Of course, Percy’s meeting took much longer than it was supposed to. Didn’t all meetings? Why did they have to hold staff meeting on a Monday anyway? Couldn’t they give a bloke a day to ease into the week? Percy knew he was just in a bad mood. He missed Audrey even more than usual today since it was her birthday, and Yaxley and Runcorn certainly hadn’t helped things.
With a sigh, Percy began going through the pile of memos that had accumulated while he was in staff meeting. Not much of importance other than a note from Yaxley confirming that Ron did, in fact, have spattergroit. Percy didn’t know whether to be relieved that Ron wasn’t faking and getting his family in even more trouble than they were in already, or worried because spattergroit could be serious. The note said nothing about how Ron was doing, so Percy put it aside and began working on some memos he needed to write. Would his life ever amount to more than a stack of memos?
Percy only completed one memo before he needed a break. He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. That didn’t help, so he started rubbing his temples. He couldn’t help thinking that it was a lot more effective when Audrey did it. Percy sighed again and took the engagement ring out of his pocket to examine it for the millionth time. If it weren’t for Voldemort, he’d already be engaged . . .
Percy dropped the ring and jumped out of his chair at the sound of a shrill, piercing noise. Merlin! He thought he had a headache before. Percy scrambled around on the floor to get Audrey’s ring back into his pocket with the usual sticking and concealment charms, and then ran out into the hallway. What in Merlin’s name was that noise?
“The intruder alarm is going off!” screamed Roland, as he ran by. Well, at least that question was answered. The crowd seemed to be heading to the atrium. Percy followed, and was on the balcony that overlooked the atrium. He couldn’t hear the alarm anymore—it must only ring in the office section.
Percy saw Runcorn herding people to the fireplaces as his big voice boomed, “Their blood is pure!” Strange. And even stranger were the people standing with Runcorn—-Reg Cattermole and Mafalda Hopkirk. That was certainly an unusual little group. And then someone came running into the atrium—-Reg Cattermole. What the . . .? If Percy hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have believed it. There were two Reg Cattermoles standing in the atrium. One of them swore loudly. People started yelling, Runcorn punched some wizard whose name Percy couldn’t remember, Reg grabbed a woman and got in a fireplace, and then Runcorn grabbed Mafalda and got into a fireplace with Yaxley and the other Reg closely following. What was going on?!
No one seemed to know what was happening, but the ministry was in a complete uproar. No one was doing any work. People just milled about in the hallways, talking about what on earth could have happened. After Yaxley and one of the Reg’s went through the fireplace, the Minister appeared, and through a sonorous charm, demanded the fireplaces be sealed, and said no one was leaving until every single person was interviewed. He sent everyone back to their offices and said they were to remain there until they were excused by a member of the Senior Staff.
Great. Just great. Percy was already getting hungry, and he was sure there was no way he would be out in time for lunch. Maybe he had a candy bar hiding somewhere? Success! He found a Three Musketeers left in his drawer from the Muggle stash Audrey had gotten him.
The Minister came and interviewed Percy himself. He asked him to describe what he had seen and heard to the best of his ability. Percy did, and then he was sent home, and told not to return until he was called in. The ministry would be performing a formal investigation of the premises and would call upon employees as needed. That was just fine with Percy, especially since he hadn’t really wanted to come to work anyway.
When Percy was excused, he was escorted to the main entrance by an auror, and allowed to leave without having to use the fireplace. Percy decided to take advantage of the Ministry’s confusion. He could probably get away with it today. He looked around, and then apparated into an alley. He quickly transfigured his robes into Muggle clothes and went first to Starbucks, and then to Wodehouse Fish ‘n’ Chips. They had Wizarding fish and chip places, but Wodehouse was better. He bought a rather large order, returned to the alley, and apparated to his flat. Percy was fairly sure his excursion into the Muggle world had not been seen by any other Wizards. He greatly enjoyed his Mocha Frappaccino and fish ‘n’ chips. He even was generous enough to share some with Hermes and Twoey.
After lunch, Percy used the VAPP to record everything that happened. Even though it was expensive, he thought it was the best money he had ever spent. For now, it was the closest he could come to talking to Audrey.