Detention with Dolores
Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Detention with Dolores
Over dinner, amid skeptical background whispers, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss Harry’s claims in Professor Umbridge's class. Hermione suggests that many doubt Harry because he has little concrete evidence. The Trio then heads to Gryffindor Tower where Fred and George are testing Fainting Fancies on first year student volunteers. Only Hermione's threatening to tell Mrs. Weasley convinces them to stop. Upset that Ron refuses to support her, Hermione goes to bed, leaving knitted hats on the table, believing that House-elves will be freed if they pick them up.
Harry is increasingly nervous; teachers are briefing students about upcoming Ordinary Wizarding Levels exams and piling on homework. Adding to Harry's woes, Hagrid is still gone. Professor Grubbly-Plank has taken over his classes. Also, team captain Angelina Johnson is furious that Harry's detention interferes with Quidditch tryouts.
Harry arrives for his first detention with Professor Umbridge. Her office is decorated with lacy doilies and colored kittens on plates. She hands Harry a black quill, saying he will not need any ink. As Harry begins writing, "I must not tell lies," the same letters cut into his hand, and he realizes that the "ink" on the parchment is his blood. Over and over, the line carves into his skin as he writes, healing over each time, but leaving his hand raw and sore by the time Umbridge dismisses him. It is so late that Harry has to finish his homework the next morning. Surprisingly, Ron is doing the same, but his excuse that he went for a walk seems suspicious to Harry. Uncertain why, Harry decides to say nothing about his punishment.
Harry’s detentions continue every night. By Thursday, the words are permanently etched into his flesh. Heading to Gryffindor Tower, he runs into Ron, who tries hiding his broomstick, but admits he is practicing for Quidditch Keeper, pleasing Harry. Noticing Harry’s hand, Ron forces him to tell the truth. Harry ignores his suggestion to tell Professor McGonagall, feeling this is a private battle.
Harry's final detention is the next night. He is leaving when, as Umbridge grabs his hand to check his work, his scar starts burning. He departs rapidly for Gryffindor tower where a small party is underway: Ron is the new Keeper. Hermione urges Harry to tell Professor Dumbledore about his scar hurting. Harry sarcastically replies, "That’s the only bit of me Dumbledore cares about, isn’t it, my scar?" He decides to write Sirius instead, but Hermione reminds him about Moody's warning to avoid writing anything that can be intercepted. With no solution to Harry's situation, they both head for bed.
Although Umbridge's cruel detention is almost certainly illegal, Harry refuses to report it. Instead, he prefers to engage her in a silent battle of wills, and is determined to prove he can take anything she throws at him. Harry is also surprised and suspicious when his scar burns after Umbridge touches his hand. The only time it has hurt previously is when there is some association with Voldemort. Hermione is unsure whether Umbridge is being controlled by Voldemort, but she advises Harry to tell Dumbledore about it. Feeling slighted by Dumbledore, who has apparently avoided face-to-face meetings since summer, Harry rejects Hermione's advice. The observant reader may have noticed, though Harry has apparently forgotten, that Umbridge touched Harry's hand after the first night's detention without Harry's scar reacting. It may be concluded that the painful twinge he felt during his last detention was merely a coincidence.
Though Hermione's plan to emancipate House-elves is noble and just, it is also poorly conceived and possibly harmful. A House-elf is freed if it receives clothing from its master. Though the House-elves at Hogwarts do serve the students, including Hermione, it is unlikely that she would be considered their master to a sufficient degree to free them. Even if a House-elf was freed by taking her "gifts", she has given little consideration to what would happen to them after being liberated. While Dobby and Winky were employed by Dumbledore out of compassion, Dobby's experience after leaving the Malfoy household indicates that it is unlikely many wizard families or businesses would hire a "free agent" elf, leaving newly independent House-elves with few resources or the means to earn a living. Changes must first be made within Wizarding society, and then the resources provided for elves to survive and prosper in a new order. Even then, many wizards will be resistant to change and will likely discriminate against these newly nominally-equal citizens. Hermione is also forgetting that many House-elves, like Winky, have no wish to be free. Being enslaved for centuries has warped and reshaped their perceptions, and their identities and social status are firmly tied to the families they serve; their beliefs will need to be readjusted as well.
When Ron admits he has been secretly practicing for Quidditch tryouts, Harry is surprised but supportive. That Ron never told Harry what he was doing nor asked for his help may indicate that he is independently attempting to develop his own abilities and identity. Ron has been overshadowed by his talented older brothers, and also by his association with Harry, making it difficult for him to set himself apart.
- Why does Hermione believe people are skeptical of Harry's story about Voldemort? What can Harry do about it?
- Why does Hermione become angry with Ron for what Fred and George are doing? What does she threaten to do that gets the Twins to stop?
- What was Ron secretly doing and why didn't he tell anyone about it? What is Harry's reaction when he finds out?
- Why would Harry's scar hurt when Umbridge touches him? What does Harry think? Has this happened before?
- Why does Harry refuse to report Umbridge's cruel detention? Would it make any difference?
- Why is Harry angry with Dumbledore? What might be the reason for Dumbledore's odd behavior towards Harry?
- A House-elf can only be freed when their master gives them clothing. Dumbledore is the master of Hogwarts' House elves, not Hermione. Why does she think she has the power to free them?
Harry's scar will hurt again after a Quidditch practice later in the story. When that happens, he remembers it hurting when Umbridge touched his hand while in her office. Recalling the way he had felt on this occasion, he believes that Voldemort was happy about something when his scar hurt in this chapter. It is possible that Voldemort had either just determined how to retrieve the Prophecy from the Ministry, or had discovered that one stage in the plan had been successful. He has either decided to use the Imperius curse on someone in the Ministry to force them to bring the Prophecy to him, or has heard that someone has been so cursed. That plan originated with Avery, who will suffer when it fails. We will shortly discover that Sturgis Podmore, who was to be one of Harry's guards at King's Cross Station, was arrested for attempting to breach a restricted door at the Ministry. While it may be Sturgis' attempt that Voldemort was happy about, Sturgis had gone missing a week before, and it is unlikely that he would have been cursed, arrested, tried, convicted, and had the news reach the Daily Prophet in the roughly eight hours between Harry's scar paining him and the Prophet's arrival the next morning. It is more likely that Voldemort received news that the Unspeakable, Broderick Bode, had been placed under the curse, for a second attempt to steal the Prophecy.
Before this revelation is granted to us, though, Sirius will speak with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Sirius will pass along the Order's belief that, though she is a bad bit of work, Umbridge is not directly under Voldemort's control. Sirius' opinion is that the pain occurring when Umbridge touched Harry's hand was merely a coincidence, and later events in the story will bear out his statement. We will see later that Umbridge is quite happily carrying out Voldemort's anti-Muggle agenda, but she will clearly be doing it because it is the Ministry's current agenda, and she owes total allegiance to the Ministry.
The detention and the pain Harry suffers does nothing to change his beliefs; nor will a second round of detentions that he endures when he speaks out again in Umbridge's classroom. It will, however, drive his rebellion against her and her teaching underground, becoming an impetus to accept Hermione's idea to head an extra-curricular Defence Against the Dark Arts group. We note that this pattern, of punishment actually fostering, rather than suppressing, rebellion, will be revisited in the final book.
Hermione's attempt to free the House-elves will utterly fail, and the only result will be that Dobby, who is already free, will be the only House-elf now willing to work in Gryffindor Tower. When Harry next sees Dobby, he is wearing all of Hermione's knitted hats piled atop his head, and tells Harry the other House-elves refuse to work in Gryffindor tower because, "They finds them insulting, sir." Possibly to spare Hermione's feelings, Harry withholds this information, while Hermione continues knitting elf hats throughout the year.
- Umbridge's office decorations will be seen again in the final book. It appears that her nauseatingly cute kittens are an essential part of her office decor.
- The pain in Harry's scar is part of the series-long magical connection between Harry and Voldemort.
- The scar that develops on the back of Harry's hand will also be mentioned again. After Fudge is removed from office, his successor, Rufus Scrimgeour, will request that Harry allow himself to be seen as approving of the Ministry. Harry shows the scar on the back of his hand as evidence of Ministry hypocrisy, and refuses to have anything to do with the plan.