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Mrs. Weasley, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ron’s twin brothers, Fred and George, are attempting to clean number twelve. Kreacher, the Black House Elf, resists their efforts, sneaking off with items he does not want thrown away and muttering insults under his breath. Members of the Order come and go, delivering news and checking in. Sirius shows Harry the Black family tapestry, which traces the Black family back to the Middle Ages. Sirius’s mother burned off her son’s name after he refused to subscribe to Voldemort’s philosophies about only pureblood wizards being allowed to train and practice. Harry also learns that Sirius is related to both Tonks and Lucius Malfoy. The Blacks are also related to the Lestrange family, a name that sounds familiar to Harry, although he cannot quite place it.
Meanwhile, Fred and George continue to plot the opening of their joke shop, which is being funded by the gold Harry won in the Triwizard Tournament. As they clean, the twins tuck select items into their pockets to mine for jokes later on. Harry notes that this is the first time all summer he has had any fun. He enjoys it so much that he forgets about his hearing, until Sirius asks if it would be acceptable for him to accompany Harry to the Ministry. Dumbledore sends Mr. Weasley instead, and Sirius is again stuck inside number twelve. Harry puts on clean clothes, washes his hair, and tries to prepare himself for possible expulsion.
On the morning of his hearing, Harry wakes up early. He heads downstairs for breakfast and finds Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Sirius, Tonks, and Lupin waiting for him in the kitchen. They wish Harry luck, and he and Mr. Weasley leave for the Ministry of Magic. They enter the Ministry through a phone booth, and Mr. Weasley takes Harry to wait in his office. There, Mr. Weasley’s partner, Perkins, breathlessly informs them that the time and place of Harry’s hearing have changed. Mr. Weasley looks at his watch and realizes they’re already late. Dragging Harry behind him, he sprints toward the courtroom, where he drops Harry off.
Harry enters the courtroom and realizes he has seen it before. When Harry was inside Dumbledore’s Pensieve, he saw the Lestranges sentenced to life imprisonment in the same courtroom. Cornelius Fudge reprimands Harry for being late. The Wizengamot trying Harry is made up of about fifty wizards and witches, led by Cornelius Fudge, who is seated next a toadlike woman named Delores Umbridge. Percy Weasley is present to transcribe the proceedings. As the hearing begins, Dumbledore breezes into the room, declaring himself a witness for the defense. Dumbledore does not look at Harry. The hearing begins. Members of the Wizengamot seem impressed that Harry was able to conjure a full Patronus but do not appear to believe Harry’s story about dementors appearing in Little Whinging. Dumbledore calls Mrs. Figg as a witness, and she nervously corroborates Harry’s story. Fudge still refuses to believe that dementors, who are under strict Ministry control, escaped Azkaban to terrorize a Muggle suburb. The Wizengamot votes, and Harry is cleared of all charges. Before Harry can thank Dumbledore, Dumbledore dashes out of the dungeon.
By describing how dire Sirius’s circumstances are at number twelve, Rowling establishes a strong parallel between Sirius’s imprisonment there and Harry’s imprisonment at Four Privet Drive. Like Harry, Sirius has been stuck inside all summer, unable to travel freely because the Ministry of Magic is still pursuing him for thirteen murders he did not commit. Rather than helping the Order fight Voldemort, Sirius has been ordered to remain inside, cleaning out his old house and attempting to make it fit for humans. The Black family members were Death Eaters and supported Lord Voldemort. Since Sirius grew up at Twelve Grimmauld Place, the house reminds him of his family’s bad decisions and is rife with memories of his painful and serious familial break. Sirius’s mother, as if to confirm her timeless distaste for her son’s decision, burned his name from the Black family tapestry—and no matter how hard Sirius tries to remove the tapestry, he cannot seem to get it off the wall. Likewise, Kreacher, the Black House Elf, is clearly unhappy that Sirius is the only Black remaining, and therefore Kreacher’s default master. Number twelve is an unhappy and uncomfortable place for Sirius to be, and he is perpetually trying to escape its confines.
For Harry, Four Privet Drive is a similarly unhappy and emotionally loaded environment. Although the Durselys are technically Harry’s only remaining family, they never treat him very kindly and never acknowledge him as an actual member of their household. Instead, they banish Harry to tiny rooms, scream at him, blame him for things he did not do, and lock him up inside. Harry must return to this unpleasant place again and again. He envies Ron and Hermione, who can move about freely and interact with other Wizards as they please, and instantly relates to Sirius’s jealousy of the other, freer members of the Order. Aside from recognizing the difficulty of being unfairly contained in an unhappy home, Harry also relates to Sirius’s sense of being orphaned by his parents, even though Sirius’s split with his mother and father was ideological, while Harry’s parents were murdered.
Harry is cleared of all charges even though his hearing at the Ministry of Magic does not go particularly well, but Dumbledore’s strange behavior subdues Harry’s excitement about the hearing’s outcome. Cornelius Fudge obviously dislikes Harry, probably because of Harry’s close association with Dumbledore, and tries his best to bully the Wizengamot into voting for Harry’s expulsion. Harry is happy that Dumbledore appears to speak on his behalf, helping to ensure that he is not expelled, but Dumbledore does not even acknowledge Harry’s presence. After Harry’s frightening, difficult summer, he expected Dumbledore to offer some kind of solace or explanation. Instead, Dumbledore rudely ignores him. This icy treatment taints Harry’s happiness at being able to return to Hogwarts in the fall.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix!