One spy who does not fit into the typical definition of a spy is Professor Umbridge, who certainly spied for a cause (the Ministry can do no wrong, hem hem, giggle), but was spying openly. In other words, everybody at the school knew that Professor
Umbridge was there to spy on Hogwarts, its students, its staff, and its headmaster. We note this simple fact because normally a spy works covertly and secretly.
However, there are situations in which somebody spies openly, particularly when they have been given authority to do so by those in power! The role of such open spying is to assert the authority’s control with constant reminders that resistance will be observed, reported, and certainly not left unanswered!
Dolores Umbridge Analysis
Recruitment by: Cornelius Fudge
Incentive Used: Pure loyalty to the Ministry and the Minister
of Magic, Cornelius Fudge
Handler: Cornelius Fudge
Method of Communication: Owl, Floo Network, Educational Decrees
Umbridge: “Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness, and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited” (OP 213–14).
Here’s her full speech, because it’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch:
“What Cornelius doesn’t know won’t hurt him” (OP 746).
Other Spies in the Open
As an aside, we note two other “open” spies in the series, both appearing in book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The first is none other than Petunia Dursley, who, it turns out, is quite the nosy neighbor! According to Harry, Aunt Petunia would love to be the one to call in and report the spotting of Sirius Black:
“She was the nosiest woman in the world and spent most of her life spying on the boring, law-abiding neighbors” (PA 17).
Another “open” spy is Tom, the toothless landlord of the Leaky Cauldron, who at the request of Cornelius Fudge keeps an eye on Harry while he stays at the Leaky Caldron for a few weeks after escaping from the Dursleys’ (PA 46).
What do all of these spies in the open have in common? Do you have any examples of other spies in Harry Potter who make sure everyone knows what they’re doing?