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Chapter 10: The search for Harry Potter
Author's Note: This chapter is taken from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. All the events of this chapter are, therefore, the property of J.K. Rowling, as are the underlined sentences, the first of which is a quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, British edition, page 36 and the latter of which is a quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, British edition, page 39.
Thus convinced that he had done everything possible to ensure Black’s rapid recapture, Fudge turned his attention to preparing for Romilda’s return from Tunisia for her summer holidays.
She had three weeks off and was coming home for the first time since the previous Christmas. The entire family was really looking forward to it, even Alyssa, who’s resentment of her daughter’s rebellion seemed to be finally relaxing a little. She would never think as highly of Romilda as she did of her son, but to her own and everybody else’s surprise, she did find that she missed her daughter somewhat when she was away.
Not that her views had changed since her daughter had left school. She still had hopes that Romilda would “come to her senses” and start to pursue “a more sensible career.”
Cornelius and Jovian were well aware of how unlikely this was and were looking forward to hearing her descriptions of her present life. Although she wrote regularly, letters just weren’t the same as hearing her enthusiastic and colourful descriptions of her life and work in Tunisia.
Jovian was also looking forward to introducing her to his new girlfriend, Carla, a fellow healer and a half-blood. As far as Cornelius could see, his son appeared to be more serious about Carla than he had been about any of his previous girlfriends and although both he and Alyssa would have preferred their children to date pure-bloods, Carla’s father’s family had the most impeccable bloodline. That fact, added to the fact that she, like Jovian, was a successful Healer and had plans to specialise further, overruled the minor fact that her mother was a Muggle, even in Alyssa’s highly critical view.
Naturally, Jovian had told his sister about the relationship, but he was still looking forward to introducing them and had told his parents on more than one occasion that Carla was really looking forward to meeting his sister, particularly, he stressed, as she had liked both of his parents so much.
With this introduction added to the general excitement which usually accompanied Romilda’s homecomings, Cornelius was sure that the couple of weeks which she was planning to spend with her parents would be a very special time, and he intended to ensure that he had as little work as possible to do during those few weeks.
Black’s escape shouldn’t interfere too greatly, he decided. After all, he had every possible Ministry official dealing with the issue, in addition to the Magical Law Enforcement squad and the Azkaban guards. And of course, the Muggle law enforcement agencies had also been briefed vaguely on the crises. The Muggle Prime Minister had asked, and received, Fudge’s permission to inform one of the highest ranking officials in Scotland Yard of the true situation. The rest of the force had simply been told that this man was in charge of the case and that any sightings of or information relating to Sirius Black was to be given to him immediately. He, in turn, would pass the information to the Ministry of Magic.
With all of those people on the case, Fudge felt that there was little need for him to worry about the escaped prisoner.
Romilda, however, had only been back in England slightly more than 24 hours, when an owl arrived at the Fudges’ residence requesting Cornelius’ presence at the Ministry of Magic as a matter of urgency.
“Sorry Ro,” he apologised to his daughter. “I’ve got to go. If I can, I’ll get the crises, whatever it is, sorted out quickly, and I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
Luckily, Romilda had matured a good deal in the years since Cornelius’ appointment as Minister and she was no longer inclined to sulk about matters which she knew were beyond her father’s control really.
“I understand, Dad,” she replied in resignation. “The perils of being indispensable, I suppose.”
Cornelius arrived at the Ministry, impatient to solve whatever crises had taken place as soon as possible.
It was Malfalda Hopkirk, of the Improper Use of Magic Office who informed him of the situation.
“Harry Potter has disappeared from the home of his guardians, sir.”
“What?” Cornelius Fudge asked in alarm. “What happened? Why did he do a thing like that? You are not going to tell me that a silly teenage whim has placed him in so much danger? And what has your department to do with it?”
“Well, you see, he eh, blew up his aunt sir.”
“Blew up his aunt?”
“Yes. I mean it’s not the aunt he’s living with. In fact, I don’t really think she’s his aunt at all.”
“Get to the point woman!”
“Well, he appears to have lost his temper and made her swell up like a balloon and float to the ceiling, sir. Of course we could deal with a simple case of underage magic like that ourselves, but under the circumstances, we thought you might want to decide what should be done yourself.”
“Well, yes. You did the right thing calling me. Never mind about the improper use of magic. We’ll get that sorted out. Get the Accidental Magical Reversal Squad in here and I’ll brief them. The boy is in extreme danger. This isn’t the time to worry about what he has or has not done.”
He was only thirteen after all, Cornelius thought to himself. Visions of his children at that age kept haunting him. What if one of them had been in this kind of danger? He had to find Harry and quickly.
He almost rushed out of the Ministry at that moment, but just in time, he remembered that he had promised to brief the Accidental Magical Reversal Squad. This he did as quickly as possible, omitting half of the information in his haste and having to be asked a number of questions as a result.
“So whose memories are we to modify?” they asked in confusion.
“Oh, just the woman herself. The others are Harry’s guardians and are well acquainted with the magical world. Just convince them that they must accept Harry back again for the holidays. I’m not sure why, but Dumbledore has always been adamant that Harry should live with them and Dumbledore usually has reasons, even for the craziest of his ideas.
With that, he hurried off to find Harry. He wasn’t the only person looking, naturally. Most of the Ministry of Magic were at least keeping an eye out. Arthur Weasley was particularly anxious to help with the search. Apparently one of his children was friends with Harry at school or something and he was extremely worried about the boy.
In truth, everybody in the Ministry was concerned to some degree, particularly those, like Arthur Weasley and Cornelius himself, who had children of their own. None of them could help imagining that it was their child in danger; their child alone and pursued by a maniac, and this thought spurred them into immediate action.
With so many people involved, there wasn’t really any great need for Cornelius himself to aid the search but, the truth was that he hoped to be the one to find Harry. Arrangements would have to be made for the boy’s safety, and if he found him himself, these could be made more easily.
Firstly, of course, they would have to find out the reaction of the boy’s guardians. Hopefully, they would be willing to have Harry back as soon as he could be found. All teenagers rowed with their parents and guardians. With magic involved things could become a little more complicated but there was a good chance that at this stage, the Dursleys would be so worried about their ward that they would simply be pleased to have him returned to them safely. Of course, they didn’t know the danger from Black, but even without that, a thirteen year old child wandering the streets on his own was bound to be a source of worry.
At any rate, the Accidental Magic Reversal Department were under orders to send him an owl, as soon as they knew what the situation was.
This arrived less than a hour after the squad had been dispatched to deal with the situation.
The note was curt.
Have reversed the spell used on Miss Marjorie Dursley and modified
her memory. Spoken with the Dursleys. Extremely angry. Uncle did
not want Harry back. Aunt was more agreeable. Harry can return
next Summer, but should spend Christmas and Easter at Hogwarts.
Well, that was something, Cornelius thought, but it didn’t help them with the more serious problem of Sirius Black. If he should find Harry before the Ministry did, the situation would be very serious indeed.
As Cornelius searched aimlessly, Dumbledore suddenly appeared before him.
“Thought it might help if I gave you some indications of where Harry might be,” he said. “Minerva is at the castle in case Harry should return to school early. I myself will also return there as soon as possible. I am sure Arthur Weasley will contact his wife, and ask that she let us know if Harry heads for the Burrow. You should also contact the Grangers. They are Muggles and if Harry is concerned about having performed illegal magic, he may wish to remain in the Muggle world. Hagrid is remaining in his hut in case Harry tries to contact him. Other than that, Diagon Alley is a possibility. It’s about the only magical place about from Hogwarts that Harry knows.”
“I’ll head there so. Can you get somebody at Hogwarts to contact these Grangers, is that their name?”
“Certainly I can. As soon as I return to the castle, Minerva will be free to deal with that. I’ll leave you to it so.”
As usual, Dumbledore’s instincts were spot on. Cornelius had barely arrived at Diagon Alley, when the Knight Bus pulled up in front of the Leaky Cauldron.
Cornelius practically sighed with relief when he saw Harry alight
Hearing Cornelius address him, Stan, the Knight bus’ conductor hopped out of the bus in excitement.
“What didja call Neville, Minister?” he said excitedly.
As he continued to interrupt Cornelius’ attempts to discuss the situation with Harry, the Minister decided to request a private parlour from Tom, the landlord of the Leaky Cauldron. It was entirely apparent that it would be impossible to discuss anything with Stan around.
Once they were settled in the parlour, the Minister introduced himself to Harry and explained what the Accidental Magic Reversal Department had told him. He had expected Harry to be relieved by this. After all, it must be extremely worrying for any teenager to have such a serious disagreement with his loving guardians.
To his surprise, the worried look did not leave the boy’s face, and he began to ask about how he would be punished for his transgression of the Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry.
This was something which Fudge had barely considered. After all when a child was in danger from a raving lunatic, you didn’t worry too much about the fact that that child had broken what was after all a relatively minor law. He couldn’t tell Harry that though. There was no way you could explain to a thirteen year old child that the man who caused the deaths of his parents had now escaped from prison and was planning on killing him.
Therefore he tried to bluster his way through some kind of an answer.
“Circumstances change, Harry…..we have to take into account…..in the present climate….surely you don’t want to be expelled?” he finally decided on, hoping that the idea that this was a good thing might prevent Harry from asking any more questions. At this point in time, expelling him really was not an option. His guardians would not have him back until next Summer and without proper supervision, he would become a sitting target for Black. Even if he was to stay with the Weasleys or somebody, it would be nowhere near as safe for him as being at school.
Before Harry had a chance to ask any more, he escaped to speak with Tom.
Quickly, he explained the situation.
“Harry can’t return to his guardians for the rest of this summer. And I want him somewhere where as many wizards as possible can keep an eye on him. Could you possibly let him have a room here? The Ministry would pay you naturally. And there are plenty of witches and wizards around Diagon Alley. I can’t see Sirius Black sneaking down here, undetected.”
The last was said with a slight chuckle at the thought of Sirius Black appearing in full view of everybody.
Luckily, Tom had a room free and was more than willing to have Harry stay there for the two weeks which remained of the school holidays. He even offered to keep an eye on Harry himself.
Now all that remained to be decided was Harry’s journey from Diagon Alley to Platform 9 3/4s. He would be safe enough in Diagon Alley and once he arrived at Hogwarts, there would be little to worry about. With the Dementors of Azkaban guarding the place, it would be absolutely impossible for anybody to enter or leave without authorisation.
Suddenly Arthur Weasley came into his head. Wasn’t one of his sons a friend of Harry’s? Perhaps he would bring the boy to the station. The chances were that nobody would even notice one more among the large crowd of children in that family.
Arthur was more than willing to deliver Harry safely to school.
“I was going to ask you if you had already made plans or if it would be ok for him to travel with us,” he replied. “Before all this happened, the three of them-Ron, Harry and this girl they are friends with- had been hoping to travel together.”
“I’ll arrange for Ministry cars to bring you to the station, of course,” Cornelius said, thinking aloud. “I don’t believe there’s likely to be any danger, but we may as well take all possible precautions. Oh and Arthur, you won’t let Harry know about any of this, will you?”
This, however, was something that Arthur appeared reluctant to agree to.
“How can we keep him safe if he doesn’t know that he’s in danger,” he asked reasonably. “Isn’t it better that he be put on his guard?”
“Arthur!” Cornelius exclaimed in alarm. “How can you tell a child something like that? He’d be terrified.”
“He’s thirteen years old,” Arthur pointed out.
“Exactly,” Cornelius replied, in a tone of finality. “Don’t tell him anything, Arthur! I’m sure it’s for the best.”