A/N First of all, I have taken great inspiration for JKR for this chapter, and you will probably recognize a descriptive paragraph that I have taken from DH, but not references. This isn’t university, and I’m acknowledging that her work is not my own…I only wish.
Secondly I hope I’ve still got some readers left after the long wait between chapters. I’ve just moved to the other side of the country (literally) and begun University, and while I am not 100% pleased with the outcome of this chapter, I simply cannot keep you guys waiting any longer while I refine each and every sentence and paragraph. That said I would love and appreciate your reviews, just to remind me of those who are still reading.
This brings me to my final point. For anyone not a part of the FanFiction.net subscription alert, if you would like you are welcome to leave your preferred email address in a review, and I will gladly email you when I have posted a new chapter, and generally let you know how long the wait may be. Hopefully not too long anymore, though I say that a lot! If you would be interested in this please don’t hesitate to leave your address.
Thanks again readers, and please review. I hope you enjoy this chapter and the blood, sweat, tears and coffee it took to bring it to you.
The streets of London were completely empty when Harry, Ron and Hermione apparated into the usual alleyway, nervously slipping out onto the street. None of them spoke as they walked swiftly, Hermione clutching her bag tightly as though she feared dropping it. They avoided the street lights, sticking to the shadows as a lone car passed them, its head lights beaming down the road and illuminating the way for them. The entrance to the Ministry of Magic was merely a few blocks away, each step closer bringing their nerves up to the surface once again.
When they had awoken, they hardly talked but to confirm that they had everything they needed, packing up the tent and apparating away. Harry was surprised that he had slept at all that night, relieved when Ron had offered to take the night watch for once, allowing him some proper sleep after going so long without. Yesterday morning when they had watched the entrance again seemed so long ago, not a mere twenty four hours, but they had filled their time in well, planning their attack in detail and practicing the charms they would need.
It felt good to finally be acting on their plans, though Harry wished he could stem the nervous rolling in his stomach. It was good to be nervous, he reminded himself, just like before an important Quidditch game. Even though he had played for years he always felt a little jittery before a game, and he wished he could feel that way now in exchange for the nervous stomach. At least the night was even colder than usual, keeping them all awake and alert as they carefully walked over the slippery pavement. It must have rained earlier, leaving an icy cold sleet on the ground.
They were glad to finally enter the alleyway, grimacing at the smell of the rubbish, but they were not concerned with Bubble-Head charms this morning. Acting as they'd planned they crouched down by the dumpster and began to wait, all three of them concealed by the shadows.
"We're pretty early," Ron commented softly.
"What's your point?" was Hermione's terse reply. Already Harry could see an argument brewing between his friends, and wished he wasn't sitting between them.
"Just saying, that's all....could of had that cup of coffee." He yawned for effect.
"Would you rather have been late?"
Ron was silent for a moment. "There was still enough time for a cuppa coffee."
Hermione muttered something almost unintelligible, sounding suspiciously like a threat, and to his relief they both quieted. Checking his watch Harry agreed with Hermione. He didn't mind being twenty minutes earlier than Duncan Guinness, knowing that the chance of missing him was minimal. Not even Guinness arrived to work so early.
Crouched beside him Hermione riffled through her bag, her wand shining light deep inside as she checked one last time that they had taken everything they needed from the tent. Her lips moved with silent words. On his other side Ron was tapping his wand against his knee, shifting uncomfortably as he waited for Guinness to appear. The time ticked away slowly, Harry's knees growing painful from his crouched position, but none of them moved.
Finally time progressed enough, Duncan Guinness casually wandering around the corner and into the alley. As every morning he was finishing the last of his Muggle cigarette, and as he turned and looked the other way Harry raised his wand and silently stunned him. Getting to their feet he and Ron dragged his heavy body over to the corner of the alleyway, far from where he could accidentally be discovered, and set to work. Removing the bag from the man’s shoulder Harry looked through it to make sure he had everything he needed, taking a few strands of hair and noting the pack of muggle cigarettes and the overalls. Wasting no time he quickly duplicated the regular clothing the man was wearing and put them on, knowing he would have to change into the overalls once inside the Ministry.
Hermione cast a strong invisibility charm over Guinness' body as they slipped back into position, Harry taking his flask of potion and adding the hairs to it. In the dark he couldn't see the color of the potion, though he knew this wouldn't change the awful taste he was dreading. In hardly more than a minute the three of them had worked silently over the man, and now Harry was ready to go. He looked at his friends before giving his potion one last shake, gulping all but one mouthful down at Hermione's encouragement. He couldn't wait for Ron to transform and go with him, the two maintenance men never arrived together.
The potion took effect quickly, Harry's body lengthening and his face morphing as he stumbled on the spot and grasped the dumpster for balance. Finally the transformation finished and he took a deep breath to steady himself as he touched his new face. It was fuller than he was used to, and even breathing was dramatically different to his own. He could tell that Duncan Guinness was a smoker.
"How do I look?" he asked his friends warily, speaking for the first time that morning. He removed the glasses that he no longer needed. Had the low quality potion worked, he wondered? Had he transformed completely?
"You look smashing," Ron said impatiently. He thrust Guinness' bag towards him and nodded towards the door. "Now get going, you're late already."
Harry nodded, turning away as his friends slipped back into the darkness to wait for Albert Blackman to arrive. There were to be no good-byes, no whispers of good luck to be exchanged. They each knew what they were doing, and vaguely knew what to do if things went wrong...not that they were going to, he reminded himself. He twirled the unfamiliar wand in his fingers and then held it steady, opening the door that appeared in the brick wall and cautiously entering. He didn’t look over his shoulder as he closed the door behind himself, taking a moment to collect his thoughts and to light the strange wand.
He couldn’t help but feel slightly let down, finding nothing of interest as he shone his wand around the spacious room that held nothing but a dozen or so fireplaces. One small candle shone over one fireplace in particular, drawing Harry closer. There was no Floo powder in sight, but when he stepped into the fireplace he was immediately whisked away, having only just enough time to take proper hold of the bag over his shoulder. Landing unsteadily on his feet he paused before raising his head.
It took him a moment to realize he must be standing inside the ministry atrium, its appearance having changed so dramatically. To his left and right the long wall contained only fireplaces to match the one he had just arrived in, and ahead of him a large metal fence stretched from one side of the room to the other, extending as high up as the ceiling. Straightening up Harry stepped out of the fireplace and looked at the barrier in awe, certain he could feel the magical properties emanating towards him. Bill was right in saying that the Ministry was better protected than Gringotts, and Harry wondered exactly what protective measures he would encounter. Uncertainly he began to walk towards the gate, trying to appear comfortable amongst the dramatic change.
The security desk had been moved, the two new desks now situated along the gate providing the only way through. As he had anticipated there was a wizard in bright blue robes casually leaning back in his chair while studying a folded up newspaper in his hands. It must be Gary, he thought to himself, doing the crossword again. Harry casually approached the desk keeping his face straight, and his low footsteps finally attracted the man’s attention.
"Morning, Duncan," Gary said without looking up. "You're cutting it close today...almost late again."
Harry forced a low chuckle and wondered what Duncan Guinness would be expected to say. Closer to the gate now, he was certain he could hear a faint humming sound. "Bloody kids, again."
Gary looked up, frowning as Harry slowed to a stop in front of the desk. "Kids up at this time of the morning?"
Harry’s heart froze. That was a stupid thing to say. "Erm, they're a bit crook, reckon they've got that flu going around."
Gary shuddered at this, pushing his chair away from the desk before waving him through.
His heart was still certainly frozen as he strode past the desk and through the gate, his blood running cold as the soft hum suddenly intensified as he passed through, and an alarm so soft that he barely heard it sounded from behind the desk. Looking over his shoulder he breathed, Gary rolling his eyes before shutting off the soft alarm with a mutter. Turning around Harry continued walking, his heart suddenly starting again only to miss a beat as a large camera appeared before him, emitting a bright flash and large puff of smoke as it took his picture. A moment later it disappeared, leaving Harry in shock before he quickly reminded himself that he was still transformed. He kept walking.
He felt sick to his stomach, but was it truly that easy? He hadn't even been asked for his ID tag, which hung around his neck beneath the long cloak. It must be a good sign, and clearly Ron was right. Maintenance staff were trusted. Keeping his head down Harry marched towards the elevators, his footsteps echoing loudly around the large and empty atrium. The sound made him nervous, as though someone were watching him, and so he looked around the atrium properly, what he saw making him stop dead in his tracks.
The Magical Fountain of Brethren was gone. The golden figures and beautiful fountain had been replaced by an enormous statue of black stone, and Harry wondered how he had not seen it the moment he passed through the security gate. It was rather frightening, this vast sculpture of a witch and wizard sitting on ornately carved thrones. Engraved in foot high letters at the base of the statue were the words Magic is Might. Completely enthralled Harry moved closer, realizing what had first appeared to be decoratively carved thrones were actually carved mounds of humans, all twisted and pressed together in order to support the weight of the handsomely carved wizards. Harry didn't need to think twice to know that these bodies represented Muggles, and he hoped Hermione didn't have to see this on her way in.
Harry tore himself away from the statue and hastened towards the elevators, pressing the button as he looked over his shoulder once again. The statue seemed even larger and more dominating from this perspective, and as soon as the elevator doors opened he slipped inside gratefully, breathing a short lived sigh of relief. There was another camera above the doors, but if it took his picture it gave no indication. Averting his face he looked down the list of buttons for the Auror Department, but was unable to find it listed anywhere.
Instead he selected the button to take him to the basement, where the Maintenance Department kept their carts, but when the elevator doors closed it wasn't just the sudden lurch that sent him stumbling. Harry was once again completely gob smacked, unable to utter anything other than a harsh curse as he stared at the inside of the doors. Pulling himself upright again Harry took a step closer, his jaw slack as he looked at the posters plastering every available space.
'PUBLIC ENEMY #1 - HARRY JAMES POTTER'
Harry felt his stomach turning as his eyes moved from his picture to the script below, reading the details of his description and crimes. He snatched one of the posters off the wall to inspect it more closely, his head spinning as he read.
'Wanted by the Ministry of Magic to face counts of murder and attempted murder. This wizard is armed and extremely dangerous, and should only be approached with extreme caution.
Contact the Ministry of Magic immediately if you have any information concerning his whereabouts. Failure to report information will result in imprisonment.'
The first sentence rang through his head again and again, the word 'murder' flashing in his mind's eye before he screwed up the poster and chucked it on the floor, taking a deep breath to steady himself. He had to expect this, his was no stranger to lies and false accusations, and he could not let this cloud his judgment today. He reminded himself of why he was even there, and when the elevator finally skidded to a stop at basement level he burst out and lit his wand, determined to act quickly. At least his picture was good.
As he expected the basement room was small and dark, large enough to hold a few lockers, some cleaning supplies and a few trolleys pushed to the side. Finding the one labeled 'Guinness' he opened it without delay, changing into the overalls and stuffing the bag inside. He slammed the locker shut, the last bout of anger that he allowed himself before inspecting his appearance in the mirror and collecting a trolley. He didn't care what the trolley contained; he only needed it to complete his disguise. A cleaner without a trolley was something to take a second look at. He carted it back into the elevator and looked down the long list of floors, selecting the one that best fit his needs.
He kept his eyes on the floor, not wanting to look back up at the posters displaying his face as the elevator lurched its way towards the second level. How much time had passed? Glancing at his watch he estimated at least ten minutes, perhaps even longer, and he hadn't even begun looking for what he needed. At this thought he wondered what Ron and Hermione were doing, and prayed that everything was going smoothly.
The elevator stopped, and he carelessly pushed the trolley out into the corridor, a cool voice welcoming him to the second floor. "Level two. Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Harry's heart must have stopped again, for he couldn't manage to take breath as he tried to process what was going on before him. It was wrong...this couldn't be happening...it was too early.
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was full of life, the long corridor dimly lit as a few witches and wizards crossed the halls, leaving one department and entering another. In that horrible moment Harry realized that he hadn't really considered what he would encounter inside this department, never remembering that they must work all around the clock. It was a serious error in judgment, Harry thought to himself, and he began to reach for the elevator button to take him back upstairs...but he had been seen. A witch carrying a stack of folders walked past him and nodded to him politely. He had no choice now but to continue, to at least walk in and then out again. Shaking off the unexpected shock Harry grasped the handles of the cart firmly and pushed it out of the elevator, moving to one side of the corridor and sticking to the shadows.
As he walked casually he looked at the top of each doorway as he passed them by, looking for an office that sounded relevant. Glancing through the glass into the Auror office, he could tell that it was now completely disused. It was empty but for the long rows of cubicles down the center, and there was no sign that it was even being used as a store room. Moving on he passed the other divisions, ignoring the Department of Intoxicating substances and the Improper Use of Magic office. Mr Weasley's old office for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts was also empty.
Magical Law Enforcement Patrol.
He stopped at this department and peered through the glass, noting a layout very similar to the Auror office. The only light came from the individual cubicles, the rest of the department was bathed in darkness. Steeling himself he knew he must enter. He moved to the left of the cubicles, still hidden by the shadows, yet could feel the eyes of every person in the department watching him, though no one had even looked up from their tasks, and he felt a sick fear that he had transformed back into himself again. Shaking his head at this he looked ahead and continued. If he was going to transform early, he would feel it.
There was only one other source of light, shining from one of the smaller offices as the very end of the department, and he drew nearer and nearer as he looked into every small office, observing the plaques on each of the doors. Finally, he came to the last office where the light was coming from, and Harry glanced up at the plaque on the door, his heart sinking rapidly. 'E.Proctor - Persons of Interest.' The boots he wore were silent across the grey carpet, and when he cautiously looked inside the cubicle he breathed a sigh of relief. It was occupied, but the wizard who was in there was fast asleep, leaning back in his chair with his feet on the desk. Harry cursed his rotten luck. This was the office he needed, the information on Sirius and their friends would surely be kept here. He considered his options, but quickly ruled out stunning the wizard. If he didn't rouse from his sleep naturally he would suspect that something amiss had gone on, and though he could never pin it on him it was another complication they didn't need.
Looking back towards the cubicles Harry reassured himself that no one was looking his way, before opening the door and slipping inside, the cart left hidden in the dark shadows of the corridor. Closing the door behind him Harry relaxed for a moment, relieved to be away from the watchful eyes of those in the cubicles. Checking his pockets he patted the remaining Polyjuice potion, reassuring himself.
As he approached the filing cabinet Harry glanced over at the sleeping wizard, doing a double take when he saw his face. He paused, unmoving as he looked at the wizards face, trying to place where he recognized him from. The uncomfortable feeling in his stomach told him it wasn’t a good memory, and just as he began to lose interest he remembered this wizard visiting him in St Mungos, asking him about Draco Malfoy.
He shook off the discomforting memories and turned away, not wanting to know how much time had passed. Turning to filing cabinets he softly lit his wand, providing just enough light to see by. None of them were labeled. Suppressing a groan Harry crept towards the closest one, checking the sleeping wizard before he carefully pulled it open. The files were unorganized, Hermione's worst nightmare, and this morning it was his too. He needed information, and quickly, but knew he would have to inspect every single filing draw to find it.
This wasn’t a good start.
"Do you think he'll be alright?" Hermione asked in worry, watching the newly transformed Harry leave. "He looked a little tired."
"He'll be fine," Ron reassured her softly, he too watching Harry leave.
He knew she couldn’t help it…it was easier to worry about Harry than it was to be concerned for herself. Neither of them wanted to mess up this morning, knowing just how important it was that they succeed. Sourcing the Gringotts inventory would give them everything they needed to know, assuming that these files even existed for Bellatrix Lestrange. It wouldn’t surprise Ron if Lestrange thought herself too important to allow Gringotts to keep inventory of her estate. It was certainly something she would do just to assert herself as a pureblood.
Glancing at Hermione, he placed his hand on her knee that was bouncing nervously. "Shhh," Ron soothed her. It was uncomfortable crouched in this position, and his hand on her leg felt heavier than usual.
With a short groan she pulled herself up right, unable to stand the cramped feeling any longer.
"Oi, get back down here would you?" Ron scolded her, tugging on the leg of her skirt. "You want to tell Blackman we're here?"
"He won't even notice us," she whispered, stretching the pain out of her legs. "Besides, he probably won't be here for another ten minutes. Would you like to stay crouched down for that long?"
Ron gave a low groan of defeat, muttering a little as he stood up beside her, still partly concealed by the dumpster. With his wand in hand he slipped his arms around her waist he pulled her close in an unusual gesture. Enjoying his embrace she leant back against his chest, and together they watched the mouth of the alleyway for Albert Blackmans arrival.
She had been correct of course. Blackman didn't arrive for another ten minutes, quite late as usual, but Ron wasted absolutely no time in stunning him and setting to work. They were both uncomfortably aware that they were now at least fifteen minutes behind Harry, but Ron made up for it considerably. He had already been wearing the duplicate uniform, and in an instant he was his ID tag around his neck and uncorking the flask of Polyjuice.
"Are you ready?" he asked her.
Of course she was. Having duplicated Jenny Smart's clothing yesterday, she had put them on that morning before they packed up the tent. All that was left to do would be to drink her potion and make a dash to the tube station. "Yes."
With a short nod he started on the potion, taking a carefully measured mouthful and swallowing it before he had to taste too much. Just like Harry, Ron's transformation was quick and accurate, though this only made him worry. If the potion provided an accurate transformation then it must be the length of the transformation that would be affected by the low quality.
"You'd better go then," Hermione instructed him, her heart beginning to race.
"Right...yep," he agreed without hesitation, moving closer to kiss her good-bye.
"Eugh," she recoiled. "Ron, you're all....the beard and-"
"Oh, right," he apologized, collecting himself quickly. He looked at her long and hard for a moment. "Don't do anything stupid, alright?" he instructed her as he backed away towards the ministry entrance.
"I won’t," she promised, suddenly taking off.
She was gone in an instant, Ron's heart making the expected clench. He couldn’t hesitate, and instead turned and walked down the alley to the door. The limp came easier than he expected, and he quickly realized that one of the man's legs was slightly shorter than the other, making each step slightly off putting. Ignoring this he began to concentrate, remembering to act as though he were rushed and late for work. As he had guessed the room on the other side had nothing more than some fireplaces, large enough to admit a large witch or wizard, and he took no time in entering the fireplace and being whisked away.
When he entered the atrium of the ministry he didn't allow himself to be shocked by the enormous metal fence, quickly asserting himself and heading for the occupied security desk. Strangely, he felt rather calm.
"Late again, Bertie?" the wizard behind the desk greeted him, looking up from his crossword and smirking at him.
Ron forced a laugh, slowing down his pace as he drew nearer the desk. The wizard made no movement to inspect his wand, or to make use of the Probity Probe that sat on his desk. The gate in front of him was wide open, inviting him into the atrium beyond.
"I'd stay away from Guinness today. He was a bit late too; reckons his kids are sick with that flu...don't wanna pass that onto your dear Mum."
Giving only a nod Ron passed the security desk and entered the atrium, rushing again as though he really were late for work. There was a flash of light and a loud puff of smoke, surprising Ron when a camera appeared before him to take his picture, disappearing just as fast. He didn’t allow this to faze him, instead rushing forward again. With a pang in his chest he noticed that The Fountain of Brethren was gone, replaced by some ugly black monument that he payed little attention to. He felt cheated for a moment. Every time Mum had kicked him out of the house and sent him to work with Dad, they had dropped a few Knuts into the fountain on their way in. It didn't matter to his Dad that they had little themselves.
"A good deed is always returned," he used to say.
Thinking on this Ron slipped into the closest elevator and hit the button for the basement, remembering that he needed to collect a cleaning cart as part of his cover. He hoped Harry had remembered. With this thought the elevator doors closed, and he found himself face to face with his best friend...or his picture to be precise. Looking closely at the many posters Ron was sickened, and had to resist the urge to destroy every single one. The words 'wanted for murder' were stuck in his mind's eye, even when he looked away, and he wondered if Harry had taken this same elevator.
His hands were shaking in anger as the elevator threw him around a little, the doors opening as it skidded to a stop. The basement room was small, a few lockers along the side and a few carts pushed up against the other. He was drawn to the lockers, and upon finding the one neatly labeled as belonging to Duncan Guinness he opened it quickly, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw the man’s bag and belongings.
Harry had been here already, had started his task well before him. This at least, was a good start.
Hermione was only slightly panicked.
She had to make it to the tube, unable to gain access the same way as Ron and Harry. She ran down the empty streets as fast as she could in the slim fitting skirt, lugging the briefcase along with her. Her movement was greatly restricted by the skirt, and with a short cry of frustration she skidded to a stop and tore the seam at the side, freeing up her legs before taking off again. Her lungs burned painfully as she pushed herself harder, making the few blocks faster than she had anticipated. Skidding again she stopped at the traffic lights and hit the pedestrian button, panting for breath as she looked at the red light impatiently. A moment later she came to her senses, making another great dash across the empty intersection, all the while thinking that her Mum would kill her for crossing the street like this. It didn't matter that there wasn't a car in sight. The two things her parents had taught her were to brush and floss every day, and road safety. They would have pink kittens if they ever watched Ron try to cross a busy road.
Putting her parents out of her head she continued running, and by the time she made it to the tube she had to slow down considerably. She didn't quite fancy breaking bones by trying to sprint down the many steps. The tube was almost empty, the first commuters of the day sitting on benches far away from each other, a few of them looking up as they heard her frantic footsteps. She was painfully aware that she had forgotten the glamour charm on her shoes, though it was surprisingly easy to run in the heels....though walking was another problem.
She teetered her way towards the ladies bathroom, ignoring the maintenance sign and bursting inside. It was no surprise when there was not a cubicle or sink in sight, only a large fireplace at the end of the small but well-lit room. Dropping the briefcase to the floor she rifled through it, taking out the Polyjuice and jar of Jenny Smart’s hair. Her hands shook as she removed the flask and fumbled to insert the hairs. Giving the flask a hearty shake she pinched her nose and took a mouthful, not allowing herself to look at it. She coughed and spluttered, but managed to get the mouthful down, breathing through her nose as the transformation began.
Seconds later it was complete, and she reached up to touch her face, smoothing her hand over her new short and sleek hairstyle. It was nice she thought to herself. Definitely something to consider in the future. A little potion remained in the bottle, just enough for another emergency mouthful, and so she replaced the stopper and put it back into the briefcase. Mending the tear in her skirt she then slipped the ID tag around her neck before placing the glamour charm over her shoes. She removed the heel, while still maintaining the cosmetic appearance.
One last thing. Tucking the dummy wand into the sleeve of her shirt she then lifted the hem of her skirt. Ron had leant her the wand holster he had received for his last birthday, though she had neglected to tell him that it was securely fastened out of sight around her leg. He and Harry had plenty of places to hide their own wands in those overalls, but a second wand on her person would be noticeable. With this thought she slipped her own into the holster and pulled her skirt back down, trying not to feel foolish as she did so.
She was ready. Closing the brief case she pulled herself to her feet and approached the fireplace, but there was no jar of Floor powder in sight. Likely she didn’t need it. Taking a long slow breath, she tried to calm herself despite the rush of adrenaline that still held her. What did Ginny do to calm her nerves before Quidditch? Ron and Harry simply didn't eat that morning, but Ginny? She always seemed so calm, and Hermione wished she knew her secret. She had heard from Parvati that Demelza Robbins liked to meditate in her knickers before a game...but Hermione didn't fancy that at all.
Time was passing, far too quickly, and Hermione shook her head to herself and stepped into the fireplace. Bright green flames roared to life, and before she could draw breath to speak she was whisked away.
Her landing in the new fireplace was graceful as always, and she smoothed her skirt down and then picked up her briefcase. The atrium had changed astonishingly, but she gave it no thought and quickly established what she must encounter first. The security desk had been moved, now situated halfway along a large metal barricade, cornering off the entrance to the atrium. A few yards to her right there was another desk, though this one was empty.
Clutching her briefcase tightly she set off towards the occupied desk, her footsteps echoing across the marble and drawing the attention of the security guard. He looked up from his newspaper and removed the quill from his mouth to give her a discomforting smirk.
"Miss Jenny Smart," he crooned, sitting up straight. "How are you this morning?"
"That's Mrs Smart," she replied with forced politeness, relieved that she had worn the rings. Already she disliked this man, but knew only he could allow her access to the atrium. "And I'm well, thank you."
The gaurd gave her a startled look for a moment, quickly collecting himself and standing up. Taking the Probity Probe he rounded the desk and approached her, and Hermione couldn't help but look wistfully at the closed gate she needed to pass through. How easy it would be to stun the gaurd and walk through...as easy as sixth year Arithmancy, but she couldn't. Curbing her violent urge, she smiled politely again.
"What are you doing here so early?" he questioned her, never giving up the gross smirk as he looked her up and down.
Hermione felt another surge of outrage, knowing that he was simply ogling her because she needed him to grant her access. “A task you don’t need to concern yourself with.”
He looked stung at this. "Present your wand please, and your Employee Identification tag."
With confidence she withdrew the dummy wand from her sleeve and removed the identification from around her neck, giving them both to him. The wand would produce no magical signature for him to detect, but a quick confundus would fix that. However he barely studied it, instead raising the Probity Probe and waving it from her head down to her legs. It made a slight buzzing sound, and he reacted immediately. "Are you carrying another wand?"
She was slightly affronted. "Why, I don't see how that's any of your business."
"It's my business if you want to pass security."
There was no other choice. "Yes, in fact I am."
He raised his eyebrows to her. "Show it to me then."
"No, I will not."
The wizard gave a great sigh. He looked rather weary. "Then show me your registration papers."
Hermione was baffled by this. Since when did one need to register their wand with the ministry? She must think quickly, she could not produce her own wand. If he studied it the way he ought to have the first time, he would discover who it belonged to. Could she confound him in time? "It was given to me by Dolores, for protection," she replied sharply, scaring herself by how much she sounded like Professor McGonagall. "You will have to ask her to see the registration papers. Now let me though, or you'll be dealing with her regardless."
With a sharp glare he quickly backed off, handing back the dummy wand and tag before waving her through the gate that was now open. She marched through before he could change his mind, but she could still feel his eyes following her as she passed through the atrium. From the corner of her eye she saw the camera appear in front of her, disappearing moments later in a flash of light and smoke. She shrugged to herself uncomfortably, having not expected that. She carried on, keeping her head low, but there was no missing the monstrous monument that had been erected in place of the Magical Fountain of Brethren, and she didn't need to look twice to understand the meaning behind it. It gave her a slight twinge of excitement to see this, knowing that a muggle-born like she was breaking into the Ministry undetected.
She didn't dwell on this long, sourcing out the elevators and stepping inside. The posters of Harry that she found on the inside of the doors came as no surprise to her, neither did the inanimate camera above the doors. She had been expecting propaganda such as this all along, though was a little jilted that it bore the words 'wanted for murder.' That was a little over the top, she thought. She didn't dwell on this either, instead hanging on tightly to the railing as the elevator jolted her around. She had only ridden the Ministry elevators once, back when the six of them had broken in the first time to look for Sirius. It wasn’t nice to remember how badly their first break in had ended, placing Sirius in the hospital under Auror gaurd while Dumbledore plead his case. Their actions had almost led to him being killed, but she was determined this break in would have a much more fortunate ending.
Upon arriving at the second floor the doors opened, revealing signs of activity inside the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She had expected this too, but had not voiced her concerns to Ron and Harry. She had reassured herself that they would blend in perfectly, and there were no signs that Harry's disguise as Duncan Guinness had aroused any suspicion. Entering the corridor she looked for the department she wanted, seeking out the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The Muggle-Born Registration Committee would be in there, and when she entered the department she ignored the witches and wizards working in the cubicles and moved along the far left wall, looking for Umbridge's name on each door.
There was no luck, but she was startled when she approached the last office and nearly bumped into a cleaning cart. Her heart raced. Checking that she hadn’t been seen she poked her head around the corner and looked inside, observing the wizard asleep in his chair and the solitary figure crouched behind him.
"Harry?" she whispered, moving inside quietly and looking down at the figure of Duncan Guinness.
He was clearly startled, jumping slightly as she looked in on him. The end of his wand was between his teeth, shining light into the filing cabinet he was currently rifling through, and his eyes were wide in shock before he recognized her. Dropping his wand from his mouth he asked her, "Are you alright?"
She nodded. "Any luck?"
He shrugged, looking into the files with a defeated look on his face. "I'm still on the first cabinet."
"Oh," she whispered, looking behind him at the other three tall cabinets. She glanced at the wizard in the chair. "Is he-"
The wizard gave a soft snuffle, readjusting himself in his chair and smacking his lips together. She and Harry both froze in place and watched him, relieved when he appeared to go right back to sleep.
Harry glared at her, whispering furiously. "You said there'd be no one here!"
She darted out of the office and slipped over to the other side, satisfied that Harry was alright, though suspecting she would cop an earful when this was all over. Along the other side were more offices and she soon found the one she needed. 'Dolores Umbridge - Muggle-Born Registration Committee.'
There was no window to look inside, and checking over her shoulder once again she opened the door with ease and slipped in, her senses over ridden by the pink, the frills and the incense. Umbridge's office was enormous, a grand desk by the far wall held the only lamp that gave out flickering candle light, but it was just enough. It appeared to be empty, and Hermione made her way past the couches and coffee tables, past the bookshelf and towards the desk. The desk contained only three drawers, and there were no filing cabinets to be seen. She needed information, needed something to search through, and as pink and frilly as it was, the office contained no such things.
Looking around more carefully Hermione knew that Umbridge must have work somewhere. She didn't just sit around all day serving tea from the china set on her coffee table. If she were working with Muggle-Borns she would be relentless, a woman on a mission to imprison, she certainly would have made a lot of progress.
Hermione gave a great sigh. This wasn't a good start.
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