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Towards the end of PoA, Harry and Hermione were watching all the people enter the passage at the base of the whomping willow. Right after the other Harry and Hermione enter the passage we read:

The Whomping Willow was creaking and lashing out with its lower branches; they could see themselves darting here and there, trying to reach the trunk. And then the tree froze.

"That was Crookshanks pressing the knot," said Hermione.

"And there we go..." Harry muttered. "We're in."

The moment they disappeared, the tree began to move again. Seconds later, they heard footsteps quite close by. Dumbledore, Macnair, Fudge, and the old Committee member were making their way up to the castle.

"Right after we'd gone down into the passage!" said Hermione. "If only Dumbledore had come with us..."

Why didn't Dumbledore and company see the whomping willow "creaking and lashing out with its lower branches" and head over to see why?

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    I assumed creaking & lashing was just what the willow normally did, reason or no. – jwodder Apr 22 '14 at 0:19
  • @jwodder: I think it does that only when it is disturbed. – Voldemort Apr 22 '14 at 0:31
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    Dumbledore had bigger concerns at the moment (Deatheater McNair + Deatheater-helper Fudge on premises) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 22 '14 at 0:38
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    I don't think there's any reason to consider the Whomping Willow moving to be out of the ordinary, to be honest. Even if it only reacts to things getting near it, there are a ton of totally harmless explanations: an animal roaming the grounds near it, a stray owl, bat, etc flying too close, a branch or some other piece of debris being blown into it by the wind... – Anthony Grist Apr 22 '14 at 9:56
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    @AnthonyGrist - You see confirmation of this when it "whomps" a passing bird into a cloud of feathers in one of the movies as well. I believe it's PoA, but not sure. – JohnP Apr 22 '14 at 18:19
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Because the Whomping willow is a pretty aggressive tree in general
Dumbledore and company didn't head off to see what was up with the Whomping Willow because it is pretty notorious, and the Hogwarts staff would be aware of it's aggressive nature. I don't remember any canon references about the Hogwarts staff commenting about the Whomping Willow except Snape accusing Harry and Ron of damaging it in CoS. Even in that scene you can see that Snape doesn't find it odd that the Willow bashed a car through and through ( This probably had nothing to do with his sympathy for the willow though )
I can cite only one instance here about how the Hogwarts staff ignored the Whomping Willow. In PoA, the Whomping Willow essential chewed Harry's Nimbus to pieces! And not one soul commented about this being anything out of the ordinary. This could indicate that the people of Hogwarts sorta just ignore whatever the Willow does. They were habituated to the Willow's aggressive outbursts.

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