Harry stays in his chair, stunned by Dumbledore's departure and his good fortune. He tries to catch the eye of Fudge or Amelia Bones, but slips out when neither looks at him. Mr. Weasley congratulates Harry as the witches and wizards file out. A few greet Mr. Weasley, but Fudge and Percy don't. Mr. Weasley tells Harry about the regurgitating toilet and says that while the fix is simple, the anti-Muggle attitude is the real problem. On the next floor, Mr. Weasley stops short when he sees Fudge speaking to Lucius Malfoy. Harry is shocked, since he told Fudge that Mr. Malfoy was a Death Eater a month ago.
The emotional highs and lows of this experience speak to how unmoored and alone Harry feels, especially since his lows all have to do with being ignored by Dumbledore and with being disbelieved by Fudge. Again, this suggests that Harry will only be able to truly heal and feel safe once more people are willing to listen to him and accept that he's telling the truth.
Lucius Malfoy rudely insults Harry and Mr. Weasley before he and Fudge walk away. Mr. Weasley angrily says that Lucius is likely here to talk about donations of some sort. In the elevator, he assures Harry that though Fudge is at risk of being put under the Imperius Curse, Dumbledore is certain that Fudge is acting by himself now. In the lobby, Harry stops by the Fountain of Magical Brethren. He notices that the figures look very unrealistic; the centaur and goblin stare lovingly at the humans and the humans look silly. He dumps money in anyway.
The fact that known Death Eaters are still working openly at the Ministry is a bad sign for the Order, and shows how at this point the war between Voldemort and the Order is being fought behind the scenes, with influence and stealth rather than open fighting. Harry now feels compelled to pay his good fortune forward by helping someone else. Harry's also able to see now that the fountain represents a world where all creatures worship humans, which isn't the world Harry knows and lives in. Instead, the fountain shows Fudge's version of an idealized world.
Back at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, everyone celebrates Harry's win. Mr. Weasley passes on his message about seeing Lucius Malfoy to Sirius and heads off to the regurgitating toilet. Ron declares that Fudge couldn't convict Harry with Dumbledore there, and Harry feels ungrateful and childish when he silently wishes that Dumbledore had said something to him. At this thought, Harry's scar burns.
The fact that Harry believes he needs to be mature about Dumbledore's treatment and be grateful for his help shows that Harry already thinks that in order to be taken seriously as a young adult, he shouldn't ask for respect or acknowledgement. This is because Dumbledore is an authority figure, not a peer.
Sirius seems to be the only person who isn't thrilled that Harry will return to Hogwarts. He spends most of his time with Buckbeak. Hermione thinks that Sirius is being selfish and on some level, he hoped that Harry would be convicted so he'd have company. Mrs. Weasley pokes her head in to check on the trio's progress cleaning a moldy cupboard, and tells Ron that cleaning is the best way they can help the Order. When Ron says he feels like a house-elf, Hermione suggests they host a "sponsored scrub" of the Gryffindor common room to benefit her society S.P.E.W.: the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. Harry daydreams of being back at Hogwarts, as being at the headquarters of the Order is boring and he hasn't learned anything new.
After a few weeks, Harry now understands that the resistance effort isn't especially exciting or daring. Instead, a major part of the resistance is making headquarters safe to live in so that other work can get done at all. Given Harry's youth, this speaks to his desire to have more interesting experiences that are more obviously directed at fighting Vldemort. This also means that when faced with seemingly mundane things that are nonetheless important, Harry is liable to underestimate them.
On the last day of the holidays, Ron gives Harry his booklist and Harry notes that they only need two new books, one of which is titled Defensive Magical Theory. Fred and George Apparate into the room and note that Dumbledore found a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, given the assigned book. They say that they heard Dumbledore had trouble filling the position. Then they notice that Ron has a strange look on his face. Fred reads over Ron's shoulder and says in a hushed tone that Ron has been mad a prefect. Fred and George say they thought Harry would surely be a prefect.
The title of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook suggests that the focus this year will be on theory, not on actually performing magic. This is further evidence that Fudge is trying to control what Dumbledore does at Hogwarts, as every other teacher that has taught the class has included practical skills alongside the theory.
Without speaking, Ron holds his prefect badge out to Harry. Harry takes it just as Hermione races into the room, shouting that she's also a prefect. She's then awkwardly surprised that Ron is the one made a prefect, not Harry, but congratulates Ron. Mrs. Weasley lets herself into the room with laundry and says she'll take the booklists to Diagon Alley. She shrieks when Fred and George point out that Ron's a prefect and says that "everyone in the family" now has been a prefect, which makes the twins grumble. Mrs. Weasley asks Ron what he wants as a present and Ron hopefully asks for a new broom. Mrs. Weasley agrees, as long as it’s not too expensive, and bustles away.
Mrs. Weasley's reaction and, specifically, the way she passes over Fred and George, reminds the reader that the Weasleys value education and doing well in school above almost everything else. However, remember too that the twins are doing well in life and seem well on their way to opening a joke shop despite being poor students. This suggests that Mrs. Weasley's version of success is narrow and doesn't account for differing interests or abilities.
Fred and George tease Ron for a moment and Disapparate, cackling, when Hermione points out that Ron could put them in detention. Ron goes to tell Mrs. Weasley what broom he wants as Harry makes a point of not looking at Hermione. He congratulates her in a hearty voice and allows her to borrow Hedwig so she can tell her parents. After she leaves, Harry sits down and thinks that he never expected to be passed over for prefect. He thinks that he's not better than Ron, but a part of him still thinks he deserved the honor more than Ron did. Harry laughs when he remembers Fred saying that no sane person would make Ron a prefect, but then he feels awful immediately. He thinks he shouldn't ruin this for Ron, who is usually being outshone by Harry.
Harry's choice to not ruin this for Ron shows that he understands that he has the power to help his friendships or harm them, depending on how he chooses to behave. This is a mature decision for Harry, especially to recognize that he is usually the one getting all the attention and honor. He decides to let Ron have this achievement for himself and enjoy it as he deserves, despite his initial reaction of jealousy and disappointment.
Harry and Ron spend the afternoon packing their trunks. Ron gleefully unwraps his broom when Mrs. Weasley returns from Diagon Alley and then they all head downstairs to enjoy a party in Ron and Hermione's honor. Moody checks out the writing desk for Mrs. Weasley and confirms that it's a boggart inside. Tonks and Sirius say that they weren't made prefects, but Lupin was. They say that James Potter wasn't a prefect either, which lifts Harry's spirits. He looks around and walks over to Fred when he beckons to Harry. He shows Harry some Venomous Tentacula seeds that Mundungus brought, but Harry feels uneasy and wonders if Mrs. Weasley will think that the twins are doing something illegal to get money.
These little bits of information that Harry learns about his father help him feel more secure in his life and who he is. At least at this point in Harry's life, it's comforting to know that he's not alone and he's following in his father's footsteps by not being made a prefect. In the previous book, Harry gave his cash prize from the Triwizard Tournament to Fred and George. However, now he feels uneasy about this, and he knows that the twins might be in danger of being disowned by Mrs. Weasley if she thinks they’re involved in illegal activity with Mundungus.
Harry overhears Kingsley and Lupin talking about why Dumbledore didn't make Harry a prefect, so he moodily heads back toward the table. There, Moody calls Harry to him while Mrs. Weasley goes upstairs to deal with the boggart. Moody pulls out an old photo of the original Order of the Phoenix. Harry's stomach lurches when he sees Alice and Frank Longbottom, Neville's parents. Moody points out Lupin, Hagrid, Sirius, James, Lily, and Wormtail. Harry tries to smile but excuses himself, feeling upset by the picture of the young, happy people who would go on to experience so much tragedy.
Seeing the photo reminds Harry that he's not the only one who lost his parents to Voldemort—Neville's parents are insane and stay permanently at St. Mungo's hospital. Neville, just like Harry, has to lean on others to support him and guide him through life. In a broader sense, these similarities reinforce how war begins to shift how people relate to each other and where they must go for help. The photo also seems foreboding for the current Order, considering the fates of so many of its past members.
On the first landing, Harry hears sobbing in the drawing room. He opens the door to see Ron, dead on the floor. Mrs. Weasley sobs "Riddikulus" and the body turns into Bill's. She continues to repeat the incantation and the boggart turns into each Weasley family member and Harry in turn. Lupin, Moody, and Sirius arrive, and Lupin vanishes the boggart. He holds Mrs. Weasley as she sobs that she's afraid everyone will die. She asks what'll happen to the children if something bad happens to her and Mr. Weasley, and Lupin assures her that they'll be cared for. Mrs. Weasley agrees that she's being silly, but Harry thinks Mrs. Weasley isn't silly at all. His forehead sears in pain again and Harry tells his scar to stop.
As readers will remember from the third book, boggarts assume the shape of whatever one fears most. This scene thus shows both that Mrs. Weasley is terrified of losing her family to Voldemort and that she thinks of Harry as family. When Lupin comforts Mrs. Weasley, notice that he leans heavily on reminding her that her community is larger than just her immediate family. This serves the dual purpose of showing that the Weasleys and the resistance are people who, above all else, love and want their family and friends to make it through the war to come, in addition to drawing out other characters who, like Harry, need to learn to truly look to these friends and lean on them for comfort.