The One Part Of ‘Pottermore’ I’m Excited About: More About The Ministry Of Magic

J.K. Rowling takes a dim view of wizarding ministers in her Harry Potter books.

Apparently, we’re getting Minerva McGonagall’s backstory, which I hope will come in a fleshed-out form rather than simple declarative statements like J.K. Rowling’s not unexpected but not particularly developed statement on Albus Dumbledore’s sexual orientation. I’d love a novella version of McGonagall’s life if only to see the Harry Potter universe through a different perspective. Harry’s view of it, especially as someone who wasn’t raised in the wizarding world and as such, still doesn’t know a ton of custom and tradition by the end of the seventh novel, is necessarily limited.

But I’d also really love to learn more about the Ministry of Magic. Rowling does a nice job with something British pop culture does fairly frequently, which is building up elected officials as weak reeds, overly dependent on public opinion, and contrasting them with a brave and forward-thinking bureaucracy. The Harry Potter books take a fairly uniformly dim view of Minister-level officials (a side note, the wizarding world doesn’t operate on strictly British lines of government, but the Wizengamot functions as a wizarding parliament, so I think the metaphor stands). Cornelius Fudge is historically wrong about everything, from falling for Peter Pettigrew’s ruse to frame Sirius Black, to imprisoning Hagrid, to making reckless use of Dementors, to refusing to believe in Voldemort’s return. He basically sells out to the Malfoys, who are the wizarding world’s equivalent of big donors, in the matter of Buckbeak. His beliefs and policy decisions are based almost entirely on public sentiment and the most convenient narrative, rather than fact or logic. Rufus Scrimgeour is more realistic about the threat Voldemort presents, but he responds to it with security theater rather than with actual prudent security measures, and it costs him his life and the lives of a great many other people.

By contrast, wizarding bureaucrats are often more heroic. Arthur Weasley may head a semi-irrelevant office in the Ministry, but he’s a living argument for wizard tolerance towards Muggles (and as the character who perhaps best embodies the values of curiosity and wonder, a great representative of the reader in the novels). The Magical Law Enforcement Patrol bravely confronts crabby wizards who are dabbling in dark magic and abusing their female relatives. The Aurors are considered generally unimpeachable, and totally badass. There are exceptions, of course: Bartemius Crouch Sr. may be a ruthlessly effective enforcer, but he ends up manipulated by his own son (though he dies fighting the Imperius curse and trying to tell Dumbledore the truth). But it’s presented as a great tragedy in Deathly Hallows when Voldemort’s takeover corrupts the Ministry of Magic, particularly by the infiltration of the bureaucratic infrastructure by people like Dolores Umbridge. When word comes down after the Battle of Hogwarts that Kingsley Shacklebolt is acting as Minister of Magic, it’s as if order’s been restored: not only have the bureaucratic ranks of the Ministry been cleansed, but the political governance of the wizarding world’s been taken over by a career law enforcement officer.