Pius Thicknesse enters the office, and Harry, having failed to find what he’s searching for, sneaks past him out the door and goes back to the elevator. He encounters Ron, who is still working on Yaxley’s rain problem. He also encounters Arthur Weasley and tells him that he’s being watched, which makes Weasley think Runcorn is threatening him.

Harry proceeds to the room where Umbridge is conducting her hearings of suspected Mudbloods. Dementors guard the suspects. Hermione is there taking notes, as well as Yaxley, and Umbridge is just beginning to interview Mary Cattermole, whom she accuses of having obtained her wand by theft. Mary Cattermole tries to flatter Umbridge by complimenting a locket that Umbridge is wearing, which Harry recognizes as the Horcrux. Umbridge makes up a lie about the letters on the locket standing for members of her pureblood ancestry. Harry, enraged, casts spells to Stun Umbridge and Yaxley, then Hermione takes the locket, replaces it magically with a decoy, and the two lead Mary Cattermole and the other prisoners toward safety. They meet up with Ron and, urging the prisoners to escape and go into hiding, they join hands and Disapparate together.

Analysis: Chapters Twelve–Thirteen

The sequence where Harry and friends break into the Ministry of Magic gives us our clearest and most detailed picture yet of how the wizarding world has changed now that Voldemort is pulling the strings. The many things we see the Ministry doing in these chapters are all systematically modeled after Nazi Germany. Obviously, there is the separation of society based on racial heritage, with Mudbloods classified as inferior and branded as a threat to society, as the Jews were under the Nazis. We also see the organized use of science, government institutions, and new laws in order to create a veneer of legitimacy for evil. Wizard scientists have published “proof” that Mudbloods are inferior, the Ministry has departments for listing and tracking Mudbloods, and everyone is required to register and give proof of his or her heritage. Wives are separated from husbands and imprisoned. Acts of violence, terror, and intimidation are practiced without fear of reprisal by people in official positions—such as Yaxley intimidating Cattermole or Runcorn intimidating Arthur Weasley. By controlling the Ministry, Voldemort creates an atmosphere of fear that keeps ordinary people afraid to act decently, so that decency has become an act of great courage.

These chapters also revolve around Dolores Umbridge, the memorable villain of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Umbridge is the type of villain who thrives in an institutional setting. Being at the head of a committee and supervising a team of employees suit her quite as well as being headmistress of Hogwarts. In contrast to an outspoken villain like Bellatrix Lestrange, Umbridge thrives on hypocrisy and the abuse of rules and regulations. Her pursuit of Mary Cattermole under the pretense of the legal fiction that any Mudblood who has a wand must have stolen it is perfectly typical of Umbridge’s behavior. It’s a palpable lie, since Mudbloods were buying wands and attending Hogwarts for years before Voldemort took over, but Umbridge is so consistent in her pursuit of this lie that you start to think she actually believes it. Her absolute consistency, and the seeming arbitrariness of the lies she insists on, make her such a fascinating and repulsive character.