Harry returns to Grimmauld Place, feeling "dirty, contaminated" by the thought he might be being possessed by Voldemort. He worries too that he might be [[Recap/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenixC5TheOrderOfThePhoenix the "weapon"]] that Voldemort is after. The others notice he's looking pale, but he avoids them. In his room at Grimmauld Place, Harry fears it would be bad for him to be there if Voldemort might be possessing him. He prepares to pack up and leave, but is stopped by Phineas, who relays a message from Dumbledore: he must stay where he is. Harry is only more frustrated, and he falls asleep to dream about the corridor again.

Hermione comes over to stay at Grimmauld Place, having changed her holiday plans. She brings Ron and Ginny. [[ButForMeItWasTuesday As Harry seems to have forgotten]], [[Recap/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecretsC17TheHeirOfSlytherin Ginny knows what it's like]] to be possessed by Voldemort. But Harry was able to fully remember the snake vision, whereas Ginny would keep forgetting what happened to her when she was possessed. Whatever is happening to Harry, it doesn't seem like he's being possessed. Nor could Voldemort have transported Harry to wherever the attack took place. Harry feels a sigh of relief and the unhappy feeling of being contaminated is lifted.

They celebrate Christmas at Grimmauld Place. Hermione also decides to give a present to Kreacher. Rather strangely, Kreacher has been gone from the house. In the den, Harry sees that Kreacher has [[ChekhovsGun rescued many of the Blacks' heirlooms]] from the earlier cleaning. He also recognises a photo of a [[Recap/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFireC30ThePensieve female Death Eater he saw earlier that year]], which is of Sirius's cousin Bellatrix Lestrange.

They go to visit Arthur. He's still fairly content, although did have an unsuccessful attempt to heal the wound with stitches. Harry and the other children decide to go to the tearoom on the top floor. On the way up, they run into Gilderoy Lockhart. The last they saw of him, he had to go to hospital after [[Recap/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecretsC16TheChamberOfSecrets wiping his own memory two-and-a-half years ago]]. A Healer finds him and assumes they are visitors for him; the group do not have the heart to back away.

They visit Lockhart is a ward for residents suffering from long-term spell damage. Among the other inmates is Bode, who is given several presents including [[ChekhovsGun a tentacled pot-plant]]. Then they meet Neville and his grandmother. It turns out that this is where Neville's parents live after being tortured into insanity by Death Eaters soon after Voldemort's downfall. Neville has never told them about this, though [[Recap/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFireC30ThePensieve Harry secretly found out]] earlier that year. Neville's frail mother totters over to give him a present: some sweet wrapper, which Neville quietly pockets. Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys leave, utterly horrified by what they've seen.