Magic is Might
Chapter 12 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Magic is Might
August passes, and, each day, several mysterious strangers, always different, lurk outside Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. On September 1st, the day students return to Hogwarts, at least half a dozen men in long, dark cloaks appear, watching outside the house. The Trio, meanwhile, has been taking turns spying on the Ministry of Magic under the Invisibility Cloak to learn its operations and routines. Returning under his Cloak, Harry Apparates onto Grimmauld's front stoop, landing badly, and worries that his elbow was momentarily exposed. A nearby lurker seemingly glimpses something, then appears uncertain and relaxes. Safely inside, Harry heads to the kitchen, which is nearly unrecognizable due to Kreacher's cleaning efforts. Ron and Hermione, sitting at the kitchen table, are poring over copious notes and hand-drawn maps. Harry hands them a pinched Daily Prophet, warning them it contains bad news. The headline reads: SEVERUS SNAPE CONFIRMED AS HOGWARTS HEADMASTER. Hermione suddenly jumps up and runs from the kitchen.
The article reports that Alecto and Amycus Carrow have been appointed as the new Muggle Studies and Dark Arts instructors. Harry recognizes the Carrows' photos: they were among the Death Eaters atop the Astronomy Tower the night Dumbledore was murdered. Ron and Harry believe the other teachers will remain at the school only to protect the students though Harry also thinks they probably have little choice—it is either stay at Hogwarts or be sent to Azkaban. Harry mentions the more than usual Death Eaters outside, almost as if they are expecting the Trio to march off to King's Cross station to catch the Hogwarts Express. Harry comments that at least they now know where Severus Snape is.
Hermione returns lugging Phineas Nigellus Black's empty portrait and stuffs it into her beaded carrying bag, explaining that if Snape sends Phineas from his Hogwarts' portrait to Grimmauld Place, he will be unable to see or hear anything from inside the bag. As they are discussing the Ministry of Magic, Harry suddenly announces they will infiltrate it the next day. They know enough, and it is too dangerous to wait any longer. Both Ron and Hermione look frightened.
Harry suddenly excuses himself, claiming he has to go to the bathroom, but pain is shooting through his scar. Grasping the wash basin, he sees himself gliding down a twilit street lined with gabled houses in some unknown European village. A door cracks open, and a high-pitched voice asks for Gregorovitch. A foreign woman insists he has moved. A green flash follows, then Harry hears Hermione shouting. Slumped on the floor, Harry gets up and unlocks the door. Despite Harry's claim nothing is wrong, Ron and Hermione insist they heard him cry out. Harry admits seeing Voldemort murdering a woman and her family. Hermione is upset that Harry refuses to block Voldemort using Occlumency, but Harry believes knowing his actions is useful. Voldemort is hunting Gregorovitch, the foreign wand maker who crafted Viktor Krum's wand. Considering Voldemort has Ollivander imprisoned, Ron wonders why he is looking for another wand maker. Harry speculates that Voldemort may believe that Gregorovitch can explain why Voldemort's wand failed against Harry's. Late into the night, they review their plan to invade the Ministry.
Early the next morning, Hermione reviews what items they will need while Kreacher promises steak and kidney pie when they return. They Disapparate to the Ministry, arriving in a nearby alleyway. Hermione stuns a Ministry woman named Mafalda Hopkirk. After plucking a few hairs off the unconscious woman, Hermione drinks the Polyjuice Potion. Ron and Harry also find employees to impersonate. Ron becomes a maintenance worker named Reg Cattermole, though Harry does not yet know his own identity. Entering an underground public restroom with other employees, they insert tokens into cubicle doors and step into toilets that flush them dry into the Ministry of Magic's Atrium.
The Atrium has changed—it is darker, and the central golden fountain has been replaced by a frightening statue with a witch and wizard seated upon ornately carved thrones depicting writhing nude and ugly-faced men, women, and children. Harry is bumped by a man calling him Runcorn. His subservient tone suggests that Runcorn is a high official. A Death Eater named Yaxley approaches Ron (as Cattermole) and orders him to attend to the rain in his office. Yaxley makes threats about Cattermole's wife, who is appearing before the Muggle-Born Registration Commission that day. In a lift (elevator) Hermione whispers hints to Ron for fixing Yaxley's office before he gets off on Level Two. On Level One, a squat, toad-like witch wearing a velvet bow in her hair steps into the lift.
Fear and suspicion have permeated the Wizarding world, and readers can see in this chapter and the next just how Voldemort exploits that to seize control. By systematically infiltrating wizard institutions such as the Ministry of Magic, falsifying scientific research, and manipulating the media (The Daily Prophet) to disseminate propaganda, Voldemort was able to implement his plan to eliminate blood traitors and Muggle-borns like Hermione, who are accused of acquiring their magic by having stolen it from other wizards. Many Death Eaters and other Voldemort sympathizers (mostly Slytherins) already worked at the Ministry, making its takeover relatively easy. As a result, new laws and regulations are constantly being enacted and all wizards must now register to prove their magical lineage; any known or suspected Muggle-borns are interrogated and separated from their families, their eventual fates uncertain. Intimidation, coercion, spying, and threat tactics are also employed to suppress opposition, while corrupt, ambitious bureaucrats like Dolores Umbridge, who, though they are not Death Eaters, willingly help spearhead the Dark Lord's evil rise to power to benefit themselves. Meanwhile, Voldemort deliberately remains elusive to create doubt and confusion among the general Wizarding population and to avoid giving his enemies a specific target to rally against. Even Hogwarts has fallen victim, and every wizard child must now attend only that school. This enables Death Eaters to indoctrinate impressionable young minds to Voldemort's depraved beliefs, as well as provide a convenient mechanism to identify and cull Muggle-borns.
Conquering the Muggle realm may also be included in Voldemort's grandiose scheme, if the new atrium statue is any indication. The monument, like the previously destroyed "Fountain of Magical Brethren," appears to represent the Ministry's new public mission. The figures, a magical couple seated on thrones made of struggling Muggles, reveals how much control Voldemort has gained over the Wizarding realm and how little, if any, concern he and the Ministry now have for Muggles' welfare. Indeed, the statue can be interpreted as wizards suppressing, and possibly exterminating and/or enslaving, Muggles.
Any reader doubting that one individual can attain the power to convert an entire state to their perverted political design need only to draw parallels between Voldemort's Muggle-born persecution and Adolf Hitler exterminating six million Jews and other so-called "undesirables" in Nazi Germany during the mid-20th century. Both movements were driven by a maniacal but charismatic dictator who, exploiting the masses' anxieties and prejudices, advocated an elitist ruling class and purging "racially impure" citizens who were blamed for causing most social, political, and economic ills within their society.
Meanwhile, Hermione stuffs Phineas' portrait into her bag to prevent him relaying information to Snape via his other portrait in the Headmaster's office. He has had ample time to have already done that, however. Phineas' allegiance is as yet unclear, and though he has always appeared loyal to Dumbledore in the past, that is no guide to the current situation. It is likely that Phineas' fidelity will have changed with the new Headmaster, as the portraits, we heard earlier, are supposedly loyal to "the Headmaster of Hogwarts", which Snape now is. It is also possible, though less likely, that Phineas' loyalty to Dumbledore was false; Phineas certainly seemed, on occasion, reluctant to follow Dumbledore's instructions. Almost certainly, this reluctance is due to Phineas' and Dumbledore's widely differing philosophies. At one point in the story, Dumbledore remarks that Phineas Nigellus Black was the most-hated Headmaster in Hogwarts' history, and we have seen in earlier books how his attitude towards the students would have contributed to that hatred. Snape's disdain for the students, and his Slytherin House background, could make Phineas more willing to carry out his requests. Just how Dumbledore's portrait is interacting in these matters is unknown, and whether or not he is "loyal" to Snape simply because he is now a portrait and is expected to offer his allegiance to him is certainly something readers must be speculating about.
Phineas may have already informed Snape that the Trio is in residence at Grimmauld Place. However, if he has, that information does not appear to have been relayed to Voldemort. Even though Death Eaters are constantly outside watching the Black family residence, they seem uncertain as to whether the Trio is actually within, though perhaps what they are actually unsure of is where exactly the house is.
- What accounts for Kreacher's changed behavior towards the Trio? Can he now be trusted?
- Harry believes Voldemort is looking for a new wandmaker. Is Harry right, and if so, why would Voldemort need a new one when he already has Ollivander?
- What does the new statue in the Ministry of Magic atrium represent?
- Hermione wants Harry to block Voldemort's thoughts by using Occlumency, while Harry wants to keep the channel open. Which is the better choice and why?
- What effect could Snape's appointment as Hogwarts' new Headmaster have on the Trio's mission?
- How might the Trio be planning to recover the Locket after entering the Ministry? Where is Umbridge likely to keep the Locket?
- How could the Trio be so certain that the "toad woman" Mundungus Fletcher described in the previous chapter is actually Dolores Umbridge?
- In addition to recovering the Locket, what additional information can the Trio gather while at the Ministry that would be useful for their mission?
- What comparisons can be made to Voldemort's persecution of Muggle-born Wizards and historical events from mid-20th century Europe?
Harry's apparent utter inability (or stubborn refusal) to learn Occlumency was a contributing factor in the events leading to his godfather Sirius' death. However, it is this same failure, we believe, which now allows Harry to view some events occurring in Voldemort's mind: Harry already senses their value to the Trio's mission, despite the physical pain they cause, and he is therefore resistant to Hermione's repeated pleas that he practice Occlumency to block them. Later, it is revealed that Voldemort will largely lose control over his skill at Legilimency and Occlumency, at least as far as Harry is concerned. After possessing Harry's mind once before, Voldemort found Harry's strong memories and deep emotions of love, friendship, and loyalty so disturbing that he never attempts to enter it again; Harry, however, will eventually be able to penetrate Voldemort's mind almost at will and, apparently, without Voldemort's knowledge. By reading Voldemort's thoughts, Harry later uncovers vital information that will help destroy the Horcruxes.
Phineas Nigellus Black, we will learn, is accepting instructions from Snape, and that Snape is allied to Dumbledore's cause. On initial inspection, if Phineas is Dumbledore's ally, it would seem that he should have relayed helpful information from Dumbledore's Hogwarts portrait to the Trio at Grimmauld Place, although that apparently has not occurred. Dumbledore seems to have deliberately withheld information from the Trio that would aid their mission, and his portrait may be doing the same, though just why is unclear. And while Dumbledore has not relayed any information to the Trio via Phineas, it should be assumed that if Phineas is loyal to Dumbledore, he is probably updating Snape and Dumbledore's portrait about the Trio's activities. It will be revealed that Dumbledore had reasons for withholding information from the Trio, and, perhaps surprisingly, from Snape, reasons that remain valid.
Hermione stuffs Phineas Nigellus' portrait into her magical bag to prevent him spying on the Trio, but she fails to consider that he may still be able to hear them. When she accidentally leaves the bag open in a later chapter, Phineas overhears some vital information that he relays to Severus Snape, and it will actually aid the Trio. Phineas will also provide the Trio with helpful updates regarding Hogwarts, though it remains unknown which side, if any, Phineas is actually on.