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 stairs, one labeled GENTLEMEN, the other LADIES.

“See you in a moment, then,” said Hermione nervously, and she tottered off down the steps to 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; thought 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 fireplace 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 center 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.

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