|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event|
|Infiltration of the Ministry of Magic|
|Location||Ministry of Magic|
|Time Period||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows|
|Important Characters||Harry, Hermione, and Ron; various Ministry employees|
Having determined that a Horcrux is in the hands of Dolores Umbridge, Harry, Hermione, and Ron decide to enter the Ministry of Magic in an attempt to determine where it is being kept. They assume the guise of three Ministry workers and enter as part of the morning arrivals. The three of them are separated, with Hermione ending up in one of the courtrooms acting as scribe for proceedings that Umbridge is chairing. When Harry joins her there, Hermione happens to notice that Umbridge is wearing the locket bearing the Horcrux. Harry Stuns Umbridge and the other Ministry worker there present, Hermione gets the locket away from Umbridge, leaving a replica, and they escape, luckily joining up with Ron. A Death Eater is unfortunately dragged along with them by side-along Apparition as they attempt to return to Grimmauld Place, and while Hermione is able to force him to let go, he is then on the doorstep of Grimmauld Place. Believing that Grimmauld Place is no longer a safe sanctuary, Hermione Apparates the Trio again, this time to a spot in a forest.
Harry and Professor Dumbledore, at the end of the previous year, had retrieved what they thought was a Horcrux from a cave by the sea, only to find out that one R. A. B. had beaten them to it, replacing the Horcrux, which we learn was a locket, with a locket of his own. Finding that Sirius' brother, Regulus, has the same initials, Harry, Hermione, and Ron search Regulus' room. The search is fruitless, but Hermione recalls seeing a locket when cleaning up Grimmauld Place earlier. Summoned by Harry, Kreacher admits to having taken the locket, but says that it had later been stolen by Mundungus Fletcher. Kreacher is then sent to fetch Mundungus, and returns with him after a few days. Under coercion, Mundungus reports that the locket had been extorted from him, in turn, by a witch that Harry recognizes, from Mundungus' description, as Dolores Umbridge.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron decide to enter the Ministry of Magic, illegally and undercover, in an attempt to find where the real locket is. After several weeks of observation and planning, they waylay and knock out three Ministry employees and use some of Mad-Eye Moody's stock of Polyjuice Potion to impersonate them: Hermione as Mafalda Hopkirk, Ron as one Reg Cattermole, a maintenance worker, and Harry as a tall wizard whose name he does not know. With magical tokens that they have seen other Ministry workers using, they enter a specific set of public washrooms, and flush themselves into the Ministry.
On arriving at the Atrium, Harry is mildly disgusted to realize that the Fountain of Magical Brethren has been replaced by a sculpture of an apparent Wizarding family seated upon thrones made out of tormented human figures, apparently meant to represent Muggles. As the disguised Trio line up for the elevators, Yaxley approaches and tells Ron that it is raining in his office, and that he should fix it. He also makes a threat about Cattermole's wife, who is appearing before the Muggle-born Registration Commission that day. Yaxley then strides off to a lift that is headed downwards. Ron rides upwards to Yaxley's office on Level Two, and with Hermione's whispered advice still in his ears, heads off to try and stop the rain. Harry and Hermione, reaching Level One, are confronted by Minster for Magic Pius Thicknesse, and Dolores Umbridge.
Umbridge immediately assumes that Travers had sent Mafalda to be her recorder at the day's session of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, and, taking the disguised Hermione with her, descends, leaving Harry and the Minister. The Minister, addressing Harry as "Albert", seems to accept Harry's explanation for being on the first level, and leaves him. Harry now dons his Invisibility Cloak, and starts searching for Umbridge's office. He finds an open area with pink pages flying about, and a number of witches and wizards who are assembling the pages into pamphlets. Examining an assembled pamphlet under his Cloak, he sees that it is anti-Muggle propaganda. Hearing a rude comment about the wizards' boss, he looks towards the indicated office door and sees Moody's magical eye fixedly staring at the ceiling, and a nameplate that reads "Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister". The Invisibility Cloak will not allow him to open a door undetected, so Harry arms a Decoy Detonator. When it goes off with a great cloud of smoke at the far end of the room, Harry opens the door and enters Umbridge's office.
Once inside, he finds a small telescope fixed to the inside of the door; peering through it, he sees the pamphleteering witches and wizards looking at the Decoy Detonator. Harry wrenches the telescope out of the door, and pockets Moody's eye. He then tries to Summon the locket, without success.
Searching Umbridge's office, he finds a file on Arthur Weasley, who is listed as a pure-blood, but is likely to be contacted by "Undesirable Number One", Harry himself. Arthur is also being Tracked. The search is otherwise fruitless, but taking one last look around the office, Harry sees Dumbledore looking at him from a small mirror. Upon closer inspection, the mirror turns out to be the cover of a book: The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore by Rita Skeeter. Flipping it open, he sees a picture of two teenagers, but before he can read the caption, the office door opens. Pius Thicknesse enters and writes a note to Umbridge; Harry leaves, passing the pamphlet witches still investigating the Decoy Detonator, and returns to the lift. He must now find Ron, get down to the courtrooms, and collect Hermione; it seems unlikely the locket is here. Luckily, as the lift reaches the second floor, Ron steps on; before they can exchange more than greetings, though, the lift stops again and Arthur Weasley and a blonde witch get on, deep in conversation. Arthur gives Harry a distasteful look, but tells Ron about a spell that might work on Yaxley's office. On the next floor, Ron and the blonde witch get off, but blocked by Percy Weasley getting on, Harry is unable to follow. Percy looks up from his reading and suddenly realizes his father is there, and gets out on the next floor. Harry again tries to follow, but is blocked by Arthur, who accuses him of planting information about Dirk Cresswell. When Harry tells Arthur that he is being Tracked, Arthur considers it a threat. Arthur exits on the Atrium level, and Harry puts the Invisibility Cloak back on. He will have to extricate Hermione while Ron is stopping the rain in Yaxley's office.
Heading to the courtrooms, Harry recognizes the unnatural chill caused by Dementors; the creatures are guarding Muggle-born witches and wizards waiting outside the courtroom. A wizard is led from the courtrooms by two Dementors. Mary Cattermole is then called in by Umbridge, and Harry follows her. Inside, two Dementors are held at bay by a cat Patronus, and Umbridge, Hermione (as Mafalda), and Yaxley are examining Cattermole, demanding to know whose wand she stole. As Umbridge leans forward, the Locket around her neck swings out. Hermione takes a chance and asks about it; Umbridge claims the S initial is for Selwyn, a very old Wizarding family she is honoured to be related to. This is too much for Harry, who immediately Stuns Umbridge and Yaxley. Prompted by Hermione, Harry casts a Patronus, just in time to save Mary Cattermole. He tries and fails to release the chains on Mary, while Hermione creates a duplicate Locket to replace the real one; finally Harry succeeds in releasing Mary. Escorted by Harry and Hermione's Patronuses, the three leave the courtrooms. Gathering the other Muggle-borns, Harry says the new official position is to disguise themselves and leave the country if possible, at the very least stay away from the Ministry; they can leave from the Atrium.
Arriving at the lifts, they are met by Ron; Mary Cattermole runs to hug him, thinking he is her husband, Reg. Ron warns Harry and Hermione that the Ministry knows they are there and work crews are closing off the fireplaces. Harry says they can still get out if they hurry. At the Atrium, Harry orders the crews to stop sealing fireplaces. When one wizard protests. Harry threateningly asks if he wants his family tree examined the way Dirk Cresswell's was. Muggle-borns are sent in pairs through the remaining fireplaces, but the real Reg Cattermole appears from the lifts. Amidst his and Mary Cattermole's confusion, Yaxley appears, demanding that the fireplaces be sealed. Harry points to the wizard who questioned him, saying he was allowing Muggle-borns to escape. As the commotion builds, Ron and Mary Cattermole escape; as the truth dawns on Yaxley, he fires a curse at Harry exiting through the fireplace with Hermione. Arriving in the bathroom, Harry sees Yaxley appear in the cubicle behind him. Grabbing Hermione and Ron, Harry Disapparates. He briefly sees the door of Grimmauld Place, then there is a bang and they are Apparating away.
Ron has been Splinched and is losing blood; Hermione tells Harry to fetch Dittany from her beaded bag, and uses that to start him healing. Hermione explains that Yaxley had held on to her arm as they Apparated to Grimmauld Place. She had jinxed him to force him to let go, but because she had brought him to Grimmauld Place, and she is a Secret-Keeper since the death of Dumbledore, it was possible that he now knew how to get in. As the house was no longer safe, she had Apparated them away to a forest where she and her family had gone camping once. Harry sets up the tent, and Hermione sets protective spells. They move into the tent to plan and recuperate. Ron requests that they not use Voldemort's name; Harry and Hermione agree to this.
The following morning, Harry gets up before the others, and buries Moody's eye beneath a nearby tree.
The primary consequence is the recovery of the Locket Horcrux. This is the third of six Horcruxes that we know about; we have seen the diary and the ring, and believe the others are Hufflepuff's cup, Nagini, and another, as yet undetermined, artifact of the Founders. We don't yet know how to destroy it, but possession of the Locket is clearly a necessary first step.
Our view and Harry's of the Ministry illuminate the control Voldemort has taken of Wizarding England. The replacement of the previously-destroyed Fountain of Magical Brethren with a statue of a Wizarding family seated on thrones made of Muggles in torment quite clearly indicates that the Ministry has embraced Voldemort's views on wizarding superiority. The wizard who approaches Harry in the elevator talking about the recently-denounced head of the Goblin Liaison Office quite clearly shows the viciousness of the current administration. The propaganda unit that Harry finds just outside Umbridge's office also shows the extent to which the Ministry now depends on fear, uncertainty, and doubt to maintain its grip on power.
From perusing Umbridge's files, Harry learns that he is now "Undesirable Number One", and that there is a watch on Arthur Weasley in case Harry tries to contact him. This may prevent Harry later trying to contact Arthur.
Also in Umbridge's office, Harry sees a copy of Rita Skeeter's book about Dumbledore. It is one of the pictures in this book that will give him a clue as to the identity of the fair-haired thief who stole the as yet unknown object from Gregorovitch.
The recovery of Mad-Eye Moody's magical eye, and its subsequent burial, gives Harry necessary closure regarding Moody and his death.
Harry, as Albert Runcorn, manages to engineer the escape of many of the Muggle-born witches and wizards currently awaiting examination by the Muggle-born Registration Commission. While we do not learn their eventual fate, they at least have a chance, which they did not have before.
In deference to Ron's feelings, Harry and Hermione agree to not use Voldemort's name. This will remain in force for several months; apparently, Hermione and Harry make a habit of using the standard expressions "You-know-who" and "He who must not be named" instead of Voldemort's name, and this habit becomes unconscious.
The Death Eater Yaxley is accidentally Apparated to the doorstep of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. Hermione believes that, having been brought to the house, Yaxley can now let other Death Eaters into the house. The breaking of the secrecy around Grimmauld Place will result in Harry, Ron, and Hermione moving from place to place around the English countryside for the remainder of the year. The loss of the comforts they had come to expect in Grimmauld Place may well put a serious strain on the Trio's relationship; it is likely that Ron, who has been surrounded by a loving household his entire life, will be more affected by the loss of the creature comforts he has come to expect, while Harry, who lived with the Dursleys, and Hermione, who has had at least some prior camping experience, will be better able to deal with the privations of an itinerant lifestyle.
For something that has taken so long to plan, it is amazing how quickly this mission falls apart. It should have occurred to one of the three that the workers they were impersonating would have work to do, and could well get hauled off to do that work; it is almost inevitable that they will be separated once they enter the Ministry, and of course they are. They are also almost unprepared for being confronted; Cattermole, for instance, is a maintenance worker, yet Ron is utterly unprepared to do maintenance. One must also wonder what they hoped to accomplish; the locket that they hoped to find information about, being a personal adornment, is unlikely to be in Umbridge's office, so it is uncertain what Harry hoped to find there. The only reason that the plan did not founder immediately was due to extreme good fortune; Umbridge happened to be actually wearing the locket, and revealed it to Harry and Hermione, and Harry was able to Stun her in order to retrieve it. It also helped greatly that Harry, in his disguise as Albert Runcorn, was evidently quite high in the councils of the Ministry.
This failure of planning seems to point up the lack of maturity of our three heroes. They have concocted a flawless, if perhaps overcomplicated, plan to enter the Ministry, and succeed in carrying it off, but having accomplished that step, it seems that the rest of the effort is more than they are prepared for.
Harry does not yet recognize the two teenage wizards in the picture in Rita's book. He will eventually find out that one of them is Dumbledore, the other being the thief who had stolen the object from Gregorovitch. Harry will later find out that the thief is actually Gellert Grindelwald. He will also become aware that Voldemort is following the same logical path, looking for the object that was stolen from Gregorovitch.
The loss of Grimmauld Place will be one of Hermione's few mistakes. We have learned earlier that with the death of Dumbledore, everyone who was privy to the secret of Grimmauld Place became a Secret-Keeper, able to reveal the secret at will. It is certainly possible that Yaxley, having been shown the doorstep of Grimmauld Place by Hermione, now a Secret-Keeper for the location, will be aware of it; however, as he is not a Secret-Keeper himself, he cannot reveal it to anyone else. We know that Snape was aware of the location of Headquarters, and so, being a Secret-Keeper, would be able to reveal it at will to Death Eaters; in fact, the presence of Death Eaters on the doorstep of Grimmauld Place, unable to see or enter the building, is evidence of Snape's true loyalty. If, as Harry and we believe at this point, Snape is entirely a Death Eater, Yaxley's becoming aware of Grimmauld Place is only a slight increase in its insecurity. The only reason for the Trio to abandon Grimmauld Place at this point is a belief that Snape is somehow unable to reveal the presence of Grimmauld Place, and so Yaxley, aware of the place, may represent a threat by himself. It was mentioned that Moody had set some enchantments on Grimmauld Place with the intent of preventing Snape's mentioning it to anyone else, but there is an implication that he does not quite trust his jinxes. The Trio don't seem to share this distrust, and remain at Grimmauld Place for a month despite the watching Death Eaters. While the judgement that Snape will not lead Death Eaters into Grimmauld Place is valid, given Snape's actual loyalty, neither we nor the Trio have discovered that, and so the decision to abandon Grimmauld Place seems ill-advised given the very slight increase in risk.
The privations of the life of camping will actually cause Ron to leave the group. While he will think better of it almost immediately, and will try to return, he will run into difficulties that will prevent his return until Harry and Hermione have moved on. This enforced separation will show us two things. First, we will learn immediately the depth of Hermione's feelings for Ron. At their new camp site, once it becomes inevitable that Ron will be unable to find them, Hermione will simply sit on a rock crying, leaving Harry to work the protective spells.
The second, apparently unrelated, thing that we will learn is that objects can be made to react to mention of their owners' name. In particular: Ron had received a Deluminator in Dumbledore's will, and the Deluminator started relaying Harry and Hermione's conversation to Ron once Hermione used his name. The Deluminator also was then able to transport Ron to Harry and Hermione.
This sensitivity to names is a very broad hint, which is shortly confirmed by Ron: Voldemort has either enchanted his name, or enchanted devices to respond to it, such that any use of Voldemort's name results in immediate attention from Death Eaters or their associates ("snatchers"). It is the use of Voldemort's name in the Tottenham Court Road café that had brought the two Death Eaters to them, before the Trio had gone to Grimmauld Place.