The new information released about Umbridge on Pottermore on Halloween was interesting in that it demonstrated how insidiously Dolores Umbridge applied her ruthless ambition over the years. From making her half-blood family disappear from public view, to oozing her way through the Ministry and up the ladder of success, basically unfettered -- although no one liked her as a person, despite her saccharine demeanor -- this woman was over and again awarded significant positions of power where she could do tremendous damage to others.

Some might see these as Slytherin traits. Some. < shifty eyes > So I was surprised to read that while Umbridge was a Slytherin student at Hogwarts, she was consistently overlooked for positions of power and prestige within Slytherin itself.

Why didn't Umbridge succeed in Slytherin?

RESOURCE: Pottermore on Dolores Umbridge: Dolores Umbridge entry, fact file (at the end of the page)

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    You are from Slytherin as your name indicates. Tell us. Nov 6, 2014 at 16:25
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    or even a simpler solution, in school she had not been able to properly apply her ambition or ideas, typically children are not as... adept as adults. her brand of vileness could have taken years before she was properly able to work it successfully in the public eye.
    – Himarm
    Nov 6, 2014 at 16:37
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    Surrounded by others who were equally or more ambitious than she was? Sounds like she'd be kept down pretty well until she could break out and manipulate a few gullible Hufflepuffs, overconfident Ravenclaws, or self-righchous Gryffindors to get into her positions of power.
    – Zibbobz
    Nov 6, 2014 at 16:43
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    I apologize but I'm editing out the image. It's too distracting from the text and doesn't add ANYTHING to comprehending the question. Also, the image doesn't contain a macro. +1 sin. Nov 6, 2014 at 17:02
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    @TGnat - Prefect. Head girl. Favorite of the Head of House. Head of a clique. Nov 6, 2014 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


Umbridge's failure to succeed in Slytherin boils down to this: Umbridge is an idiot.

Seriously. Yes, she's half-blood, but Voldemort, another half-blood, managed to become Head Boy while in Slytherin, and Snape, also half-blood, was part of the Slug Club. Umbridge would probably have attended school while Slughorn taught there, and Slughorn was one to recognize talent, even in Muggle-borns (Lily Evans Potter, for instance). Slughorn's only known comment on Umbridge, however, is extremely unfavorable: "Idiotic woman. Never liked her." It is unlikely that he would have passed over Umbridge for leadership positions, blood status or no, had she been truly qualified.

Umbridge's advanced magical abilities are evidently limited to being able to produce a Patronus and to develop a torture quill. Otherwise, she seems very incapable. Her Charms knowledge is, in general, very weak--she is the only Hogwarts professor incapable of removing Fred and George's swamp from the floor--as is her knowledge of magical creatures, or she would never have behaved as she did toward the centaurs. Her time in Slytherin does seem to have taught her how to recognize a fraud (Trelawney), but in general, she lacks magical ability.

Umbridge also does not seem to understand people very well, which is another reason she never rose through the ranks in Slytherin. She is ambitious enough to jockey her way up through the Ministry, but she does so in a very primitive fashion. She can only function in two modes--toadying to her superiors, and crushing her inferiors. That's hardly the mark of a master manipulator. Additionally, a more socially aware teacher probably could have toed the Ministry line without letting the entire class see through her immediately. Umbridge can manage as a Ministry bureaucrat, but as a teacher and as a school administrator, she only manages to incite everyone--even the other teachers!--to revolt.

While we never get to see Umbridge directly interacting with Slughorn, we do get to see her interact with Snape, a fellow Slytherin. Snape may not always get along with the other teachers--he disagrees with Dumbledore at times, and has a permanent Quidditch-related rivalry with McGonagall--but he seems to respect most of them. He does not respect Umbridge at all and hoodwinks her on multiple occasions. Snape's attitude toward Umbridge is probably a good indication of what other Slytherins' attitudes might have been when she was a student.

Umbridge's blood is not the problem. It's her lack of ability.

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    This answer has some good points (Pointing out that Umbridge is extremely untalented) but reads more like a massive hate-rant towards Umbridge. I know it's deserved, but this doesn't make the answer terribly helpful. Please edit it down so the key points don't get bogged down.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 9, 2015 at 15:16
  • I'd tend to agree with @Zibbobz. Given a cleanup, I'd vote this up as containing some useful points pointing to her inability in two pertinent topics - academics and peer interactions with other Slytherins.
    – DavidS
    Mar 9, 2015 at 15:37
  • Personally, I think this answer is just fine. It might be nice to have slightly more specific citations, but they'd mostly just be "OotP" and "ibid." so I'm not sure it's worth adding them.
    – Kevin
    Apr 16, 2017 at 22:51
  1. She was a half-blood. Thus, not very well positioned to be respected in the House That Blood Purity built. Remember that her Hogwarts years were before she "disappeared" her half-blood heritage, which happened after she entered the Ministry.

  2. She was super good at ass-kissing of her superiors at the Ministry. That doesn't necessarily translate at being equally good at ingratiating herself in good graces of someone like Pansy or even Malfoy (whoever their equivalents were in Dolores's time).

    At that age, especially among girls, it's less about ruthless ambition and more about popularity. Umbridge clearly wasn't pretty, or socially adept. She'd NOT be in a "popular girls" clique in high school.

  • also she may not have even had her, "crazy" ideas till after being in school. as a half blood we can hopefully safely assume that her parents didnt care about pure or non purebloods (as obviously 1 of them married a muggle/muggleborn) that distinction was probably picked up in slytherin.
    – Himarm
    Nov 6, 2014 at 17:19
  • @Himarm - her parents had strains over magic and separated. Nov 6, 2014 at 17:27
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    @DVK - Yes, but Tom Riddle/Voldemort was a half-blood who was wildly successful as a Slytherin. He was admired by many and had a tight coterie of "friends"; Dumbledore said that Tom Riddle and his group of friends enjoyed "a certain dark glamour around the castle." He was made Head Boy, so presumably was also a prefect. I'm in no way advocating for Umbridge's continued sadistic success as a Slytherin, but I'm not sure her blood status was as important a factor as we might think. Also, sidenote: For many, the female popularity game is the absolute epitome of ruthless ambition ;) Nov 8, 2014 at 6:15
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    @DVK - I don't think it was as much a secret as one might think. There is passage in HBP, in one of Slughorn's memories, where Slughorn is trying to steer Tom Riddle toward considering a career with the Ministry for Magic, and Tom outright says his lineage might hinder opportunities for him at the Ministry. Page 463 UK version. The Slytherin boys there kind of smirked and exchanged glances when Riddle said this, as if sharing an inside joke; however, they seem to remain admiring of him. He grew up in a Muggle orphanage. I don't think it was a secret per se, at first at least. Nov 8, 2014 at 19:40
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    @Slytherincess - the exact quote was: ""I don't know that politics would suit me, sir," he said when the laughter had died away. "I don't have the right kind of background, for one thing." A couple of the boys around him smirked at each other. Harry was sure they were enjoying a private joke, undoubtedly about what they knew, or suspected, regarding their gang leader's famous ancestor. As per Harry's guess they knew of his Slytherin blood, not his half-blood. Remember that Bellatrix had no idea. Nov 9, 2014 at 0:06

I think that she wouldn't work because she was too fake. As a Pottermore Slytherin with Slytherin friends I notice that we are generally rubbed the wrong way by the same personality traits, Fakeness. If a Slytherin is being sickly sweet then they either want something or they hate you. Dolores could be useful, she's the type to do anything to bring herself higher in the hierarchy but she wouldn't be liked.

In the books we only get to see Slytherins putting on a public face but in private, like in the dorms there wouldn't be room for her level of ass kissing. It was pitiful. Interaction between her and Severus was probably best indicator, he knew how to work her and use her but at the end of the day he obviously saw her as disgusting and annoying.

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