The Real Reason Harry Potter Was Put On Trial In Order Of The Phoenix

A corrupt legal process in one of the Harry Potter installments may just mean more than you realize.

In the fifth book and film of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) begins the story left alone with his awful non-magical Muggle relatives, completely cut off from his friends and allies in the wizarding world during the summer before his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and just after he witnessed the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Frustrated and isolated, Harry spends his days wandering the Muggle neighborhood of Little Whinging where his aunt and uncle live, but one day, he comes across something upsettingly unexpected: two dementors, a horrifying magical creature that is supposed to guard the wizarding prison, Azkaban, and something that definitely doesn't belong in the Muggle world.

Harry casts the Patronus Charm, which wards off dementors, to save himself and his cousin Dudley (Harry Melling), but as an underage wizard, Harry isn't technically supposed to do magic outside of school, and especially not in front of a Muggle. After an evening of conflicting letters from the Ministry of Magic, it is determined that Harry will face a trial to determine whether or not he will be charged with a crime or can return safely to school. Under normal circumstances, this would be harrowing enough for Harry, but his trial ultimately takes some pretty dark turns. Here's the real reason Harry Potter was put on trial in Order of the Phoenix.

Harry Potter's unjust trial at the hands of the Ministry of Magic has more meaning than you think

When Harry arrives for his trial, he and Mr. Weasley (Mark Williams), who works at the Ministry are shocked to discover that for a simple underage magic charge, Harry will appear in front of a full panel of judicial officials called the Wizengamot in one of the Ministry's most imposing courtrooms. Put on the spot in front of a panel of angry, prejudiced Ministry higher-ups, including Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) and his right-hand woman Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) — both of whom spend their days furiously asserting that Voldemort isn't really back — Harry is left shocked and defenseless. Ultimately, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) shows up to offer assistance, but the ordeal is still plenty harrowing.

So why would the Ministry put a fifteen year old kid through this kind of mental torment? Redditor scottthang has a theory: because the Ministry believed that Harry's Patronus Charm had a secret meaning.

In the theory, scottthang notes that members of the rebellious anti-Dark group Order of the Phoenix, which is largely led by Dumbledore, communicate using their Patronuses, a fact the Ministry may well have known. With that in mind, it seems as if the Ministry thinks Harry was trying to communicate with rebel forces, which might explain the particularly intense trial.

Whatever the reason, Harry's trial in Order of the Phoenix is one of the Ministry's lowest moments, and if you want to, you can relive in the film, which is available to rent or buy on major streaming platforms.