The Ministry of Magic
Chapter 7 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Ministry of Magic
Harry wakes early in the morning, too nervous to eat breakfast. He and Mr. Weasley depart for the Ministry of Magic, commuting in a "thoroughly non-magical fashion" to make a better impression. Upon arriving, Mr. Weasley and Harry cram into a broken telephone booth and are transported underground. They enter a huge, brightly lit atrium with a large fountain at its center (a wizard and witch surrounded by various magical creatures wearing servile expressions).
Harry passes through the security screening, then follows Mr. Weasley into a lift (elevator). Harry notices that underground windows in the hallway have sunlight streaming through them. Mr. Weasley explains that they are controlled by Magical Maintenance, who, among other Ministry maintenance tasks, determine the apparent weather effect. Passing the Auror offices, Harry sees they are plastered with Sirius Black photos, along with others. Kingsley Shacklebolt approaches, acting as though he and Mr. Weasley are on poor terms.
Inside Mr. Weasley's noticeably tiny office, Perkins, a co-worker, runs in. The hearing's time and place has been changed, making Harry late. The new location is in the basement, but because the lift does not descend that far, Harry and Mr. Weasley race down the stairs. Just outside the courtroom, Mr. Weasley stops; Harry must face the hearing alone.
This is Harry's first time to the Ministry of Magic. Until now, he has had relatively little exposure to the adult Wizarding society, having only been to Hogwarts, and a few trips to Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade village, all while being supervised. The Ministry is the hub of the Wizarding community in the U.K., and it governs nearly all its activities. Unfortunately, Harry's first visit here is an unpleasant one.
The Fountain of Magical Brethren in the Ministry atrium is particularly noteworthy, as it represents that the Ministry's power is wielded only by wizards, with all other magical beings under their domain. Harry notes that the syrupy, subservient expressions seem out of place on all the sculpted magical races except the House-elf.
The hearing's sudden time and location switch is an obvious ploy by certain Ministry officials to prevent Harry from testifying and to convict him in absentia. Likely knowing he is innocent, they intend to prevent his making further claims that Voldemort has returned, and will use any means to censure and exile him from the Wizarding world. Whether Voldemort's Death Eaters are behind this, or it is merely corrupt and/or inept Ministry officials who refuse to believe that Voldemort has returned or prefer that the general population remain ignorant to real events, is still unclear. It is apparent that the author is reinforcing what we already know. Hermione has told Harry that the Daily Prophet is making both Harry and Dumbledore into laughing stocks so they can "spin" their warnings about Voldemort's return into oblivion. This has little impact on readers because it does not happen directly to the viewpoint character (Harry). With the hearing's sudden rescheduling, we are actually shown that there may be some ill-feeling against Harry, and some machinations within the Ministry may be underway to finally rid them of him.
- Why would the time and location for Harry's hearing have been changed so suddenly?
- Why might Mr. Weasley be prevented from attending the hearing?
- How might the Fountain of Magical Brethren represent both an accurate and inaccurate picture of the wizarding world?
- Why does Harry think the House-elf's expression in the statue is the only accurate one?
- What is the significance of holding a full hearing for using underage magic in this particular courtroom (Courtroom 10)?
- This is Harry's first visit to the Ministry of Magic. We know of its bureaucracy, of course, and now of its refusal to face facts (The Ministry denies Voldemort's existence), but entering the ministry we - and Harry - see some of the corruption within. What insight does this provide for us into the Ministry of Magic? Can we really trust them anymore? Could we ever? Explain.
Whether the Ministry's ongoing denigration of Harry and Dumbledore is being driven by Voldemort, or simply by the Ministry following Fudge's orders as he attempts to retain his power, is never completely resolved. Fudge's struggle to stay in control, though, would likely explain why Harry and Dumbledore are constantly discredited.
Harry learns here where the Ministry's Visitor's Entrance is located and how to access the main Atrium. This information, plus the general Ministry layout that he observes during this visit, will prove vital at the book's end when Harry urgently attempts to rescue Sirius Black there.
The Fountain of Magical Brethren depicts, with almost uncanny realism, how the Ministry expects non-human Magical races to regard Wizards. Though never officially stated, Ministry policy has always treated most Magical races as second-class citizens, while others are nearly disenfranchised. This fountain will be destroyed at this book's end; Harry will again need to re-enter the Ministry in the final book, at which time we shall see the replacement. That statue, showing a Wizarding family seated upon thrones made of writhing, tormented Muggles, will echo the now Death Eater-controlled Ministry's new policy.