"Deep down, Fudge knows Dumbledore's much cleverer than he is, a much more powerful wizard, and in the early days of his Ministry he was forever asking Dumbledore for help and advice," said Lupin. "But it seems he's become fond of power, and much more confident. He loves being Minister for Magic and he's managed to convince himself that he's the clever one and Dumbledore's simply stirring up trouble for the sake of it" (5.183)
Professor Umbridge is Book 5's greatest proof that power attracts bad people, but Fudge comes in a close second. He started out okay – kind of bumbling, but generally a good man. However, by this time, he has grown so accustomed to being Minister for Magic that he doesn't want to let it go, regardless of the cost he has to pay to keep it. He's willing to blacken the name of the man who helped him in the early days of his administration just to avoid competing with Dumbledore. However, Fudge's outright denial can only get him so far. Do you think Fudge truly believes that Voldemort has not returned? Do you think he really believes that Dumbledore is lying throughout Book 5?
"I did think [Professor Snape] might be a bit better this year," said Hermione in a disappointed voice. "I mean ... you know ..." she looked around carefully; there were half a dozen empty seats on either side of them and nobody was passing the table "now he's in the Order and everything."
"Poisonous toadstools don't change their spots," said Ron sagely. "Anyway, I've always thought Dumbledore was cracked to trust Snape. Where's the evidence he ever really stopped working for You-Know-Who?" (12.161-162)
Most of Professor Snape's character development throughout the whole series hinges on the fact that he appears evil but he is supposed to be good. It seems almost impossible for Ron, with a relatively black-and-white sense of morality, to believe that Professor Snape can be a cruel, vindictive, petty guy who is still working against Voldemort. At the same time, the villain in Book 5, is a sadistic, bullying monster who works (supposedly) on the side of good, for the Ministry of Magic. As Harry and the rest are getting older, they are moving further and further away from the moral absolutes of Book 1, where evil is easily identifiable because it has Lord Voldemort coming out of the back of its head.
"Potter, use your common sense," snapped Professor McGonagall, with an abrupt return to her usual manner. "you know where [Professor Umbridge] comes from, you must know to whom she is reporting." (12.305)
Harry grows up a lot over the course of Book 5. But one of the worst lessons he has to learn is that the truth is not enough to convince people. As he continues to speak the truth to Professor Umbridge, all it seems to do is give her more power over him, as she throws punishment after punishment at him to break his spirit. When Professor McGonagall warns him to be careful, she doesn't want him to stop telling the truth. She just wants Harry to be more subtle and less reckless. How well does Professor McGonagall abide by her own advice to Harry? At what point does Professor McGonagall start standing openly against Professor Umbridge? What drives Professor McGonagall to her own breaking point?
From something the Minister let slip when telling me you are now a prefect, I gather that you are still seeing a lot of Harry Potter. I must tell you, Ron, that nothing could put you in danger of losing your badge more than continued fraternization with that boy. Yes, I am sure you are surprised to hear this – no doubt you will say that Potter has always been Dumbledore's favorite – but I feel bound to tell you that Dumbledore may not be in charge at Hogwarts much longer and the people who count have a very different – and probably more accurate – view of Potter's behavior. I shall say no more here, but if you look at the Daily Prophet tomorrow you will get a good idea of the way the wind is blowing – and see if you can spot yours truly! (14.191)
Percy has turned his back on the Weasley family and thrown all of his fortunes in with Cornelius Fudge. When he hears that Ron has been made a prefect, he thinks Ron is following in Percy's own footsteps. So, he reaches out to his little bro. But what do you think Percy's motives are in sending this letter? Does he really think that he can convince Ron to dump Harry and shift his allegiance away from Dumbledore? If he does lure Ron to his side, does Percy hope that it will give him vindication that his father and the rest of his family is wrong? Does he want Ron to pass on the messages in the letter to his mother and father? Or does Percy think that Ron might show Harry this letter after all? Is this letter a little jab at Harry? What do you think is going on in Percy's head when he sends this nasty little note?
"Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters," said Sirius with a wry smile. (14.239)
Sirius claims that he doesn't see the world in black and white. He recognizes that Dolores Umbridge doesn’t have to be a Death Eater to be evil. But when it comes to Snape, Sirius isn’t quite as perceptive. He just can’t believe that Professor Snape, who was once a Death Eater, could ever be one of the good guys . J.K. Rowling points out this contradiction in Sirius's character:
Sirius is very good at spouting bits of excellent personal philosophy, but he does not always live up to them. For instance, he says in "Goblet of Fire" that if you want to know what a man is really like, 'look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.' But Sirius loathes Kreacher, the house-elf he has inherited, and treats him with nothing but contempt. Similarly, Sirius claims that nobody is wholly good or wholly evil, and yet the way he acts towards Snape suggests that he cannot conceive of any latent good qualities there. Of course, these double standards exist in most of us; we might know how we ought to behave, but actually doing it is a different matter! (source)
Sirius's own inconsistency is proof of what he is saying: Sirius is a good man, but he has bad sides to his character. His complete inability to forgive Professor Snape or to move on from childhood rivalries indicates his own enduring and dangerous immaturity.
"Yep," said Hagrid sadly, "eighty left, an' there was loads once, musta bin a hundred diff'rent tribes from all over the world. Bu' they've bin dyin' out fer ages. Wizards killed a few, o' course, bu' mostly they killed each other, an' now they're dyin' out faster than ever. They're not made ter live bunched up together like tha'. Dumbledore says it's our fault, it was the wizards who forced 'em to go an' made 'em live a good long way from us an' they had no choice bu' ter stick together fer their own protection." (20.94)
Hagrid's experiences with the giants raises all kinds of questions about the role of magical creatures in the politics of the wizarding world. If there are so few giants left (thanks to their quarrelsomeness), why would they be useful in the war effort at all? How many groups of intelligent non-human magical creatures are there? We know that there are centaurs, house-elves, and goblins, but what about the veela from Book 4? Or the merpeople? Or the leprechauns? Are they all going to choose sides between Voldemort and the Ministry of Magic? What reasons would they have for choosing one or the other side?
Umbridge did not answer; she finished writing her last note, then looked up at Hagrid and aid again very loudly and slowly, "Please continue teaching as usual. I am going to walk," she mimed walking (Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were having silent fits of laughter) "among the students" (she pointed around at individual members of the class) "and ask them questions." She pointed at her mouth to indicate talking. (21.62)
Professor Umbridge's resentment of half-humans is outrageous and appalling. But in this scene, when she's observing Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class, she's also in a (relatively) safe environment, surrounded by her hangers-on (Draco and Pansy) and taunting an instructor who clearly won't fight back. But we're still surprised at how provocative she is with the centaurs, who really can do her damage. Professor Umbridge is clearly a power-hungry monster. But would you call her brave?
"Dumbledore will be back before long," said Ernie Macmillan confidently on the way back from Herbology, after listening intently to Harry's story. "They couldn't keep him away in our second year and they won't be able to this time. The Fat Friar told me —" he dropped his voice conspiratorially, so that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to lean closer to him to hear "— that Umbridge tried to get back into his office last night after they'd searched the castle and grounds for him. Couldn't get past the gargoyle. The Head's office has sealed itself against her." Ernie smirked. "Apparently, she had a right little tantrum." (28.2)
We find Ernie Macmillan's story about Professor Umbridge being unable to get into Dumbledore's office really interesting. It seems to show that the castle itself has some kind of consciousness. With all of the moving staircases and secret rooms, it's obviously a wonderful place, but in this book, Hogwarts appears to have some kind of intelligence. How do you think it accepts or rejects Headmasters? What qualities do you expect a Hogwarts Head has to have to succeed?
"You ought not to have meddled, Hagrid," said Magorian. "Our ways are not yours, nor are our laws. Firenze has betrayed and dishonored us."
"I dunno how yeh work that out," said Hagrid impatiently. "He's done nothin' except help Albus Dumbledore —"
"Firenze has entered into servitude to humans," said a grey centaur with a hard, deeply lined face.
"Servitude!" said Hagrid scathingly. "He's doin' Dumbledore a favor is all —"
"He is peddling our knowledge and secrets among humans," said Magorian quietly. "There can be no return from such disgrace." (30.208-212)
The bigotry of powerful people like Professor Umbridge seems to bring out the worst in the groups that they are persecuting. Both the centaurs (led by Magorian) and the giants whom Hagrid travels to see are becoming more extreme in their hatred of humans. As human bigotry rises, anti-human bigotry among magical creatures gets worse as well. So, extremists like Professor Umbridge encourage non-human extremists like giant Golgomath and, here, Magorian to become more influential. Hatred causes more hatred, seems to be the lesson here.
"Don't call them [half-breeds]!" Hermione said furiously, but Umbridge did not have heard her. Still pointing her shaking wand at Magorian, she continued, "Law Fifteen 'B' states clearly that 'any attack by a magical creature who is deemed to have near-human intelligence, and therefore considered responsible for its actions —"
"'Near-human intelligence'?" repeated Magorian, as Bane and several others roared with rage and pawed the ground. "We consider that a great insult, human! Our intelligence, thankfully, far outstrips your own." (33.33-34)
And here, we have an example of why bigotry is bad: check out how quickly this confrontation between half-human-hater Professor Umbridge and all-human-hater Magorian flares up. They both totally offend each other within a second of speaking, which leads to violence very quickly. If they were willing to be less extreme in their prejudices, this showdown between Professor Umbridge and the centaurs would never take place.