About half of them raised their hands.

“Okay, all of you who haven’t got wands need to attach yourself to somebody who has. We’ll need to be fast before they stop us. Come on.”

They managed to cram themselves into two lifts. Harry’s Patronus stood sentinel before the golden grilles as they shut and the lifts began to rise.

“Level eight,” said the witch’s cool voice, “Atrium.”

Harry knew at once that they were in trouble. The Atrium was full of people moving from fireplace to fireplace, sealing them off.

“Harry!” squeaked Hermione. “What are we going to—?”

“STOP!” Harry thundered, and the powerful voice of Runcorn echoed through the Atrium: The wizards sealing the fireplaces froze. “Follow me,” he whispered to the group of terrified Muggle-borns, who moved forward in a huddle, shepherded by Ron and Hermione.

“What’s up, Albert?” said the same balding wizard who had followed Harry out of the fireplace earlier. He looked nervous.

“This lot need to leave before you seal the exits,” said Harry with all the authority he could muster.

The group of wizards in front of him looked at one another.

“We’ve been told to seal all exits and not let anyone—”

“Are you contradicting me?” Harry blustered. “Would you like me to have your family tree examined, like I had Dirk Cresswell’s?”

“Sorry!” gasped the balding wizard, backing away. “I didn’t mean nothing, Albert, but I thought… I thought they were in for questioning and…”

“Their blood is pure,” said Harry, and his deep voice echoed impressively through the hall. “Purer than many of yours, I daresay. Off you go,” he boomed to the Muggle-borns, who scurried forward into the fireplaces and began to vanish in pairs. The Ministry wizards hung back, some looking confused, others scared and fearful. Then:

“Mary!”

Mrs. Cattermole looked over her shoulder. The real Reg Cattermole, no longer vomiting but pale and wan, had just come running out of a lift.

“R-Reg?”

She looked from her husband to Ron, who swore loudly.



The balding wizard gaped, his head turning ludicrously from one Reg Cattermole to the other.

“Hey—what’s going on? What is this?”

“Seal the exit! SEAL IT!”

Yaxley had burst out of another lift and was running toward the group beside the fireplaces, into which all of the Muggle-borns but Mrs. Cattermole had now vanished. As the balding wizard lifted his wand, Harry raised an enormous fist and punched him, sending him flying through the air.

“He’s been helping Muggle-borns escape, Yaxley!” Harry shouted.

The balding wizard’s colleagues set up and uproar, under cover of which Ron grabbed Mrs. Cattermole, pulled her into the still-open fireplace, and disappeared. Confused, Yaxley looked from Harry to the punched wizard, while the real Reg Cattermole screamed, “My wife! Who was that with my wife? What’s going on?”


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