The Hogwarts High Inquisitor
Chapter 15 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Hogwarts High Inquisitor
The next day, the Daily Prophet reports that the Ministry of Magic has appointed Dolores Umbridge as "High Inquisitor," giving her extensive power to arbitrarily impose new rules and regulations at Hogwarts. She apparently intends to evaluate all teachers and classes. During lunch, Fred and George tell Harry that when Umbridge inspected their Charms class, Professor Flitwick just ignored her. In Divination, Harry finds Umbridge there with a clipboard. Professor Trelawney, nervous, teaches as Umbridge takes notes. She demands that Trelawney make some predictions, and is apparently unimpressed with the result.
During Defence Against the Dark Arts class, Umbridge claims that Professor Quirrell was the only other Defensive Arts teacher likely to have received Ministry approval. Harry retorts that Voldemort just happened to be stuck on the back of his head, thus earning himself another week's detention. The next morning, Angelina Johnson berates Harry for inviting another detention. Professor McGonagall also penalizes Harry five House points for provoking Umbridge despite her earlier warning.
In Transfiguration, Professor McGonagall rudely ignores Umbridge during her inspection. Umbridge, however, is delighted with Professor Grubbly-Plank's Care of Magical Creatures class. Clearly, Umbridge would prefer to have this class taught by Grubbly-Plank, who is substituting for Hagrid. Harry loses his temper when Draco mentions being injured by a Hippogriff during Hagrid's class, earning himself another day's detention.
When Harry returns from his final night of detention, Hermione says that she is also fed up with Umbridge's ineffective teaching, and suggests that Harry teach Defence Against the Dark Arts to students. Harry is at first surprised, then reluctant, feeling he is unqualified, but Hermione and Ron point out that he has extensive knowledge he could teach to others. Harry believes he has just winged it, it was luck, and had other people's help. Hermione insists Harry is the only one who knows what it is like to actually face Voldemort. Harry grudgingly agrees to consider it, then goes to bed, again dreaming about long corridors and locked doors.
Umbridge's new power allows her to indiscriminately impose her will on Hogwarts. Evaluating teachers far more competent than herself shows she may have an ulterior motive, possibly to weed out anyone she considers "unworthy" to teach at Hogwarts, particularly non-humans, regardless of their abilities. However, she has apparently also targeted the thoroughly human Professor Trelawney, and probably Professor McGonagall, who despises and openly opposes her. It seems the only teacher Umbridge deems worthy is Professor Grubbly-Plank, a competent teacher substituting for Hagrid, though Umbridge's enthusiasm may have less to do with Grubbly-Plank's abilities than with finding a reason to sack Hagrid as the Care of Magical Creatures instructor.
It is remarked elsewhere that there is a problem with the number of teachers in the school; given that you have either two double classes or four single classes to teach for each year, a teacher called upon to teach all the sections of a single course would end up teaching somewhere between fourteen and twenty eight classes. We have been told that the most courses a wizard can take is ten; by the same token, a teacher should not be able to teach more than ten sections. Add to this the fact that Umbridge, in addition to teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts to her usual classes, is also evaluating every other teacher and class in the school. Unless Umbridge is using a Time-Turner, there simply aren't enough hours in the day to do what she is doing.
About the only time we can even remotely empathize with the reprehensible Umbridge is when her actions express her belief that Divination is pure nonsense; she is not at all taken in by Professor Trelawney's dubious fortune-telling abilities. Harry, of course, shares that opinion, and probably wishes he had dropped the course with Hermione. However, readers, like Harry, probably cringe at Umbridge's evaluation technique.
Harry, meanwhile, continues to provoke Umbridge, stubbornly disregarding McGonagall's warning. He is also unhappy again with what his fame and exploits have brought him when Hermione and Ron urge him to secretly teach real Defensive Magic. Although Harry believes he lacks the necessary skills, Ron enumerates Harry's accomplishments, and it is an impressive list. But Harry tries to repudiate every point, claiming it was just luck or other people's help, rather than anything innate in him. Harry's reluctance to teach others may stem from several factors, such as a lack of self-esteem, and believing he is unqualified. Also, being a somewhat lazy student, he would need to do extra work to prepare lessons. However, he has always excelled in this subject and his abilities are more advanced than most other students. He also has practical experience, having fought Voldemort. There is still Harry's ever-present need to "go it alone", however, and by organizing and teaching other students, he essentially becomes their leader in the fight against Umbridge and also Voldemort, thereby, by obligation, tethering him to the group.
This chapter presents a new and interesting development in Hermione's character. Presented in earlier books as an insecure rule-follower with a need to please, rather like Percy Weasley, Hermione is now showing a willingness to stand for what is right even if it means some risk and dishonesty. She is also shown to have, in contrast to Harry and Ron, a very mature political and social conscience. While both Harry and Ron recognize that Umbridge is stifling the students, neither has the presence of mind to suggest an organized movement as an antidote.
Readers may discern a slight plot hole. Presumably, the sixth and particularly the seventh-year students should be fairly well trained in basic defensive magic by now and capable of performing many of the same spells and curses that Harry has prematurely learned independently. Harry even will comment that Cedric Diggory, who was an older student, already knew much of what he is teaching. The one thing that Harry has experienced, and probably the reason that seventh-year students like Fred and George are interested in his class, is actual combat with Death Eaters or Voldemort.
- Why does Hermione, who always follows rules, want Harry to secretly teach defensive magic?
- Why is Harry reluctant to teach Defensive Arts to other students?
- Why would the Ministry of Magic appoint a High Inquisitor at Hogwarts?
- Why is Umbridge evaluating teachers and their classes? What is the teachers' reaction to her?
- Why does Malfoy tell Umbridge he was once attacked by a Hippogriff? What is Harry's reaction, and why?
- Why is Umbridge particularly pleased with Professor Grubbly-Plank, the substitute teacher for the Care of Magical Creatures class? Is it because Grubbly-Plank is such a great instructor, or is there another reason?
- Why does Harry continually provoke Umbridge, knowing the consequences and despite McGonagall's stern warning?
- Is it a good idea for Harry to run these secret Defensive Arts classes? What could be some of the negative consequences? What could be some positive consequences? Overall, is Hermione's insistence or Harry's reluctance the wiser?
Although Trelawney is hardly an exceptional teacher, Umbridge may be targeting her for other reasons. Trelawney is tied to a Prophecy regarding Harry and Voldemort. It is possible that Umbridge knows about it, since a copy is stored within the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. We have no way of knowing whether Umbridge knows the Prophecy's content, but we have to assume that Fudge, the Minister for Magic, does. The Prophecy, of course, is one factor tending to support Harry's and Dumbledore's contention that Voldemort has returned, and so Fudge may feel that eliminating the Prophecy would be a vital part of discrediting Harry and Dumbledore. We suspect that Umbridge has been instructed to eliminate the prophecy's source by dismissing Trelawney and ejecting her from the castle; once the prophet herself is discredited, it will be easier to dismiss the prophecy. Dumbledore knows that Trelawney is vulnerable, and, despite her meager talents, hired her as the Divination teacher to protect her and the prophecy. If she were ever outside Hogwarts' protective walls, it is likely Voldemort would have her captured and use any means possible to extract the prophecy from her memory before killing her.
While Hermione makes it sound as if it is only herself and Ron who are interested in Harry teaching Defence, she will later mention this to several other students, and the word quickly spreads to other Houses. As a result, and rather to Harry's dismay, the idea "will prove to be quite popular," in Hermione's words, and about 28 students will arrive at the Hog's Head for the organizational meeting. This group, originally called the Defence Association, will be renamed Dumbledore's Army at their first full meeting. Despite his initial reluctance to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry will prove to be an excellent and inspiring instructor, and the classes help him learn to rely on and trust others. Teaching becomes something he will truly enjoy and look forward to.
Harry continually insists that he has accomplished less than people claim he has, a belief that is not fully understood by Ron until the seventh book. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry talks about how Ron saved his life and used the Sword of Gryffindor to destroy one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Ron claims that Harry makes it sound more impressive than it actually was, to which Harry responds that that is what he (Harry) has been saying about himself for years. Regardless of whether or not it was luck or other people who had helped him, Harry has gained considerable skills and knowledge through these experiences, which is how he learns best.
Harry's dreams about corridors and locked doors are actually Voldemort's deepest desires, played back through a telepathic link between him and Harry. Voldemort is still unaware that this link exists or that Harry sees what he is thinking. This will change near Christmas when Harry experiences an attack on Arthur Weasley through Voldemort's eyes. Some time following this event, Harry's dreams become sharper and more directed. At the book's end, it will be learned that at a point after Voldemort discovered the link existed, the visions (either real or false) were being deliberately directed into Harry's mind.
An interesting little circle starts here. Hermione recommends Essence of Murtlap tentacles to soothe Harry's injured hand after his final detention night. When Lee Jordan later receives detention from Umbridge, Harry suggests Essence of Murtlap to ease the pain. Lee apparently suggests Essence of Murtlap to Fred and George when they mention a side effect of one of their Skiving Snackboxes. The Murtlap cures the boils that appear on a rather private anatomical area when the Snackbox is used. So, Hermione is indirectly helping the Twins with one of their products, which would probably anger her if she knew.
Very little in this chapter connects to specific events in other books. The Murtlap Tentacle arc, mentioned above, is entirely contained within this book.