbridge and Fudge’s laps, whisper, whisper, whisper.
    Do you think they did a dance when he cast that Patronus?

  22. I wonder if Umbridge intended for the dementors to attempt to Kiss Harry (and Dudley). The dementors did act outside Ministry orders in attempting to Kiss Harry in Prisoner of Azkaban.

  23. Reading this chapter, I was enraged at how corrupt that the Wizengamot is. In mere weeks after Dumbledore’s dismissal, they are trying to expel Harry from Hogwarts for a simple matter of under-age magic,stated by Dumbledore himself in the film adaption of the book. The way the wizarding world is governed is just outrageous!

  24. Jonathan: Umbridge MOST CERTAINLY wanted the Dementors to kiss Harry. She wants Harry out of the way and makes no secret of it.

    I think this is up there with POA as the best book. A large part of it is Umbridge. She is one of the most vial chacters ever written. But she is fantastic to hate. Which makes interesting read.

  25. Another good point that Amanda made me realize is to look at Dumbledore’s quote (that either the dementors have left Ministry control or they were ordered there by the Ministry) from the perspective of the Wizengamot. Neither of those two alternatives would seem remotely likely to these folks, and certainly both would seem far less likely than the explanation that Harry and Dumbledore are making stuff up.

  26. I too was infuriated on an almost chapterly basis in this book, but that is part of why I love it. It’s entertained fury. :) Rowling is imitating Dahl a bit in this book by creating these absolutely VILE villains and then giving them their just desserts in a very satisfying way.

  27. Considering how Fudge reacted when Dumbledore showed up, does anyone think that the time of Harry’s hearing was moved was because of Dumbledore?

  28. I don’t understaand why the wizengamot were so shocked to hear that Harry used the Patronuss charm to repel Dementors. I mean, why else would Harry use it? Why do they think Harry made the Dementors up? Is Fudge really as stupid as he looks?

  29. I love the picture of Umbridge. I always felt like the actress who portrayed in the film was far too pretty to be Umbridge.

  30. This scene always makes me laugh:

    Fudge: “Ah. Dumbledore. Yes. You – er – got our – er – message that the time and – er – place of the hearing had been changed, then?”

    Dumbledore: “I must have missed it… However, due to a lucky mistake I arrived at the Ministry three hours early, so no harm done.”

  31. Jeremy, I’m certain that the time (and place and interrogators) of the hearing were changed because of Dumbledore, as well as Harry. Fudge was hoping he’d catch one, if not both, of them off guard and be able to discredit them even further. He’s quite smug with himself when Harry shows up late, but then is absolutely petrified when Dumbledore shows up just after him (showing he was hoping Dumbledore wouldn’t have had time to show up). My guess is that he sent these owls mere minutes before the hearing, and then sat there afterward, smiling and patting himself on the back for his “cleverness”. He was obviously quite upset there would be a hearing in the first place, as he tried to extend as much clout as possible to get Harry expelled right away and have his wand broken. It’d be a great story for the Prophet to discredit him!

    David, my thoughts were that the Patronus Charm is such a flashy spell to produce, that it would be a gross misconduct against the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. They never believed dementors would actually show up in Little Whinging, as Madam Bones showed with her reaction. Because, what are the odds? They’re supposed to be under Ministry control. But now they have a boy and a witness claiming there actually WERE dementors in Little Whinging, which is completely shocking, because why would they be there? Either the Ministry ordered them there, or something much more sinister is going on. Nobody wants to believe it’s either, so I’m guessing that they convinced themselves it’s impossible just for their own peace of mind. They probably convinced themselves that Harry had used the Patronus Charm to show off (for its flashiness), and believed so because of what everyone thinks of him at this point.

  32. The Potter boy just can’t be right in the head. I mean, parents murdered when he was an infant, left alone to be raised by horrid Muggles. What does he find when he’s brought back into the wizarding world at the age of eleven? He’s quite famous and beloved the whole country over. Must have been a rather nice change for him from the mistreatment at the hands of those filty Muggles.

    Of course, a little taste went to the boy’s head and he wanted more. He somehow convinced his Head of House to let him on the Quidditch team in his first year, even though first years aren’t even allowed to have brooms. Then he’s somehow connected to the Chamber of Secrets business. And, of course, he managed to get himself into the Tri-Wizard Tournament, didn’t he? Got to enjoy all the added fame, adulation and press associated with it.

    Then, we find out that he’s complaining of his curse scar hurting him, having funny turns all over the school, and on top of that, he’s a Parselmouth, for Merlin’s sake! Well, the press turns on him when they find out the truth, of course, and what happens? He comes out of the maze, holding the Cup and the corpse of his closest competitor, spouting some story about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named coming back, killing the poor Diggory boy, and wanting to start a new war against the rest of us. Rather convenient of You-Know-Who to take out Potter’s challenger for him, if you ask me.

    Now Dumbledore, who, lets face it, brilliant though he was in his day, is now over a century old, instantly believes his golden boy, and adds to the story that Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody helped the boy along through the whole tournament, but, then, it wasn’t really Moody. Turns out, Dumbledore, toddering old fool that he is, hired a Death Eater to teach these students Dark magic. Taught them the Unforgiveable Curses right there in class, he did.

    You know what I think? You-Know-Who coming back is just a story Potter thought up to cover the fact that he killed Cedric Diggory because the poor young man was going to beat Potter to the Cup and steal Potter’s thunder, and Dumbledore is too trusting or too senile to see what’s really going on.

    Of course, we really only have ourselves to blame. If we had only treated Potter normally from the start, no different from any young man, instead of heaping the attention on him, maybe he could have turned out normal. Alas, I think it’s too late now.

    For the safety of the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore should be forced into retirement, and Potter should, at the very least, be expelled immediately. For the safety of the Wizarding world in general, Potter should probably be tossed in Azkaban, and maybe, subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss, just to be safe.
    Now, thinking like your average wizard-on-the-street (as I’ve obviously just tried to do above), which story is more likely? Which story would you be more willing to believe, that a possibly disturbed young man is fighting for attention, or that one of the most evil men in history has returned from the grave? (“There is no magic that can truly bring back the dead” remember?)

  33. unfortunately the wizarding world was lead to believe that you-know-who was really dead, so of course they would be surprised and very afraid and would refure that.

  34. This chapter is also interesting because it teaches us about the law and politics of the Wizarding World. I was very interested to notice (during my last reading) that apparently the wizarding world has a Charter of Rights.
    “I may be wrong,” said Dumbledore pleasantly, “but I am sure that under the Wizengamot Charter of Rights, the accused has the right to present witnesses for his or her case? Isn’t that the policy of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Madam Bones?” he continued, addressing the witch in the monocle.

    Now I am interested in what other rights are set out in that Charter. How do they differ from ‘Human Rights’?

  35. I feel so sad door Filch and Figg. To be forced to be an outsider, yet still sort of live in the magical world. That’s why I think the jealousy of Petunia is sort of relatable: you know there is this amazing world but you can’t belong in there, yet people surrounding you do. Especially as a child is must not have been easy for Figg and Filch.

    I also find this chapter interesting because we learn a little bit more about the law and politics of the magic world (maybe it’s because I’m a lawyer myself). It’s just so strange that the minister can have such a position in the wizengamot. It seems like in the English magic politics the trias politica principle isn’t implemented.

    It would be interesting to see with human rights wizards would have. I guess the right to have a wand be would be one. But would the muggle human rights also bbeen taken in consideration?

    I also noticed that the minister is asked for the job, not chosen. Something we in our society would find strange. Wo decides to ask someone? The wizengamot?

    So many questions, too much fun to think about this sort of stuff! ;) It’s interesting to see how the ministry of magic works.

  36. Jeremy and Casey: yes, I definitely agree that Fudge was trying to catch Harry and/or Dumbledore off-guard by changing the time and location. But what Dumbledore says about this is interesting: “However, due to a luck mistake I arrived at the Ministry three hours early, so no harm done.” I highly doubt it was truly a “lucky mistake” – usually there’s a subtle backstory that only a careful reader will figure out. Now, Dumbledore can hardly wander around the Ministry at his own leisure these days, so what would he have been doing without letting himself be seen?

    Also, I find it interesting that, as rude and dismissive Fudge is towards Dumbledore, he orders Percy to go let Mrs. Figg in, seemingly out of politeness towards Dumbledore. I found this pretty odd and amusing – it’s like the only action even close to polite that Fudge does to Dumbledore.

  37. Will, that’s an interesting point that I hadn’t noticed before. Why wouldn’t Fudge just tell Dumbledore to go let Mrs. Figg in himself? I can think of 2 reasons: 1) He’s still intimidated enough by Dumbledore that he doesn’t have the courage to give him a direct order, and 2) It’s standard procedure to have an assistant let witnesses in and escort them forward, and Fudge, being quite flustered by now, reverts to the procedures he’s used to, possibly without even thinking about it (since people tend to fall back into habits when stressed).

    It’s probably some of both. If it’s standard procedure for an assistant to escort witnesses in, Dumbledore would know this, so that Fudge telling Dumbledore to do it himself would be VERY rude indeed–so, being flummoxed, Fudge just does what he’s used to.

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