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In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Mrs. Figg implies Dumbledore opposed the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery act.

"Talk about the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery... this was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of –"

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 2 "A Peck of Owls", by J.K. Rowling

But the Law was passed in 1874, before Dumbledore's birth:

As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, chapter 2 "Dobby's Warning", by J.K. Rowling

So what did Mrs Figg mean by 'this is exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of', which sounds like he opposed the law?

  • 24
    Just because a law was passed before you were born, doesn't mean you can't oppose it. – F1Krazy Jun 20 '18 at 10:31
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    As with many things in life, particuarly when dealing with rules and regulations, the fact that it uses words like 'reasonable' does not mean that it is (and frankly, can often be an indicator that it isn't). :P – Salmononius2 Jun 20 '18 at 17:13
  • Dumbledore may have opposed an amendment making the laws stricter or changing their enforcement. The original law for example could have permitted the use of magic for the defence of self or others, and where it was reported to the Ministry within 72 hours. I see no reason to believe there is any contradiction that needs explanation. The Decree has existed in some form since 1875, but the content referred to could have been written at any time since. – Scott Jun 21 '18 at 3:37
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    You mention the law was passed in 1874, but the quotation you gave says 1875. – Michael Mior Jun 21 '18 at 12:39
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"Talk about the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery... this was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of –"

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 2 "A Peck of Owls", by J.K. Rowling


"In the matter of Harry Potter, the law clearly states that magic can be used before Muggles in life-threatening situations."
—Albus Dumbledore at Harry Potter's hearing

...

Clause 7 also states that magic can be used in front of Muggles in exceptional circumstances, including situations when the life of the witch or wizard is threatened, or the lives of other witches, wizards and Muggles are threatened.

Harry Potter Wikia, Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery English

"Talk about the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery" is a colloquialism and sarcastic sneer on 'Reasonable Restriction' as it's only supposed to enforce casual and dangerous uses of magic, as opposed to emergency usages.

So given this, it's my interpretation that 'what Dumbledore was afraid of' was the unfair persecution and biased enforcing of this law against the corrupt Ministry's enemies.

Harry is clearly being monitored closely compared to his peers, and indeed used magic in life threatening circumstances, but still found his path leading to wizard court.

  • Although this answer has way less upvotes, in thecontext of the books, I pretty sure this is correct. – TheAsh says Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '18 at 9:20
  • @TheAsh I'm not sure what the difference is between this answer and my own, could you elaborate? – DavidS Jun 21 '18 at 10:54
  • @DavidS I don't think 'this was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of –" in context (IMHO) is referring to anything but the Reasonable Restriction law. The other answer felt it was referencing the dementor incident - that Dumbledore was afraid of an incident like this happening. – TheAsh says Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '18 at 10:57
  • @DavidS I did upvote your answer, because it's well reasoned. I just didn't accept it. – TheAsh says Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '18 at 10:58
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    -1, I'm afraid. This answer defends the misunderstanding in the question, that Dumbledore had a problem with the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery or its application (which is demonstrably not correct), instead of refuting it. As DavidS's answer demonstrates, Dumbledore was afraid of Harry being exposed to a dangerous situation where he might have to use magic, which could in turn be exploited by a hostile Ministry. Both Figg and Dumbledore saw this problem coming, especially with someone as unreliable as Mundungus Fletcher looking after Harry. – The Dark Lord Jun 21 '18 at 14:27
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In light of the accepted answer I still believe there is a misunderstanding of this situation, so I'm going to add a little more clarification.

First and foremost - Dumbledore had no problem with the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. In fact throughout the books there's no indication that any adult, in any faction, has a problem with it - it's simply a law that stops (discourages, really) young kids using magic before they are trained. This is viewed by all as a...well, reasonable thing. And it is!

Specifically what Dumbledore is afraid of (the "this" in "this was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of –") is that the Ministry, knowing they can use this law as an excuse to bring Harry in, would set him up in some way so as to force him to break it. She's saying "this" because it worked, and they are in the exact situation Dumbledore feared they would engineer.


Original Answer

She's not referring to the law, she's referring to the incident that caused Harry to use magic outside of school.

Context is important here - she says this directly after Harry is attacked by the Dementors in Little Whinging and he is forced to defend himself by using magic. Dumbledore is well aware that the Ministry is corrupt and seeking to discredit Harry in any way they can. He has stationed guards (Mundungus and Mrs Figg) to watch Harry, and this is exactly this sort of thing he told them to watch for - an unexpected incident that would cause Harry to break the law, allowing him to be pulled up by the Ministry and expelled/imprisoned.

"I’ll take you to the door," said Mrs. Figg, as they turned into Privet Drive. "Just in case there are more of them around... oh my word, what a catastrophe... and you had to fight them off yourself... and Dumbledore said we were to keep you from doing magic at all costs... well, it’s no good crying over spilt potion, I suppose... but the cat’s among the pixies now."

And of course it is later revealed that Dumbledore was correct - Umbridge sent the Dementors for exactly this reason.

"What Cornelius doesn’t know won’t hurt him," said Umbridge, who was now panting slightly as she pointed her wand at different parts of Harry’s body in turn, apparently trying to decide where it would hurt most. "He never knew I ordered Dementors to go after Potter last summer, but he was delighted to be given the chance to expel him, all the same."

"It was you!" gasped Harry. "You sent the Dementors after me?"

"Somebody had to act," breathed Umbridge, as her wand came to rest pointing directly at Harrys forehead. "They were all bleating about silencing you somehow - discrediting you - but I was the one who actually did something about it... only you wriggled out of that one, didn’t you, Potter?"

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Dumbledore wasn't afraid of the Law, he was afraid that Harry would use magic out of school, and that he would then be expelled due to the law.

However, this law has a loophole, as Harry used magic in a life-threatening situation.

  • 1
    Hi Bradley, you've provided several answers recently, and it would seem some of them have been received better than others. Generally on this site we like to ensure our answers are backed up by evidence. Providing some quotes from the books would strengthen your answers. – Edlothiad Jan 10 at 14:33
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    additionally, both the accepted answer and the highest voted answer address this as well – NKCampbell Jan 10 at 14:45

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