Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Welcome back to magical law in the Wizarding World the series where we analyze magical law in the Harry Potter books. For this video we will be analyzing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Quickly within the second chapter of the Chamber of Secrets we are reminded of the two most basic laws within the Wizarding World. The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery when Ron Wealsey and his twin brothers come to rescue Harry from his aunt and uncle’s house in a flying car. When Ron sees Harry he says, “…dad came home and said you’d got an official warning for using magic in front of muggles…you know we’re not supposed to do spells outside of school.” We are being reminded that it is against the law to use magic in front of muggles (the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy) and that underage wizards are not allowed to use magic outside of school (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery).
Later, in chapter three The Burrow we learn that Arthur Wealsey oversees the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic. When Harry asks what exactly Ron’s dad does, Ron explains it by saying, “It’s all to do with bewitching things that are Muggle-made, you know, in case they end up back in a Muggle shop or house. Like, last year, some old witch died, and her tea set was sold to an antiques shop. This Muggle woman bought it, took it home, and tried to serve her friends tea in it…The teapot went berserk and squirted boiling tea all over the place and one man ended up in the hospital with the sugar tongs clamped to his nose. Dad was going frantic — it’s only him and an old warlock called Perkins in the office — and they had to do Memory Charms and all sorts of stuff to cover it up —” Ron also mentions that if his father did a ‘raid’ on his own house he would have to put himself under arrest. I am pretty sure that the first time ‘raids’ are mentioned in the Harry Potter books are on page 31 of the Chamber of Secrets, however if I am wrong. Please let me know.
Raids are when the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office shows up unannounced to people’s houses to collect any bewitched muggle items that would land back in the hands of muggles. This is important because in chapter four At Flourish and Blotts we are presented with a scene of Mr. Malfoy selling items to Mr. Borgin at Borgin and Burkes – a known dark magical object antique shop. Mr. Malfoy while talking to Mr. Borgin says, “You have heard, of course, that the Ministry is conducting more raids…I have a few — ah — items at home that might embarrass me, if the Ministry were to call.…I have not been visited yet…[but]…There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act — no doubt that flea-bitten, Muggle-loving fool Arthur Weasley is behind it…and as you see, certain of these poisons might make it appear…” This shows that there were polices in the Wizarding World that have strong enough consequences that even former death eaters, close followers of Voldemort, were concerned of the repercussions of breaking the laws.
Speaking of repercussions for breaking laws in the Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the first time we are introduced to the jail that exists for wizards – Azkaban. We are introduced to the idea of it when the Minister of Magic (Cornelius Fudge) who we are also first introduced to in this book, comes to take Hagrid to Azkaban to calm people suspicions that he is the heir of Slytherin and that he has opened the Chamber of Secrets. However, it isn’t until Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (book 3) that we learn more about Azkaban.
On a side note, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets introduces us to the bribery, blackmail, and corruption that exists in the Wizarding World. Mr. Malfoy brough a letter from the Governor to suspend Dumbledore as the headmaster of Hogwarts, however in chapter eighteen Dobby’s Reward Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts to which Mr. Malfoy responded by saying, “You’ve come back. The governors suspended you, but you still saw fit to return to Hogwarts.” To which Dumbledore responds by saying, “Well, you see…the other eleven governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of owls, to tell the truth. They’d heard that Arthur Weasley’s daughter had been killed and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man for the job after all. Very strange tales they told me, too…Several of them seemed to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn’t agree to suspend me in the first place.” This shows us that there is still fear in the Wizarding World and that it is not a perfect law-abiding world.
There is one more instance of law breaking I want to bring up – Ron and Harry using Mr. Weasley’s flying car to get them to Hogwarts. We are first introduced to Mr. Weasley’s flying car by Ron and his twin brothers when they are picking up/kidnapping harry from his uncle and aunt’s house. When Harry inquired about the car, Ron and his brother mentioned that Mr. Wealsey had written a loophole in the laws of muggle artifacts that was currently the law. Mr. Wealsey wrote that you could bewitch muggle artifacts as long as you weren’t planning on using them. That is why he made a car that could fly but was never planning on flying it. When Ron and Harry were trying to get to Platform 9 ¾ they were unable to and decided to use Mr. Weasley’s car to fly to Hogwarts instead of doing anything else what would have been more practical. Anyways, while Ron and Harry were flying to Hogwarts, they forgot to use the invisibility button, and they were seen by muggles. Breaking the International Statue of Wizarding Secrecy among many other muggle laws and caused a ruckus within the wizarding community. We later find out that Mr. Wealsey was facing an inquiry at work because of the car he had built to fly that he never intended on flying. I wanted to mention this situation because it shows that there are a certain number of checks and balances within the wizarding community. Even though Mr. Wealsey was the head of his department, there was still an inquire into him, and the actions he took.
Interestingly, enough Ron and Harry somehow seem to escape most legal punishments when they break the law but in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we do some people held to a higher standard. Join me next week as we discuss Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.