Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Problems I had with the Harry Potter Series, Take Two

Today I’d like to deal with leaps or lapses in logic. I'm only dealing with Order of the Phoenix (OotP) in this posting, but I do bring in examples from the first four books as well.

Magic outside of school by under age wizards

Jo has spun this incredible universe of a Wizarding world that lives parallel and sometimes overlaps with the Muggle world. Trying to understand the rules that she has set up for these worlds is complex, and we've only seen a portion of what her incredible imagination has created.

However, it doesn't always seem to work smoothly.

Case in point: Harry being charged with performing magic outside of Hogwarts.

How does the Ministry of Magic determine when magic is being performed, and who performs it? We had testimony that Fred and George were exploding things at the Burrow over the summer trying to invent things. Did the Ministry cite them as well?

Hermione's character introduction in Philosopher/Sorcerer's Stone suggested that she had done "simple spells" at home. Did she not get any warning that she shouldn't try this at home?

Petunia also gave testimony in the first book that Lily came home from school and turned teacups into rats.

So we saw Dobby do a Hover charm in the Dursley's home and then an owl came almost immediately from the Ministry. As if they had operators standing by to generate letters of reprimand and owls at the ready to start flying.

It seemed to me that this intelligence to the Ministry was done by a site specific magic detector, that couldn't tell the difference between elfin magic and wizard magic.

But in OotP, Harry is cited for a repeat violation for using magic outside of school, but he is in a Little Whinging neighborhood outside of the Dursley household.

So how did the Ministry of Magic know that Harry performed "the Patronus Charm at twenty-three minutes past nine this evening in a Muggle-inhabited area in the presence of a Muggle" ? What was the mechanism for detecting the exact spell, the caster of the spell and the location? It doesn't seem like it's a site-specific monitor, therefore how does it work and why didn't it work in other cases?

Because well, you'd think that if they had that kind of technology to perform that kind of detailed surveillance that they'd have known back in Year Two that the Hover charm was not cast by a wand, nor by Harry. The Ministry might also have known that say, Harry cast the Expelliarmus spell in a cemetery in Little Hangleton, also technically off the grounds from Hogwarts.

Or that Voldemort cast other spells in Little Hangleton, such as Avada Kedavra which could then prove that Harry was telling the truth.

But then...prior to Harry's hearing on performing magic outside of school, we have the Order of the Phoenix stop by the Dursley household and rescue him. Nymphadora Tonks uses magic to help Harry pack.


Why didn't that use of magic set off alarm bells with the Ministry and have them add to the list of complaints against Harry?

Somehow adults who cast magic spells are not under the Ministry's surveillance, but minors are? :Scratches head.: It doesn't make sense to me. Especially since the adults are more likely than children to use dangerous spells such as the Unforgivables.

It bugs me that I can't follow Jo's logic on how her universe is set up.

When I wrote my fifth year fic, I came up with this elaborate idea about out-of-date magical detectors on the roof top of the Dursley home that could only detect that magic was performed but not by the person.

That explanation worked for me, but that's not what Jo chose.

My line of logic would allow for Arthur Weasley's use of magic defending himself against flying porcelain in Goblet of Fire, to just go back to the office and explain what happened while having the Dursleys' fireplace taken off the Floo Network.

I wanted consistency in how these rules of the Potterverse were supposed to work. I don't care if the Ministry plays favorites and turns blind eyes to certain things, but I'd like to know that is the case and not just a lapse in logic.

Harry incriminating himself, Hermione, Sirius and Dumbledore in committing crimes.

What you say? When did Harry incriminate himself, his best friend, his godfather and his headmaster?

Well, we never read Rita Skeeter's cover story in The Quibbler, so we're not really sure what he said versus what she wrote. We do have however this quote from Percy Weasley when Harry was facing down the Minister of Magic, Umbridge, and others in Dumbledore's office.

"Or is there the usual simple explanation involving a reversal of time, a dead man coming back to life, and couple of invisible dementors?"

Let's break that down into three parts:

1. a reversal of time
2. a dead man coming back to life
3. a couple of invisible dementors

Now, I'll dispatch things in reverse order. Harry's hearing before the school year started in OotP dealt with his claims of dementors being in Little Whinging and trying to attack himself and his cousin. Fudge and Percy didn't believe Harry, but they were overruled by the majority in the Wizengamot.

The dead man coming back to life was the testimony of Sirius Black and both Harry and Hermione in Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA) prior to the time when Hermione was given the instruction by Dumbledore to try to change the course of events by messing with time.

Fudge thought the children were Confunded and left the infirmary.

Then Hermione broke her word to the Ministry and used the magical object for something other than she had agreed. I believe that would be a crime and that it should be classified as a Misuse of a Magical Object.

In telling the story of Voldemort's return to Rita, Harry would not have to divulge that he was instrumental in breaking a notorious prisoner out of confinement in Hogwarts, and that he did this with Hermione as his accomplice and with the knowledge and approval of his headmaster.

The further criminal implications is that he has aided and abetted a fugitive of justice.

Just that one line makes me go crazy.

If I were Fudge and there was such a publicly made confession by Harry Potter, you bet I'd start an investigation. Especially if it could lead to the ouster of Dumbledore, which is what he was trying to do all year long.


Did anyone else notice these things? Or am I just insane from looking too closely at the minutiae?

Stay tuned. Next time I'll tell you my problems with character development. Now, that's a whole different topic.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for interesting observations!
You wrote: "
If I were Fudge and there was such a publicly made confession by Harry Potter, you bet I'd start an investigation. Especially if it could lead to the ouster of Dumbledore, which is what he was trying to do all year long."

Fudge, thinks that Harry is a liar and probably partly non-well mentally. And if Fudge does not believe Harry and thinks, that all this happened only in Harry`s head (and Albus D. is using this to seek power and become a minister), then there is nothing to investigate... And probably he can not punish Harry for just a lie, since Harry gets only detention from Doloris for the interview.


Dave said...

I think you have missed several things in your analysis.

First off, of course 'magic' in the HP univerve doesn't entirely make sense and follow the same sort of laws we are used to in the muggle world. It works, like magic. Even then though there are a lot better explanations then what have shown.

Most likely, the magical detection is typically general, imagine a radar screen that covers a large area and can tell when 'magic' is performed. Muggle areas, such as the Dursleys and Privet drive are typically clear of magic, when magic happens in a muggle area, it is checked out, for a lot of reasons besides just underage wizardy.

Of course this doesn't explain the specific information about the Patronus charm, but remember that that whole episode was a set-up to discredit Harry and Dumbledore. Obviously, the set-up would be monitored so that they could use it as intended, to get Harry expelled. They new that specifically, because they were watching for it (exactly how it was witnessed isn't revealed.)

As for Percy's revelation, the first thing of course is that Percy new a whole lot more about Harry then was revealed to the Daily Prophet. Most likely the Prophet story was just the account of Voldemort's return after the Goblet of Fire championship. There is no reason to believe that Sirius would be mentioned at all. Percy though, being a member of the Weasley family would have heard all about that. Until the fifth book, he was a bit of a git but a trusted member of the family.

The 'dead man coming back to life' was of course Peter Pettigrew, not Sirius Black. Sirius never died (until he went through the veil anyway) and no one ever talked about him coming back to life.

Also Misuse of a Magical Artifact isn't a crime, I think you are thinking of misuse of muggle artifacts, which is a very different thing.

L.C.McCabe said...


Your rebuttal has a few weaknesses.

Of course Percy's reference to the dead man coming back to life was about Peter Pettigrew, but that was the testimony that Harry and Hermione, and Sirius gave to Dumbledore and Minister Fudge prior to Harry and Hermione going back in time.

It is mention of changing time that made my jaw drop. To specifically say that Hermione misused the magical device that Minerva McGonagall had to write countless letters on her behalf swearing that it would only be used for classwork...in order to free a condemned animal from a sanctioned Ministry execution and free an escaped prisoner from Azkaban.

It meant that Harry claimed to have helped a fugitive from justice.

Percy's mention of dead coming back to life could not have meant Sirius because at that point in OotP, Sirius was still alive in Grimmauld Place.

Yes, there might not have been a crime defined as Misuse of a Magical Object by JKR, but I think there probably would be something similar. That is, if it served her plot necessity.

I deliberately chose something close to what she had used which was Misuse of Muggle Artifacts because it sounded like what I thought might fit into Potterverse nomenclature.

And, well, I'm still unsatisfied with her explanation of how Harry got in trouble for magic in the Dursley household when it was done by Dobby, but not blamed at all when it was done by Tonks.

To me, the logic is inconsistent.

Thanks for stopping by though.