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"As you have already received an official warning for a previous offence under section 13 of the International Confederation of Wizards’ Statute of Secrecy, we regret to inform you that your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 a.m. on August 12th. Hoping you are well, Yours sincerely, Mafalda Hopkirk"
Mafalda Hopkirk's first Ministry letter to Harry, informing him of his impending trial[src]

The disciplinary hearing of Harry Potter occurred before the Wizengamot on 12 August 1995 as the boy wizard was charged for using underage magic outside of school, that is, he was forced to conjure a Patronus Charm to save himself and his cousin Dudley Dursley from Dementors in the Muggle town of Little Whinging ten days earlier.[3][2]

As this hearing took place amid the Ministry of Magic's attempts to discredit Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter, there was some bias against Harry's case in hopes to expel the boy and prevent him from claiming that Lord Voldemort had returned, and Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge was determined to convict Harry for this crime. Despite this, Harry was cleared of all charges during the hearing.[1]


Background information[]


The Dementor attack on Harry Potter and his use of the Patronus Charm

On the night of 2 August 1995, while Harry and his cousin Dudley Dursley were returning home, two Dementors appeared in Little Whinging. To save himself and Dudley, Harry performed the Patronus Charm and successfully repelled the Dementors.[3] However, being an underage wizard, Harry was not supposed to perform magic outside Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

As a result, he was formally accused of performing underage magic and was expelled from school by the Ministry of Magic. However, after Albus Dumbledore's intervention, the expulsion was retracted and changed to a disciplinary hearing which would take place ten days later, on 12 August at 9 am, at the British Ministry of Magic's headquarters, before the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement Amelia Bones was in her office.[2]

Letter about the change of time and venue

Letter regarding change of time and venue of the hearing

Cornelius Fudge, then-Minister for Magic, was attempting to discredit Harry and Dumbledore's claims about the return of Lord Voldemort, and so he changed the hearing to an earlier time (8 am) and a different location (Courtroom Ten) in the hopes of making Harry miss it, as well as trying Harry in front of the entire Wizengamot. Due to the change of time, Harry was five minutes late, but managed to attend it anyway, as he was already at the Ministry, having arrived there with Arthur Weasley.[4][1]

It was later revealed that Dolores Umbridge, a Ministry bureaucrat who served as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic and one of Harry's prosecutors during the hearing, had secretly ordered the Dementors to attack Harry in the first place in an attempt to silence him which she would later reveal to Harry after finding him trying to contact Sirius Black.[5]

The hearing[]

Cornelius Fudge: "Disciplinary hearing of the twelfth of August, into offences committed under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy by Harry James Potter, resident at number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley —"
Albus Dumbledore: "Witness for the defence, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore."
Dumbledore's arrival at Harry Potter's hearing in Courtroom Ten[src]

Harry before the entire Wizengamot

During the hearing, Fudge was incredibly biased against Harry, in the hopes to spitefully discredit and expel the boy for his claims that Lord Voldemort had returned. Fudge introduced highly irrelevant considerations and biased accusations into the trial, all the while trying to deny Harry a chance to tell his version of what happened. Percy Weasley, the Court Scribe, was also nodding to Fudge's words and refusing to acknowledge Harry, much to Harry's fury.[1]

The whole hearing was turning out to be nothing but a show trial until Dumbledore arrived. When Harry finally told the court about the Dementors that attacked him, Fudge scoffed and called Harry's claim "convenient" and a "weak cover story", with no witnesses to back up his claim, as Muggles cannot see Dementors. However, Dumbledore, invoking the Wizengamot Charter of Rights, produced one witness, Arabella Figg, who gave an accurate description of the attack. Fudge tried dismissing her testimony, partly due to her being a Squib, moreover why Dementors just happened to be in a Muggle suburb.[1]

Harry Dumbledore Disciplinary Hearing

Dumbledore fiercely defending Harry during the hearing

Dumbledore tried suggesting that perhaps someone inside or outside the Ministry must have ordered the attack, and expressed his hopes that this matter would not go without investigation. As Fudge tried to get the trial back on the subject of the matter, Dumbledore cited Clause Seven of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, which was reasonable enough for Harry to defend himself and his cousin.[1]

Hearing at Ministry

Harry sitting silently during his trial

Fudge tried pointing out the other violations of the decree Harry allegedly carried out a few years ago, such as the Hover Charm performed in 1992, and the Engorgement Charm used on his aunt the year after. Dumbledore countered that the former charge was performed by Dobby and that Fudge did not prosecute Harry over the latter charge. He even tried to summon Dobby over to give evidence, but Fudge refused, crudely dismissing the importance of House elves.

He then attempted to bring up Harry's behaviour at school, but Dumbledore shot him down that Harry's behaviour there was irrelevant to the hearing since the Ministry didn't have the power to expel Hogwarts students, nor had the right to confiscate wands until charges were successfully proven. He further stated that the Ministry did not have the authority to punish Harry for every bit of magic he had performed, nor use a full criminal trial for a simple case of underage magic, and all of those past charges brought up were irrelevant to the trial. Fudge shamelessly defended his actions by saying that laws could be changed if necessary.[1]


Owing to the fairness of Madam Bones and a majority ruling of the court, Harry was cleared of all charges. Only Fudge, Umbridge and roughly a half-dozen of the court fore-choosing conviction (Percy included, though his vote would not count, being a scribe and therefore not a member of the Wizengamot). Fudge grudgingly cleared Harry of all charges. Harry soon emptied his entire pouch of Galleons into the Fountain of Magical Brethren in triumph, although the trial did leave him with a bitter resentment for Fudge, Percy, Umbridge and possibly the remaining wizards and witches who voted against him.[1]

Later that year, Percy wrote a letter to Ron, stating that he believed that Harry only got off on a technicality.[6]

Behind the scenes[]

  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Mafalda Hopkirk's letter expelling Harry talked and moved on its own, akin to a Howler, whereas in the book Harry simply reads the letter to himself.[2]
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, while Harry and Dudley were being attacked by Dementors, Harry uses the Wand-Lighting Charm in a hurried attempt to find his wand in the darkness. Though this is also magic, it was not mentioned at the hearing. It is possible, however, that they were including this when they said underage magic, or that this spell cast was not witnessed by a Muggle anyway.
  • There are some mark worthy differences of the hearing in the film than in the book:
    • Mention of Mrs Figg being a Squib is omitted.
    • Mrs Figg stays during the entire hearing and is even there while the Wizengamot votes to decide if Harry should be convicted or cleared of all charges (she even goes on to raise her hand when Madam Bones asks all those in favour of clearing the accused of all charges, but then realises she cannot vote and pretends to have risen her hand to scratch her ear instead).
    • Fudge announcing Harry's previous magic acts are omitted.
    • There is only one chair during the hearing rather than two. Harry sits on it, then Mrs Figg takes his spot while Harry sits in the stands.
    • Mention of Harry's official warning due to Dobby's hover charm is omitted, as well as Dumbledore's (rejected) proposal to summon Dobby into the court as a witness. The mention of Harry (accidentally) blowing up Aunt Marge was omitted as well.
    • When reaching a verdict, Madam Bones first asks for the votes in favour of conviction, followed by those in favour of acquittal, whereas in the book it was the other way around.
    • In the book, Fudge screams that Harry is cleared of all charges in barely contained fury, while in the film, he delivers the verdict in relatively calm manner.


Notes and references[]