At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Spoilers will be present within the article.
The Improper Use of Magic Office was a division of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic. It dealt with the misuse of magic, particularly in cases where Muggles was involved, be it by Hogwarts students, or by fully qualified wizards.
The office was charged with investigating incidents of magical activity that constituted a direct violation of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, such as blatant and deliberate use of magic in the presence of Muggles or in Muggle-inhabited areas, or failure to conform to the strictures laid down to uphold said law. To this end, it was also tasked with enforcing the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. It also maintained a list of people with the ability to turn into an animal at will in order to prevent any misuse of their talent, with there being heavy penalties for those who failed to register. Likewise, it can be assumeed that unauthorised portkeys, unlicensed Apparition and other criminal activities posing a risk to wizarding secrecy also fell under their purview for the same reason.
Upon receiving intelligence of a transgression, a note would be sent to the offender detailing actions that would be taken by the office. In cases where infringement was severe, the office could dispatch Ministry representatives to take legal affair, and in the absolutely worst cases, they were allowed to immediately destroy the accused's wand, or the offender could be referred to the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for an official disciplinary hearing to reach an official decision as to imprisonment and destruction of the accused's wand was warranted — and although high-profile cases are known to have taken place before the whole Wizengamot, this was highly unusual. A notable example on their daily work was how the Office was tasked with taking action against the activist Carlotta Pinkstone, who deliberately used magic indiscriminately in public places, in full sight of Muggles, and as a result, she was subject of a long series of convictions and imprisonments in the wizarding prison of Azkaban. While focusing on breaches of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, it kept a particular focus on witches or wizards living in areas that were inhabited by Muggles. In these cases, first-time offenders were usually let off with a warning, while extreme cases could require them to take legal action against the person in question.
Dolores Umbridge started her career as a lowly intern in this office right after leaving Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at 17 years old, and due to her tyrannical methodologies underneath her sweet attitude, along with taking credit for other people's work, she became Head of the division before 30 years old. She eventually left the department when she was promoted to Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic.
The Improper Use of Magic Office came into contact with Harry Potter repeatedly during his childhood. He received a warning letter from them when Dobby, a house-elf, used a Hover Charm to smash a pudding on the floor at 4 Privet Drive when Muggles were present in the house. It was assumed that Harry levitated the pudding, which constituted a breach of both the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and, even more importantly, the International Confederation of Wizards' Statute of Secrecy. Given his youth, however, then Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge let him off with a warning. One year later, Harry caused his Aunt Marge to float like a balloon, but Fudge let him go because he felt pity for Harry, believing Sirius Black to be on the hunt for him.
This pity turned to malice when, two years later, Harry received notice of expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Improper Use of Magic Office after he used a Patronus Charm against threatening Dementors in his Muggle hometown of Little Whinging. The letter informed him that his wand would be destroyed by Ministry officials and he would be detained until Court notice; this appeared to be the standard procedure. Through the intervention of Albus Dumbledore, punishment and wand destruction was delayed until a hearing could be held for Harry.
Harry was indeed tried before the entire Wizengamot, however, it was highly unusual procedure for a simple case of underage use of magic. The hearing was held in Courtroom Ten below the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic.
At some point during the late 2010s, the Improper Use of Magic Office became inundated with a steadily growing number of reports regarding sightings of unauthorised and seemingly chaotic magical activity occurring throughout the Muggle world. And although the appropriate authorities were notified and dispatched to deal with the matter, it did not take long before it became blatantly obvious that these “traces of magic” were occurring ever more frequently, until the Ministry of Magic decided to take the unprecedented step of partnering with the International Confederation of Wizards to form an international task force to investigate and contain this so-called Calamity. In the time that followed, the Ministry proceeded to encourage unity in light of this new threat, and asked witches and wizards to enlist to the Statute of Secrecy Task Force,
- Travers (Head)
- Dolores Umbridge (Head sometime before 1995)
- Mafalda Hopkirk (assistant)
- Honoria's fiancé
- Mafalda Hopkirk's Ministerial Superior
- Rufus Fudge (suspended)
- Orabella Nuttley
- Chester Davies
Behind the scenes
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the Improper Use of Magic Office is incorrectly referred to as a the "Improper Use of Magic Department". This is not coherent with the Ministry functional directory set forth in the books in which Offices are smaller divisions of the larger Departments (in this case, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement).
- In a prop letter made for the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (that went unused in the final film), Mafalda Hopkirk is referred to as the "Commander-in-Chief" of the Improper Use of Magic Office — whereas Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows gives her position as "an assistant in the Improper Use of Magic Office".
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Mentioned only)
- Wonderbook: Book of Spells (First appearance)
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Wizarding World (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
- Daily Prophet Newsletters (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Dolores Umbridge" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 2 (Dobby's Warning)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 2 (A Peck of Owls)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 7 (The Ministry of Magic)
- Wonderbook: Book of Spells
- Daily Prophet Newsletters: 8 February, 1999, Page 1
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 3 (The Knight Bus)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 8 (The Hearing)
- See here.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 12 (Magic is Might)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - Chapter 11 (Ministry Interior)
- Harry Potter Limited Edition (see this image)