The Woes of Mrs. Weasley
Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Woes of Mrs. Weasley
Leaving the courtroom, Harry tells Mr. Weasley the good news. Mr. Weasley comments that Professor Dumbledore brushed past without speaking. As wizards exit the courtroom, Mr. Weasley expresses surprise that Harry was apparently tried by the entire Wizengamot. As Percy passes, and he and Mr. Weasley studiously ignore each other, though the lines around Mr. Weasley's mouth tighten.
Harry and Mr. Weasley encounter Cornelius Fudge talking to Lucius Malfoy. Mr. Weasley surmises Malfoy was sneaking down to the courtroom to learn what was happening, despite Malfoy citing "private matters" to explain his conversation with Fudge. Mr. Weasley comments privately to Harry that it more likely involved exchanging gold, and that Malfoy donates to appropriate causes to get certain laws delayed or ignored. Knowing that Malfoy is a Death Eater, Harry thinks Fudge could be under the Imperius Curse. Mr. Weasley says they considered that, but Dumbledore believes Fudge is acting on his own.
Everyone at 12 Grimmauld Place is relieved that Harry has been exonerated. Fred, George, and Ginny break into a victory dance and chant, "He got off, he got off, he got off!" until Mrs. Weasley yells at them. During the next few days, Harry notices that Sirius seems sad. Hermione suggests Sirius may have secretly hoped Harry would be expelled and live at Grimmauld Place. Regardless, Harry's spirits are lifted, and he dreams about Hogwarts.
Booklists finally arrive, raising the question as to who the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher might be. There is other news—as expected, Hermione is named a Gryffindor prefect, but so is Ron, much to everyone's astonishment. As a reward, Mrs. Weasley agrees to buy Ron a new broom. Harry struggles with jealousy and resentment, believing he should have been chosen over Ron. At Harry's celebration dinner, Sirius consoles him, saying that his father had not been a prefect either. Of the four Marauders, only Lupin was made Prefect. Lupin comments that Dumbledore probably expected him to keep his friends under control, though he could not. Harry offers Ron his sincere congratulations.
After dinner, Mad-Eye Moody shows Harry a photograph of the original Order of the Phoenix, though Harry finds it disturbing, seeing them amongst so many others who died at Death Eaters' hands. Harry makes excuses and leaves the party.
Harry passes the drawing room in which Mrs. Weasley is attempting to banish a Boggart. She is sobbing, and each time she waves her wand, another family member's image appears—dead. It also appears as a dead Harry. Lupin comes to her rescue. As Harry slips away to bed, he feels quite old and wonders how he could have been upset about who was made a prefect when there are so many more important matters at stake.
For once, it is Harry, rather than Ron, who copes with jealousy and being in second place after Ron is named a Hogwarts prefect and Harry is not. Dumbledore may have appointed Ron partially to help him develop his own identity, away from Harry's influence and the constant attention surrounding him. Ron has always contented himself to tag along after others, lacking self-confidence due to feeling overshadowed by his accomplished siblings, Hermione's intellect, and Harry's celebrity. Lupin may have been appointed a prefect for similar reasons. Dumbledore may also have been concerned that other students would feel Harry was being given preferential treatment due to his fame. Harry also fails to understand Ron's struggle to discover his own unique talents and abilities. Also, with Voldemort re-emerging and so many doubting Harry's claims, Dumbledore may simply want to avoid putting any additional stress and focus on Harry. And though Harry is initially resentful, he shows his emerging maturity here by realizing that there are far more important matters going on than being selected prefect.
We do see a small conflict here. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid tells Harry that his parents were "Head Boy and Head Girl in their day." We have already seen that Percy had progressed from prefect to Head Boy, so the assumption is that, in order to become Head Boy, James Potter must have first been a prefect. Yet, it was Lupin who was prefect. This anomaly is never explained, but if Lupin had resigned or been forced out as prefect, or had elected not to complete his seventh year at Hogwarts, it is possible that James would have been made prefect and Head Boy in his stead.
Molly Weasley's deepest fears are also on display here. A devoted and loving wife and mother, she lives in constant terror that her family will fall victim to Voldemort. She has lost her brothers, and it is unlikely she could bear to lose Mr. Weasley or any of her children. Her fears show she is convinced that the Weasley family will be unable to survive the war unscathed. Harry is deeply disturbed by witnessing this, though the Boggart turning into his image shows how deeply Mrs. Weasley cares for him, considering him as a son. Harry is also confronted with his own mortality and realizes he may not survive.
Meanwhile, another character, Lucius Malfoy is spotlighted. His meeting with Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge so close to Harry's hearing is highly suspicious, though there is no proof that Fudge is connected to Death Eaters. Likely he is not, but Malfoy has certainly courted his and the Ministry's favor and influence, mostly through generous monetary donations. Here, Lucius, a Death Eater, may be attempting to manipulate Fudge regarding Harry's hearing, or is trying to extract information for Voldemort. A clueless Fudge is more inept than corrupt, and he is mainly concerned with cultivating his public image rather than paying attention to what is actually happening in the Wizarding world. He truly seems to believe that Voldemort is dead and that Harry is an attention-seeking liar. Fudge is also highly paranoid and is convinced that Dumbledore is plotting to overthrow the Ministry.
Another contradiction should be noted. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Fudge, speaking with Madam Rosmerta, Hagrid, Professor Flitwick and Professor McGonagall, quite clearly believes that Voldemort is still alive, and that Sirius, his "most trusted lieutenant," intends to rejoin him. In this chapter, he denies the possibility, as he has ever since Professor Dumbledore categorically stated that he had returned, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. One would suspect that this was the author's failing, except that it fits in so well with Fudge's character. Fudge quite clearly believes in the first rule of politics: get re-elected. It was on Fudge's watch that the Wizarding administration suffered the public relations catastrophe represented by the only escape from Azkaban in history. The Dementors, as unpopular as they are, are the only route Fudge has to recover from that debacle. Voldemort, off somewhere in some distant land and ineffective, is a good bogey-man, useful in retaining public support despite the inconveniences the roaming Dementors cause the Wizarding population. Thus, Fudge publicly and privately believes in a distant and ineffective Voldemort who must be stopped at all costs from reuniting with Sirius Black. A real, re-embodied Voldemort, active and recruiting in England, is far too close, far too dangerous, and far too destabilizing for Fudge and his regime to survive. Thus, he now must believe that this has not happened, that Voldemort has died. If Voldemort could exist far away and harmless, he could also exist nearby and dangerous, so he must not have been around two years before either. As a good politician, Fudge either believes privately as he does publicly, or else he chooses to mask all doubts in order to present a confident face.
- Why is Harry upset when Mad-Eye Moody shows him a photo of his parents?
- What is Harry reaction when he witnesses Mrs. Weasley's boggart turning into her family, dead? What does this say about Molly Weasley?
- How does Harry feel when he sees the same boggart becoming him, dead?
- Why does Harry react the way he does when Ron is chosen to be a prefect?
- What changes Harry's attitude about Ron becoming a prefect?
- Why might Lucius Malfoy have been meeting with Cornelius Fudge immediately after the hearing?
- Why might Dumbledore have chosen Ron to be a prefect and not Harry? Does Harry think he is better qualified than Ron?
- Is Ron really qualified to be a prefect or will he just rely on Hermione's guidance?
- Who might be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor? Have there been any clues as to who this might be?
- How might the Boggart scene foreshadow other events in later books?
- Why might Fudge be denying Voldemort's existence when two years ago, at Sirius Black's escape, he claimed Black was going to rejoin him? What does this tell us about Fudge? Explain.
It is unlikely that Lucius being so near the Department of Mysteries is an innocent coincidence on his part; we will discover that Voldemort is seeking something in that department, and Lucius may be searching for a suitable candidate he can place under the Imperius curse to fetch that for him. Within days, Sturgis Podmore will be caught attempting to enter a secure door, probably having been magically compelled to breach the Department of Mysteries by Malfoy. Later in the book, we will learn that one Broderick Bode, an Unspeakable who was seen in the previous chapter, will run afoul of protective spells within the Ministry. Bode will be seen in St. Mungo's hospital recovering from a severe jinx around the Christmas holidays. Hermione will later surmise that Bode, like Podmore, had been compelled to try and retrieve the object that Voldemort had wanted. We will also overhear a conversation between Voldemort and Rookwood, a Death Eater, which confirms this, and that Bode had been jinxed in the Department of Mysteries. It is Voldemort's ongoing attempts to fetch this object which will result in the climactic battle of this book.
The Boggart transforming into "dead" Weasley family members may foreshadow a tragedy in the series' final book.
Dumbledore's appointing Ron a prefect may have been motivated by something other than an attempt to boost Ron's confidence and self-esteem. Dumbledore knows Harry is destined to one day confront Voldemort. By now he probably suspects that Ron, and also Hermione will play an integral part in this quest. Being a prefect may help Ron become more independent-minded and develop leadership abilities that are critical on any mission to destroy Voldemort.