7

In Order of the Phoenix the Ministry passes Educational Decree 23 which gives Umbridge the following responsibility:

‘The Inquisitor will have powers to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch.

Presumably Umbridge ended up inspecting every teacher at Hogwarts. We know of the following classes that Harry takes:

  • Defense Against the Dark Arts
  • Transfiguration
  • Potions
  • Charms
  • History of Magic
  • Herbology
  • Astronomy
  • Care of Magical Creatures
  • Divination

I don't believe we are ever privy to an actual Astronomy class. They are sometimes mentioned in passing, and there is a long scene during the practical exam, but we don't actually see any classes in action.

Defense Against the Dark Arts is taught by Umbridge, so she obviously would not need to inspect it. This leaves us with seven classes in which we could potentially see Umbridge inspecting. However, since there are two different Care of Magical Creatures teachers (Hagrid and Grubbly-Plank) there are actually eight.

We don't find Umbridge inspecting any of Harry's Herbology classes, nor any of his History of Magic classes, nor any of his Charms classes. We do know that she inspected Fred and George's Charms class:

“You lot had an inspected lesson yet?” Fred asked them.

“No,” said Hermione at once, “have you?”

“Just now, before lunch,” said George. “Charms.”

We do find Umbridge inspecting all Harry's other classes:

  • Transfiguration

Harry did not speak to Hermione all through Charms, but when they entered Transfiguration he forgot his anger; Professor Umbridge and her clipboard were sitting in a corner and the sight of her drove the memory of breakfast right out of his head.

  • Potions

He gestured toward the dim corner of the dungeon, and Harry saw Professor Umbridge sitting there, clipboard on her knee.

  • Care of Magical Creatures (Grubbly-Plank)

He had thought that the next time he would see Umbridge would be in his detention that evening, but he was wrong. When they walked down the lawns toward the forest for Care of Magical Creatures, they found her and her clipboard waiting for them beside Professor Grubbly-Plank.

  • Care of Magical Creatures (Hagrid)

Professor Umbridge had arrived. She was standing a few feet away from Harry, wearing her green hat and cloak again, her clipboard at the ready. Hagrid, who had never heard Umbridge ’s fake cough before, was gazing in some concern at the closest thestral, evidently under the impression that it had made the sound.

  • Divination

But Harry did not have to wait for Defense Against the Dark Arts to meet Professor Umbridge. He was pulling out his dream diary in a seat at the very back of the shadowy Divination room when Ron elbowed him in the ribs and, looking round, he saw Professor Umbridge emerging through the trapdoor in the floor.

Thus, out of eight classes where we could possibly have seen Umbridge inspecting, we find her in five of them. For Herbology and History of Magic we don't know if she inspected them but it's just not mentioned, or if she did not inspect them. (I.e. it could be that she actually inspected five, six, or seven, of the classes.) The only class we know that she inspected a different year is Charms.

It appears that there was extra emphasis placed on the fifth year classes, and particularly Harry's fifth year classes. There are seven years of Transfiguration classes, and at least in Harry's year Gryffindor has it's own class. If the numbers are consistent in the other years, there could be up to 28 transfiguration classes. Thus, the odds of Harry's class being the one to get inspected could be as small as 1/28.

When it comes to Potions, Harry's classes are with Slytherin. If the rest of the school is also taught Potions two houses at a time, there could be 14 Potions classes. Thus, the odds of Harry's class being the one to get inspected would be 1/14.

Care of Magical Creatures and Divination only start from third year. The former is taught to Harry with Slytherin, so there could be 10 Care of Magical Creatures classes. Thus, the odds of Umbridge inspecting Harry's class would be 1/10 for both Hagrid and Grubbly-Plank. Divination is taught to Harry without any other houses, so there could be as many as 20 Divination classes, making the odds of Harry's getting inspected 1/20.

As we can see, the odds of any class of Harry's being the one to get inspected are pretty small. The odds of all of the ones that got inspected getting inspected becomes astronomically tiny:

(1/28)*(1/14)*(1/10)*(1/10)*(1/20) = 0.00000127551

This means that the odds of this happening are a little more than one in a million. (If my calculation is incorrect please point it out.)

This seems to indicate that Umbridge's choice of which classes to inspect could not have been coincidental.

Therefore, the question to be addressed is:

Why did Umbridge specifically choose to inspect so many of Harry's classes when she could have inspected the teachers in their other classes?

I don't think there is any particular evidence that Harry's classes were more opportune for her schedule. I am also assuming that there would be no reason for her to inspect more than one class per teacher (I am not counting additional classes that she sat in on after the initial inspections).

What, then, led her to choose specifically Harry's classes?

Might it have something to do with her relationship with him, or some point she is trying to hint to him?

Related questions:

When does Umbridge have time to audit the other teachers?

Why didn't Professor Umbridge inspect Professor Binns' class?

  • 1
    This is a good question, though I fear that any question involving J.K. Rowling and maths is doomed to be unanswerable. As a corollary, some of the Hogwarts teachers must have been exceedingly busy. We know that there are double lessons in both Charms and Transfiguration; if we accept that there are 28 Transfiguration and Charms classes and assume that perhaps one in four classes is a double lesson, that’s 35 hours of active teaching per week for both McGonagall and Flitwick, plus grading and preparation and their other duties. That’s absolutely insane, as any teacher will tell you. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '18 at 8:09
  • What makes you think Umbridge spends only a single class with each teacher? – Harry Johnston Sep 9 '18 at 8:56
  • 1
    I think your calculation is significantly underestimating the odds, mostly because you don't care about these five classes getting inspected in particular, but for any five classes of Harry getting inspected. There's also a possibility that in the O.W.L. years (sixth and seventh year) when fewer students take a class, some of the classes are held to more houses together than in the first five years, but that doesn't change the numbers much. Even that said though, it seems no accident to me that the toad is in so many of Harry's classes. – b_jonas Sep 9 '18 at 11:39
  • 7
    @HarryJohnston Because she asks the teachers basic questions (e.g." how long have you been teaching here?") she would only need to ask once, and she tells them at the end of the class that they will get their results in ten days. – Alex Sep 9 '18 at 13:46
  • @Alex, excellent point. – Harry Johnston Sep 9 '18 at 19:35
7

There is no compelling in-universe reason for Umbridge to inspect Harry's classes specifically. Inspecting so many of Harry's classes could have just been a matter of simple coincidence.

From the beginning, since Harry's trial, Umbridge was shown to be quite antagonistic and contemptuous towards Harry. It's possible that she wanted to keep an eye on Harry as well. Observing him in the presence of a teacher might give her an inkling as to whether said teacher was close to Harry Potter, based on the way Harry was treated in a particular class. The Ministry was more focused on discrediting Harry Potter after all, so any information gained by observation could be used against him.


There is indeed a compelling reason which is out-of-universe, though: Umbridge's behaviour viewed through Harry's eyes would be more easier for the reader to picture, because the series is primarily from Harry's point-of-view.

  • 2
    I'm not sure I understand your point in the first paragraph. – Alex Sep 9 '18 at 13:47
  • 2
    I dunno, it seems like being antagonistic and wanting to control/discredit someone are excellent reasons to want to keep an eye on someone, and to exercise one's authority in that person's general direction at every possible opportunity... it seems like the facts of your second paragraph would be a compelling in-universe reason, rather than, as your first paragraph decides, a coincidence with no compelling reason. – Megha Sep 12 '18 at 2:13
  • @Megha Because Umbridge doesn't really say anything to Harry during the inspections. She seemed focused on the teachers, asking about them. There was one exception though: When Harry proclaimed that he wanted to become an auror in front of Minerva- that was the one time she turned her attention on him visibly. – Simpleton Sep 12 '18 at 13:49
2

Another explanation I can think of, but is purely conjecture, is that in order for Umbridge to inspect other classes, she canceled her own classes, as posited in When does Umbridge have time to audit the other teachers? . She would not want to cancel the same class more than once, and she would not want to inspect the same teacher more than once. These together could increase the odds of her inspections randomly aligning with some particular student's course schedule. And that student just happened to be Harry.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.