Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Major Events/Battle at the Department of Mysteries

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event
Battle at the Department of Mysteries
Location Ministry of Magic
Time Period Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Important Characters Harry Potter, Sirius Black, Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange

Overview[edit]

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

After seeing a vision of Sirius being tortured, Harry and five members of Dumbledore's Army go to the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic, where they are trapped by twelve Death Eaters. They are later helped by a few members of the Order of the Phoenix, although Sirius is killed. When the Order is strengthened by the arrival of Dumbledore, Harry chases Sirius's killer, Bellatrix Lestrange, and duels her. Lord Voldemort appears on the scene, but Dumbledore comes to Harry's rescue. They duel, and Voldemort apparates away with Bellatrix, but not before being seen by the Minister for Magic.

Event Details[edit]

Harry has a vision of Sirius being tortured by Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. Harry tries to find a member of the Order of the Phoenix to confirm Sirius' whereabouts, but the only one he can remember at the school is Professor McGonagall, who he discovers has been sent to St. Mungo's Hospital. In order to attempt direct communications with Sirius via the Floo network, Harry arranges a distraction with the help of Ron and Hermione, and accepts assistance from Ginny and Luna Lovegood to block student access to the hall outside Professor Umbridge's office. Then, with Hermione, he enters Umbridge's office to use the fireplace, which is the only one not being monitored. When he contacts Sirius's home, Kreacher, the house elf, tells Harry that Sirius "will never return from the Department of Mysteries".

Umbridge pulls Harry out of the fireplace, and Harry sees that between herself and her Inquisitorial Squad, she has captured all of the conspirators plus Neville. Umbridge summons Professor Snape, demanding Veritaserum to allow her to discover who Harry was talking to, but Snape says that he had already given her all his Veritaserum and it would take months to make more. As Snape is leaving, Harry, suddenly remembering that Snape is a member of the Order of the Phoenix, tries to tell Snape what he has perceived, but Snape appears to take no notice.

Umbridge then decides to use cruder methods to extract the truth from Harry. To prevent Umbridge from casting the Cruciatus curse, Hermione makes up a story about a "weapon" in the forest, and says that they were trying to contact Professor Dumbledore to let him know it was ready. Umbridge believes her, and follows Hermione as she leads them into the part of the Forbidden Forest where Centaurs roam. Surprised by Centaurs, Umbridge insults them to the point where they capture her and take her away, in the process, possibly accidentally, breaking her wand. The centaurs now try to determine what to do with Harry and Hermione, who had apparently deliberately brought the irritating Umbridge into their midst. The debate is interrupted by Grawp, Hagrid's half brother, who arrives and creates a diversion.

The two, managing to get away from Grawp and the Centaurs, are then joined by Ginny, Neville, Ron, and Luna, who have overpowered the Inquisitorial Squad members and retrieved Hermione's and Harry's wands. Luna points out that they can fly to the Ministry on Thestrals. Arriving at the Ministry, they enter through the visitor's entrance, and proceed down to the Department of Mysteries. On their way to the place Harry saw in his vision, they step into a room featuring a black veil, behind which Harry, Luna, and apparently Ron can hear voices.

The place of Harry's vision turns out to be a vast hall, filled with shelves full of glass phials. Though they are in the place that Harry had seen, there is no sign of Sirius or Voldemort. Looking around, Ron notices a phial that has Harry's name on it, and Harry, curious, lifts it off the shelf. Suddenly, the six students are surrounded by a group of Death Eaters. The Death Eaters, led by Lucius Malfoy, identify the phial as a Prophecy and demand that Harry turn it over.The students use the Reductor Curse on some of the shelves, and manage to escape the room and scatter in the confusion. Harry, Hermione, and Neville end up in the Hall of Time, while Ginny, Luna, and Ron apparently end up in a different hall. Harry, Neville, and Hermione are cornered by a pair of Death Eaters. They manage to disable the Death Eaters, but in the process Hermione is knocked out and Neville's wand and nose are broken by a kick from Dolohov.

Harry manages to bring the unconscious Hermione and the wounded Neville to the anteroom, where they meet up with Ginny's group. Before they can find their way into the hallway outside, a second door into the anteroom opens and more Death Eaters, led by Bellatrix Lestrange, enter and resume the attack. The students retreat through a doorway, finding themselves in a room lined with large tanks apparently containing floating brains; Ron, who has been left acting drunk by a spell attack, summons one of the brains and is incapacitated by the "tentacles" of thought emanating painfully from it. Retreating again into a study room, Harry and Luna as the only uninjured members of the group start trying to seal the doors, but Death Eaters enter through an as-yet unsealed door, and disable Luna and Ginny. Harry, knowing that the Death Eaters are only after him, tries to draw them away by running through a different doorway, and promptly falls down the stone steps of the amphitheater of the room of the Veil.

Standing on the dais of the Veil, Harry is now alone against the ten remaining Death Eaters. For some reason, they seem unwilling to force Harry to give up the Prophecy which he still holds. The standoff is broken by Neville, who bursts onto the scene trying to Stun the Death Eaters and failing; whether it is because he is trying to use Hermione's wand, or because his speech is impaired by his broken nose, his spells are ineffectual. Two Death Eaters seize him, and Bellatrix uses the Cruciatus curse on him, as she had on his parents, to force Harry to give up the prophecy. As Harry wavers, five members of the Order of the Phoenix, including Sirius Black, arrive and start dueling the Death Eaters. During the ensuing battle, Harry gives Neville the Prophecy to free up his hands. Neville is hit by a Tarantallegra jinx. As Harry tries to pull him up the steps to safety, Neville's robe rips and the Prophecy falls on the ground and shatters.

As the battle rages, Dumbledore arrives and quickly subdues most of the fighters. One battle, though, is still going on, between Bellatrix and Sirius, who by now is standing on the dais of the Veil. Bellatrix fires a spell at his chest, and Sirius falls through the black veil, never to be seen again.

Bellatrix now runs up the amphitheater steps and out through the Hall of Thought, where the tanks of brains are. Enraged, Harry chases after her, catching up to her in the Atrium, where they duel. Suddenly, Dumbledore and Voldemort arrive, and duel each other, with Harry and Lestrange restrained by moving statues charmed out of the Fountain of Magical Brethren. Voldemort then tries to possess Harry, and flees when Harry's love for Sirius chases him out of Harry's mind. As Voldemort returns physically to free Bellatrix, Cornelius Fudge and a number of Aurors, summoned by Dumbledore, arrive and see him. Reluctantly, Fudge must now accept that Harry and Dumbledore were telling the truth all year. While Fudge is still stuttering over these revelations, Dumbledore creates a Portkey, and hands it to Harry; it promptly takes Harry to Dumbledore's office.

Notable Consequences[edit]

The death of Sirius will make Harry very sad and angry over the summer, and also deprive him of one of his greatest friends and his godfather. However, Sirius will leave the house at Grimmauld Place to Harry in his will; if Harry is actually able to take possession, a point which we won't have cleared up until the next book, he may be able to use the house as a refuge, it being so well concealed.

The remaining Death Eaters, trapped in the amphitheater by Dumbledore, will be sent to Azkaban. With the Dementors having departed to enter Voldemort's service, this may prove a pointless exercise; however, it does clearly show the Wizarding World where the loyalties of the captured Death Eaters lie. In particular, this will prove an issue for Lucius Malfoy, who is now clearly a criminal. This will significantly change Draco's status as well, as he is now the child of a convicted felon. Draco will end up taking his anger out on Harry, with the mistaken, but all too human, idea that it was Harry's fault that Lucius got caught, rather than Lucius' fault for breaking the law.

The chain of events that culminates with Harry's mission to the Ministry will demonstrate to Dumbledore the risks of being secretive; it is a lack of information that misled Harry into believing the images Voldemort was sending him. This realization will trigger a much more complete statement from Dumbledore regarding the situation with Voldemort and the Wizarding world. Dumbledore will explain the reason for his unwillingness to meet with Harry over the course of this year, and the reason for his setting Snape to teach Harry Occlumency. He will explain why Harry is able to see Voldemort's thoughts, and his worries about what Voldemort would do if he perceived that the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore was anything more than headmaster to student. Finally, and most importantly, he will reveal the text of the prophecy that Voldemort had been seeking, that it states that either Voldemort or Harry must die, "one must die at the hand of the other," and go into some detail as to how this is interpreted.

Dumbledore's comments on the loyalty of house-elves and the need to treat them honorably, which he makes in his office after the battle, may have some effect on Harry in later books.

Finally, the Wizarding world is now aware that Voldemort is back, which signals the start of the Second Wizarding War. This also will likely mark the end of the campaign against both Harry and Dumbledore, and may result in the restoration of Dumbledore's various official positions. Dumbledore requests also that the Aurors stop chasing his groundskeeper, which means that Hagrid will no longer be a fugitive.

Analysis[edit]

We have been told many times that the purpose of Harry's being taught Occlumency is to prevent Voldemort having access to Harry's mind. It is after the attack on Arthur Weasley that Dumbledore realizes there may be a mental connection between Harry and Voldemort, and it is at that time that he charges Professor Snape with teaching Harry Occlumency. This actually may be one of Dumbledore's few mistakes. The obvious mistake, and one that Dumbledore later admits himself, lies in Dumbledore's selection of teacher; Harry and Snape hate each other, and Harry is unable to learn anything useful from Snape. This is not the first time Dumbledore has made this mistake; in the closing chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he apparently assumed that Snape and Sirius would be able to set aside their mutual hatred and work with each other, and while they have managed to work together, we have seen that their mutual friction has still gotten to the point of wands drawn. Less obviously to the reader, Dumbledore apparently assumes that Voldemort's intent is to read Harry's mind, when it becomes apparent to the reader that the intent is rather to insert images into Harry's mind. Our story does not indicate whether Occlumency will prevent this effect. In any event, it is the placement of images into Harry's mind that leads him to the Ministry.

This particular episode is a remarkably good example of the art of the story-teller, as well. The author hurries us along the path that Harry is following, and does not leave us time to consider several large discrepancies. For instance, when Harry sees Voldemort and Sirius in the Ministry of Magic, it does not occur to him, or to us, to wonder how Voldemort could possibly have gotten into the Ministry undetected at three in the afternoon on a weekday. Hermione does bring this point up, but Harry runs over it so quickly that we, as readers, pay little attention to it. Neither we nor Harry think of the magic mirror Sirius had given Harry at Christmas. In Harry's disappointment at finding Professor McGonagall gone, it does not occur to us that Snape is a member of the Order. The author does an excellent job of not only showing us Harry's sense of urgency, but of making us share it.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. Why would the Ministry of Magic have been entirely empty on a weekday?
  2. How would Voldemort and twelve Death Eaters have gotten into the Ministry of Magic undetected on a weekday?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

One of the major things that this particular escapade taught Harry was that it was possible for Voldemort to generate false mental images and plant them into Harry's mind. Knowing that this is possible, it is significantly less likely that Harry will be taken in later by false scenarios that Voldemort generates. Hermione, of course, is less certain. Knowing that Harry has been taken in by mistaken perceptions of Voldemort's thoughts, Hermione is always suspicious of the perceptions Harry receives from him, until almost the end of the seventh book. It is only during the battle at Hogwarts in the seventh book that Hermione actively asks Harry to look into Voldemort's mind, to see where Voldemort is.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the book immediately following this event, Dumbledore will ask if Harry has had any pains in his scar; on being told no, he will say that he is not surprised that Harry's scar has stopped hurting. Voldemort will have found Harry's mind, with its love for Sirius, a very uncomfortable place to inhabit. After this episode, Voldemort never tries to re-enter Harry's mind, with its deep emotions that he cannot understand. However, Harry is able to perceive what Voldemort is thinking at times of great emotional stress for Voldemort. Harry's own emotional stress seems to dampen these perceptions.

As mentioned above, Dumbledore had intended Occlumency to be a means of breaking this mental bond between Harry and Voldemort. It is entirely possible that, even with a more suitable teacher, it would not have worked. Indications are that Dumbledore, as early as the end of Harry's second year at Hogwarts, suspected that Voldemort's already tattered soul ripped again, either at the death of Harry's mother or, more likely, at the attempt to kill Harry himself, and the detached fragment attached itself to Harry; we can see that Dumbledore becomes certain of this by fairly late in Harry's sixth year. It is uncertain whether that link between Harry's soul and Voldemort's can be broken by means of Occlumency, as there does not seem to be any similar event in magical history.

One must wonder when Dumbledore came to this conclusion about the soul shard having adhered to Harry. The reader may suspect that this was a conclusion Dumbledore had reached when he had heard Voldemort's plan to create multiple Horcruxes, but this is uncertain. The first time we hear of this belief is in Snape's memory, from an occasion which we believe to be the same night as Ron's poisoning. Harry's successful retrieval of the memory from Slughorn which seems to confirm the creation of multiple Horcruxes, however, happens significantly after the date of Ron's birthday and poisoning, which means that Dumbledore will not have had confirmation of the number of Horcruxes at that time. As we cannot be absolutely certain of the dates of Snape's memory, however, this is inconclusive. One thing we do know is that Dumbledore had been concerned about the possibility of there being multiple Horcruxes since the discovery of the diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He would have been certain that there were multiple Horcruxes by the beginning of the sixth book, as he had then found and destroyed the ring Horcrux; but we will learn that he had suspected the existence of multiple Horcruxes on hearing of the diary, which he says was crafted as a weapon, rather than as a road to immortality. Believing that at least two Horcruxes had been created, he could easily guess that there would be more, and that as a result Voldemort's soul would be less cohesive than it should be. Learning of Harry's ability to speak with snakes, Dumbledore likely guessed the existence and possibly the nature of the soul shard during the summer between Harry's second and third years. There is more speculation on this matter at Harry — Voldemort Shared Thoughts.