This is the second in a series on the theme of family in OotP. Part 1 gives an introduction to this series and explores the global backdrop of the magical world’s racial/family divisions and interrelationship.
A Note on Beings
As we don’t encounter veelas in OotP and learn very little about them, I don’t include them but will reference them under the Weasleys. I also didn’t include werewolves, being/beast hybrids, “shunted between the Being and Beast divisions for many years,” according to Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (xiii). As they are a danger to others (as well as themselves), they lack family structure and don’t usually breed (which is why Remus Lupin fears for his unborn child). Although they share anger against wizard oppression, they seem to be loners who unite under Fenrir Greyback under Voldemort only to achieve power over wizards through infecting others, especially children.
What Is Family?
I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “Friends are family you choose for yourself.” For the purposes of this essay series, the terms “family” and “community” may be interchangeable in both the exact sense—those related by blood or adoption (such as Harry, Hermione, and Remus being absorbed into the Weasley family)—and the broader sense—those who regard each other as if they were biological family, through love and shared values. A family community may also be a workplace, school environment or ideal-driven brotherhood.
Of course, not every family or community operates smoothly, or treats its members well.
Family in Institutions and Groups
After having examined the global magical world and the racial families/tribes within it, let’s narrow down the focus within Britain’s magical community. We’ll look at personal families in Part 3 (and at the rate this is going, Part 4). All page references are from the Scholastic editions.
The Ministry is a dysfunctional government entity, a bureaucracy that is an uneasy microcosm of competing wizard values, ideologies, and methodologies, who yet work together to keep the wizarding world functioning. We spend the most time with these people representing these competing values:
Cornelius Fudge, Prime Minister. A weak politician who values his position over his responsibilities, makes dangerous compromises, and is easily bought. To him the ends justify the means. Therefore he denies Voldemort’s return, and discredits and persecutes Dumbledore and Harry.
Dolores Umbridge, Fudge’s Senior Undersecretary, High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. An ambitious, spiteful, tyrannical abuser who in her thirst for power and control undercuts her own boss (hiring dementors to attack Harry) and makes Hogwarts a living hell for students and staff. Umbridge manipulates the law, hates non-wizard magical beings and is an accomplice of Death Eaters.
Lucius Malfoy, Influence Peddler. “Malfoy’s been giving generously to all sorts of things for years…. Gets him in with the right people … then he can ask for favors … delay laws he doesn’t want passed … Oh, he’s very well connected, Lucius Malfoy….” (Arthur Weasley, 155)
Arthur Weasley, Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Head of Office. A pureblood who believes in equality for all wizards no matter their blood status. Scorned by those like Malfoy, he has a small, inconvenient office and is neither well-respected nor well-paid, but is satisfied with the good he accomplishes.
Bartemius Crouch, Sr., Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, former Head of Magical Law Enforcement. A rules stickler so rigid that no one noticed he was Imperiused during GoF. Exacting harsh measures, he authorized Unforgivable Curses, and sent people to Azkaban without trial. “I would say he became as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side” (GoF 527)
Percy Weasley, Administrative Assistant. A proud perfectionist, obsequious and ambitious, he cherishes the letter of the law over people, even his own family. He is so focused that he didn’t realize his first boss was Imperiused. In OotP he is assistant to Minister Cornelius Fudge and supports Umbridge. At the Battle of Hogwarts he reunites with his family, and agrees with Fred’s assessment that he has been “A Ministry-loving, family-disowning, power-hungry moron.” (DH 606)
Rufus Scrimgeour, Auror, Prime Minister. An orchestrator who replaces Fudge, keeps Dolores Umbridge on staff, and enacts ineffectual measures and arrests and incarcerates innocent people to improve the Ministry’s image.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, Senior Auror, covert Order operative. A brave and judicious man, who successfully diverts the search for Sirius Black, and inspires confidence in all, including Vernon Dursley and the Muggle Prime Minister.
The Order of the Phoenix
The Order, composed of mostly biologically unrelated wizards, is a family united by a cause—defeating Voldemort and his blood purity agenda. In OotP Order members share the Black house as headquarters at Sirius’ invitation, even lodging there as necessary. In August and at Christmas we see them cleaning house, celebrating the holidays, showing affection, and having squabbles like any family. The family aspect of the Order is captured in the photograph that Moody shows Harry of the early days, naming past and current members, and pointing out the dead, including Harry’s parents and Gideon and Fabian Prewitt. (We later learn that Gideon and Fabian were Molly’s older brothers; Molly and Arthur give Harry Fabian’s watch for his seventeenth birthday, further showing their love for Harry as a son, and in the Epilogue he still wears it.) The photo also includes the tortured-into-insanity Longbottoms.
As the book opens we’re surprised, along with Harry, that his cat-loving babysitting neighbor, Arabella Figg, is a member of the Order family, and that she’s watched over Harry for fourteen years. She reveals herself during the dementor attack in Little Whinging (19-24) and testifies for Harry at his Wizengamot trial (143). Contrast Arabella with Order member Mundungus Fletcher, who abandons his protective post to pursue shady business deals (23).
Apart from problems with Mundungus’ operations, conflicts arising in the Order are personal, mostly the one between Sirius and Severus, arising from schoolboy cruelty and inability to forgive. This causes much grief and is a factor in Sirius’ death.
Blood Purists and Death Eaters
Blood purists don’t really operate as a family, per se, but they have a strong bond of unity in their desire for racial purity. Scamander writes regarding classification of being and beast: “We are all familiar with the extremists who campaign for the classification of Muggles as “beasts” FB&WTFT xiii). We see this view reflected in the Ministry’s Magic is Might statue. The carved Muggles are naked, “all with stupid, ugly faces, twisted and pressed together to support the weight of the handsomely robed wizards “(DH 242).
The obsession with blood purity exemplified by the Blacks (“Tojours Pur”) and the Malfoys has been a uniting factor amongst many purebloods since the days of Salazar Slytherin. Albus Dumbledore and Gellart Grindelwald would have quickly found an army of willing purebloods to subdue Muggles “for the greater good.”
In contemporary times this blood prejudice produced the Death Eaters. Sirius Black tells Harry that his own parents weren’t Death Eaters, but “they thought Voldemort had the right idea, they were all for the purification of the Wizarding race, getting rid of Muggle-borns and having purebloods in charge. They weren’t alone either, there were quite a few people, before Voldemort showed his true colors, who thought he had the right idea about things….” (112).
Death Eaters, sycophantic servants to their master, are a brotherhood like the Klan or Mafia. They wear hoods and masks, have a brotherhood tattoo (the Dark Mark) that summon them to their master, and a behavioral code with severe punishments for minor failures. They use forbidden curses. Voldemort, with no love or respect for them, plays them against one another, with more than one believing that only they are his “most trusted.” These henchmen are also a good ol’ boys club with only one female Death Eater amongst them, Bellatrix Lestrange. Bella is always desperate to prove herself as not only equal to the men but better.
Being a Death Eater appears to have generational intent. Those who joined up during Voldemort’s first war would likely see their sons join “the family firm” (as does Draco Malfoy) before Voldemort’s defeat.
The Hogwarts Family
Hogwarts is the educational training ground for the majority of British wizards, and students are together for seven years, apart from family and society. Hogwarts is the heart of the wizarding world, fostering strong school ties lasting a lifetime.
This Hogwarts family includes four sub-families:
STAFF: We don’t learn of staff relationships outside the school, but the staff does act as family to each other. We see this in Hagrid’s affections for his fellow teachers and defense of Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall’s kindness to Sybil Trelawny (595), and the staff’s alliance against Umbridge, the only teacher they universally despise.
HOGWARTS PORTRAITS: These include the castle portraits and the portraits of former headmasters in the headmaster’s office. Portrait subjects visit and find refuge in each other’s paintings, visit paintings of themselves elsewhere for helpful information, support the school, and interact with staff and students. The Pink Lady allows (or doesn’t allow) Gryffindors into their common room. Sir Cadogan, galloping through the paintings, cheers Harry on during the Battle of Hogwarts (DH 621). The headmaster portraits advise the current headmaster, and joyously weeping, give Harry a standing ovation after the battle.
HOUSE GHOSTS: According to Nearly Headless Nick, only wizards can come back as ghosts and every wizard has the choice (and that choice is final) of remaining as a ghost “neither here nor there,” leaving “an imprint of themselves upon the earth, to walk palely where their living selves once trod. But very few wizards choose that path.” Instead, most go on. Nick confesses to Harry that he knows “nothing of the secrets of death…for I chose my feeble imitation of life instead” (860-861). Ghosts seem to remain at places where they have connection; ghost Professor Binns continues teaching his History of Magic class uninterrupted by the Great Divide.
Ghosts still have their human personalities and frailties. Moaning Myrtle nurses her grudges and interest in unclothed prefects. Nick tells Harry after the year’s welcome feast that “I have never been guilty of cowardice in my life,” (209), yet later tells him that he remained behind as a ghost because “I was afraid of death” (861)
Despite some competitiveness and rivalries, ghosts “maintain links of friendship” (209), and Nick refers to “the spirit community” (HBP 165), which may include the larger ghost community, such as those who participate in the Headless Hunt and come to his deathday party (CoS 124; 129). The Hogwarts ghosts are loyal to the school and celebrate Voldemort’s defeat with the victors. One of them, Rowena Ravenclaw, gives Harry key information about the diadem.
PEEVES: Apparently without human origin, Peeves is not a ghost, but a mischief-making poltergeist, a spirit solid enough to move objects, throw things, fly, and cause destruction. Despite his annoying hostilities, he creates havoc against Umbridge (678), fights on the school’s side during the battle, and sings a victory song (DH 746).
HOGWARTS ELVES: These are happy and contented elves, treated well (GoF 376-382). They bravely fight with kitchen implements during the battle, led by Kreacher.
Hogwarts students are a family within the wizarding world itself, and throughout their formative school years have opportunity to build friendships with those of differing ideologies; most, sadly, leave school with their prejudices intact. The frictions handed down by the four Hogwarts founders thrive and perpetuate in the Sorting of students into four competitive Houses according to character and personality. The Sorting Hat warns that these divisions are dangerous and that unity must prevail to save their way of life, “or we’ll crumble from within” (206-207). Dumbledore also makes pleas for unity. He tells Snape in the Prince’s Tale that “I sometimes think we sort too soon,” instead of giving children a chance to prove themselves (DH 680).
Each House has its own quarters, restricted to students in that House, in different areas of the castle, and students in each class share the same dormitory room during their seven years there. “While you are here,” says Professor McGonagall, “your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts” (SS 114).
In a subset, we have the House Quidditch teams, which bond House and team members, but further House frictions; even the staff members, former Hogwarts students themselves, encourage this subtly or overtly. It would be more unifying to have teams comprised of students from all four Houses, to build understanding, tolerance, and friendship.
Hogwarts students from three houses form the revolutionary Dumbledore’s Army and work together as a family to learn defense against the Dark Arts. A secret club, the DA members sign an oath of secrecy, meet in a secret room for secret training, and have secret coins to inform them of meetings. They work together to learn defensive spells, and cheer each other on. This is the kind of unity the Sorting Hat would approve. When one member betrays them, it devastates them all.
The bonding goes further for some, including Neville, Luna, and Ginny, who keep their coins on them at all times, hoping for more of the connection that meant so much to them, and that faith and those coins help save Hogwarts during the Death Eater school invasion at the end of the next year and the persecution during Voldemort’s reign. The DA carries on during the Trio’s absence in DH, welcomes Harry back to Hogwarts as leader, and fights in the battle.
For Good or Ill
Family bonds extend beyond bloodlines and race. They are found in institutions, workplaces, teams, brotherhoods, clubs, social groups, organizations, and in Harry Potter, among the dead. These ties can be healthy or twisted, but they matter. None of us goes through life without such bonds.
I’m sure you all have so much to add, so fire away!