Infiltrating the Ministry

Harry, Ron and Hermione put their plan into action as they prepare to infiltrate the Ministry

Extract from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

After the usual brief spell of darkness and near suffocation, Harry found himself in the tiny alleyway where the first phase of their plan was scheduled to take place. It was as yet deserted, except for a couple of large bins; the first Ministry workers did not usually appear here until at least eight o’clock.

‘Right then,’ said Hermione, checking her watch. ‘She ought to be here in about five minutes. When I’ve Stunned her –’

‘Hermione, we know,’ said Ron sternly. ‘And I thought we were supposed to open the door before she got here?’

Hermione squealed.

‘I nearly forgot! Stand back –’

She pointed her wand at the padlocked and heavily graffitied fire door beside them, which burst open with a crash. The dark corridor behind it led, as they knew from their careful scouting trips, into an empty theatre. Hermione pulled the door back towards her, to make it look as though it was still closed.

‘And now,’ she said, turning back to face the other two in the alleyway, ‘we put on the Cloak again –’

‘– and we wait,’ Ron finished, throwing it over Hermione’s head like baize over a budgerigar and rolling his eyes at Harry.

Little more than a minute later, there was a tiny pop and a little Ministry witch with flyaway, grey hair Apparated feet from them, blinking a little in the sudden brightness; the sun had just come out from behind a cloud. She barely had time to enjoy the unexpected warmth, however, before Hermione’s silent Stunning Spell hit her in the chest and she toppled over.

‘Nicely done, Hermione,’ said Ron, emerging from behind a bin beside the theatre door as Harry took off the Invisibility Cloak. Together they carried the little witch into the dark passageway that led backstage. Hermione plucked a few hairs from the witch’s head and added them to a flask of muddy Polyjuice Potion she had taken from the beaded bag. Ron was rummaging through the little witch’s handbag.

‘She’s Mafalda Hopkirk,’ he said, reading a small card that identified their victim as an assistant in the Improper Use of Magic Office. ‘You’d better take this, Hermione, and here are the tokens.’

He passed her several small golden coins, all embossed with the letters M.O.M., which he had taken from the witch’s purse.

Hermione drank the Polyjuice Potion, which was now a pleasant heliotrope colour, and within seconds stood before them, the double of Mafalda Hopkirk. As she removed Mafalda’s spectacles and put them on, Harry checked his watch.

‘We’re running late, Mr Magical Maintenance will be here any second.’

They hurried to close the door on the real Mafalda; Harry and Ron threw the Invisibility Cloak over themselves but Hermione remained in view, waiting. Seconds later there was another pop, and a small, ferrety-looking wizard appeared before them.

‘Oh, hello, Mafalda.’

‘Hello!’ said Hermione in a quavery voice. ‘How are you today?’ ‘Not so good, actually,’ replied the little wizard, who looked thoroughly downcast.

As Hermione and the wizard headed for the main road, Harry and Ron crept along behind them.

‘I’m sorry to hear you’re under the weather,’ said Hermione, talking firmly over the little wizard as he tried to expound upon his problems; it was essential to stop him reaching the street. ‘Here, have a sweet.’

‘Eh? Oh, no thanks –’

‘I insist!’ said Hermione aggressively, shaking the bag of pastilles in his face. Looking rather alarmed, the little wizard took one.

The effect was instantaneous. The moment the pastille touched his tongue, the little wizard started vomiting so hard that he did not even notice as Hermione yanked a handful of hairs from the top of his head.

‘Oh dear!’ she said, as he splattered the alley with sick. ‘Perhaps you’d better take the day off!’

‘No – no!’ He choked and retched, trying to continue on his way despite being unable to walk straight. ‘I must – today – must go –’

‘But that’s just silly!’ said Hermione, alarmed. ‘You can’t go to work in this state – I think you ought to go to St Mungo’s and get them to sort you out!’

The wizard had collapsed, heaving, on all fours, still trying to crawl towards the main street.

‘You simply can’t go to work like this!’ cried Hermione.

At last he seemed to accept the truth of her words. Using a repulsed Hermione to claw his way back into a standing position, he turned on the spot and vanished, leaving nothing behind but the bag Ron had snatched from his hand as he went, and some flying chunks of vomit.

‘Urgh,’ said Hermione, holding up the skirts of her robe to avoid the puddles of sick. ‘It would have made much less mess to Stun him too.’

‘Yeah,’ said Ron, emerging from under the Cloak holding the wizard’s bag, ‘but I still think a whole pile of unconscious bodies would have drawn more attention. Keen on his job, though, isn’t he? Chuck us the hair and the Potion, then.’

Within two minutes, Ron stood before them, as small and ferrety as the sick wizard, and wearing the navy blue robes that had been folded in his bag.

‘Weird he wasn’t wearing them today, wasn’t it, seeing how much he wanted to go? Anyway, I’m Reg Cattermole, according to the label in the back.’

‘Now wait here,’ Hermione told Harry, who was still under the Invisibility Cloak, ‘and we’ll be back with some hairs for you.’

He had to wait ten minutes, but it seemed much longer to Harry, skulking alone in the sick-splattered alleyway, beside the door concealing the Stunned Mafalda. Finally, Ron and Hermione reappeared.

‘We don’t know who he is,’ Hermione said, passing Harry several curly, black hairs, ‘but he’s gone home with a dreadful nosebleed! Here, he’s pretty tall, you’ll need bigger robes ...’

She pulled out a set of the old robes Kreacher had laundered for them, and Harry retired to take the Potion and change.

Once the painful transformation was complete, he was more than six feet tall and, from what he could tell from his well-muscled arms, powerfully built. He also had a beard. Stowing the Invisibility Cloak and his glasses inside his new robes, he rejoined the other two.

‘Blimey, that’s scary,’ said Ron, looking up at Harry, who now towered over him.

‘Take one of Mafalda’s tokens,’ Hermione told Harry, ‘and let’s go, it’s nearly nine.’

They stepped out of the alleyway together. Fifty yards along the crowded pavement, there were spiked black railings flanking two flights of steps, one labelled Gentlemen, the other, Ladies.

‘See you in a moment, then,’ said Hermione nervously, and she tottered off down the steps to the ladies’. Harry and Ron joined a number of oddly dressed men descending into what appeared to be an ordinary underground public toilet, tiled in grimy black and white.

‘Morning, Reg!’ called another wizard in navy blue robes as he let himself into a cubicle by inserting his golden token into a slot in the door. ‘Blooming pain in the bum, this, eh? Forcing us all to get to work this way! Who are they expecting to turn up, Harry Potter?’ The wizard roared with laughter at his own wit. Ron gave a forced chuckle.

‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘stupid, isn’t it?’ And he and Harry let themselves into adjoining cubicles.

To Harry’s left and right came the sound of flushing. He crouched down and peered through the gap at the bottom of the cubicle, just in time to see a pair of booted feet climbing into the toilet next door. He looked left, and saw Ron blinking at him.

‘We have to flush ourselves in?’ he whispered.

‘Looks like it,’ Harry whispered back; his voice came out deep and gravelly.

They both stood up. Feeling exceptionally foolish, Harry clambered into the toilet. He knew at once that he had done the right thing; though he appeared to be standing in water, his shoes, feet and robes remained quite dry. He reached up, pulled the chain, and next moment had zoomed down a short chute, emerging out of a fire- place into the Ministry of Magic.

He got up clumsily; there was a lot more of his body than he was accustomed to. The great Atrium seemed darker than Harry remembered it. Previously, a golden fountain had filled the centre of the hall, casting shimmering spots of light over the polished wooden floor and walls. Now a gigantic statue of black stone dominated the scene. It was rather frightening, this vast sculpture of a witch and a wizard sitting on ornately carved thrones, looking down at the Ministry workers toppling out of fireplaces below them. Engraved in foot-high letters at the base of the statue were the words: MAGIC IS MIGHT.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows