Chapter 20 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Hagrid's Tale
Harry fetches his Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map, and covering himself, Ron, and Hermione, leads the group to Hagrid's hut. Hagrid greets them but his battered appearance shocks the Trio. Hermione correctly guesses he had visited the Giants. Hagrid refuses to tell of his adventures. Harry counters by mentioning that he had encountered Dementors just outside the Dursley house, and refusing to say anything more until he's heard Hagrid's story.
Hagrid says he and Madame Maxime, the Beauxbatons Academy Headmistress were on a secret mission for Dumbledore to recruit the Giants against Voldemort. Their negotiations stalled when the chief Giant was overthrown. The new chief was less receptive, and Hagrid and Madame Maxime used magic to escape. They also had to avoid Macnair and other Death Eaters, who were also recruiting Giants for Voldemort.
When asked about his mother, Hagrid replies she died long ago. Before he can explain who battered him and why it took so long to return after the mission failed, there is a loud knock on the door; Harry, Hermione, and Ron dive under the Cloak, and Professor Umbridge strolls into Hagrid's hut.
Umbridge speaks loudly and slowly. She has noticed three sets of footsteps going to the hut, but none leaving, flustering Hagrid. Umbridge seems skeptical when Hagrid says he was away for his health, given his current battered state. Umbridge glances around, apparently searching for students hiding, and passes within inches of the cloaked Trio. She informs Hagrid that she will be inspecting his class, as the Ministry is determined to weed out unsatisfactory teachers, then leaves.
Once Hagrid confirms Umbridge has returned to the castle, Harry strips off the Cloak. Hermione, worried, asks what Hagrid plans to teach. Hagrid says only that it will be good. Hermione warns him that Professor Trelawney is on probation, and she recommends that Hagrid follow the boring, Ministry-recommended procedures. Hagrid brushes off her concerns, saying he is tired, and they need to get back to the castle.
As the Trio heads back under the Cloak, Hermione works an Obliteration Charm to hide their footprints. Ron says that he thinks Hermione's warning failed to get through to Hagrid. Hermione vows to do anything she can to prevent Umbridge from firing Hagrid.
Although Hagrid and Madame Maxime failed to enlist the Giants as allies, their mission's importance should not be under-emphasized. Dumbledore knows that Voldemort is actively recruiting many dangerous non-human magical creatures, specifically the Giants and Dementors. Voldemort has also approached the Werewolves, Centaurs, and others who have historically been repressed, ostracized, and even enslaved by the Wizarding world. We can safely assume that Centaur pride and their distaste for all human affairs will ensure their continued neutrality. For the Werewolves, Dementors, and Giants, however, there is no such assurance. No matter how evil and violent Voldemort's reign will likely be should he prevail, he can offer these denizens more rewards and freedom than most currently have under the present social order. If Voldemort entices these outcasts to join him, it could tilt the war in his favor. Whether or not he actually intends to honor any promises that were offered to lure them to his side is unknown.
It also appears that Hagrid and Madame Maxime's mission ended some time ago. Hagrid's delayed return and his injuries may have some cause apart from the mission, though Hagrid remains secretive about what that might be.
Umbridge's condescending treatment of Hagrid indicates that she considers him vastly inferior and of low intelligence, and it may reflect an underlying prejudice towards all partially-human or non-human races. We see the same sort of treatment of non-human creatures in many other wizards who profess to believe in the superiority of the pure-blood wizard. While we don't yet know that Umbridge believes the theory of blood purity, her obvious bias towards Slytherin House certainly suggests she does. We also see it in the way Sirius treats Kreacher, though there we believe it may be either learned behaviour or a reaction to Kreacher's idolization of Sirius' mother. We cannot know whether this additional prejudice was something that the author specifically added to the pure-blood character, or whether it was simply consistent with how she perceived the pure-blood world view, but it is worth examination to see how consistently she has kept this characteristic in Voldemort and his followers.
Meanwhile, Hermione, knowing that Umbridge is targeting weaker teachers, particularly (given the comments we've just overheard) non-human ones, cautions Hagrid. Unfortunately, Hagrid seems unconcerned and downplays Hermione's warning, though just why is unclear. Hagrid, whose absence has isolated him from the school's recent ongoing upheavals, may simply believe Dumbledore will protect him. And while it has been suggested that Hagrid may actually feel he has little defence against Umbridge's possibly dismissing him, his reaction seems more complacent than resigned—he simply fails to perceive that Umbridge is a significant threat, despite Hermione's counsel. This seems in tune with Hagrid's character, as he had also considered Dragons or Blast-Ended Skrewts as being harmless.
Umbridge also seems suspicious regarding Hagrid's whereabouts during his absence and could possibly know something about his mission if Hagrid and Madam Maxime had been spotted while they were away. If they were spotted, and it has been mentioned that Madame Maxime would be rather hard to miss, we expect that it would have been Ministry agents who reported their presence. We know that Death Eaters were talking to the Giants at the same time Hagrid and Madame Maxime were there, so it is possible that news of their mission has made it back to Voldemort; but there is as yet no clear pathway for that information to make its way from Voldemort to the Ministry.
We note that despite his promise to tell Hagrid of his summer adventures, Harry leaves before he has a chance to describe what happened. Clearly, a recap of the story which we have already read would be somewhat tedious, which is probably why the author elided it. The technique she uses to prevent the reader from noticing the story's absence may be worth examination by the student.
- What was Hagrid's secret mission? Who sent him, and why is it so important?
- Why was Madam Maxime also sent on the mission?
- What was the outcome of Hagrid and Madam Maxime's secret mission? Why?
- Why is Umbridge so interested in where Hagrid has been? She asks if Hagrid had been vacationing in the mountains – does she possibly know anything about the mission and where he went?
- If Umbridge does know where Hagrid might have been, how could she have found this out?
- Why does Umbridge speak to Hagrid in such a deliberately slow and loud manner?
- What does Hermione warn Hagrid about and why?
- If Hagrid and Madam Maxime were on the mission together, why might Hagrid have returned much later than she did?
- What could have caused Hagrid's battered appearance? Why won't he say how he was hurt?
- Why might Umbridge suspect that Hagrid and Madame Maxime were on a secret mission?
- What would motivate magical creatures like Werewolves, Goblins, Centaurs, and others to support Voldemort?
- What might Umbridge's definition of "unsatisfactory teachers" actually mean?
- Why would Hagrid shrug off Hermione's serious warning, and what does that say about his character in general?
It is mentioned above that Umbridge denigrating Hagrid suggests a deeper disdain for half-Human and non-Human races, and Hermione seems to believe this to be the case given the extra effort she is making to get Hagrid to teach the Ministry-approved curriculum. While this remains unconfirmed until nearly the end of this book, it is strongly suggested that Umbridge is generally biased against "half-breeds" by the comments she makes while "examining" Hagrid's teaching. Umbridge's hatred of what she terms "half-breeds" will later be seen to extend to the Centaurs, a proudly pure-bred race, although her rude condescension there will have serious consequences.
Even though he is back on nominally safe ground, Hagrid will continue to sport various new injuries throughout the year. Much later, we learn what is causing these injuries: Hagrid located his half-brother, Grawp, living with the giants, and brought him home. Grawp's intransigence, which will continue into the summer, slowed Hagrid's return, and is now resulting in the injuries Hagrid repeatedly suffers. Hagrid, mindful that Grawp is all the family he has left, is trying to civilize him. There will be several incidents where Hagrid alludes to "family", meaning Grawp, but it will be significantly later in the year before we meet him.
Hagrid is hiding Grawp in the Forbidden Forest while he attempts to make him fit for society. This, while it would normally be a safe hiding place, will result in the Centaurs falling out with Hagrid, and eventually will result in Hagrid being barred from the Forest. One centaur, Firenze, will allude to this problem in private conversation with Harry, but when the message is passed on, Hagrid dismisses it.
In passing, it may be interesting to note that while the Centaurs refuse to support Voldemort, neither do they aid his opponents, instead remaining neutral until, in the last chapter of the final book, they are goaded into action by Hagrid. The Werewolves, led by Fenrir Greyback, join Voldemort, as will the Dementors and at least two Giants, although Grawp remains loyal to Hagrid.
- Voldemort will prove to have been successful in his attempt to bring the Giants over to his side. We will be told later that the West Country hurricane was actually a Giant attack on Muggles; and in the final book there will be two Giants attacking Hogwarts.
- Hagrid's attempt to civilize Grawp will gradually work, to the point where he is able to sit quietly in a chair at Dumbledore's funeral. We will also see Grawp defending Hogwarts in the final book.