Our Ticket into Azkaban

by Crystal M. 

One of the things that fans of J.K. Rowling’s series love more than anything else is the completely believable world she has created for her characters to exist in. There are schools, banks, governments, and hundreds of other different details and locations that make the books more realistic. One of the locations that has long intrigued many, myself included, is the dreaded Wizard prison, Azkaban.

First mentioned in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and coming into a more important role in later books, the prison has been mentioned enough for us to be able to glean a good bit of information about it. However, since it first appeared, I have wanted to know more about it than we have been told. In fact, I would consider it a great treat if Ms. Rowling were to give us a scene in which we could visit Azkaban and see it with our own eyes (or Harry’s eyes, more accurately). Though until recently I had despaired of this ever happening, when I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, my hope was restored. I can now clearly see a scenario that, if played out in a specific way, could afford us a trip there. It all revolves around Mundungus Fletcher.

First, let us examine what we already know about Azkaban. The clearest description we get of the prison itself comes from Remus Lupin:

“Azkaban must be terrible,” Harry muttered. Lupin nodded grimly.

“The fortress is set on a tiny island, way out to sea, but they don’t need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks.” [POA US, pg. 188]

The running of the prison seems to have many similarities to prisons that actually exist, if we ignore the fact that the guards are invisible (to Muggles), soul-sucking creatures. From various descriptions Sirius gives of his stay in Azkaban, we find out that the prisoners are kept in barred cells. The prisoners are also brought food by the guards, and are either allowed time out of their cells, or (and I consider this more likely) the cells have windows. This is because Sirius is able to report on seeing things happening outside:

“Crouch never came for his son’s body. The dementors buried him outside the fortress; I watched them do it.” [GOF US, pg. 529]

The burying of bodies at the prison is again mentioned in Half-Blood Prince:

“He [Morfin] lived out the remainder of his life in Azkaban, lamenting the loss of Marvolo’s last heirloom, and is buried beside the prison, alongside the other poor souls who have expired within its walls.” [HBP US, pg. 367]

From the above, Dumbledore makes it sound like that there is a graveyard on the grounds, which means that several people must have died while under the dementors’ tender care. In fact, there are many indications that the living conditions are absolutely terrible, not the least of these being the physical conditions of those we have seen emerge from there. For example, the first description of Sirius in Prisoner of Azkabaninvolves his “gaunt face” and “matted, elbow-length tangle” of hair (indeed, I found it a source of never-ending amusement at the end of OOTP to imagine Lucius Malfoy living in these conditions). Not only must it be physically taxing, but it must also be mentally and emotionally draining — the inmates spend their time “muttering to themselves in the dark” [POA US, pg. 209] and “shriek[ing] in their sleep.” [GOF US, pg. 529]

Of course, there is one huge problem with all of this information: it is outdated. The conditions must be vastly different now that the dementors are no longer the guards of Azkaban. They were probably the main reason everyone feared the prison so much, and now they have abandoned it to join forces with Lord Voldemort. This raises the question, who now guards the prisoners? They must have found a fairly adequate way to keep the inmates in, or else all the Death Eaters captured at the end of OOTP would have escaped by the end of HBP. Would the Ministry have assigned Aurors, who seem to be in high demand now that the Wizarding world is at war, to guard the fortress? Are there spells in place that prevent the inmates from leaving, similar to the anti-apparition shields at Hogwarts? We could easily find out just by watching Harry take a quick trip there.

Now, how is Mundungus Fletcher going to help us secure that trip to Azkaban? Well, it all hinges on Harry’s search for the remaining Horcruxes. For the purpose of this editorial, we are going to assume that the theory that has been presented so often in recent months — that the identity of R.A.B. is Regulus Black — is true. If we accept that, then we can guess that the “heavy locket that none of them could open,” found at Number 12 Grimmauld Place is most likely the Horcrux. [OOTP US, pg. 116]

The locket could now be in one of several places:

  1. Still in the Black house, wherever they were storing the things they cleaned out.
  2. Stolen by Kreacher, and hidden somewhere by him.
  3. Stolen by Mundungus Fletcher, along with other stolen items from Grimmauld Place (goblets, etc.) that Harry discovers him carrying around in Hogsmeade in HBP.

Option 3 is the one we are going to concern ourselves with. If Mundungus stole the locket, then Harry may need to go and ask him about it at some point. But at the end of HBP, Mundungus is safely locked away in Azkaban.

“Anyone we know–?” asked Ron, as Hermione scanned the headlines.

“Yes!” said Hermione, causing both Harry and Ron to gag on their breakfast.

“But it’s all right, he’s not dead — it’s Mundungus, he’s been arrested and sent to Azkaban! Something to do with impersonating an Inferius during an attempted burglary…” [HBP US, pg. 457]

It is really no surprise that Mundungus has been arrested, as he is been mentioned doing illegal things as early as GOF. For example, when he tried to claim reimbursement for fake items (a tent with a Jacuzzi that he never had in the first place) after the fiasco at the Quidditch World Cup. Nearly everyone who has given an opinion of him, from Snape to Mrs. Weasley, has agreed that he is a dishonest thief. But he does have his uses, like providing the twins with illegal substances for their joke shop… and maybe getting us a look inside Azkaban.

What could happen while Harry is there? Could he discover the location of the locket? Or have an encounter with Stan Shunpike? Or perhaps have a run-in with the Death Eaters from the battle in the Department of Mysteries?

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Mundungus did not steal the locket. It is also entirely possible that even if he did, it has been passed off to someone else. Or, perhaps Harry could get the information about its location elsewhere. For example, just before Harry found out Mundungus was stealing Sirius’ things, he saw Mundungus talking to Aberforth Dumbledore, bartender of the Hog’s Head. Perhaps Aberforth could be a possible new source for “seedy” information? In any case, I hope that we will have an excuse to see Azkaban at some point in the future, because I think it would be extremely fascinating.