For the next month, Death Eaters keep watch outside of Grimmauld Place. Harry Apparates onto the front step, nearly losing his balance, and lets himself in. Kreacher is now clean and has turned out to be a fantastic cook. Harry tosses the Daily Prophet he stole at Ron and Hermione. It reads that Snape is now the headmaster of Hogwarts. The article says that Alecto Carrow is teaching Muggle Studies and her brother, Amycus, is teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. With a shriek, Hermione rushes off. Ron and Harry discuss that McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout will probably stay to protect the students.
Now that Snape and the Death Eaters are in charge of Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have lost a major source of allies and a sense of safety. Understanding that Hogwarts is no longer safe means that the trio is now forced to look outside the school for allies and for help, and this continues to catapult them into coming of age and becoming independent from their parents and the school that raised them.
Hermione returns with Phineas Nigellus's portrait and stuffs it in her beaded purse. A former Hogwarts headmaster, Phineas could use his portrait to spy on them for Snape. Harry explains that he watched the Ministry entrance for seven hours and didn't see Umbridge, but did see Mr. Weasley. Hermione asks about the two people they've been spying on and when Ron says that the one man works in Maintenance because of his blue robes, Hermione shouts at him for not telling her that all Maintenance workers wear blue robes. Harry interrupts and says they should break in tomorrow.
That it's taken them a month to come up with a plan to infiltrate the Ministry shows that now the trio understands the absolute necessity of gathering information and taking the time to properly plan, concepts that, in previous novels, have been lost on them or difficult for them to understand. They'll soon realize that they didn't do quite enough planning, however, showing that, though they're on their way to understanding that knowledge is power, they're not all the way there yet.
They argue about who should or shouldn't go. Harry's scar starts to burn and he excuses himself to the bathroom. As Voldemort, he sees himself knocking on a door and asking a woman for Gregorovitch. The woman insists he's not there and Voldemort kills her and her children. Harry comes to and hears Hermione pounding on the door. He lets her in and recounts what he saw. Hermione immediately chastises Harry for not practicing Occlumency and asks if he likes this connection, but Harry angrily says that he's going to use it to figure out why Voldemort wants Gregorovitch. Hermione desperately insists that Harry's wand didn't act of its own accord and Ron suggests they go over their plan.
Harry insisting that he's going to use the connection is an attempt to get Hermione to back off, and it’s a point in which Harry asserts his independence and his adulthood, and his right to make his own decisions. Now that he's not being directly mentored by Dumbledore, Harry can pick and choose what of Dumbledore's advice he thinks is valuable and which he thinks is silly, something that will ultimately help him come of age.
They only get a few hours of sleep and then, after breakfast, Kreacher shows them out the door and promises to have dinner ready when they get back. They Disapparate under the cloak together and then hide in an alley. A minute later, a small witch Apparates near them. Hermione stuns her and they carry the witch, Mafalda Hopkirk, into the alley and into an old theater. Hermione uses Polyjuice Potion and transforms into Mafalda. A minute later, Hermione (as Mafalda) greets the man from Magical Maintenance and aggressively offers him a Puking Pastille. She grabs some hair and sends him to St. Mungo's after Ron snatches his bag. Ron drinks the Polyjuice Potion and turns into Reg Cattermole.
The fact that the trio are using Fred and George's joke merchandise again reminds the reader that there are a variety of different ways to make it in the Wizarding world, and that the knowledge that the twins have to create these products is just as useful as anything else. The trio's willingness to use these products shows that they're beginning to take this idea to heart, while Voldemort continues to focus only on those things that interest him and seem powerful.
Hermione and Ron accost another man with Nosebleed Nougat and give his hair to Harry. Harry transforms into a tall, powerful man and the trio head for the public toilet to flush themselves in. In the Atrium, Harry notices that the golden fountain is gone. In its place is a huge statue of a witch and wizard sitting on thrones made of naked Muggles. It reads, "Magic is Might." The trio joins the throng moving to the golden elevators as Yaxley shouts at Reg to fix the rain in his office. He says that he's going to interrogate Mrs. Cattermole, and if Reg wants her to live, he should fix his office.
The idea of "Magic is Might" falls in neatly with how Voldemort conceptualizes knowledge and power: namely, that magic is the most powerful thing there is, as far as he's concerned. He doesn't believe that Muggles know anything worth knowing, and that simply possessing magic makes a person superior. This represents an exceedingly narrow view of humanity, and shows where Voldemort is blind to nuance.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione get into an elevator alone and Hermione gives Ron some options for how to fix the rain. A man gets in, calls Harry Albert, and compliments him on getting rid of Dirk Cresswell. Ron and the other wizard get off on the second level. When the gates open on the first level, Harry and Hermione come face to face with Umbridge and Pius Thicknesse.
What others say to Harry tell him that Albert Runcorn, whom he's impersonating, is powerful, imposing, and sympathetic to the Death Eaters—something that, should Harry choose to use it, means that he might have the power to create change while in his disguise.