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Cornelius Fudge: Minister for Magic. by MargaretLane

Format: Novella
Chapters: 15
Word Count: 34,378
Status: Abandoned

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Substance Use or Abuse, Contains Spoilers

Genres: General
Characters: Harry, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Sirius, Lucius, Narcissa, Fudge, Umbridge, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 04/04/2005
Last Chapter: 01/12/2014
Last Updated: 10/18/2014

Being Minister For Magic is a fine juggling act where every decision is apt to make someone unhappy. No one knows this better than Cornelius Fudge, whose every move is criticized even as he takes wizarding England into one of its most challenging decades. This is the story of the man at the Ministry's helm, a lonely and unpredictable place.

Thanks to girldetective85 for summary.

Chapter 1: The Appointment
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Author's note: I own virtually nothing in this story. Just the ocs and the subplots relating to them.

The Appointment

It was the best day of Cornelius Fudge’s life, or at the very least, it tied for top place with the day Voldemort finally disappeared, ending eleven years of fear for the wizarding world. That, however, may have been a great day for witches and wizards everywhere, but this day was a personal success for Cornelius. He had actually been appointed Minister for Magic.

If he were honest with himself, he had never really expected this to happen. During the reign of terror of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, everybody had predicted that Barty Crouch would be the next Minister. Barty had fallen out of favour in recent years, however, mostly because his own son had ended up in Azkaban as a result of his involvement with the Death Eater. However Barty’s heavy-handed tactics had also lost much of their previous support now that the danger was long over. At the time, many people had believed that Crouch had the right idea; that his methods were the only ones by which the Death Eaters could be defeated, but in more peaceful times, reports of his authorization of the use of the Unforgiveables on suspects, his internment of anybody suspected of any involvement with Voldemort or his Death Eaters, and other similar tactics made for uncomfortable reading. As a result, Barty Crouch was no longer being considered.

Despite this, Fudge’s chances of promotions still appeared slim. The most popular choice for Minister of Magic had been Albus Dumbledore, generally agreed to be the most powerful living wizard and the only one that You-Know-Who ever feared. Albus Dumbledore was universally popular in the wizarding world and was almost the unanimous choice as Minister for Magic.

However, the previous day, Dumbledore himself had made a statement in the Daily Prophet, declaring that he had no interest whatsoever in the position.

“I have heard the rumours suggesting that I am to be appointed
Minister of Magic,” Dumbledore replied, when we spoke with him
earlier today. “If I am, then these rumours are the first I have
heard of it. I want to reassure everybody that I have to intention
of burdening the Ministry with my presence. I am perfectly happy
as headmaster of Hogwarts’ School of Wizardry and Witchcraft and
have no intention of leaving for the foreseeable future. Not
unless the Ministry see fit to replace me.” We are sure there
is no immediate danger of that happening.

The article had created quite a stir. If Barty Crouch were out of the running and Albus Dumbledore intended to refuse any offer of the position, then who would be come the next Minister. The next day, Cornelius Fudge had been called to the office of the present Minister.

“You know that I’m planning on retiring soon, Cornelius?”

“Yes sir”

“I’m getting too old for this business. Too much stress. Particularly with all those troubles at the beginning of my Ministry. All that business of You-Know-Who and all. Must say I’m looking forward to the break. I’m planning on moving somewhere nice and warm. Might go to stay with my son in Greece, what do you think?”

“Sounds lovely sir,” Cornelius replied. Would you ever get on with it? The Minister was always like this. He took forever to get to the point, appearing to think that a long introduction to whatever he wanted to say, showed what a close relationship he had with his inferiors. He didn’t just call them to the office, get to the point immediately and then dismiss them, as though anticipating far more important company. Oh no, he took the time to really talk to them! Unfortunately, he never appeared to notice that most of the Ministry of Magic employees had very little interest in talking to him.

Now, he smiled at Cornelius.

“Hope it will be. Yes, I intend to enjoy my retirement. No point in allowing work to dominate your entire life, is there? After all, I’ve had quite a lot of success already.”

“So you have, sir.”

“Time to move on and give the young fellows a chance. Quite ambitious yourself, I believe, aren’t you Cornelius?”

“Ambitious enough, sir,” he replied cautiously. It was difficult to know how to answer a question like that. He wanted the Ministry to know that he was interested in advancement; of course he did. But on the other hand, having too much ambition could be viewed as dangerous or might mark you as not being a team player. That would not be a good sign.

“I believe you applied for my own position, didn’t you Cornelius?”

“Em, yes sir. I’ve always been a great admirer of your, as you know. It would be the greatest honour I could possibly imagine to follow in your footsteps.” A bit of flattery never did any harm, Cornelius believed. Even though the old man was retiring, he would still have a fair amount of influence. There was nothing to be lost by staying on his good side.

“I’m sure you’ve heard that Dumbledore has announced his own lack of interest in the position.”

“I have, sir. Very short-sighted, in my opinion.”

“Indeed, indeed. And I don’t mind telling you, it’s left us with rather a problem. Very few suitable candidates for the position this time, Cornelius. Very few indeed.”

Cornelius made a vaguely sympathetic sound.

“So to cut a long story short, the Ministry have decided to offer you the position.”

“Me, sir?”

“Yes, indeed. You haven’t made any enemies during your time in the Ministry. Nobody hates you. Reckon most of the wizard world will accept you fairly easily. Still interested in the position?”

“Eh, yes sir,” Cornelius replied in amazement. “Nothing could please me more. I am certainly willing to accept the position.”

“Well, then, congratulations Cornelius. You are the new Minister of Magic.”

He didn’t know what to say. For a moment, he just stood there, staring at the Minister, as the news sank in slowly. He was the successful candidate!!! He was going to be the next Minister for Magic. It was a dream come true.

Silently, he thanked Albus Dumbledore from the bottom of his heart. If he had been willing to accept the position, Cornelius knew that he himself would never even have been considered.

It was a few moments before he realised that the present Minister was waiting for some response from him. The truth was that he had absolutely no idea what to say. He had been shocked into silence by the unexpected news. However, it crossed his mind that he ought to say something. There was no point in alienating a man who could be of use to him in his forthcoming career.

“Well…. That’s great news, sir. I’m delighted. Thank you very much. I….I really appreciate the confidence which the wizarding world appears to have in me.”

All that Cornelius wanted at this point was to leave the office and get home to his family to tell them the fantastic news. He knew they would be almost as pleased for him as he was for himself. His wife, Alyssa, was an ambitious woman, but strangely enough, she was more ambitious for her family than she was for herself.

Cornelius was well aware that his position in the Ministry was one of the things that had attracted him to her in the first place. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him. He hoped, and believed, that she did. However, he also knew that if he had had some no account job in something like Muggle relations, she would have wavered about marrying him.

He didn’t really care. Alyssa was a beautiful woman; tall and slim with long jet-black hair and dark eyes. From the moment he had first laid eyes on her, he had known that this was the woman he wanted to marry, and in a sense, her ambition was a good thing, as it had encouraged him to succeed in his career.

As he walked out of the Ministry offices and headed towards home, he felt a rush of gratitude to just about everyone. To Alyssa, for encouraging him to apply for the position; to the committee for choosing him as Minister; to Dumbledore for refusing the position himself; to the entire wizarding community of Great Britain for supporting him as future Minister.

Minister of Magic!! It sounded absolutely marvellous.

Chapter 2: The Wife and Family
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The Wife and Family

To his delight, his wife and son obviously thought so too. He had known that they would of course, but nonetheless, he couldn’t help being pleased.

“Is Jovian home yet?” he asked, just as soon as he had greeted his wife.

“Yes, he just arrived about 20 minutes or half an hour ago. Why are you so anxious to know?”

“Because I have some news for you both, and I thought that if he was home, you might as well hear it together. Where is he?”

“In his room. You know how seriously he takes his studies as a Healer. But I’m sure he’ll be down to say hi to you in a moment.”

Sure enough, Jovian descended the stairs just as soon as Alyssa called up, “Jovian, your dad’s home.”

“Hi dad,” he greeted his father. “How was work?”

“Really good,” Cornelius replied. “Today I just got the most fantastic news of the entire 35 years I spent working for the Ministry.”

“Better than the day You-Know-Who was defeated?” Jovian asked. He had been eleven years old when the Dark Lord had been defeated and it had struck him as one of the most exciting days of his life. Having grown-up under the shadow of the Dark Lord’s reign of terror, he could not really imagine what actual changes would occur as a result of his defeat, but the celebrations and general excitement had greatly affected him, particularly as the Dark Lord’s fall had been so unexpected and unexplained.

Now his father struggled to answer his question.

“Good in a different way. More to do with work. What is the best thing you could possibly imagine might have happened today?”

“You’re Minister of Magic, aren’t you?” Alyssa squealed excitedly. Cornelius had never imagined his wife could be so animated. As a general rule, she was very serious and dignified. Now, however, she sounded like an overexcited teenager.

“Oh, I knew you could do it,” she continued as Cornelius nodded confirmation. “Didn’t I always say you were destined for greatness? Oh Jovian, you’ve got a father to be proud of! Isn’t it a pity you didn’t follow him into the Ministry?”

Jovian ignored that comment. It was the one way in which he had disappointed his mother. She was pleased that he had chosen a career as a healer. It was a difficult career and one that required extremely good grades in the N.E.W.Ts and Alyssa enjoyed letting all her friends know that her son was studying to be a healer. The one career he could have pleased her more by taking was a job in the Ministry. That way Alyssa would have had twice the chance of having one of her family become Minister.

Cornelius, on the other hand, appeared just as happy that his son had avoided this career path. He knew that had his son chosen a career in the Ministry, he would be under constant pressure from his wife to use his influence to advance his son’s career. Not that that would be any difficulty now, but until his appointment as Minister, he didn’t really have the degree of influence which his wife appeared to believe he did.

As Minister, however, he would have all the influence that his wife wished him to. Even though Jovian had not decided on a career in the Ministry, having his father as Minister of Magic was bound to be an advantage to him. This, however, was not the real reason for his pleasure. It was just good to see his father achieve success. Jovian knew how hard his father had worked to get this far.

Although Jovian would never have said so, he was well aware that Cornelius did not really have the talent his wife believed he did. He was reasonably good at his job, but it had taken a lot of work and a lot of keeping in with the right people to ensure his rise to his forthcoming position. Jovian sometimes suspected that if it hadn’t been for his mother’s pushing, his father wouldn’t have bothered.

Not that it mattered now. Whatever the reason for Cornelius’ hard work, it had paid off, and Jovian was delighted for his father.

“Mum’s right,” he praised him. “Being appointed Minister is really fantastic. You must be really proud of yourself.”

“Yeah, I am,” Cornelius agreed. “To be honest, I never really expected this. I wouldn’t have applied for the job at all, if you hadn’t said I should, Alyssa. Boy, am I glad I did now.”

“What would you do without me?” Alyssa asked, but her tone was indulgent. “Oh, I almost forgot; we’ll have to send an owl to Romilda immediately. We can’t let her wait to read in the papers that her father has been appointed Minister of Magic.” She managed to make reading the papers sound utterly distasteful, but both her husband and son knew just what she meant. Romilda would be disappointed if her family neglected to tell her such important news.

“It’s a pity you can’t send the official Ministry owl to let her know,” Alyssa commented, almost critically, to her husband. “What a surprise she would get if a Ministry owl came to deliver a message from her father!”

“I won’t get to use them until I actually take over as Minister,” Cornelius explained. “Well, I can use them now, but only if the Minister authorises it. Anyway, she’ll find out as soon as she reads the letter. What does it matter if it’s only Mercury who delivers it?” It was Alyssa who had named the owl and she had chosen to name him after the messenger to the gods from mythology.

Now, Cornelius fetched him and wrote a hurried note to his daughter, who was currently in her 6th year at Hogwarts.

Dear Romilda,
I have some very exciting news for you. Guess who has just been appointed Minister of Magic! That’s right; I have been appointed to the job. I can hardly believe it. Can’t wait until the present Minister retires and I get to start making some changes of my own.
Sorry if this letter is a bit rushed, but I wanted to ensure you got the news before it was announced to the entire wizarding world and you know Mercury can be a bit slow sometimes.
Lots of love, as ever,
Your loving father.

His daughter’s reply arrived the next morning before Cornelius left for work.

Dear Dad,
That’s fantastic news. Really marvellous. Everybody at school is really jealous.
I can’t wait until the news is announced officially. At the moment, it’s only my own year that know, and some of the other Gryffindors. Once it’s announced, and the whole school knows, I can’t wait to see their reactions. With a bit of luck, it might encourage Snape to be a little less horrible. He can be quite impressed by power. I’ll have to tell him you’ll get him sacked if he doesn’t start being nicer!!!!!!! Only joking. I wouldn’t really do that.
Anyway, everybody is really pleased for you, even though naturally people were disappointed that Dumbledore refused it. Personally I’m quite pleased about that. If McGonagall was headmistress, I think this place might get a lot stricter. But of course, I’m biased. If Dumbledore had been appointed Minister, then you wouldn’t have been.
No news here really. Things are as boring as ever. Got detention from Snape earlier this week. I didn’t do anything honestly. He was just in a mood because we beat the Slytherins at Quidditch last week and you know how he hates Gryffindor. Or do you? After all, I am the first Gryffindor in the family! Still you’ve probably heard me complain about it often enough.
I’ll have to finish up now, as McGonagall is on her rounds to see we’re all in bed. I’ll send this off in the morning.
Lots of love,

Although, he had been just about to leave the house, when the owl arrived, he paused for long enough to skim the letter quickly, then placed it in his briefcase and hurried out the door. It wouldn’t look very good, after all, if the newly-appointed Minister was late for work before he even took over his new position.

Chapter 3: The Incoming Minister
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The Incoming Minister.

The two weeks between his appointment and the time he took over as Minister of Magic were extremely busy ones for Cornelius. He hadn’t expected that they would be. He had thought that he would be pretty much finished in his old job and wouldn’t have to worry about his new one until the present Minister’s retirement. How wrong he was!

In reality, he had to deal with concerns relating to both jobs. He had been replaced as head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, but he had to train in his replacement and ensure that all documents and files were left in order, so as to ensure that the Department could survive his absence. These jobs alone caused him a lot of work, but he would have been able to continue working a reasonably ordinary day, if they were all he had to worry about.

However, as soon as the news about his appointment as Minister came out, he was bombarded with requests for interviews from various newspapers. In many ways, he was delighted to agree to these. It was quite flattering to find yourself headline news in all of the major papers. Even some of the wizarding papers from foreign countries carried the story that Cornelius Fudge was to be the new British Minister for Magic.

It was an exciting time, and Cornelius thoroughly enjoyed sitting with the journalists and discussing his new appointment.

“Yes, yes, I’m absolutely delighted at this show of confidence from the wizarding population of Great Britain. Fantastic. I will, of course, do my best to live up to the highest expectations of the people.

“Yes, of course, I have some ideas of my own; some changes I would like to make. Not that I have any objections to the way in which the Ministry of Magic operates at the moment, but naturally, I am looking forward to putting my own stamp on things.”

He had been warned in advance, to remain extremely vague about what these changes would be. The last thing he wanted was to make enemies either within the Ministry or in the wider wizarding world before he had even taken up his position. It wasn’t always easy to head off any direct questions without sounding evasive, but Cornelius soon found he had quite a talent for it. No doubt it had been cultivated during his many years of sucking up to his seniors in the Ministry. Talking to journalists wasn’t very different to that. In both cases, you had to make it clear that you had plenty of initiative and good ideas, but avoid being too specific about what they were in case they were misinterpreted or undervalued.

So, all in all, it didn’t present too much difficulty. The only disadvantage was that it took up a large proportion of his working day, and when added to the time he spent training in his, apparently hopeless, replacement, there was little time left for finishing off his work as head of his present department and ensuring that everything was left in order.

To his surprise, he ended up doing this outside normal working hours and during his final few days found himself working until 9 or 10 o’clock in the evenings.

Luckily, Alyssa was not the sort of woman who complained of her husband’s working hours or insisted that he be home to her by a particular time. She understood that if he was to be successful in his job, it was necessary for him to work those extra hours and ensure that he made himself as indispensable as possible.

As a matter of fact, Cornelius felt that she was quite impressed by the number of hours he was working. It implied that he was an important person, when he had work commitments that he couldn’t possibly leave in order to be home by teatime.

“I suppose these long hours will become the norm, once you actually take over as Minister,” she commented to him one evening.

That was something he hadn’t thought of. He dearly hoped not. He liked his job well enough, he supposed, and he certainly enjoyed the feeling of importance which came from knowing he would be the next Minister, but that didn’t mean that he wanted to spend all of his time working on Ministry business. He did have a life outside of his work, after all.

“Oh, I don’t know, dear,” he replied, therefore. “I imagine things will level off, once I have the Ministry organised a little, you know. At the moment, I am trying to do two jobs at the same time, and I must say that the new head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures doesn’t really appear to be entirely up to the job. I had to spend at least two hours today, explaining the laws concerning half humans to her.”

“Won’t you be able to fire her, once you become Minister?”

“I will, of course,” Cornelius replied, preparing to backtrack. He didn’t really like the idea of having to fire anybody, not out of any concern for his employees, but simply because he entertained a vague suspicion that replacing them could turn out to be an awful lot of work. Therefore, he simply continued, “I’ll see how she turns out. Maybe she’ll improve, given a little time.”

Reading the newspaper reports concerning his appointment was a bittersweet experience for Cornelius Fudge. It was quite flattering to have newspaper headlines devoted to you, particularly when they related your successes. If they had been describing some scandal he was supposed to be involved in or some incompetence he had been accused of, it might not be so flattering.

However, there was some papers, which managed to find fault, even with Cornelius’ great achievement. These bemoaned the fact that a man who they considered a virtual non-entity should be appointed as Minister and many implied that Dumbledore would have been a far better choice, should he have seen fit to accept the position. Some of the more right-wing papers took a different angle and argued that Barty Crouch should have been appointed Minister.

Where was Cornelius Fudge when Voldemort was terrorising both magical and Muggle communities? the, Wizard’s World demanded.

Nowhere to be found, is the answer which most
discerning witches and wizards would give to this question. It
was Mr. Crouch who implemented the only policies which
Dark witches and wizards understand- those of coercion. He
brought back some semblance of normality to our society,
by ensuring that all those who broke the laws knew just what
the consequences of doing so would be
Despite this, however, Mr. Crouch has not even been
considered for the highest position in our society. Why is this?.

The paper went on to blame the overlooking of Barty Crouch on “do-gooding wizards, who cannot see that sometimes harsh laws are necessary in order to protect the majority of good law-abiding citizens.”

Anybody would think the wizarding world was deep in the midst of a crises, Cornelius thought, as he flung the paper on the floor. It was years since the disappearance of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named; almost a decade. And Cornelius was pretty sure that at this stage all those who had supported him had been apprehended and were safely locked up in Azkaban. So what was all this nonsense about a firm hand and the necessity of strong emphasis on the rule of law? Surely the need to seriously worry about the exploits of Dark wizards had passed.

Besides, he thought defensively, it was totally unfair to suggest that he had been “nowhere to be found” during Voldemort’s reign of terror. He had always supported the policies of the Ministry and although he had never been one of those who pushed for greater powers for the Aurors or the imprisonment without trial of suspects, he hadn’t actively opposed such moves either. And he had always been a strong supporter of the use of Dementors in guarding Azkaban. The criticisms were totally unfounded, he reassured himself, before turning to more supportive papers.

The Daily Prophet, always the mouthpiece of the Ministry was adamant in its support for the appointment of Cornelius Fudge. A “safe pair of hands”, it described him as. A man “careful in his judgements and not prone to rash decisions.”

“That was more like it,” Cornelius Fudge thought happily, as he tried to push the reports of papers like the Wizard’s World from his mind. The views expressed in it were views of a minority, he assured himself. After all, if he hadn’t had the support of most of the wizarding people, he would never have been appointed.

“Ah,” a little voice whispered in his head. “But it was really Dumbledore they wanted you know. You were chosen only because he refused the position.”

He dismissed that unpleasant thought rather quickly. Ok, so Dumbledore had a lot of support, but there was no reason to believe he would have been appointed even if he had applied. Nonetheless, the thought wouldn’t quite be disregarded no matter how hard he tried to ignore it.

Chapter 4: Possible Allies
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Possible Allies

On the 7th of April, just over two weeks after he had been offered the position, Cornelius Fudge was officially appointed Minister of Magic.

The Ministry made quite a big deal of the appointment. Invitations were issued both to important members of the British wizarding communities and to the heads of a number of foreign Ministers of Magic. Classes were cancelled at Hogwarts and Cornelius Fudge promised to make an official visit to the school as soon as possible after his appointment. If he could fit it in, he intended to make the visit within a week of taking up his new position.

After the official ceremony, a banquet took place in order to celebrate the appointment. Cornelius Fudge enjoyed this, possibly even more than the ceremony itself. It was fantastic to get a chance to meet the leaders of foreign magical communities and to speak on equal terms with such important people. These were faces which he had previously seen in newspaper, and they were now here for no other reason than to speak to him.

Cornelius Fudge was very much the man of the moment. The foreign ministers were mostly anxious to establish good terms with him in order to ease any future issues of international concern which might arise.

Ever since the time of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the issue of International Magical Cooperation had become a serious concern. Of course there were always issues where it was necessary to establish international standards, but there had been a time when such situations had not been as great a concern as they now were.

Although, the Dark Lord’s crimes had largely taken place in Britain, it had been well-known that he was recruiting support throughout the world, and there was little doubt that had he succeeded in establishing control in Britain, he would have moved to take control in other areas.

It had not taken the Aurors long to realise the difficulty in following a trail which led through a number of countries and involved criminals of a variety of nationalities. This became even more difficult when countries which had no magical law treaties or whose leaders were on bad terms with one another were involved.

The Dark Lord, had of course, been defeated, but the lesson had been learned. It was important to ensure a good relationship with people of influence throughout the magical world. For that reasons Minister of Magic appointments were now of international interest, and the Ministries of various countries tried to maintain as much contact with one another as was humanly (or magically) possible.

Despite Cornelius Fudge’s many years of service to the Ministry, he was largely unknown outside Britain, and therefore his appointment raised a certain amount of concern in the larger magical world. All of the foreign ministers were anxious to speak to him and to find out what his views were; if he could be trusted; if he would make a good ally on matters of international magical cooperation.

And Cornelius revelled in such great attention. He was well aware that within a short while, the great fuss surrounding him would die down, but he would remain as the single most important figure in the wizarding community of Great Britain. That was the most important thing, but the excitement of having the eyes of the entire wizarding world on him for a few short hours was the icing on the cake.

In a way, he wished Alyssa could be there. And, if possible, his children. He would like them to see him as the centre of attention at such a high profile event. However, it had been made quite clear to him that the ceremony and the banquet that followed were not celebrations in the normal sense of the word. They were part of his work. The primary aims of the exercise were to introduce him to people who could be useful in his subsequent career and to create as much positive publicity as possible. It was not family entertainment.

Alyssa had been much aggrieved when he had had to tell her that it would not be possible for her to attend events. She had dearly wanted a chance to show off as the wife of the incoming minister and had imagined herself hobnobbing gracefully with the spouses of some of the best known people in the wizarding world or walking through the Ministry building on her husband’s arm, seeing and being seen. It was a great disappointment to her that she would not have the opportunity of doing so.

“But you’ll be Minister,” she had argued forcefully. “Surely it’ll be up to you to decide who should and should not attend.”

“It’s not the way it’s done, I’m afraid,” Cornelius had replied, apologetically. “You know I’d love to have you come.”

Too true. It would be one of the greatest moments of his life to have his entire family witness what he expected to be some of the proudest moments of his life.

Nonetheless, he tried to explain to Alyssa, “none of the foreigners attending will have guests with them. And it’s not expected that those of us representing our Ministry will either. The only people who will arrive as couples are those who are invited to represent our more prominent families.”

Like the Malfoys, who came over to greet Cornelius almost as soon as the banquet began. Lucius Malfoy was a prominent member of the Ministry himself, and if it hadn’t been for the, totally unfounded, Cornelius knew, allegations of involvement with the Death Eaters which had once been levelled against him, it would have been quite possible that he would have been considered for Minister himself.

If Alyssa knew that he had been permitted to bring Narcissa, she would have been even more difficult to pacify than she had proved to be. As it was, he had managed to convince her that spouses really were not encouraged, but if she knew Narcissa had attended……

Of course, the Malfoys were a particular case, but Alyssa would never have accepted that. She would have maintained that as wife of the Minister, she was surely to be considered before the wives of other Ministry employees.

There might have been a time when Cornelius Fudge himself would have protested the special treatment which the Malfoys regularly received. When he had first entered the Ministry, he might have considered it to be unfair, even unnecessary, but he now knew the importance of keeping the family onside. They were major contributors to just about every one of the Ministry’s campaigns and Mr. Malfoy was on a number of Boards, including the Board of Governors of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. It was worth keeping them sweet, if it ensure they maintained their strong support (particularly their financial support) for the Ministry.

For all of these reasons, Cornelius was more than willing to take a little time to greet the Malfoys, compliment Narcissa on her dress sense and general beauty and ensure Lucius of his importance to the Ministry and how he, Cornelius depended on him, even if it did give him a few minutes less to spend with other political leaders.

At the end of the day, Cornelius felt that he had achieved all he had set out to. He thought that he had made a reasonably good impression on the visiting ministers and impressed upon them his keenness to establish good relations with their countries. He had also managed to avoid alienating potential allies at home, such as the Malfoys. When one was appointed to a position of importance, there was always a danger of making enemies among those who might otherwise have been considered for the same positions, and he hoped that he had avoided that pitfall.

Over the next couple of days, Cornelius was forced to reverse that opinion slightly. He wasn’t sure, but he felt that there was a distinct possibility that Barty Crouch did not like him. It was a situation that he should really have foreseen. Everybody knew how ambitious Crouch was, and of course, he had had good reason to assume that he was likely to become Minister one day. Now, Fudge had been appointed over him. It certainly wasn’t a situation that made for good working relations.

The possible antipathy of Barty Crouch was only one of the issues relating to Ministry personnel which he had to negotiate during his first week as Minister. Prior to his appointment, Cornelius would have said that he knew most people working in the Ministry, particularly those in the more senior positions, rather well. However, now that he was Minister for Magic, he found that he had to get to know them in a whole new way. Previously, he had known them as colleagues and while he had held opinions on the ability of some of them, it had not concerned him greatly.

He now needed to know exactly who could be depended on to do their work efficiently and who needed a watchful eye kept upon them. He needed to know the exact nature of the work each was involved in and what their particular concerns were, what laws they were anxious to draft and which they wanted to avoid at all costs.

Arthur Weasley, he learned, was particularly interested in establishing good relations with the non-magical community and was just about to bring in a new Muggle Protection Act, in the hopes of preventing Muggles ending up with bewitched items which could turn out to be extremely dangerous for them.

Arthur Weasley was not a wizard which Cornelius had had much to do with the past. The man had struck him as rather boring and unambitious, and he had made no real effort to get to know him. Now, however, he had to take an interest in what he was doing, regardless of how boring it was.

Ludo Bagman, on the other hand, had always appeared to him to be a good wizard to be with. He had played Quidditch for his country and had, therefore, been a bit of a mini-celebrity prior to his appointment as head of Magical Games and Sports. He also knew how to have a good time, and was always invited along for nights out.

As an employee, however, he left a lot to be desired. He paid little attention to security, particularly when discussing his beloved sports, and was always the last in, in the mornings and the first to leave in the evenings.

Cornelius couldn’t believe the amount there was to find out about the Ministry employees alone. And that was before he even considered the actual workload of his new position.

Chapter 5: The Problem with being Minister
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The Problem with Being Minister

He was surprised to find that being Minister of Magic wasn’t as easy a job as he had always supposed. While working as head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, he'd always felt that the Minister really had quite an easy job. After all, all the real work of the Ministry was carried out by the various departments. All the Minister really had to do was announce the changes drafted by the various departments and turn up at various functions.

This view of the position, however was quite erroneous, as Cornelius Fudge discovered within days of taking up the position. If something important took place, regardless of what department it concerned, the Minister was expected to be there. Of course, the head of the particular department involved usually went with him and it was often he or she who really dealt with the issue in hand, but the Minister was expected to make an appearance and to say something vaguely relevant, which meant he had to spend a couple of hours reading reports and discussing the issue with the department involved before going to deal with the situation.

  When the previous Minister had turned up to deal with issues related to the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, he'd found it a terrible nuisance. It had meant briefing the Minister for maybe an hour or two and then having him hanging around watching everything you did and usually getting in the way as you tried to do your job. He was uneasily aware that that was probably how his underlings viewed his presence at the moment. Possibly even more than he had, as despite the number of reports, drafts and documents he took home every night, studying them until well into the night, he realised that he still wasn’t completely au fait with the work of the various departments.

  This, he naturally blamed on the previous Minister. He should have been given more information before he took up the position.

  This, however, was something he had never considered before he had been appointed Minister and he very much doubted that any of the heads of the various departments considered it now.

  As a result of his heavy workload, it was almost May by the time he managed to make his courtesy visit to Hogwarts. Romilda, he knew, was most dissatisfied with this. For over two weeks prior to his visit, she had been sending him owls, complaining about his non-appearance.

  Everybody keeps asking when you are going to come, she wrote on one occasion. How do you think I feel, when I have to keep telling them that I don’t know. It is very embarrassing. They’ll think you can’t be bothered keeping your promises. Some of the Slytherins have started hinting that it would have been better if Lucius Malfoy had been appointed Minister!!! 

 Naturally, Cornelius Fudge wasn’t particularly concerned about what a bunch of schoolchildren thought, especially as Lucius Malfoy had not even been considered for the position. However, there was the problem of the teachers. Dumbledore, in particular, was a man he didn't  want to alienate.

  And, on a more personal level, he felt guilty about disappointing his daughter. But she had absolutely no idea of just how snowed under with work he was. He had written back and tried to explain that he was presently working 12 and 13 hour days and that he would visit Hogwarts just as soon as he could get a few moments to do so. He was looking forward to it, he assured her.

  This assurance sounded more and more hollow, the longer he put the visit off, he realised, so he eventually decided that the visit to Hogwarts would have to be made a priority. He could put the discussion of Arthur Weasley’s proposed Muggle Protection Act off for a few days he decided. The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office was a small one and it was unlikely that they would kick up too much of a fuss, and it wasn’t as if Arthur Weasley was anybody particularly important. He was from an old wizarding family, all right, Cornelius believed. If his memory served him correctly, he was distantly connected to the Black family, or his wife was. Cornelius wasn’t sure which. Either way, a connection with the Blacks was nothing to be proud of; Dark wizards, every one of them. And anyway, the Weasleys didn’t have anything like the sort of money and influence which the Blacks had had, before their disgrace. No, Cornelius decided, keeping in with Arthur Weasley would really be of very little benefit to him, particularly when compared with getting the support of Dumbledore, probably the most respected of modern wizards.

  Naturally, Arthur was disappointed, when Cornelius informed him that he would be unable to discuss the possibility of a Muggle Protection Act the next day, but he took the news philosophically.

  “Oh, well,” he replied. “The kids will be pleased anyway. Four of mine  are at Hogwarts at the moment, you know, and they've been sending me owls every couple of days asking when you’ll be visiting. Watch out for Fred and George, while you’re there, by the way. They're only in first year, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re innocent children. More trouble than all of the rest put together, they are.” He sounded almost pleased of that.

  Actually, when Cornelius thought about it, he could remember Romilda talking about two new Gryffindors who were losing innumerable points for the house.

 “Pretty much put paid to our chances of winning the House Cup this year,” she had said. “Looks like it’ll be Slytherin again.”

  He thought they were called Fred and George. He hadn’t known they were Arthur’s sons, though.

  “In Gryffindor, are they?” he asked.

  He wasn’t altogether sure why. Maybe just because it wouldn’t do any harm to appear as interested as possible in Arthur Weasley. After all, he didn’t want the man to think he was just being dismissed in favour of the Hogwarts visit.

  “All my kids are in Gryffindor," Arthur replied. "And Bill was, but he’s left now-working for Gringotts.”

  It was obvious that Arthur could have launched into long stories about his children. How many did he have anyway? Cornelius wondered. Four at Hogwarts and one finished. That meant at least five anyway.

  Still, he  didn’t have time to find out.

  “I’m in a bit of a rush,” he explained. “I’ll talk to you some other time.”

  It didn’t do any harm to appear exceptionally busy anyway. Made it sound as though you were a very important wizard, which of course he was. Nonetheless, he did manage to make time for a visit to Hogwarts, he thought, rather proudly. Romilda should be pleased. She wasn’t!!

  “So you finally got around to coming? was her comment, as soon as she got a few moments to talk to him. “What took you so long?”

  “Oh, Ro, you have absolutely no idea how busy I am at work! Being Minister of Magic is a very important job, you know.”

  “Surely you could take one day out of your busy schedule to come and see us,” she commented.

  “Well, I have, haven’t I?” he replied. “Had to put off a meeting with the head of one of my departments in order to come here.” He could see she was wavering a little when he said that. “Unfortunately,” he continued. “I’m not here just to see you. We’d better get to the Great Hall, so I can make my speech to everybody.”

  It was generally agreed his speech was one of the most boring ever to take place at Hogwarts. From the students' point of view, the only good part was seeing the look on his face when Fred and George managed to sneak Percy's pet rat onto his plate.

  After speeches and a banquet, he  retired to Dumbledore’s office, in order to talk privately with him.

  “I must apologise for that unfortunate interruption.” Dumbledore smiled. Despite his apology, Cornelius couldn't shake the feeling he'd been almost as amused by the prank as his students.. Nonetheless, he continued, “I can assure you that Minerva is doing her best to find out who the culprits are. We strongly suspect they will be found in her house.”

  “I quite understand,” Cornelius replied stiffly. “I am afraid I owe you an apology too. I intended this visit to take place a lot sooner, but I’m afraid I really did have an awful lot of work on.” For some reason, possibly in order to make Dumbledore appreciate the amount of work which had prevented him from paying a visit to the school sooner, or possibly because he genuinely respected Dumbledore’s views, Cornelius found himself telling the headmaster about some of the difficulties he was facing as Minister of Magic. “And of course everybody thinks I should have all the answers off the top of my head. I’m the Minister, so that means I should know absolutely everything. They’re expecting the impossible.”

  “Talk to them,” Dumbledore suggested calmly.


  “Arrange a meeting with the heads of the various departments. Explain to them exactly what information the previous Minister left you and ask them if there is anything else you should know.”

  “But….. but that would take ages. The best part of a day, probably,” Cornelius argued.

 “It would probably take less time than trying to discuss the problems with the head of each department separately or trawling through a load of unnecessary information in the documents, looking for the two or three relevant sentences.” This was said with a grin. How did Dumbledore know that that was exactly what he had spent the last few nights doing?

  “It’s worth a try, I suppose,” he replied reluctantly. “Any other nuggets of advice?” The latter sentence was said with a touch of irony. He didn’t want Dumbledore to believe he really needed any advice, but on the other hand, he was anxious to find out what the man had to say.

  “Well, I can’t really tell you that, unless you let me know exactly what problems the Ministry is facing, can I?” Dumbledore invited him to continue.

  Somehow, Cornelius found himself letting him  know about the impression he had received that Crouch was jealous of him and the tension between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley with regard to the proposed Muggle Protection Act.

  “I should give that Act my full support,” Dumbledore advised. “A word of advice, Cornelius, don’t get to close to Lucius Malfoy. I don’t believe the man is to be trusted. I’m sure you know of the rumours that were circulating not so very long ago.”

 “Lucius was cleared of all charges,” Cornelius defended him. “There is absolutely no reason to suspect him of anything at all now. And he is an important contributor to the Ministry.”

  “Very well,” Dumbledore replied. “I shan’t argue with you. I just wanted you to know that there are quite a few in the wizarding world who doubt Lucius’ innocence, and that it wouldn’t do any harm to be extremely wary when dealing with him.”

  Despite his inexplicable prejudice against Lucius Malfoy, the majority of the advice Dumbledore gave him that day was extremely helpful.

  As he was about to leave, Dumbledore invited him to “send me an owl anytime you think I can be of any help, Cornelius.” It was an invitation which Cornelius certainly intended to accept.

  With the help of regular owls from Dumbledore, Cornelius’ job did become significantly easier. However, he still found that he had far less time to spend with his family than he had had as head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Neither Alyssa nor Jovian was too concerned about that. Alyssa, of course, was proud of this evidence of the importance of her husband’s job and the weight of the responsibilities he carried, while Jovian was far too involved in his studies to become a Healer. After this year, he had one more to go before qualifying and he assured his parents that the closer to qualification you got, the more important your studies became. Therefore, it was really a matter of unimportance to him whether or not his father was at home.

  Romilda, when she came home from Hogwarts for the summer, was another story. Unlike her mother and brother, she appeared to take it almost as a personal insult that her father was rarely at home.

  “I am only home for 6 weeks, Dad,” she complained. “Surely you could make an effort to be around for that short time. At this rate, I’ll be back at school and I’ll hardly have seen you.”

  “I’m sorry, love, but you know how much work I have to do.”

  “I know it seems to prevent you from spending any time at all with us,” she replied tartly.

  “Look, I’ve two weeks off coming up, and I’ll be able to spend them entirely with you.”

 In order to spend as much time as possible with his daughter, he'd  arranged to take the last two weeks of the school holidays off, which he hoped  would satisfy her and allow him to spend as much time in her company. She was possibly his favourite child, although he would never have admitted it.

  It might have satisfied her, if a major crisis hadn't taken place in those two weeks, obliging him to go into work on three or four of his “days off.”

She was raging.

  “You promised we’d spend this entire two weeks as a family,” she yelled at him. “You never keep promises anymore. I’m fed up with you.”

  Cornelius wasn’t too happy either and was quite critical of the poor unfortunate Ministry employees who had made the mistake which necessitated his losing part of his holidays. They were called to his office and threatened with the loss of their jobs if they ever did anything so foolish again. Even after the problem had been satisfactorily solved, his holiday was ruined. Romilda was in a mood, and barely spoke to him for the remainder of the holidays. Five days later, she returned to school, without have spent more than a couple of days in the company of her father and without forgiving him for ruining her holiday, as she saw it.

Chapter 6: Romilda's Future Plans
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Romilda's Future Plans

Luckily, his daughter’s huff didn’t last indefinitely. After all he was her father and there were many things she was extremely reluctant to tell her mother. So it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to him when he received an owl from his daughter about three weeks after she returned to Hogwarts.

  Shouldn’t have been, but strangely enough, he was quite pleasantly surprised to receive it. He'd almost given up on being forgiven, he realised. She'd  kept this particular sulk up for so long, he'd almost become used to it. Besides which, he was still so busy he had little time to worry too much about correspondence from his daughter. It  was only when he looked at the calendar that he realised that three weeks of term had already passed. There seemed to be constant crises in the Ministry. As soon as one was solved, another appeared to replace it. Perhaps crises was a rather strong word to use for most of them, but they were serious enough to require his full attention, sometimes for weeks on end, and they prevented him from spending too much time dwelling on the amount of time which had passed since his daughter returned to school.

  Now that the owl had arrived, however, he was delighted, despite the semi-present awareness he'd have to find time to reply to it, as soon as he possibly could.

  Hi Dad, the letter began.

  Sorry I haven’t written since I returned to school. I was mad that you had spent so little time with me during my holidays. I still am, a little. After all, I only get six weeks at home during the summer and two at Christmas. If I can’t spend time with you then, when can I?

  And last summer might have been the last summer which I spend at home. (Can’t say too much about that at the moment). All I’m saying is that apart from the Christmas holidays, I might not be home that often and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with you.

  I thought you would also want to spend as much time as possible with me, but you seemed more interested about spending time at the Ministry. Still, I realise that not bothering to spend time with you during my last week off and not bothering to write earlier was pretty silly. It only prevented me from speaking to you when I did have the chance. So, I’m sorry.

  Life at Hogwarts is much the same as usual. In one way, it is great fun to be back, but in another, I'm looking forward to getting out of school for good next June. After all, I will be 18 in March. I’m beginning to feel a bit stifled here, only being allowed to go into the town on “Hogsmeade weekends”. After all, I go into town whenever I like during the holidays. And these N.E.W.Ts are unbelievably stressful. Don’t tell Mum, but I sometimes wonder if I’m going to pass them at all.

  Don’t worry; I am studying (some of the time anyway)!! But I can think of so many more interesting things to be doing.

  How is work anyway? Still working round the clock? Or has the Ministry learned to survive a few hours without you?

  Write back soon, Romilda.

  The last line sounded worryingly like an order to Cornelius, and he decided that if he didn’t want to risk alienating his daughter again, he'd have to write back to her as soon as possible. His lunch break, he decided. He could scribble a quick note, before taking his lunch and still manage to be back at work in time to meet the French Minister of Magic, who was arriving that afternoon to discuss international measures for dealing with Trolls. Trolls were so utterly stupid that it was impossible to make them understand that on the few occasions they travelled abroad they had to obey the law of the country they were in, and therefore the idea of holding them to similar laws internationally was being considered.

  It sounded slightly ridiculous to Cornelius, as Trolls rarely paid much attention to the laws of wizards, but he was expected to be there and it wouldn’t do his international reputation any good if he was the only Minister of Magic to hold out, so he had agreed to hear the Frenchman’s proposals.

  As he wanted to get the letter written, he didn’t, as he usually did, head to a restaurant for his lunch, choosing instead to eat in the Ministry canteen. This wasn’t something he did very often, as he felt that as Minister of Magic, he ought to be seen in more prestigious establishments. Still, if he wanted to get any few lines written at all, he didn’t have time to leave the Ministry building. Even staying there, the letter would have to be short.

  Darling Romilda,

  Work is still as hectic as ever, unfortunately. I am sorry it messed up your holiday, but I honestly was as disappointed as you are. I never thought the Minister of Magic had so much to do.

  All the same, it is an important position and can be very interesting. I'm meeting the French Minister of Magic in less than an hour.

  Glad to hear all is well in Hogwarts. I just cannot believe you will be leaving school in July. Both of my children of age and out of school. I feel so old.

  It sounds from your letter as though you have some plans for next year. Looking forward to hearing them if you have. And don’t forget that the better you do in the N.E.W.Ts the more choices you have.

  I’d better go now.

  With all my love, Dad.

  He debated for a moment whether he should send one of the Ministry owls to deliver the letter. Strictly speaking, Ministry owls were for Ministry business and he really ought to wait until he got home and send Mercury. On the other hand, Romilda might like to have a letter delivered to her by a Ministry owl and she would certainly be pleased to see how promptly he’d replied.

  He’d use a Ministry owl, he decided. Who was going to know anyway, and even if they did, what did it really matter? He was the Minister. Ok, it would set a bad example if any of the Ministry employees found out, but how would they know who he was writing to? It could be a very important official letter for all they knew.

  He certainly didn’t come to regret using the owl. Romilda, as he had expected, pleased that he had replied to her letter with a couple of hours of receiving it and the remainder of her annoyance towards her father disappeared. Between September and Christmas, she wrote to him regularly, and he made a valiant effort to reply as quickly as possible to most of her letters. Sometimes that meant, a fortnight later, but as long as he answered most of the them with reasonable promptness, she appeared to be satisfied. And at least he would have time off from the Ministry during her Christmas holidays. The entire Ministry closed for a week and a half during the Christmas period, barring any major calamity. And, in truth it would take a very serious disaster to bring the Ministry of Magic back to their jobs before the Christmas recess ended.

  Cornelius couldn’t wait for the Christmas break. Not just because his daughter would be home and he might finally find out what the hints her letters gave about her future plans referred to, but because this was the first complete break he would get from the pressures of the Ministry. He loved the prestige of being Minister. What he didn’t like so much was the way in which he was expected to have solutions for every single problem which took place in the entire wizarding world of Great Britain. Even with Dumbledore’s advice, he feared making mistakes. He wanted the respect of all of the wizarding community, particularly those who could be of use to his career, and it was frequently difficult to make a decision which wouldn’t offend anybody.

  So far, he had managed to do rather well, in his own humble opinion, but there was no doubt that on many occasions, the pressure was really on. So  the holidays would be extremely welcome.

  Romilda arrived home some days before Christmas and the preparations for the holiday began. Ever since Jovian had started at Hogwarts, Cornelius and Alyssa had delayed preparations until Hogwarts’ holidays began. Oh, they bought some of the Christmas presents, but they didn’t decorate the house or make any major plans. This year, Cornelius had to work for the first few days of Romilda’s holidays, so Alyssa, Jovian and Romilda did most of the organising. It was less than a year since Romilda had come  of age and gained the right to do magic outside Hogwarts, so she took particular pleasure in magically decorating the house.

  “When are you going to let us know what it is you’re planning?” Cornelius asked her one day, when Alyssa and Jovian had gone into town to buy their Christmas presents. The last couple of letters she'd sent him before the holidays had implied she'd something to tell her family, but she'd  refused to explain what it was in her letters.

 “After Christmas,” she insisted now. “Soif Mum has a total fit, at least it won’t ruin Christmas. I’ll tell you all Boxing Day, how would that be?”

  “That would be fine,” He smiled at his daughter, then continued more sternly. “But I hope you’re not planning to do anything that would give your mother reason to be annoyed.”

  “I don’t particularly think there’s any reason,” she  declared. “But she might. You know what she’s like.”

  “Don’t speak about your mother like that,” he rebuked, but it was more of a token protest than anything else. He knew exactly what she meant. Sometimes it seemed as if everything she did annoyed her mother. Alyssa couldn’t understand why Romilda hadn’t received as many O.W.Ls as her brother, or why she had received owls from Dumbledore complaining she'd  cheeked a teacher or been involved in a row with the Slytherins. She couldn’t understand why Romilda seemed to show little enthusiasm for a job in the Ministry or as a Healer, or why her daughter still hadn’t appeared to have made a decision on the career she wanted.

  “Why, Jovian knew since his third year that he wanted to be a Healer,” she declared in amazement when Romilda brushed off the question.

  Well, maybe Romilda had decided now, he  thought, but if she had, it sounded as if it was a decision her mother might not approve of.

 He hadn’t long to wait. As Romilda had promised, she made her announcement on Boxing day, after the family had had their lunch.

  “I've decided what I want to do when I leave Hogwarts,” she declared.

  “You have? That’s fantastic!” Alyssa replied. “What have you decided?”

  “I’ve applied for a position as Translator with the Magical Heritage Society,” Romilda replied.

 She didn’t remain silent for long.

  “What were you thinking of?” she exploded, once the immediate shock had worn off. “When you think of all the positions you could apply for! You could be a Healer. Or work in the Ministry. Or…or…be an Auror!”

  ThIs was Alyssa’s great hope- that one of her children would become an Auror. It hadn’t ever really been an option in Romilda’s case, however. Surely Alyssa must know that!

  If she hadn’t known previously, Romilda did her best to point it out now.

  “Mum, I’d never get the grades to be an Auror. Or a Healer. You KNOW that! Besides I wouldn’t get the chance to travel in any of those professions. AND I’d have to do further study. I’m sick of studying. I want to do something.”

  The argument continued to rage, but Romilda held all the cards. She was of age; legally allowed to make her own decisions. She didn’t need to do any more study, so she wouldn’t be dependent on her parents anyway. And she had already applied for the position.

 “Da-ad,” Romilda protested. “You think a Translator is a reasonable job for me, don’t you?”

  “Well, I’d like to know a little more about it, before I comment one way or the other,” he hedged. Privately, he saw no problem with Romilda taking up such a profession. After all, it wasn’t as if she wanted to work as a waitress or something. His snobbery might lead him to object to his daughter taking a position like that, but he could see nothing wrong with working as a Translator. It was perfectly acceptable to tell your colleagues  your daughter was doing that. Still, he wasn’t inclined to challenge his wife directly, so he was extremely grateful for the political experience he’d gained with regard to deflecting unwelcome questions.

  As Romilda explained why she wanted to work as a Translator and what the job was likely to entail, Alyssa got up to leave the room.

  As she did so, Jovian interrupted his sister’s report.

  “I think it’s a brilliant idea, Ro. It’ll suit you down to the ground. Honestly, Mum, Romilda was never going to take a boring stay-at-home job, like me or Dad. This way she’ll have a good permanent and pensionable job, as the Muggles say. And she can have her adventures.”

  This wasn’t exactly how Romilda had viewed the situation, but she couldn’t help feeling grateful for her brother’s intervention. Not that it had any major effect on her mother’s attitude. Alyssa simply turned and walked out the door, muttering something about it being “obvious I’m outnumbered.”


Chapter 7: Careers
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If Jovian had been his mother’s blue-eyed boy before Romilda made her announcement, he was even more so afterwards. Alyssa was willing to ignore his defence of his sister, as he was, after all, about to qualify as a Healer, which made up for quite a lot in his mother’s eyes.

The few letters which Alyssa condescended to send to her daughter were filled with news about how much progress Jovian was making in his studies, how she and Cornelius were so looking forward to his graduation and what a pity it was that Romilda would not see fit to follow in her brother’s footsteps.

Headstrong and quick-tempered as ever, Romilda soon stopped replying to her mother’s epistles. She made up for this by writing more regularly than ever before to her father and brother.

Honestly Dad, one of her letters began.
Mother is driving me absolutely crazy. I got a letter from her last week, absolutely filled with news about Jovan’s studies and his plans for employment. Not that I’m not interested in Jovian’s plans or anything, but I do think he is quite capable of telling me about them himself. And a whole letter about the options he has is a bit much, I think.

Why can’t she just accept that I am not Jovian and that I have absolutely no interest in becoming a Healer or an Auror or a Ministry of Magic employee? No offence or anything!

Why couldn’t Alyssa accept that Romilda was nothing like her parents or her older brother? It was a question that Cornelius had asked himself repeatedly and he had come up with no satisfactory answer. He did believe that his wife genuinely cared about him and their children, so why she judged them so much on their success he didn’t know. He supposed that she really did want the best for them. Sometimes, though, it was just too much pressure.

It was bad enough for him, and possibly for Jovian. And they had achieved the success that Alyssa demanded. Cornelius himself had secured the highest position possible in the wizarding society of Great Britain, and yet, there were times when he still felt the pressure of his wife’s ambitions. Times when he almost felt as though he wasn’t the phenomenon she believed him to be. It was partially this feeling, which he barely acknowledged even to himself, that drove him to aim more and more for power and position.

If he felt that pressure, when he himself was almost as anxious to achieve success as his wife was for him to achieve it, how much more difficult must it be for Romilda, who had no interest in the sort of success valued by her mother.

These were not thoughts that Cornelius articulated clearly. He lacked the insight and self-knowledge to really understand his own or his daughter’s motivations. Nonetheless, these unconscious thoughts lurked at the bottom of his mind and made him more sympathetic to his daughter’s situation than he might otherwise have been.

He and Alyssa barely discussed their daughter’s ambitions. Occasionally, Alyssa began to criticise Romilda and to compare her unfavourably to Jovian, but Cornelius brought the conversation to a close as quickly as he possibly could. He had no wish to take sides in the arguments between his wife and daughter.

In his letters to Romilda, however, he was able to offer a vague kind of support. He never openly encouraged her choice of career, but he congratulated her when, in March, she wrote to tell him that she had been granted an interview with the Magical Heritage Society.

It was Jovian, however, who was his sister’s staunchest supporter. In his view, Romilda was quite right to follow the career that interested her and he wrote to her, advising her to take no notice of their mother’s views.

Don’t mind her, he wrote regularly. She just wants us to do what she believes is best for her. But really, you have to do what you think is best for you, not what Mum thinks. She’ll get over it. After all, she has enough to boast about with me and dad, particularly dad being Minister of Magic. That’s enough success for any one family.

And anyway, I know you will be a successful Translator. The job suits you down to the ground and when you achieve success at it, Mum will be more than pleased you did it. Until then, just ignore her.

It wasn’t advice Romilda really needed. Cornelius and Alyssa’s younger child had never paid any attention to anything that didn’t suit her. In that sense, she was more like her mother than either would have admitted.

Both Cornelius and Jovian sent Romilda letters of encouragement when the day of the interview loomed. The Magical Heritage Society were coming to Hogwarts along with some other magical employers to interview those students which had expressed an interest in careers in their organisations.

Two weeks later, Cornelius received a letter from Romilda, informing him excitedly that the Magical Heritage Society had been quite satisfied with her and had informed her that if her results were satisfactory (a minimum of an E in Ancient Runes and As in her other subjects), they would offer her a job as Translator.

I don’t know how I’ll ever wait for my results, her letter concluded. Don’t tell Mum, but I am really worried that I won’t do well enough. As should be ok. I should manage that. But an E is another matter. Wish me luck.

Naturally, Cornelius did wish his daughter luck. And his son, who was studying for his final exams. Between them both and the pressures of work in the Ministry, he was pretty much in a constant state of anxiety. It was work which gave him the most worry, but he did hope that both of his children would get the results they needed.

Jovian’s results arrived before his sister’s and were just as good as everyone had expected them to be. He was now qualified as a Healer and in July, he was to have his graduation.

By that time, Romilda had finished her N.E.W.Ts and was in the process of waiting for her results. Like her parents, she was pleased for her brother, but at the same time, his success made her even more nervous that she might not be equally successful. Nonetheless, she managed to keep these views to herself and congratulated her brother warmly.

Alyssa was in her element at her son’s graduation. He had received the second highest results in his year, and although she was naturally disappointed that he hadn’t received the highest, second best was still something to boast about, and she lost no time in letting her daughter know just how pleased she was with Jovian.

Romilda totally ignored her mother’s digs. In one way, she would have liked to have a full blown row about it, but she had no intention of taking from her brother’s achievements, so she paid as little attention as possible to her mother and concentrated on worrying about her own results.

Despite Alyssa’s attitude, Romilda enjoyed her brother’s graduation as much as her parents did. Well, she enjoyed it as much as Cornelius did. It is doubtful if anybody could have enjoyed it as much as Alyssa, as she was phenomenally proud of her son, and went around commenting on his results to the other parents. If it was at all possibly to refer to “my husband, the Minister of Magic” in the same conversation, she mentioned that as well, and could only have been happier if her daughter had been offered some equally prestigious occupation.

Two days after the graduation, Jovian’s photo appeared in the Daily Prophet, above an article entitled “Minister’s son receives top grades.” It was hard to know who Alyssa was more pleased with-her son for receiving the top grades or her husband for making the family newsworthy in the first place.

By comparison, Romilda’s results, when they finally arrived, hardly merited a mention in Alyssa’s view. She received two Es, including the necessary one in Ancient Runes and As in her other subjects.

“Good enough for the Magical Heritage Society anyway,” Cornelius commented non-committally.

Jovian was more enthusiastic.

“You got the grades you needed. That’s fantastic, Ro. This requires celebration, doesn’t it Dad?”

“I suppose so,” Cornelius agreed. “What do you suggest?”

“It should be Romilda’s decision really,” Jovian pointed out. “But if she agrees, I think we should all go out for a meal. Wherever she likes.”

Romilda agreed readily and that evening she, Cornelius and Jovian went out for a meal to celebrate her results. Alyssa refused point-blank to come.

“Two Es and a couple of As,” she muttered disgustedly. “That’s nothing worth celebrating. Your brother got all Os.”

“Romilda isn’t Jovian,” Cornelius pointed out quietly, but his wife completely ignored him.

Despite her mother’s hostility to the idea, Romilda couldn’t help being excited by the prospect of work as a Translator. There would be an initial training period of a couple of weeks, she explained and after that, she would be sent somewhere to start work. It was likely to be somewhere exotic. The Magical Heritage Society had already suggested that they were in need of Translator in African countries. Many witches and wizards were unwilling to travel so far away, particularly if they were married with families, and Africa had a particularly interesting magical heritage.

Two weeks after the arrival of her results, Romilda set off for the training period. For the three weeks she would spend training, she would be coming home every evening but after that she would off to wherever she was to work.

As she had predicted herself, it was Africa to which she was sent; Tunisia to be precise. She was really excited to be going somewhere so exotic; somewhere she had never seen before.

“Won’t you miss us at all?” Jovian asked.

“Not really,” she admitted. “After all, I’ll be home for Christmas. And I’ve been away from home at Hogwarts for the past seven years. Actually, it’ll probably be easier to get home from Tunisia than it was from Hogwarts, as I will be taking my apparition test soon and if I pass, I’ll be able to apparate and come home whenever I wish. Besides, I’ll probably be much too busy to miss anybody. You know what I am disappointed about though?”

“What?” Jovian asked.

“I’ve just realised Harry Potter should be starting at Hogwarts next month. It would be so cool to be there when he was. Isn’t it just my luck that I’ve left just before he starts. Still, he’ll only be a first year kid anyway. I guess I wouldn’t see much of him even if I were going back. He would be in my house though.”

“How do you know that?”

“Em, this is Harry Potter; the son of Lily and James Potter. Where else would he go? Honestly! You’re supposed to be the one who reads all the stuff about the history of the wizarding world. And you were old enough when Harry defeated You-Know-Who to understand what all the excitement was about! I was only about 8!”

“Ok, ok, Romilda. I just forgot. Still you’ll probably meet plenty of exciting people in Tunisia, even if you don’t get to meet Harry.”

Before she left, Romilda took and passed her apparition test.

“See, I’ll have no problem getting home for Christmas now,” she smiled before she left.

With Romilda in Tunisia, both of Cornelius’ children were now set up in careers, as Jovian had secured a position as Healer in St. Mungo’s. He still hadn’t finished studying though, as his present position was only as an ordinary Healer and he hoped to specialise eventually in Spell Damage, particularly in the mental problems which could be caused by particular spells, if incorrectly used. There was a particularly interesting case in St. Mungo’s of a husband and wife who had been tortured into insanity during the Reign of Terror.

Naturally, Alyssa was delighted that he had decided to continue studying. A specialist was something even better to boast about than an ordinary Healer. Both she and Cornelius listened interestedly to Jovian’s descriptions of his work when he arrived home each evening. Or at least Cornelius listened when he wasn’t too overburdened with work. He also replied regularly to Romilda’s letters describing her work in Tunisia. He had slightly more time to pay attention to his children now, as work was beginning to calm down. This was partly because he was becoming more used to the work he had to do and partly due to Dumbledore’s help.

Alyssa, on the other hand, paid little, if any, attention to Romilda’s news, preferring to focus on her son’s. Even when Romilda returned home for Christmas, Alyssa chose to ignore her daughter’s references to her work as much as possible.

Therefore, Romilda corresponded with her father more than ever before, and despite how busy he continued to be at work, Cornelius looked forward to her descriptions of Tunisia and the work she was doing there.

It was easy enough to see why the work appealed to her. Even though the actual work of translating could be pretty boring, the texts of the Ancient African spells were often quite fascinating, and working in such an exotic environment helped to make it interesting.

Chapter 8: The Chamber of Secrets
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Author's Note: The events of this chapter are from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and are therefore the property of J.K. Rowling. The first underlined sentence is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, British edition, page 193 and the later two underlined sentences are from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, British edition, page 194. No copyright infringement is intended.


The Chamber of Secrets

Not that his own work couldn’t be equally exciting on occasion, Cornelius thought. Of course 90% of the time it was entirely repetitive and boring, but sometimes it was exciting or even glamorous.

The glamour was provided by the parties and functions which he was required to attend, usually accompanied by his wife. Alyssa was in her element at these events, and Cornelius too enjoyed hobnobbing with the highest in the wizarding world.

His pleasure, however was not entirely without purpose. It was important in his position to be seen to have a presence at such events and keeping in with people like the Malfoys was extremely important. They continued to be important contributors to a number of projects and they were also extremely influential. If they supported a particular person or project, others would too.

Cornelius genuinely believed that this was the only reason why he was so obliging towards people like the Malfoys and would have been totally bewildered if anybody had accused them, as they could with justification have done, of pride in being seen in the company of the rich and powerful. He considered himself completely indifferent to the glamour of high office.

Being Minister of Magic could occasionally be exciting too, although this was something which did not appeal as greatly to the present Minister as the glamour of his position did. Excitement usually meant a lot of hard work and also a high profile for the problem in question. The latter could sometimes be a good thing, as it meant that if he successfully resolved the problem, he was guaranteed good publicity. The opposite was true, however, if he made a mistake, or even if the issue was not immediately resolved to the public’s satisfaction.

Being extremely aware of all these issues, Cornelius’ feelings were deeply mixed when he received a message from Hogwarts, stating simply:
The Chamber of Secrets has been opened again.

The Chamber of Secrets? Cornelius racked his brains. He remembered hearing something about that when he had started Hogwarts himself, well over 40 years ago now. There was a rumour that it had been opened a couple of years previously, but as far as he could make out, the students had been strictly forbidden to talk about what had happened and therefore he had heard very little about it really.

He would have to look through the records. And speak to Dumbledore, of course. If anybody would be able to give him the information he needed, it was Dumbledore.

If he could solve this mystery and see that the culprit was arrested quickly, it would be a major feather in his cap. One thing that really worried people, probably more than any other, was to see their children in danger. If he could obtain the credit for ensuring the safety of Hogwarts pupils, his support would escalate.

On the other hand, if this wasn’t solved quickly, you could be sure that people would find someway of blaming him for the problems. It would be a result of his not implementing harsh enough policies or allowing Dumbledore too much freedom in Hogwarts or something. One thing you learned pretty quickly as Minister was that anything that went wrong was your fault, somehow. If it rained, he sometimes thought, people would find someway of blaming him.

Nor was he completely insensitive to the worries of the parents of Hogwarts’ pupils. If this had happened two years ago…. He shuddered at the thought. Like most parents, Cornelius felt that the worst thing that could possibly happen was to have one or both of his children in danger.

The thought that it could be Jovian or Romilda in danger from whatever it was that was emerging from the Chamber of Secrets to terrorise the students of Hogwarts made Cornelius even more determined to find the culprit and ensure they were safely ensconced in Azkaban as quickly as he could possibly arrange it.

The first issue, he decided, was to get Dumbledore to come to the Ministry as quickly as possible to discuss the situation.

Dumbledore was as succinct as usual. A cat had been petrified originally, he explained and a message had been daubed on the wall, giving a mysterious message. The fabled Chamber of Secrets had, it claimed, again been opened.

Concerning though Dumbledore had considered this to be, the Ministry of Magic really had not considered the petrification of a cat and some silly graffiti on a school wall to be any of it’s business. Even though Dumbledore had contacted the Ministry at the time, they had been inclined to write it off as a student prank.

This, at least, was Dumbledore’s description of events. Cornelius had no knowledge of any report. Of course an attack on a cat would be unlikely to reach the lofty echelons of the Minister of Magic’s office. Most likely it had been reported to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement who would have promised to look into it.

Now, however, the situation had become a lot more serious. A young boy-a first year, which would be sure to cause maximum panic- had also fallen victim to whatever it was that was stalking the corridors of Hogwarts. That was definitely an issue for the Ministry.

Dumbledore, however, was much less help than Cornelius would have expected him to be. He seemed convinced that You-Know-Who had some part in this.

“But, Albus,” Cornelius remarked reasonably. “We all know that You-Know-Who disappeared years ago. How could he possibly be wandering undetected around the corridors of Hogwarts.”

“That, Cornelius, is what we need to find out.”

Cornelius returned to the Ministry in a state of disappointment. He really had hoped that Albus Dumbledore would be able to shed some light on this mystery. Well, if he was entirely honest, he had hoped that Dumbledore would be able to give him some insight which he could hopefully pass off as his own. Dumbledore wouldn’t mind who had had the brainwave, just as long as his precious students were safe.

To Cornelius’ disappointment, however, all Dumbledore had been able to come up with was You-Know-Who mysteriously guiding events unknown to anybody. The man appeared to be loosing his touch. Well, he was getting on a bit. Best wizard in the world in his day and all, but maybe his day was over. Maybe this situation required a younger mind.

With this thought in his mind, Cornelius set to work, reading through the records of the previous time when the Chamber of Secrets had been opened.

It took him a couple of days to read through the entire file, but once he had, the whole situation looked completely clear. The person who had originally opened the Chamber of Secrets was still at Hogwarts. Rubeus Hagrid.

Cornelius couldn’t say that he was surprised. His work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures had given him ample evidence of the vicious nature of giants, and even though it was not generally known, Cornelius Fudge was well aware of the fact that Rubeus Hagrid was half-giant. Obviously he had inherited a love of violence from whichever parent it was who had been a giant. In addition to that, Cornelius was acquainted with Hagrid’s love of all kinds of dangerous creatures. The legend of the Chamber of Secrets indicated that there was some kind of creature holed up in there. It didn’t take any great leap of the imagination to see Rubeus Hagrid releasing whatever beast was to be found in there-a giant spider according to the records-and allowing it to roam the corridors of the school. To Cornelius Fudge’s way of thinking, the only mystery was why the creature had disappeared for fifty years.

Given the choice, he would have headed to Hogwarts immediately to arrest Hagrid. The only thing that dissuaded him was Dumbledore’s strong objections to such a course of action. He still maintained that the Dark Lord was involved in this somehow, and repeatedly voiced his confidence in Hagrid’s innocence. Despite the strong evidence of Hagrid’s guilt, Cornelius couldn’t help granting some credence to Dumbledore’s view. He was usually right, after all and the last thing Cornelius wanted was to be proven to have made a major mistake. Arresting the wrong man certainly wouldn’t increase his popularity.

Alyssa was contemptuous of his reluctance to move.

“You are the Minister,” she pointed out. “Not Dumbledore. If you are convinced the man is guilty, then you ought to deal with it.”

He could see her point, but at the same time…

“Dumbledore has asked for some time,” he explained. “If he cannot prove Hagrid’s innocence soon, of course I shall act in the proper manner.”

Circumstances, however, prevented Cornelius from allowing Dumbledore as much time as the older man would have liked. Another student- a 2nd year this time, and one of the Hogwarts’ ghosts were attacked. The Ministry would have to act. The time had come to make a call to Hogwarts.

Cornelius Fudge hated situations like this. He preferred to be ingratiating to everybody. This situation, however necessitated one of the confrontations he hated. And this time it would be worse as the accused would be supported by none other than Albus Dumbledore.

He entered Hagrid’s cabin awkwardly.

“I want it understood, Cornelius, that Hagrid has my full confidence,” Dumbledore stressed, as they entered the cabin.

Fudge tried to pacify both Dumbledore and Hagrid, assuring them that it was only a precaution and not a punishment; that Hagrid would be released as soon as the real culprit was found. The words seemed to fall on deaf ears. It was obvious that the half-giant was terrified at the idea of Azkaban. Strange. It had never really occurred to Cornelius that they had emotions like that.

Then just as he thought the ordeal was over, Lucius Malfoy arrived at the cabin.

“Already here, Fudge,” he said approvingly. “Good, good….”

But there was nothing good about what Lucius was suggesting, Cornelius Fudge thought in alarm. He wanted Dumbledore suspended, and had received the signatures of all twelve governors of Hogwarts, demanding this.

Fudge was trapped. They couldn’t suspend Dumbledore. Ok, so the danger should be over now that Hagrid had been arrested, but could they be absolutely sure about that? What if the attacks did continue? Even assuming Hagrid was the man, and Fudge was fairly sure he was, what if the creature he had released was still at large? Without Dumbledore, the chances of the situation being contained became significantly slimmer.

On the other hand, it didn’t do to oppose Lucius Malfoy. The Ministry was presently hoping they could convince him to make another donation. And of course, the next Quidditch World Cup was to be held in Britain in little over a year. That would be quite a lot of initial expenditure. Cornelius was also hoping that Lucius Malfoy could be persuaded to contribute to that.

What should he say? How could he make the need for Dumbledore clear without alienating one of his most valuable supporters.

He managed a feeble protest. “Dumbledore suspended….no, no…..last thing we want just now-“

To his embarrassment, Rubeus Hagrid managed a far more forceful protest against Dumbledore’s suspension than he did. Not that Lucius paid the slightest attention to either of them. Strictly speaking, of course, he was correct. It was the governors who decided who should be headmaster-or headmistress- of Hogwarts, but Fudge couldn’t help feeling that he should have been more forceful in stressing the Ministry’s view. He was uneasily aware that if it hadn’t been Lucius Malfoy that he was speaking to, he probably would have been.

Nonetheless, he was relieved to have the situation dealt with. Putting the issue of Dumbledore’s position firmly out of his mind, he praised himself for having dealt courageously and effectively with the problem of Hagrid. There, he had shown true leadership, he told himself. He had put his regard and very real admiration for Dumbledore out of his mind and had done his duty.

Jovian, however, was less supportive than Cornelius would have expected his son to be.

“Dad, are you sure Hagrid is guilty,” he asked doubtfully. “I remember him well from when I was at Hogwarts and I am sure he would never have done anything to harm any of the students.”

“You can never know what they will do,” Cornelius replied, referring to Hagrid’s parentage.

“I don’t believe it?” Jovian stressed. “All this stuff about giants-well I don’t know much about them, but I do know Hagrid and he certainly isn’t vicious or stupid or any of the other things giants are supposed to be. He’s one of the kindest people in Hogwarts.”

“Well, maybe he didn’t intend it,” Cornelius gave in. “Maybe it was just his love of monsters. He may just have believed the monster was misunderstood.” His tone showed exactly what he thought of such misguided kindness. In Cornelius’ view, some creatures were just bad. Giants were one such example and trolls were another. He could never understand people who, against all the evidence, argued that such creatures were just misunderstood.

Maybe his own background made Hagrid sympathetic to such creatures, but to be honest, Cornelius was of the opinion that Hagrid had known exactly what he was doing. Despite what Dumbledore appeared to think, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as a general rule.

However, Alyssa appeared to be the only member of Cornelius’ own family to share his view. Jovian appear convinced that his father had made a mistake and although Romilda was not as sure as her brother, she also expressed surprise that Hagrid could have done such a thing. She did agree, though, that he may have simply wanted to give the monster some freedom. It was the kind of thing he would do.

Jovian remained unconvinced. That Hagrid would release the creature once, he could possibly believe, but that he would do so again, when it had already been proven that the beast was capable of such acts-that he did not believe. And how could Hagrid be the heir of Slytherin, he argued. Slytherin was utterly opposed to half-bloods.

Cornelius ignored his son’s objections. Of course, having attended Hogwarts and known Hagrid, his children would find it difficult to accept that he had any part in such crimes. How often did the families and friends of convicted criminals make similar claims? But he never seemed the type was the frequently heard cry. Cornelius had heard that Sirius Black, one of the most notorious criminals in Azkaban had always seemed like a really nice guy, until it had been proven that he was a serial killer and a supporter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. You could never be sure about anybody.

The more he thought about it, the more convinced that Fudge became of Hagrid’s guilt. It had been only Dumbledore’s doubts that had led him to question it, he told himself and of course, everybody knew that Dumbledore had rather liberal views about half-humans, and many other things as well.

Therefore, he was completely surprised when Dumbledore contacted him to let him know that the situation had been adequately resolved and that he had written to Azkaban to demand Hagrid’s release. Apparently some silly little first year girl had gotten hold of the diary of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and had been enchanted into doing the Dark Lord’s work for him.

Well, how could he have been expected to allow for a situation like that, he defended himself. Nobody could possibly have figured out that the Dark Lord would have enchanted something in order to ensure that the Chamber should be opened years after he left Hogwarts.

Nonetheless, it was embarrassing to have been so badly mistaken. The incident of the Chamber of Secrets was one which Cornelius wanted to forget as quickly as possible.

Chapter 9: A challange for the Ministry.
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Author's Note: This chapter records events from Harry Potter and the Prisoner  of Azkaban. These situations are the property of J.K. Rowling, as are the underlined sentences, which have been taken directly from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, British edition, page 33.

A Challenge for the Ministry

The summer of 1993 was one of the most stressful so far in Fudge’s career as Minister of Magic. Less than two months after he was proven to have been mistaken with regard to the identity of the person who had opened the Chamber of Secrets, another crises arose for the Ministry. Probably the biggest crises of Fudge’s Ministry and possibly the greatest since the defeat of You-Know-Who.

It was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement who sheepishly announced the bad news to the Minister. It was not something he relished telling his boss. After all it was a major embarrassment for his department.

Fudge, however, was still irritable about being proved wrong, and was in no mood to wait until the man was ready to share whatever information he had.

“Get to the point,” he snapped. “Something’s happened and it’s obviously unpleasant. Now just let me know what it is and then maybe we’ll be able to limit the damage somewhat.”

“It’s more than unpleasant,” the man stammered. “It’s….well, a prisoner is after escaping from Azkaban.”

“Escaping?” Cornelius asked in amazement. “But that’s impossible.”

“Nonetheless, it’s what’s happened.”

“Which prisoner?”

The head of the department of Magical Law Enforcement stumbled over his words again.

“Em, Sirius Black, Minister.”

“Sirius Black,” Cornelius cried in alarm. Of all the prisoners in Azkaban, Black was one of the most feared. This was the man who had killed thirteen people with a single curse, the man who had blasted all of those people to their deaths, simply because he wished to kill one man, Peter Pettigrew. The others were nothing more to him than collateral damage. It was suggested that Black had been…well, You-Know-Who’s right hand man. Apart from the Dark Lord himself, there were few names that would strike greater fear into the hearts of most witches and wizards than that of Sirius Black.

Almost before the Minister had had time to absorb the idea of one of the wizarding world’s most notorious criminals being on the loose, the head of Magical Law Enforcement asked permission to invite the Azkaban guards in and they shared another worrying piece of information.

“Black has been talking in his sleep recently,” they explained. “Repeating the same words over and over again. Talking about somebody being at Hogwarts."

“And who do we believe he was referring to.” Fudge addressed this question to the head of Magical Law Enforcement, reluctant to communicate with the terrifying creatures who guarded Azkaban.

“There’s only one person it can apply to really,” he replied. “Harry Potter.”

It made sense, Cornelius supposed. After all, here was a man who had expected to achieve great success on the tailcoats of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And then, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named vanished, destroying all Black’s hopes. As far as the Ministry could work out, it was this which had driven Black over the edge, for he was undoubtedly insane at the time of his arrest. Since then…, well Cornelius wasn’t so sure of the man’s inherent. In his view, it was merely the knowledge that all the plans which he and his master had made had been shattered by one little boy which had led to his crazy behaviour.

So what was more natural than that, after escaping, he would try to seek revenge on the child which had ended all his hopes.

Natural it may be, but it created a major headache for the Ministry. An escaped prison was bad enough, even worse when that prisoner had a reputation like Black’s. But when that escaped prisoner was targeting a young boy at his school…. well, the thing took on even greater significance. Particularly after what had taken place at Hogwarts the previous couple of terms.

First the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, the petrification of a number of staff and students, then the abduction of a young girl and her near death in that very same chamber and now the possibility of the school being attacked by a notorious mass murderer. How were the parents going to feel?

Once again the thought of his own son and daughter entered his head. How would he feel if this had happened when either or both of them were attending the school. Romilda had expressed disappointment that she was to leave the school before Harry enrolled, but if there was a danger of killers attacking the school in order to revenge themselves on him, Cornelius would be just as happy for both of his children to keep as far as possible away from Harry Potter.

He turned his mind back to the problems at hand. As far as the Ministry was concerned, the problem was two-fold. Well, three-fold, at least, if you included the apprehension of Black, but as regards the school, there were two major problems. One was the reaction of wizarding parents. The Ministry’s stance on law and order was bound to be questioned as a result of Black’s escape and if he attacked the school, wizarding parents would be livid, and likely to look for a scapegoat. Fudge had no intention of allowing the Ministry to be made a scapegoat for what was obviously a problem at Azkaban. Still, how to convince the parents of that; that was the problem.

The other problem was the parents of Muggle-born students. If they came to hear of the problems which Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, and doubtlessly they would, what would their reaction be. The possibility of an attack by Sirius Black, in addition to strange beasts attacking staff and students might appear to them adequate reasons to withdraw their children from the school and return them to the Muggle world, which would seem to them, far safer.

Of course wizarding parents could withdraw their children too and send them to schools abroad, such as Beauxbatons or Drumstrang. But while this would be a disappointment, it would not be the disaster that the withdrawal of the Muggle borns would be. Fourteen, fifteen, even sixteen year olds who hadn’t yet taken their O.W.Ls. Half trained as witches and wizards, with a significant knowledge of magic, but without the full training; these could prove a major problem to both the wizarding and Muggle worlds in the near future.

Of course there were two ways in which they could, hopefully, prevent either of these possibilities becoming a reality. One was the immediate apprehension of Black. That, of course, would be the ideal solution.

Failing that, they would need to put in place, provisions for the protection of Hogwarts. These provisions would have to be both effective and highly visible. It was necessary, not only that the children be safe, but that both they and their parents could see that they were safe.

In order to ensure this, Fudge realised that he may well have to face argument with Dumbledore. In Dumbledore’s view, Hogwarts was already one of the safest places in Britain. Cornelius didn’t question that. It may well be true, he thought, but the issue was to ensure parents were made aware of this. Dumbledore was handicapped by the fact that he did not have any children himself and therefore could not be expected to understand what parents went through when there was the slightest possibility that their children might be in danger.

There was only one provision that could ensure the protection of Hogwarts, and it was one which Cornelius knew would not be welcomed by Dumbledore. They would have to get some of the Dementors to guard the school. He could understand Dumbledore’s reluctance. He didn’t like the creatures much himself, but there was no denying they were good at what they did. Ok, so they had let Black escape, but that was one man. In all the years they had been guarding the place, Black was, as far as Cornelius Fudge knew, the only man to escape from the prison. A record like that spoke for itself.

Not in Dumbledore’s view, though, apparently. He was as adamantly opposed to such a move as Cornelius had feared he would be.

“I don’t want those creatures around my school,” he replied flatly, when Cornelius asked his permission to station Dementors at Hogwarts. “How could we possibly teach with those things around.”

“Oh come on, Albus,” Cornelius pleaded. “Please reconsider. I know what they are like. I had them in describing Black’s recent behaviour to me. Ugh, it was one of the worst experiences of my life.”

“Then surely you can understand why I wouldn’t want them around our students,” the headmaster responded in a tone of finality. “You must remember that some of our students are a mere eleven years old.”

“And do you want Sirius Black around such young children,” Cornelius snapped. Then he quickly relented, as he realised that Albus Dumbledore could never be bullied into agreeing to anything he did not approve of.

“Look Albus,” he continued, in a more conciliatory tone. “What if I were to give you my solemn word that the Azkaban guards would never enter Hogwarts’ grounds. Would you be agreeable to their remaining outside and simply guarding the premises.”

“To be entirely honest, I’d prefer they kept well away from the place, but in view of the present situation, so long as they do not enter the grounds, I will agree to their guarding the school.”

“Thank you Albus. I can assure you, you won’t regret this.”

“I think I already do,” Dumbledore replied dryly. Cornelius decided to take the remark as a joke and moved quickly on to the next issue which he wanted to discuss with Dumbledore; the question of how much the Muggle population should be told.

“I don’t want to speak to the Muggle leaders,” he explained. “You know the kind of reaction I am likely to get if I do so. But on the other hand, Black is as much a danger to Muggles as to the magical community. More so, possibly, if he shares some of his master’s more radical views. Do you think I should say something?”

“I don’t think you have any choice, quite frankly,” Dumbledore replied. “I would suggest you speak privately with the man they term their Prime Minister. I know you have already briefed him on the existence of the magical community. Ask him to keep the conversation private, though. Mind you, I shouldn’t imagine that you will have much difficulty getting him to agree to that.” Dumbledore chuckled.

Nonetheless, he had a point. It was unlikely that anybody would believe reports of the magical world, even if they were given by such an important person as the Prime Minister. And nobody in high office would leave themselves open to ridicule by announcing details of a discussion such as the one he was planning to have with the Prime Minister. As a high ranking official himself, he was well aware that he would never allow himself to be ridiculed by admitting his belief in anything that his people were likely to consider impossible. It didn’t exactly advance your career!

In order to prove who he was and to avoid the difficulties attendant in gaining entrance to the Prime Minister’s private offices, Cornelius Fudge decided to floo into the office.

It proved to be a possible mistake. The Prime Minister nearly fainted when the other man appeared in his office dressed in green robes and carrying a wand. He turned as pale as snow and managed a faltering "What are you doing here?”

“I've come to inform you of recent events in our world. "
“Well, sit down,” the Prime Minister invited, appearing to finally accept the strange apparition. “What was it that you wanted to discuss with me? I understood that your-people, if that is what I should call you- kept yourselves quite separate.”

“As a general rule, yes we do. And I must ask you to keep all unnecessary details of this conversation strictly between ourselves. We do rather value our privacy.”

“Of course, of course,” the Prime Minister assured him. “Anything that does not have to become public knowledge, will naturally remain between ourselves.”

At that moment, there was a knock on the door of the office.

“Yes,” the Prime Minister replied sharply.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” said a young woman, entering the room. “But you do have a meeting in twenty minutes time. And it will take you most of that time to get there.”

“Thank you for reminding me,” the Prime Minister smiled. “But I’m afraid I’m going to be slightly delayed. Could you possibly phone and ask if the meeting could be delayed by say half an hour?”

Here he looked at Cornelius Fudge, as though to ask if half an hour would be sufficient. Fudge nodded and the woman agreed to do as she had been asked.

“Thank you very much. I’m sorry for that interruption,” he said to Cornelius as the woman left the office. “What was it you were saying?”

“Have you heard of Azkaban?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“It’s our prison. The wizarding prison,” he explained, in case the Prime Minister had not understood. “At the moment we have a serious crisis. A man called Sirius Black has escaped. This man is extremely dangerous and has already killed twelve Mugg….-I mean non-magical people. This crime was one of the reasons why he was sent to Azkaban.”

“Sirius Black,” the Prime Minister repeated. “I’ll make a note of that. And you say he’s escaped.”

“Yes. I consider it important that the non-magical community is made aware of the threat caused by this man, but I would prefer if you did not let people know that he can use magic.”

The Prime Minister thought for a moment.

“How about if I tell the media that this man is carrying a gun? You are aware of what a gun is, I suppose?”

“Something which you use to kill one another,” Cornelius replied uncertainly. “Yes, that would do very well,” he continued as the Prime Minister nodded.

“Do you have a picture of this man? Or any possible way of identifying him?”

“I do,” Cornelius replied, taking a photograph which had been doctored to remain still especially for this purpose.

“It goes without saying that I will keep you fully informed of all developments in this situation. I take it you would prefer if I sent the letter by your postal service rather than by owl post.”

“Yes, I think I would prefer that,” the Prime Minister smiled. “I think a flock of owls arriving at these offices might attract a certain amount of attention. Thank you for making me aware of this situation.”

“You’re welcome,” Cornelius replied. “Now, I had better return to my duties and allow you to go to your meeting.”

With that, he disapparated, leaving the Prime Minister unsure whether or not he had really seen and heard what he thought he had. In order to convince himself that he was not going mad, he had to look down at his desk where he had placed the picture of this wizard killer and the notes which he had made with regard to his identity. He would have to let the media know about the escape as soon as possible.

As soon as the situation was announced in the Muggle media, the recriminations began for Cornelius Fudge. The Daily Prophet interviewed him about his decision, stressing the opposition of many people in the wizarding world to this move.

He was annoyed. He had only done what needed to be done and people still complained.

“Well, really, I had to, don’t you know?” he replied shortly. What did they expect, after all? To reassure them, he continued, "I have the Prime Minister’s assurance that he will not breathe a word of Black’s true identity to anyone."

When that issue of the Daily Prophet came out, Cornelius was relieved to see that they had quoted him accurately. You could usually depend on the Daily Prophet to do so. Some of the other papers seemed to go out of their way to discredit the media. Even the Daily Prophet seemed rather doubtful about what he had done, however.

Still, Cornelius was convinced he had done everything possible to limit the likely damage caused by Black’s escape. Now, hopefully, all the Ministry would have to do was wait for his recapture, either by the Magical Law Enforcement squad or the Azkaban guards.

Chapter 10: The search for Harry Potter
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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.


The Search for Harry Potter.

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… 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.”

Chapter 11: No Success.
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Author's note: Like the two previous chapters, the events of this chapter have been taken from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and are the property of J.K. Rowling, as are the underlined sentences, which are direct quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, British edition, page 155.

No Success.

Once Harry returned to school, the immediate pressure on the Ministry was relaxed. Of course, it was still a major embarrassment that a high security prisoner like Sirius Black should have managed to escape and it was still top priority that he be recaptured as quickly as possible, but it was no longer so urgent that it required the personal attention of the Minister himself at all times.

Therefore, Cornelius was able to spend some time with his family during the last week of his daughter’s holiday.

Five days before she returned to Tunisia, Carla was invited to dine with the family. Naturally, she had been introduced to Romilda shortly after Romilda had arrived back in England, but the official invitation to dinner had been postponed until the family were pretty sure that Cornelius would be able to be there. It would be a little rude to invite the girl and for him to have to disappear practically as soon as she arrived.

Although, to be fair to Carla, she always showed a good deal of interest in Cornelius’ position as Minister and she now showed equal interest in Romilda’s job. In this way, she made herself quite popular with Jovian’s family, even Romilda, who had expected to dislike her, having known only that she was a Healer, worked with Jovian and appeared to be quite ambitious and likely to be successful. Even though that description could just as easily have been applied to Jovian himself, Romilda was inclined to picture the girl as humourless, ambitious and intellectual. Perhaps a more successful and possibly harder version of her own mother.

The fact that she was a half-blood added to this impression. Romilda would have strongly denied any prejudice with regard to blood, but nonetheless it was her impression that Muggle borns and half-bloods took magic far more seriously than those who were born into entirely wizarding families. They were less inclined to take magic for granted, she supposed, when she bothered to think about it at all.

To an extent Carla confirmed this impression. She did take her job as Healer seriously, and when asked, by Alyssa, about her ambitions, she told the Fudges that she was very interested in genetics, particularly the research which was currently taking place into the phenomenon of squibs.

“If we could manage to tell, before birth, which children were likely to be born as squibs, it would make it significantly easier for both parents and children to accept the situation,” she explained. “Did you know that there have been some situations where wizarding families have not realised a child was a squib until the child failed to be accepted to Hogwarts or a similar school? There is research taking place at the moment as regards why some children are born as squibs and if it is possible to predict which witches and wizards are most likely to produce squibs. I would really like to be involved in that. I think it is a very worthwhile exercise.”

Alyssa agreed. “If either of my children had turned out to be squibs…” At this she paused, as though the horrible possibility of such an event had just hit her. “Not that there was any likelihood of either of them being, of course.”

“Of course,” Carla agreed pleasantly.

“But if I had been unlucky enough to have such a child, then I think I would have liked to know as quickly as possible. They say there are many things that such children can learn, if they are given the correct education and everything of course. Apparently some of them have managed to become quite successful.” Her tone indicated incredulity. “I am sure it must be important that they get the right kind of education as early as possible.”

“I wouldn’t really know much about that,” Carla replied apologetically. “My interest has been entirely in the genetic side of the thing. I do think it must be a very difficult thing to hear at eleven if you have always taken it for granted that you are magical, though. Particularly if you are entirely wizarding born and know little or nothing about the Muggle world. At least, in my case, had I been a squib, I would have plenty of relations in the Muggle world who would be able to advise me as regards how to manage without magic.”

“She’s nice, isn’t she?” Cornelius commented to Romilda after Carla had left.

“Surprisingly so,” Romilda agreed. “I don’t know; I think I was sort of expecting her to be a real pain. I guess that was because Mum was so impressed by her. It’s difficult enough to please Mum and being a half-blood…..”

“Ah, well,” Cornelius began uncomfortably. He generally reserved his highest respect for those of wizarding blood, but of course, Carla’s father’s family were of wizarding blood, so it wasn’t as if she was Muggle born. Not that he had anything against those of Muggle birth, he told himself. It just made things easier when you married someone of a similar background to yourself.

He didn’t say any of this to Romilda, though. She might see it as prejudice or something. His daughter could be odd like that. She tended to view perfectly reasonably concerns as being based on prejudice or out-dated ideas. Oh, well, she was young. The young were naturally idealistic. Jovian was the same sometimes. It was only as you got older that you realised there were very good reasons for certain restrictions, even if they seemed unfair.

For Merlin’s sake, if you were to judge things solely on fairness, then giants and werewolves and all kind of dangerous creatures would be allowed to roam the streets freely on equal terms with innocent human beings. Cornelius chuckled to himself at the idea. You had to have some judgement too. It was trying to balance all those different elements that made the position of Minister so challenging, Cornelius decided.

Despite some of the irritating ideas his daughter held, it was good to have her home for a while, Cornelius thought, and it was disappointing that she had to return to work so soon. Why did crises always have to take place at such annoying times?

“Oh well,” Romilda said, as she prepared to return to Tunisia. “I might be able to get home for a weekend sometime before Christmas. Being able to apparate makes it much easier to get home quickly. I’ll try and get home for Halloween, but I do have to maintain a social life, you know.”

Hearing this, Cornelius couldn’t help wondering if she had a boyfriend or someone in Tunisia. Of course there were quite a few wizards working with her. It would be hardly surprising if she were seeing one of them. It was just that Romilda had never brought anybody home to meet them and rarely mentioned any guys; either boys she had been at school with or fellows she worked with.

Jovian hadn’t had many girlfriends, but there was one girl at school that he had had a two year relationship with. It had only ended when they had left Hogwarts and had both got a bit caught up in their new lives. And there had been a girl on the Healer’s course that he had fancied, but who, unfortunately for him, hadn’t been interested. He had given his family at least a censored version of his relationships with these girls. Romilda, on the other hand, had never told them anything about whatever boys, if any, she had been interested in.

Not that Cornelius had much time to dwell on what this might mean. Even with Harry safe at Hogwarts, the issue of Black’s escape became more and more of a worry to the Ministry as the months wore on. Cornelius was no longer involved in the actual physical search, but he was required to brief the media on the situation on regular intervals, and also to keep the Muggle Ministry informed of developments. This was on top of his usual work and certainly kept him busy.

The panic in the wizarding world reached its height shortly after Halloween when it became known that Black had managed to somehow enter Hogwarts and find his way to Harry’s own dormitory. Luckily the boy had been at the Halloween feast; Black had chosen the wrong day to find him in his dormitory. Well, it was hardly surprising that he’d lose track of such feast days after 12 years in Azkaban where celebrations were rare.

To the Ministry, however, the fact that Harry had been safely out of the way was a very minor consolation. Oh, on a personal level, Cornelius was pleased. As were most of the rest of the Ministry and particularly Arthur Weasley. But it didn’t make their job much easier. The very fact that Black was able to enter Hogwarts so inexplicably threatened to cause mass panic.

It was imperative that Sirius Black be apprehended as soon as possible, Cornelius berated the Ministry employees. It was the only way of restoring faith in the Ministry’s policies on law and order.

Unfortunately, there appeared to be little success in this area. Cornelius himself made a couple of trips to Hogwarts, as that appeared to be the place most likely for Black to turn up at, but he achieved little. Nobody appeared to have any idea how Black had entered the castle. Logically speaking, it was impossible, particularly with Dementors stationed at every entrance.

Even Dumbledore was flummoxed.

“I wouldn’t have believed that he would find it so easy to get into the castle,” he told the Minister, sounding quite concerned. “But then, I wouldn’t have believed that he would have been able to escape Azkaban so easily either. Cornelius, I think you have to consider the possibility that he may have gained the support of one or more of the Dementors. I have already voiced my concerns about their loyalty to the Ministry. The possibility that their support could be gained quite easily, by Voldemort has worried me for some time.”

“Nonsense,” Cornelius blustered. “The loyalty of the Dementors is beyond question. I know you don’t like them, Albus. To be honest, neither do I. But I can assure you that they are completely under the control of the Ministry.”

“Well, I hope you’re right, Cornelius,” Dumbledore replied, without any reduction of the concern which showed in his voice. “But it strikes me as very suspicious. The Dementors were guarding Azkaban and Black managed to escape. The Dementors guard the castle and Black manages to slip past them. Severus has also commented on the possibility of Black hasn’t inside help. I’m not the only one wondering. Although I must admit, that the possibility of Dementor involvement has not occurred to him.”

“And I can assure you that he is absolutely right. I am entirely confident of the Ministry’s ability to control the Dementors.”

Cornelius refused to consider the possibility that any of the Dementors might not be loyal to the Ministry. It would be a situation of nightmarish portions and he could not bring himself to grant it any credence whatsoever. It was a fault of Cornelius’ that he refused to acknowledge anything that he did not want to believe, and the possibility that the Dementors might betray the Ministry was one that he certainly did not want to believe.

Therefore he ended the discussion with Dumbledore as quickly as possible. It hadn’t been very productive, he thought in disappointment.

Afterwards he decided to go for a drink in Hogsmeade with some of the Hogwarts teachers. Dumbledore declined to attend.

“I’m very sorry, Cornelius,” he excused himself, not sounding sorry in the least. “But with the Christmas holidays coming up, I am very busy at the moment. I know Minerva was hoping to go into the village for a Christmas drink though. Why don’t you ask her if she would like to join you?”

Minerva McGonagall was more than willing to join Cornelius for a drink, as were Professor Flitwick and Rubeus Hagrid. Cornelius was a little doubtful about the latter. He felt a little embarrassed around Hagrid ever since his mistake the previous year. Accusing somebody of Dark Magic and having them locked up in Azkaban hardly led to a close friendship with them afterwards. Nonetheless, he could hardly tell the man he didn’t want him to come with them, so there was little choice but to grin and bear it.

Naturally conversation in the pub turned to the reason Cornelius had been visiting Hogwarts in the first place and the worrying situation which existed in the wizarding world.

To Fudge’s annoyance, the Dementors presence appeared to be most unpopular.

Having already had to put up with Dumbledore’s criticisms for almost an hour, he felt forced to defend his decision. He didn't like the any more than anybody else, after all, but what was he supposed to do? People didn't seem to realise how dangerous Black was.

Unfortunately, both McGonagall and Flitwick seemed to be in agreement with Dumbledore on this point.

When Cornelius looked back on his next words afterwards, he wondered if he made a mistake in telling people so much. Perhaps his desire to make people realise just what had prompted his decision with regard to the Dementors had made him a little too vocal with regard to Black’s crimes. Or possibly it was the redcurrant rum, he thought ruefully. A pub really was not a good place to discuss such sensitive information, but then again what were the chances of anybody overhearing? And he was sure McGonagall and the others would not betray his trust.

Anyway, there wasn’t much point in worrying about it afterwards. For better or worse, he had told his companions the details of Black’s crimes. His murder of Peter Pettigrew and a number of Muggles was well known of course, but his betrayal of James and Lily was not so well documented, and Hagrid was not the most careful of people.

He interrupted Cornelius’ story to loudly condemn Sirius Black. It was understandable of course. Black’s betrayal was despicable, but they didn’t particularly want the whole pub to overhear the conversation.

 Rosmerta asked the question Cornelius himself had been debating in his own mind: was Black actually mad?

It was a difficult one to answer. Black's behaviour when he was captured had certainly been abnormal; it had definitely indicated some form of insanity and yet... The truth was that, compared with the other prisoners in Azkaban, he appeared rather distubingly sane. Haltingly, he said as much to his companions.

 “I was shocked at how normal Black seemed. He spoke quite rationally to me. It was unnerving.

Chapter 12: An Embarrassment for the Ministry.
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Author's Note: Like the 3 previous chapters, the events of this chapter are taken from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and are therefore, the property of J.K. Rowling. As with those chapters I have underlined the quotes which belong to her. The first is from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, British edition, page 306 and the latter two are from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, British edition, page 307.
I apologise if there are events missing from this chapter or if they are connected badly. It was a difficult chapter to write, as I had to reassemble the events into the order in which Fudge sees them.


An Embarrassment for the Ministry.

It was that apparent normality that unnerved Fudge more than anything else. It wasn’t, well normal. Nobody remained sane for long in Azkaban and the fact the Black had seemed to imply that he had some fearsome kind of Dark magic unknown to decent witches and wizards.

Having seen that, it wasn’t all that surprising that he should manage other, apparently impossible things, such as breaking out of Azkaban or slipping into Hogwarts unnoticed, Cornelius tried to convince himself. It was unthinkable that there should be any truth in Dumbledore’s suspicion that one or more of the Dementors should have turned traitor. They were firmly under the control of the Ministry and that was that.

Nonetheless, Cornelius couldn’t help but be frustrated by their lack of success as regards finding Sirius Black. It was ridiculous really. With the number of Dementors, Aurors, members of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad and Ministry employees searching for him, in addition to having the entire magical and Muggle communities on the lookout, Black should have been apprehended months ago! And as time wore on, the situation became more and more of an embarrassment to the Ministry.

As it became more obvious that he was targeting Hogwarts and the area immediately surrounding it, the investigation began to centre on that area. Fudge made a number of return visits to the school, hoping that Dumbledore or somebody would have something to report, but there appeared to be nothing but disappointing news.

By June, almost a year had passed since Black’s escape and there still appeared to be little chance of him being recaptured anytime soon. If anything, the likelihood of his capture seemed even more distant now as the panic in the wizarding world was beginning to relax and the Muggle community appeared to have lost interest altogether. Apart from a couple of appearances at Hogwarts, Black had not attracted any attention to himself; had not been accused of any additional crimes and therefore, it appeared to many that the immediate danger had passed. Naturally, those who had children attending Hogwarts were not among this number, particularly if their children had been anywhere close to either of the attacks.

Arthur Weasley was particularly concerned about Black’s continuing freedom. After all, it had been one of his children who had awoken to find Black with a knife at his bedside. And it was also obvious that the man had become quite fond of Harry and considered him, if not quite an honorary son, then at least an honorary nephew.

Therefore, Cornelius stopped to let him know of his intended visit to Hogwarts.

“Hopefully, somebody will have something helpful to report this time, Arthur,” he commented.

“I really hope so,” Arthur replied. “Molly is nearly having hysterics. What with the danger Harry is in and five of our own gang at the school. And you know what teenagers are like. If Harry’s in danger, then Ron is in danger and probably Ginny too. They travel in packs. Not that I’m not glad to know that Harry will have company, but all the same…”

Cornelius knew what he meant. If it had been a friend of Jovian or Romilda in such danger, he would have done his best to ensure they spent as little time as possible with that friend. He would not have considered anybody else’s safety worth endangering that of his own children for.

He tried to ensure Arthur that the situation was firmly under control, despite his own lack of conviction that any such thing was true, then turned to continue about his own business, whereupon he was stopped by Helene Velasquez, of the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures.

“Sorry to bother you, Minister,” she began nervously. “But did I just hear you mention that you intended to make a visit to Hogwarts in the near future.”

“I certainly do,” Cornelius replied, a little pompously. “It’s my duty, you know, when there’s a dangerous lunatic like Sirius Black on the loose.”

“Of course, of course. But, well, what I was thinking was that, well, we have to attend an appeal on the 6th with regard to a Hippogriff there. Attacked a student, I believe. Well, of course there isn’t a hope that the appeal will be won. Not when there’s a child involved. And I believe that the child’s father has quite a lot of influence. So it’s just a formality really. The animal will have to be put down. Unfortunately, we can’t legally do that without a witness.”

“And you want me to act as witness.” Cornelius decided it was time to get to the point.

“Well, of course, we shouldn’t dream of bothering you over something so insignificant, but I just thought that if you were going to be there anyway…Well, you’d be a neutral presence.”

“I’ll do it,” Fudge replied in resignation.

This meant that his visit to Hogwarts would have to take place on the 6th. Well, that was no problem.

Unfortunately, there appeared to be a problem with regard to the execution itself.

The trial passed off without incident. It was apparent that the entire committee was in agreement. The hippogriff was definitely guilty. Cornelius couldn’t help feeling a certain amount of sympathy for Hagrid; it was obvious that the man was very attached to the beast. Not natural of course, to be so attached to dangerous monsters; it was what had led to suspicion of him the previous year. But then who could say what was natural for his kind? And it was hard on him to have the creature executed.

But what could you do? You couldn’t have innocent children in danger just because one man was fond of a dangerous animal. No, it was obvious that the decision made was the correct one.

At the same time, witnessing an execution was not a pleasant task, even if it was only the execution of a dangerous creature.

Reluctantly, he followed Dumbledore, Hagrid and the executioner to Hagrid’s pumpkin patch, where the hippogriff was tethered. Or should be tethered. There was nothing there.

MacNair, the executioner was raging. Somebody had freed him, he insisted. They should search the grounds, the Forest, everywhere.

Dumbledore sounded as though he were about to laugh. There was little chance of finding the hippogriff he pointed out, without sounding the least bit disappointed. After all, the likelihood was that it had flown away.

Cornelius wasn’t too concerned. It was only a hippogriff, after all. And it hadn’t attacked anybody until it had been used in a class. Now that it had escaped, the chances of people coming into close contact with it were greatly reduced. More importantly, the execution of a hippogriff was hardly major news.

Ok, it was a little embarrassing to have the creature escape from under the eyes of the Ministry, but it was unlikely that anybody who wasn’t closely connected to Hogwarts would hear anything about. It was hardly worth worrying about.

And at any rate, the events that happened afterwards were so dramatic that they almost put all thoughts of hippogriffs out of his mind altogether.

He was in Dumbledore’s office, conferring with him and Minerva McGonagall, when outside the castle windows, the Dementors began to congregate around a small group of people.

It was Dumbledore who first noticed what was going on.

“What is happening down there?” he asked in annoyance. “I hope we are not going to see any more trouble from those creatures.”

He paused for a few moments; then when the excitement showed no signs of abating, declared “I’m going down there. I’m sorry about this, Cornelius, but I need to know what is going on.”

Cornelius was well aware of Dumbledore’s distrust of the Dementors, of course. The older man had made it perfectly clear to him on a number of occasions. Despite his respect for Dumbledore, he was convinced that the man was a little prejudiced in that regard.

Still, he followed Dumbledore into the grounds, concerned for very different reasons than Dumbledore’s. In his view the congregation of Dementors implied that something had happened. A sighting of Black, perhaps or an indication as to somebody who had been helping him. Something, anyway.

Nonetheless, he was shocked to encounter not only Black, but Severus Snape, Harry and two of Harry’s little friends. It occurred vaguely to him that one of them might be Arthur Weasley’s son, but he had little time to concern himself about that now.

He was far more interested in finding out exactly what had happened. It was a good thing Severus was there. After all, you could hardly grant much credence to the words of three children.

Severus, on the other hand, made a clear and dependable witness. As soon as Sirius Black was safely imprisoned in an office on the seventh floor and the children were taken to the hospital wing, he recounted how he had found Black in the Shrieking Shack, along with the three children and Remus Lupin, the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. In Severus’ view, there was good reason to suspect that Lupin had been in league with Black all along and that he had been the one who’d helped Black to access the castle.

This however, would be difficult to prove, Cornelius pointed out. “Unless we can get Black himself to give evidence admitting it. Naturally, we will question him on the point.”

Here, Dumbledore interrupted. “I have the utmost faith in Remus Lupin,” he stated calmly. “Naturally, I am aware that he was a friend of Sirius Black while they were at school, but he was also a close friend of both James Potter and Peter Pettigrew. I know for a fact that he was devastated by the betrayal committed by their mutual friend, and I am fairly certain that he has had no contact with Black since his imprisonment.”

“We shall see,” Cornelius muttered vaguely. He wasn’t quite sure what to believe with regard to Remus Lupin and it seemed unlikely that they would ever get evidence against him, even if he had been helping Black.

Still, he was willing to accept that. They had captured Black. That was the important thing. Naturally, it would be a bonus if they could prove conclusively how he had entered the castle and arrest Lupin or anybody else who was implicated, but if they couldn’t, Cornelius would be satisfied knowing that the kiss had been preformed on Black and that he was no longer a threat to anybody.

Quickly moving the conversation away from the possibility of Lupin’s involvement, Cornelius congratulated Severus Snape on his bravery in protecting the children. He would arrange for him to receive the Order of Merlin, he assured him; First class if he could arrange it

He then made some vague reference to a cut Snape had received, presumably from Black, but Snape cut him off, informing him brusquely that is was Harry, Ron and Hermione who had attacked him.

Cornelius was shocked. How could it have happened that those three children would have attacked the man who had arrived just in time to save their lives probably. Everybody knew that Black was planning to kill young Potter and it was well-known that he had few qualms about killing anybody else who might get in the way.

The teacher however  appeared quite understanding. It was obvious that he didn't blame the children for what they had done and that he accepted that they believed Black to be innocent. A Conounds Charm was his his suggestion, which made sense. Nobody in their senses could believe Black innocent, not even children.

This interpretation of events appeared to be confirmed, as soon as they entered the ward where Harry and Hermione were recovering from their ordeal. Immediately, both youngsters began to defend Sirius Black, ensuring the Minister that he was innocent and should not be arrested.

Luckily Dumbledore took charge of the situation, asking to speak to Harry and Hermione alone. Snape seemed annoyed by this, taking it as indicative that Dumbledore attached some importance to their version of events.

Cornelius, however, had more respect for Dumbledore’s judgement than to worry about that. Dumbledore, of course, had many years of experience dealing with children and was probably going to reassure them; perhaps allow them to believe that credence would be given to their version of events. By the time they knew differently, they would surely have recovered and be relieved that they had not been believed.

Snape, however, would not be reassured of Dumbledore’s judgement and asked for the kiss to be performed immediately.

On this point, Cornelius was able to reassure him, ensuring him that they were only waiting for the Dementors to return to the castle. Then, if they had the chance, they would ask Black to explain how he had managed to enter the castle and if he had had any help. Once, those questions had been answered, the kiss would be preformed.

They headed up to the seventh floor, only to find that Black had completely disappeared. Cornelius was shocked. The escape of the hippogriff had been embarrassing enough, but the escape of a high security prisoner. Worse, the second escape of that high security prisoner.

Why hadn’t they left somebody to guard him? He must have disapparated, in which case he could be absolutely anywhere.

“HE DIDN’T DISAPPARATE”, Severus Snape interrupted angrily, before insisting Harry Potter had something to do with Black's disappearance.

Cornelius was almost as stunned by Severus’ unreasonable behaviour as he was by Black’s escape. How could Harry have anything to do with this? He was locked in the hospital wing, for one thing. And anyway, how could a thirteen year old wizard engineer an escape like this? Particularly, when the man who had escaped would, almost certainly have killed him, had he seen him on his own. It was ridiculous.

It shocked him even more when Snape burst into the hospital wing and began shouting at Harry, trying to force him to admit his involvement. Eventually, with the assurances of both Dumbledore and Madame Pomfrey that Harry could not possibly have been involved, Severus stormed from the room.

What was going on with this school at all? Cornelius wondered. The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was rumoured to be a werewolf and this man seemed completely insane.

“Fellow seems quite unbalanced,” he remarked. “I’d watch out for him if I were you, Dumbledore.”

The headmaster tried to defend him, by pointing out that he had been disappointed. Disappointed!!! They were all disappointed. And at least, it hadn’t been Snape’s responsibility.

 Fudge was the one who was going to have to deal with the media fall-out and he had no doubt it'd be immense. Coming so close to capturing Black and then allowing him to escapte!

Dumbledore didn’t seem too concerned about this great tragedy. His concern was that the Ministry should remove the Dementors from Hogwarts. Cornelius hadn’t thought of that. In all the excitement, he had overlooked it, but of course Dumbledore was right. They were evidently a danger to the pupils. Dumbledore had been right all along. Perhaps not about the possibility of them helping Black, but about their presence being dangerous.

He also appeared to be right about Remus Lupin, Cornelius though, as he listened to Dumbledore’s assurances that he, like Severus, had been trying to save the children. Anyway, having heard Snape’s ridiculous accusations of Harry, it seemed likely that his accusation of Lupin was equally unfounded.

It didn’t look as if anybody was helping Black, which was something, he supposed. Other than that, however, the whole situation was a complete disaster.

Chapter 13: The World Cup
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Author's Note: The events of this chapter are related to those of the early chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. These events are the property of J.K. Rowling, as are the quotes I have used. The first underlined sentence is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, British edition, page 92 and the latter two are from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, British edition, page 104.

The World Cup

As Cornelius had predicted, the Daily Prophet was extremely scathing about the Ministry’s failure to apprehend Sirius Black.

Can the Ministry be trusted to deal with issues of law and order? screamed the front page headline the day after Black’s second escape. Cornelius didn’t even dare to look at the other British papers. If the Daily Prophet, which usually took a pro-Ministry stance could be so critical, he really didn’t want to know what line the others took.

However it was his duty to keep an eye on the international situation, so he reluctantly flicked through some of the foreign papers- only those from English speaking countries, of course.

To his dismay, even these had reported on the crises, taking almost as dim a view of the situation as the Daily Prophet had. Unfortunately, the fact that the World Cup was being held in Britain that summer meant that news relating to Britain, particularly the possibly of an escaped murderer stalking the country was promoted to front-page news internationally. The Irish wizarding paper, Dríocht took an especially dim view of the situation.

With our national team poised to enter the finals of the Quidditch World Cup, the article concluded, many of the wizarding community of Ireland are planning to travel to Britain this summer. However with this crises still unresolved, it is questionable whether or not the British Ministry of Magic will be able to guarantee the safety of these tourists.

Cornelius Fudge tossed the paper down in disgust. It was now almost a year since Black’s escape and nobody'd been seriously injured, never mind killed. Of course, Dríocht neglected to mention that. And most people in Ireland would have long since forgotten about the escape, if they'd ever known about it in the first place. A year agp, British issues wouldn't have been such major issues in Ireland. Apart from those who'd children at Hogwarts- Ireland not having a large enough wizarding community to have its own wizarding school- the rest of the Irish would have had little interest in the escape of a prisoner in Britain.

After the way Dríocht dealt with the issue, Cornelius wasn't surprised to receive a phone-call from the Irish Minister for Magic, Claire O’Donovan, asking what security measures the British Ministry'd put in place for the World Cup final. For Merlin’s sake, they hadn’t even got into the final yet and already they were worrying about the security measures.

“We've no reason to believe that Sirius Black will be anywhere near the World Cup stadium,” he replied shortly.

“But have you any reason to believe he won’t?” she asked sharply.

“So far, he has not been seen  within 50 miles of the place where it's to be held. Naturally, security at the matches will be very strict. But really, you have nothing to worry about. I consider it highly unlikely he'd  risk appearing anywhere an area where so many wizards and witches are  congregated.”

Despite his assurances, Cornelius, like everybody else, breathed a sigh of relief when it appeared as though Black had escaped abroad. Naturally, he should be disappointed. It  meant that the Ministry really had failed in its attempt to recapture Black, but with the World Cup looming, they really had enough to worry about without trying to protect the British community from a dangerous criminal. He was out of the way, now. Of course, they'd continue the attempts to recapture him, but it was no longer top priority and they were free to concentrate on ensuring this World Cup was the best ever hosted by any country.

As Minister for Magic, Cornelius had easier access to tickets than most of the rest of the wizarding world. However, apart from Alyssa, there was really nobody he had to obtain tickets for. As Minister, he didn't require a ticket to attend and Jovian had never been interested in sport. He'd other plans for August, he said. Part of that was work, Cornelius knew, but he'd a suspicion that Carla was also involved. Like Jovian, she'd little interest in Quidditch and although she thanked Cornelius when he offered to get her a ticket, she politely declined.

Unlike her brother, Romilda would have loved to attend the World Cup final. She'd played Quidditch herself at Hogwarts and always enjoyed both playing and watching the game. Unfortunately, she was unable to get the week in question off work.

When she returned home for her holidays in early June, she complained loudly about the situation.

“I asked if I could have that fortnight off,” she declared. “It’s unlikely the match would last much longer than that. And do you know what my boss said? He said ‘I would have been more than willing to let you take your holidays that fortnight if you’d only asked me a few week ago. But Deirdre has already asked for that fortnight. You know Ireland are favourites!’ For Merlin’s sake! She doesn’t even know if they're going to get into the final yet. And she hasn’t a hope of getting a ticket. I’ve heard they’re practically unobtainable in Ireland. Sounds like every witch and wizard in the country is coming over here!”

“Well that’s understandable, don’t you think?” Jovian commented calmly. “If England hadn’t made such a show of themselves and were likely to get into the final, we’d want to see it, wouldn’t we?”

“I still don’t see why she needs the time off when she’s not going to get a ticket,” Romilda said stubbornly.

Jovian threw his eyes up to Heaven, but didn’t bother to say anymore. There was little point of trying to argue with Romilda when she got an idea into her head.

Despite her annoyance about not being able to attend the World Cup, Romilda enjoyed her fortnight’s holiday. Cornelius took her to see the stadium where the final would take place and introduced her to Ludo Bagman, the head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.

Theoretically, Ludo had ultimate responsibility for organising the World Cup, but  hecould be surprisingly relaxed about important issues, so Cornelius felt that the responsibility for this, like everything else it seemed, rested on his own shoulders.

Ludo appeared more interested in making bets as to who was likely to win than he was in the actual organisation. When Cornelius had confronted him with this, he had simply smiled.

“Not at all. Not at all. Everything’s under control. You wouldn’t like to bet on France’s chance of getting to the semi-finals yourself, would you?” That was when Cornelius decided to give up.

Unlike her father, however, Romilda was not in the least adverse to a bet.

“5 Galleons on Ireland being defeated in the semi-final,” she declared when Ludo asked if she would like a bet.

“Not a hope,” he laughed. “They’re playing Russia in the semi. Shocking team. How they ever got into the semis, I don’t know. Ireland will walk it. Hmm, you should get good odds on that. Let me work it out a moment!”

“You shouldn’t bet against Ludo, you know,” Cornelius cautioned her afterwards. “He played Quidditch for England. There’s nothing he doesn’t know about the game.”

“It’s only 5 Galleons, Dad,” Romilda replied. “If I lose, no big deal. And if I win, I stand to make quite a profit!”

“Just be careful. Nice fellow, Ludo, but no sense of responsibility. I’ve had to take care of the security for this thing myself. And I shouldn’t have to do that, you know. But Ludo never thinks about security. If I left it up to him, every Muggle in the country would know about us.”

Romilda laughed. “Ludo’s cool,” she replied. “Not like some of the crowd you work with.”

“Your mum can’t stand him,” Cornelius told her. “Thinks he isn’t quite suitable as a head of department. Like I said, though, there is nobody in England that knows more about Quidditch than he does. And he’s practically the only person involved in organising this I’ve never heard complain about all the extra work it’s causing.”

“I wouldn’t either,” Romilda declared. “However much work it causes, it’s worth it to bring the World Cup to Britain.”

She wouldn’t say that if she'd the actual responsibility of organising it, Cornelius decided, over the next couple of weeks as the work and problems mounted up. Romilda was always complaining anyway, and if she had to deal with the difficulties caused by the World Cup, she would certainly have something to complain about.

Still, she was right in a way. At least there was some recompense for the work he was now doing. Bringing the World Cup to Britain was quite a coup and as Minister, he had to claim some of the credit.

As the World Cup drew nearer, the Ministry had to direct even more attention towards anti-Muggle security. They already had the Muggle-repelling charms and all in place of course, so now the greatest problem was ensuring that the spectators complied with regulations.

Some of the witches and wizards who were from entirely magical families had no idea how Muggles dressed or behaved, so the Daily Prophet carried articles on How to dress like a Muggle; Camping-Muggle style; and How to Behave in the presence of Muggles.

Dríocht carried similar articles, as did many of the European and American wizarding papers.

Like the majority of those attending the World Cup, Cornelius and Alyssa were careful to dress in Muggle styles before leaving for the final. Cornelius was wearing a Muggle suit, of the type worn by Muggle Ministers. The Muggle Prime Minister had worn something similar, Cornelius thought, when he had visited him last year. Alyssa bought a number of Muggle society magazines and eventually decided on a twin set and pearls.

“All the best Muggles wear them,” she declared. Alyssa had no more interest in Quidditch than Jovian had. She merely wanted to be seen entering the top box and to associate with all the most important people in the wizarding world.

Speaking of which, Cornelius reminded himself he'd  promised top box seats to Lucius, Narcissa and their son; what was his name? Draco? The family had made a substantial contribution to St. Mungo’s Hospital and he felt it was a good idea to reward them, so to speak. They were certainly a family whose support the Ministry could use.

Naturally, Cornelius was obliged to be at the stadium before it was necessary for Alyssa to be there. She and Jovian were still asleep when he left in the early hours of the morning. Because of the need to stagger arrivals, some of those arriving by portkeys would be there by 4 or 5 in the morning and it was important that he also be there then.

Not that there was much for him to do for the first couple of hours. The Irish and Bulgarian ministers would be arriving about 10 or 11, but until then all he had to do was ensure that everything was running smoothly. And broadly speaking, it was. Naturally, there were a few hiccoughs here and there, but there were people designated to deal with every problem and Cornelius didn’t really see any need for him to deal with the situations personally.

The wizards’ attempts to dress like Muggles and create Muggle style camps were the biggest problems. Ludo Bagman himself had arrived dressed in the robes of the Wimbourne Wasps- his own old Quidditch team.

Despite all Cornelius’ cajoling, Ludo firmly refused to don anything more suitable and eventually the Minister simply decided to give up. Sometimes you just had to let Ludo do things his own way. He never listened to reason anyway.

With the arrival of the Bulgarian and Irish Ministers, Cornelius’ task became a lot more specific. He greeted Claire O’Donovan warmly. As the leader of the nearest magical community, the two ministers had been in regular contact. The Bulgarian Minister, he knew nothing about. Even the man’s name was a mystery. Oblonsk, Oblanesk, something like that.

The difficulties involved in communicating with the man increased when it became evident that he didn’t speak any English. Cornelius did his best to communicate what he wanted to say with the use of sign language, which was embarrassing to say the least. Claire O’Donovan was almost openly laughing at his attempts.

The man he needed was Barty Crouch. Surely, Bulgarian was included somewhere in the few hundred languages Barty spoke. But as luck would have it, he was nowhere to be seen. The chances of finding him among the hundred thousand people who had turned up for the World Cup final seemed very slim indeed.

So Cornelius had little choice but to continue with the sign language, as he introduced the two ministers to the more important people in British wizarding society. Eventually, the three of them headed for the top box.

Arthur Weasley was already there with a group of children and young adults. His family, Cornelius assumed. He recognised one or two of the group. Harry Potter was with him, and those two other children who'd been with Harry, when they'd been attacked by Black a couple of months back. So he'd been right. The boy had been Arthur’s son. And the girl. Was she Arthur’s daughter? He was pretty sure he'd a daughter or two among his large crowd of sons.

However, Arthur introduced her as simply another friend of Ron’s. His girlfriend, Cornelius wondered idly. Or Harry’s maybe. Were those children old enough to be dating? They were about 2nd or 3rd year at Hogwarts, he thought, so they’d be around the age of thirteen.

One of the older boys seemed highly impressed to see the Minister. Even more impressed than Cornelius believe most people to be. He'd a vague idea this boy was working for the one of the Ministry Departments. The Department of International Magical Co-operation, he thought. He must ask Barty sometime.

It was Harry Potter that he was most pleased to see, however. It was nice to be able to introduce a hero of the wizarding world to these foreigners. Particularly after Claire'd been so critical of Britain’s security. It was a British wizard who had saved the world from Voldemort. See what she thought of that!

Trying to explain the situation to the Bulgarian Minister was easier said than done, though, seeing as the man hadn’t a clue what he was saying. Eventually he saw the boy’s scar though, and appeared to be quite impressed. That was good, Cornelius thought. Let everybody see just how impressive British witches and wizards were.

At that moment, Lucius, Narcissa and Draco arrived. Despite his respect for the family, there was something about the son Cornelius just couldn’t take to. He'd a vague feeling that the boy didn’t have the respect and admiration he should for the Minister of Magic. Still, he was probably imagining it. Why wouldn’t the boy respect him? Wasn’t it every wizarding child’s dream to be Minister of Magic someday? Of course the boy admired him for achieving it. At least that was what he tried to convince himself.

Quickly, he introduced the Ministers to them.

“And allow me to introduce Mr. Oblansk- Obalonsk- Mr.- well, he’s the Bulgarian Minister for Magic, and he can’t understand a word I’m saying anyway, so never mind.”

Once everybody'd been introduced, it was almost time for the match to begin. Ludo Bagman was commentating. From conversations he'd had with the man, Cornelius suspected this was what he had been most looking forward to. And he did it extremely well. As an ex-Quidditch player himself, he knew all the tactics and exactly what was and was not likely to be successful. And as an Englishman, he was, at least theoretically, neutral with regard to which team won.

Knowing how much betting the man'd done, Cornelius doubted he was really neutral. Ludo was bound to have put serious money on the outcome of this match and was probably hoping for a victory for one team or the other. Fortunately, however, this didn't appear to bias his commentating.

The match ended far more quickly than anybody could have predicted and with a much closer score. Ireland scored 170 points and Bulgaria scored 160.

“Vell, ve fought bravely,” the Bulgarian Minister commented sadly.

Cornelius looked around in outrage. The man could speak English. And he'd been miming all morning. It couldn’t be much more embarrassing.

“Vell, it vos very funny,” the man defended himself.

He'd been laughing at him all along, Cornelius realised. And the Irish Minister knew. He was sure she did. The pair of them had been having a great laugh at his expense.

Not that he'd much time to think about it at that moment, as the Bulgarian team were filing up to shake hands, firstly with their own Minister and then with him. As soon as they filed out, the Irish team did likewise, naturally shaking hands with the Irish Minister rather than the Bulgarian.

The show was over, but the work wasn’t. In a way, the most difficult was yet to come, as there was a major danger that the Irish celebrations would attract Muggle attention.

Claire O’Donovan, naturally agreed to keep an eye on things, but Cornelius got the impression she wasn’t too concerned. Her country'd just won the World Cup and she appeared to consider it just and right they should enjoy their celebrations. Cornelius wasn’t disputing that, of course, so long as it didn’t interfere with anti-Muggle security.

He had a feeling it would be up to him to ensure that wouldn’t happen, despite Claire’s assurances.

Chapter 14: A Worrying Sign
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Author's Note: This chapter shows the events of Chapters 9 and 10 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire from from Fudge's perspective. These events are the property of J.K. Rowling. The underlined sentences from Rita Skeeter's article are from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, British edition, page 132.

A Worrying Sign

As it turned out, however, the Irish celebrations were the least of the Ministry’s worries that evening.

Cornelius Fudge was woken sometime after 2 in the morning by one of the Ministry wizards.

“What’s happened?” he asked, more in resignation than surprise. Like everybody else, he had been expecting there to be some problems that evening and naturally, nobody seemed to be able to deal with a situation without his input. As Romilda had said, it was the problem of being indispensable.

It did irritate him slightly though. Why couldn’t they just deal with the situation themselves? He wasn’t expecting it to be anything too serious, until he was informed of what the problem actually was.

“There’s a group of wizards…”

“Drunk, I expect,” Cornelius interrupted wearily.

“I expect so, but it’s more serious than that. They’re masked- like…like…well, it’s almost like You-Know-Who’s supporters when he was at the height of his power.”

The mention of You-Know-Who incensed Cornelius. He was gone! It was ridiculous to think that he could have any involvement.

“I don’t,” the wizard replied, to Cornelius’ angry declaration that it was crazy to believe You-Know-Who was involved. “I’m just saying it’s a pretty frightening sight. And they are levitating Muggles?”

“What?” Cornelius almost roared. “Why didn’t you tell me this immediately?”

“You-you didn’t give me much chance, sir,” he replied nervously.

Cornelius ignored that comment.

“What Muggles?” he demanded.

“The campsite manager and his family.”

“Well, get out there, and put a stop to it!! I’ll contact the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Ensure that those involved are punished severely.”

“But they’re masked, sir. We don’t know who they are.”

“Well, find out,” Cornelius demanded. “How incompetent are you all? Stop this mayhem. Find out who the culprits are and have them arrested. It’s very simply.”

Panic was making the Minister more unreasonable than he would usually be. Echoing in his mind were possible headlines from the Daily Prophet. And it wasn’t only the Daily Prophet; wasn’t even just the British press. The World Cup was international news! If this wasn’t sorted out quickly and hushed up if at all possible, the British Ministry would be the laughing stock of the entire wizarding world. It certainly wouldn’t help Cornelius’ position for that to happen.

As soon as the bearer of the bad news left, Cornelius began magically contacting every single wizard who could be of use in such a situation. He also contacted the Ministry wizards on duty, insisting that they give him a detailed account of exactly what had happened first thing in the morning.

When he finally headed down to campsite himself, the situation had been largely rectified. The family were back on ground level and were having their memories modified while the culprits had disappeared.

Cornelius was disgusted by the latter event, and even more disgusted by the fact that none of the Ministry wizards appeared to be around to account for that particular oversight.

He glanced around quickly, trying to find anybody who might be able to explain to him exactly where they had all disappeared to. None of the more important Ministry employee appeared to be in sight and the more junior employees were busy trying to persuade everybody to return to their camps and that the danger really was over.

Eventually he caught sight of the long haired boy who had been with Arthur Weasley in the top box. One of his sons, he assumed. Both his father and brother worked for the Ministry. Hopefully, he would have some idea what had happened.

“Where is everybody?” he asked loudly, trying to be heard above the chaos.

The boy looked at him in surprise. It was understandable really, as the campsite was crowded with panic-stricken people.

“You know what I mean,” Cornelius continued impatiently. “Where are the people who should be here? The Ministry? Where is your dad?”

“They’ve gone into the woods, sir. It looked as if it was coming from there.”

“What looked as if it was coming from there?”

“The Dark Mark, of course.” He must have noticed that Cornelius had no idea what he was talking about, because he began to explain. “The Dark Mark appeared in the sky, and all the Death Eaters began to disappear…”

“We don’t know that they are Death Eaters,” Cornelius blustered. “There is no evidence whatsoever of that.”

“Well, whatever they were,” Bill replied, deciding not to argue the point. “Anyway, they left, and we managed to catch the Robertses before they hit the ground, and dad and the other Ministry wizards headed into the woods to see what was happening. They should be back soon enough.”

Sure enough, it wasn’t long after that, that the wizards began to return from the woods.

“I want to know exactly what happened,” Cornelius declared, insisting that Crouch and Diggory give him a full account of what had happened, before they returned to their camps for the night.

Crouch was extremely reluctant to do as the Minister asked, although he did his best to disguise this. Whether his reluctance was simply due to his continuing resentment of Fudge’s appointment as Minister or to the involvement of his own house-elf in the whole farce, Cornelius had no idea.

It was Diggory who informed him of the elf’s involvement.

“Not that I am suggesting that Barty Crouch had anything to do with this,” he continued hastily. “I am well aware of his reputation and the hatred he has for the Dark Arts. I am sure he understands this.”

The last sentence came out sounding more like a challenge than anything else.

“I can assure you that the elf has been properly punished,” Barty replied pompously. “Not that she had anything to do with the conjuring of the Dark Mark, of course, but she did behave in an extremely irresponsible manner. She should not have been in the woods in the first place. She had no permission to be there. And to pick up a wizard’s wand! But as I have already mentioned, I have dealt with the situation. There really is no need for Ministry involvement.”

“I am sure you have dealt with the situation adequately,” Cornelius said, dismissing the irrelevant question of house-elves. “Now can we please return to the issue in hand. This is quite a serious situation for the Ministry. Nobody except ourselves knows about the elf being there, I assume.”

“I am sure they don’t,” Crouch replied.

“Nor do they need to. Has anybody spoken to the press?”

“I’ve no idea,” Crouch replied.


“Eh, I’m not sure. I…em…think Arthur Weasley might have said something.”

“You don’t know,” Cornelius exploded. “You were both on the spot and it didn’t occur to either of you to think of how this would look in the world media. Yes, that’s right, the world media. This will be reported in just about every paper in the world, you know. Well, let’s just hope Arthur has been a little more sensible about this than either of you appear to have been.”

Crouch looked as though he would like to murder Arthur Weasley for having been the one to think of giving a statement.

Not that it made much difference, Cornelius realised in the morning. The reporter had pretty much ignored what Arthur had said and written the story she wanted to write anyway, implying that his words of reassurance were some sort of cover-up attempt.

A Ministry official emerged some time after the appearance of the
Dark Mark
, she had written, alleging that nobody had been hurt, but
refusing to give any more information. Whether this statement will
be enough to quash the rumours that several bodies were removed
from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen.

Cornelius looked to see who had written the article. Rita Skeeter. One of the few Daily Prophet reporters who didn’t appear to support the Ministry. Could Arthur not have found somebody else to give his statement to? He couldn’t really find too much fault with Arthur, however, as he appeared to be the only Ministry wizard who had, at least, tried to quash those rumours.

Unfortunately, people appeared to pay little attention to whatever reassurances the Ministry might offer. For the following couple of weeks, howlers arrived in their hundreds from both British and foreign wizards, criticising the lack of security at the World Cup. The implication of these appeared to be that the Ministry really could have prevented such a situation from occurring if only they’d tried a little harder.

Naturally, all of this meant a whole lot of extra work for the Ministry. Arthur Weasley was one of those who worked long hours helping to sort out the situation which had developed.

Ludo Bagman, on the other hand, managed to avoid doing any extra work at all, despite the fact that the Quidditch World Cup had been primarily the responsibility of his department.

The Department of Magical Sports and Games, along with the Department for International Magical Co-operation were currently involved in trying to set up a Triwizard Tournament to take place at Hogwarts school, and whenever Ludo was asked to deal with any of the paperwork which had been generated by the World Cup debacle, he found something that had to be arranged urgently.

“I thought they’d already signed,” Cornelius commented suspiciously, when Ludo explained that he really had to get the safety regulations sent to Drumstrang as the staff there were unlikely to allow their students enter if it were likely to endanger their lives.

“Well, they have, but you see, well, I want to ensure they don’t pull out. Until the names come out of the Goblet of Fire, you see…”

But Fudge wasn’t interested. He was sure that the Triwizard Tournament was a perfectly worthy and valuable project, but he didn’t see how it excused Ludo from all other work. After all, Barty’s department were also involved in the arrangements and Barty still managed to have time to deal with the problem of shallow-bottomed cauldrons or whatever it was he has meeting his French counterpart about. And he was liaising with Arthur’s department about some issue to do with the ban on flying carpets.

Crouch, however, despite his obvious resentment of Cornelius, was dedicated to his work, whereas Ludo…well, Ludo was dedicated when it suited him. He had worked hard on the World Cup; nobody could deny that, and Cornelius was sure that he would work equally hard on setting up the Triwizard Tournament. Issues like paperwork, on the other hand, or those related to Anti-Muggle security didn’t particularly interest him, so he just didn’t bother with them.

Despite the help of Arthur and some of the other employees of the Ministry, the incident generated a good deal of extra work for Cornelius. Therefore he decided it was time he took on an extra member of staff.

His choice was Doloras Umbridge, who he appointed as Undersecretary to the Minister. It was one of his better ideas, he congratulated himself shortly after her appointment, as it quickly became obvious to him that she was dedicated to her job and to him personally.

He had no worries about leaving things in her capable hands when he had to apparate to Ireland in order to try to explain to Claire O’Donovan exactly what had gone wrong with their security.

It was a job which he would have been delighted to avoid, like Ludo avoided anything he didn't want to do, but of course, as Minister, he didn't have that option.

She was extremely unimpressed with the situation and managed to imply, without actually saying so, that if Ireland had been hosting the Cup, such an event would never have been allowed to take place.

Eventually, however, the excitement began to die down, and the Ministry was able to get back to its normal workload.

Chapter 15: Missing Persons
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Author's Note: The events of this chapter have been taken from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and are the property of JK. Rowling. The underlined quotes are from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, British edition, page 503.


Missing Persons

Anybody would have thought, Cornelius decided a few months later that after the pressure of trying to host an international event like the World Cup and the stress caused by the dreadful events which took place at it, the Ministry would have been due a few peaceful months. No such luck.

Having lambasted the Ministry for their supposed lack of security during the World Cup and started ridiculous rumours about bodies being removed from the woods after the so-called Death Eaters little escapade, Rita Skeeter now turned her attention to what she termed “the disappearance of Bartemius Crouch.”

The article about him was just as sensational and exaggerated as her previous efforts. Anybody who read it could be forgiven for believing the man was at death’s door, at best or involved in some dreadful calamity which the Ministry was intent on covering up. It was ridiculous.

Nonetheless, Cornelius decided that he really ought to speak to that young assistant of Crouch’s. Young Weasley. Cornelius had no idea what the boy’s first name was and indeed wouldn’t even have known his surname if he hadn’t seen him with Arthur at the World Cup and figured out that he was one of his sons.

Percy was torn between nervousness and pride at being summoned to the Minister of Magic’s private office.

“Sit down, Mr. Weasley,” Cornelius began, opting to avoid letting the boy realise that he didn’t know his first name. “Now there’s nothing to worry about. I simply want to know what you can tell me about Barty’s condition at the moment.”

“Well, sir,” Percy Weasley began pompously, “as I’m sure you realise, Mr. Crouch isn’t a young man.”

He’s less than ten years older than I am, Cornelius thought in surprise, before realising that to this boy 70 was old. His father probably wasn’t that age.

However, Cornelius didn’t find old age a reasonable explanation for Barty’s disappearance. After all, 70 was barely middle-aged for a wizard. He invited the boy to continue and Percy needed no second urging.

“He hasn’t been well in some time. Well, of course, the World Cup was quite a difficult time for all of us.”

“It was indeed,” Cornelius replied feelingly. It was unusual for him to allow his inferiors to decipher his feelings, but the World Cup had been so obviously a disaster that it was pointless to pretend otherwise.

“And of course, it was particularly difficult for Mr. Crouch, what with the behaviour of his house-elf and all.”

“His house-elf?” Cornelius asked. Now that Percy mentioned it, he did remember some mention of a house-elf, but hadn’t paid much attention to it at the time. In those circumstances, the Ministry had far more important issues to concern itself with than the behaviour of house-elves.

“His elf was found holding the wand which conjured the Dark Mark,” Percy reminded him. “Not of course that anybody believed that she had anything to do with it. Mr. Crouch would never allow any elf in his employ to behave in that kind of manner, but nevertheless, it was embarrassing for him to have any connection, however slight, with such an event.”

“I can understand that,” Cornelius replied officially. However before he could ask his next question, Percy continued with his explanation.

“And of course, our department took a good deal of the responsibility for organising the World Cup. I don’t want to cast aspersions at any other department, of course. But I do think that Mr. Crouch had to do more than his fair share of the organisation. And now, of course, there is the Triwizard Tournament. Not that I object in any way to the Tournament. It is a marvellous idea, but it is a lot of pressure for a man of Mr. Crouch’s age. As I’m sure you are aware, I have been representing him at both the Yule Ball and the Second Task. I am, of course, trying to take as many responsibilities as possible..”

Cornelius decided to cut in.

“Yes, I am aware that you have been representing him. And I am sure that you have done so adequately. But what I want to know now is what contact you have had with him. I assume that he has not simply left you to make your own decisions with regard to what is necessary.”

“Mr. Crouch places a great deal of trust in me,” Percy declared self-importantly. “But, naturally a man as dedicated as he is to his duty would not neglect his responsibilities no matter how ill he might be. He has been sending in regular owls detailing what he wishes me to do in his absence.”

“Owls? So you haven’t spoken to him in person?”

“Well, not exactly, but I can assure you that I am capable of recognising my superior’s handwriting.”

“I am not questioning that. It is simply that the Daily Prophet is starting to ask questions, and I want us to have an absolutely flawless story to tell them. If there is any loophole whatsoever in our explanations, you can be sure that that Skeeter woman will read all sorts of imaginary conclusions into them. So I need you to let me know of all the evidence you have that Barty Crouch is still in reasonable health.”

“I do understand. The Daily Prophet has been questioning me about his absences too, and I have assured them that I do recognise his handwriting and that he is merely suffering from stress.”

“Very good,” Cornelius commented. “If you are asked any more questions, I want you to continue with that story. I also want you to keep the next letter he sends to you. I will find you a copy of something he has written prior to the World Cup, and if you are asked for evidence, you can show both examples of his handwriting. If you are asked, remember. Otherwise, it is possible that they will imply that we are getting defensive.”

“I understand, sir. I’ll be careful.”

Cornelius nodded and dismissed the younger man. He seemed to have some grasp of how media relations worked anyway, unlike certain other employees of the Ministry, Cornelius thought when Ludo Bagman came to his office later that week to inform him of the disappearance of a woman called Bertha Jorkins.

The reason for Cornelius irritation was that it was clear from what Ludo said that the woman had been missing for some time.

“Ever since she went to Albania on her summer holidays,” Ludo reluctantly admitted, when Cornelius pressed him. “But I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about really. You don’t know Bertha. She’s entirely unreliable. The likelihood is that she’s managed to lose her way somewhere and ended up in…, I don’t know; anywhere is a possibility. I’m only letting you know because I believe the Daily Prophet have somehow managed to get hold of the story; not because I believe there’s really anything to worry about.”

Cornelius sighed. So this was what Barty Crouch had been hinting at. He had been implying that there was something Ludo wasn’t telling his superior-something to do with one of the employees of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.

But Cornelius hadn’t paid any attention to him. Like everybody at the Ministry, he was aware that Barty had very little respect for Ludo.

Being Minister, he was also aware of the reasons why. Some years previously, Ludo had been accused of involvement with the Death Eaters. Nothing in it, of course. Augustus Rookwood, a spy working in the Department of Mysteries, had asked him for information. He had no reason to suspect that the information was for anybody else.

But Barty Crouch, having the unnaturally suspicious mind that he did, was convinced that Ludo had known exactly what he was doing. Had Ludo been less well-known than he was, Cornelius supposed that Barty would simply have sentenced him to Azkaban without a trial. But that wasn’t possible in Ludo’s case. He had too many supporters.

And in a court of law, there was no way that the man would be convicted. The evidence was flimsy at best and Ludo was a well liked personality. Even Cornelius couldn’t help liking him, despite the difficulties he created sometimes, by not taking proper care with his work.

That was one of the reasons why Cornelius had been so unwilling to listen to what Crouch had to say. To tell the truth, he quite simply liked Ludo a lot better than Barty and given the choice, preferred not to believe whatever Barty had to say about the other man.

Now, however, he almost regretted that he hadn’t investigated the matter more deeply. What the Daily Prophet would have to say about the matter, he dreaded to think. One Ministry employee who appeared to have disappeared into thin air, albeit in Albania, and another who was out sick and hadn’t been seen publicly since November.

He could imagine Rita Skeeter drawing thoroughly imaginary conclusions from that information. She would probably decide that both people had been abducted by foreign enemies or Death Eaters or something and that the Ministry was conspiring to cover the entire thing up, for some entirely unknown reasons. That was what she seemed to be implying with regard to the activities of the “Death Eaters” at the World Cup.
What nonsense! As if he, Cornelius Fudge, would ever advocate covering up any activities of an illegal nature.

Now, however, he was going to have to make some kind of a gesture in order to quell any rumour to that effect that might arise.

The obvious solution, although not the most convenient one, was for him to take a personal interest in the case. If he declared that he intended to take personal responsibility for determining the safety of this Bertha Jorkins, then surely theDaily Prophet would not be able to imply that there was any possibility of a cover up.

He wasn’t sure whether or not that had been such a good idea when he saw the headline announcing his interest. It certainly meant that they couldn’t make any accusations about cover-ups, but on the other hand, they appeared to be trying to imply that his involvement indicated that there was some mystery about the situation, rather than that he was merely taking an interest in the welfare of the Ministry employees.

It was as if this woman was determined to make the Ministry look bad no matter what they did. It was really annoying, particularly coming from the Daily Prophet, which Fudge could usually prevail upon to report more or less what he wished them to. Rita Skeeter appeared to be a different proposition from their usual reporters and one who Cornelius found a lot less welcome.

Even Jovian was concerned by the report, and asked him if they had any more information about what had happened to the woman.

“No,” he replied shortly.

“But aren’t you concerned?” Jovian asked. “If anybody working at the hospital disappeared, I would be really worried. Even if I didn’t know them personally. It makes it more real, somehow, when it’s somebody you’ve worked with.”

“The papers are exaggerating,” Cornelius explained. “There’s really no great mystery about the situation. At least I don’t think there is. Ludo is the head of her department and he’s told me that disappearing is exactly the kind of thing she would do. He reckons that she has simply managed to get lost somewhere or forgotten when she was due back at work or something.”

“But it’s been months, Dad. That explanation might make sense if she’d been due back a couple of days or even weeks ago, but by the sound of things, she’s been missing since before the World Cup.”

“Well, maybe she’s met some man and gone off with him,” Cornelius replied irritably. The last thing he wanted was Jovian believing all kinds of ridiculous possibilities. “Look, she didn’t come back to work after her holidays. That’s hardly a reason to believe that she’s been abducted or murdered or whatever it is that Rita Skeeter is trying to imply.”

“Well, I’d be worried,” Jovian repeated, before heading out to meet Carla.

Even Alyssa was critical of his handling of the situation. It wasn’t concern for Bertha that caused her censure, but concern for her husband’s profile. In her view, he should have dealt with the “disappearance” more promptly.

“But I didn’t know,” he defended himself. He was sick and tired of defending his every action. Even his own family were criticising him. It was quite disheartening.

“Ludo didn’t tell me,” he continued. “You know how he is about things like that. Fantastic when it comes to organising events like the World Cup, but totally disinteresting in Media relations or anti-Muggle security or anything like that.”

At least Alyssa was willing to accept that, satisfied to blame anybody other than her husband for the Ministry’s failures. Jovian was more difficult to convince. He appeared to believe that his father should be doing something more to find the woman. For Merlin’s sake, what was it that everyone expected him to do?

If everybody was looking for a mysterious disappearance, they got one shortly afterwards. Bertha’s disappearance could be anything, but when Barty Crouch disappeared in Hogwarts grounds some weeks later, there seemed to be far greater cause for concern.

At least Dumbledore appeared worried. His description of events stated that two young boys; Harry Potter and Viktor Krum from Drumstrang, had found Barty Crouch in Hogwarts grounds. According to their account, Barty had been behaving most unusually. He hadn’t seemed quite disoriented; unaware of where he was or who was with him.

Cornelius was half-inclined to question this testimony. He was beginning to think it quite strange how Harry Potter appeared to be around for every strange event that happened in or around Hogwarts. He could just imagine Dolores’ reaction. She was constantly warning him not to take the boy’s words at face value. “He’s only a child after all,” was her usual comment.

Nonetheless, in this particular instance, both he and the other boy had told the same story, and Dumbledore appeared to believe that they were telling the truth, so Cornelius decided to accept their story.

According to Dumbledore, Harry had gone to get help, while Viktor had remained with Barty. When Dumbledore and the others had gone to investigate, Viktor had been found injured and Barty hadn’t been found at all.

That was a worrying situation, but he couldn’t see any need for Dumbledore to connect it with the so-called disappearance of Bertha Jorkins. Cornelius himself was inclined to believe that Barty had simply lost his mind. He had always been inclined to overreact, after all. Not exactly an indication of a stable mind. And, if Dumbledore was so sure of the evidence of the two young witnesses, why didn’t he grant more credence to their description of the man’s mania.

He put that suggestion to Dumbledore, during the meeting which took place in the latter’s office to discuss the events which had taken place. If, however, he had expected this to put an end to Dumbledore’s theories, he was fully mistaken.

Rather than agreeing with what Cornelius considered a perfectly reasonable theory, Dumbledore pointed out that if the man had wandered off, he had done so very quickly.

Hastily, he groped around for an alternative explanation.

Suddenly an idea came to him. Madame Maxime!! She was half-giant after all, and everybody knew what giants were. Why shouldn’t she have inherited the violent nature of her predecessors and decided to randomly attack a mentally disturbed man and a boy. Being half-giant, she would certainly have the strength.

Unsurprisingly, Dumbledore didn’t seem too impressed with that theory either. It was just typical of him. Brilliant as the man undoubtedly was, he was always too willing to support those who anybody with any sense would have realised could not be trusted-Snape who was suspected of being a Death Eater and who had seemed completely unhinged when Cornelius had met him the previous year; Lupin, a werewolf and of course, Hagrid, who was not only a half-giant, but who had also been suspected, incorrectly in this instance, of opening the Chamber of Secrets.

Of course, Dumbledore’s friendship with him would influence him to believe the best of half-giants. He attempted to point this out to him.

“Don’t you think you might be prejudiced in her favour because of Hagrid? They don’t all turn out harmless – if, indeed, you can call Hagrid harmless, with that monster fixation he’s got –“

"I no more suspect Madame Maxime than Hagrid," Dumbledore replied, adding on a suggestion that Fudge might be reacting from his own prejudices.

What? Him, prejudiced? Cornelius could hardly believe what he was hearing. Just because he was willing to accept that not all creatures were trustworthy and innocent. If Moody hadn’t interrupted at this point to let the headmaster know that Harry wanted to speak to the headmaster, Cornelius might just have told Dumbledore what he thought of that suggestion.

Author's Note: Just for fun, can anybody see a connection between Percy in this chapter and anything else in this story. (Probably easier if you've just read the whole thing in one go). Just something I put in for my enjoyment.

I am not sure when, or even if, this story will be completed. Sorry about this, but it takes a lot of work to look up ever reference to Fudge in each book and this story is not one that I am particularly impressed with anyway.