The day dawned grey and foreboding, the harsh skies over the North Sea showing that winter was on its way. Sirius woke early as he always did in this place, unable to sleep through the increasingly oppressive air that increased numbers of Dementors invariably brought, and while his cell had no windows he knew instinctively that the sun had only just crept above the eastern horizon.
He hated Azkaban, but he knew he deserved to be there. He was clearly to blame for the fact James and Lily were now dead, and how it had happened. How had he not realised Peter was the spy? Why on earth had he thought it might have been Moony? Whatever possessed him to convince James and Lily to use someone else as a Secret Keeper? Because, if he was honest with himself, the only person that he had known for sure, with one hundred percent certainty, was loyal and reliable and definitely NOT the spy, the only person who he absolutely and completely knew fit that description, was himself.
It would have been the perfect blind, of course, making Peter the Secret Keeper to Lily’s Fidelius Charm. No one would ever have suspected that they would bestow so great an honour on a weak pitiful creature like him. But it had all backfired, and it was all Sirius’ fault because it had been his idea. And now Lily and James were dead, paying the ultimate price for their work fighting against the Death Eaters, and he had it hanging on his conscience.
Of course, he would have preferred to have a trial before being sent here. A forum to tell his version of events, even if he understood that the chances of anyone actually believing it would be slim. Even Dumbledore had believed that he, Sirius, was the Secret Keeper – not telling anyone at all about the switch was part of the plan. After all, the less people who knew about it meant that there was less chance of the Death Eaters finding out and going after Peter. Because, Sirius had reasoned at the time, that was the weakest point of the plan, if anyone found out it was Peter, because he’d not been convinced that Peter would stand up under pressure like that.
And that had been correct, in a way. Peter hadn’t been able to stand up under pressure. Sirius just hadn’t realised when the pressure had initially been exerted. It had to be a while ago, though – the spy had been passing information on James and Lily’s movements to the Death Eaters for at least a year before they were finally found.
Sirius swore in frustration. Even with a trial, he would still have been here. Without being able to produce a living Peter Pettigrew, his story had no legs at all. And Peter was probably living it up as a rat at the moment, even if he was unable to return to human form – at least in the short term – because he was supposed to be Sirius’ third victim. In any case he was still alive and in all likelihood enjoying life … unlike Sirius. He was now doomed to die in his cell, imprisoned on a rock in middle of the ocean, with no end in sight to the dull greyness of the cell and suffocating closeness of the Dementors. A life where he would never be happy again.
Yes, he thought as he looked around the empty cell that he must now call home, the day was turning out to be just the same as all the other days, with no deviation to differentiate them from each other and the anger and self-loathing he felt never varying. He didn’t even know how long he had been there – sometimes he thought it was only a few days, but other times he was convinced it was at least a month. A bland, pitiful excuse for breakfast was brought to him, he was permitted a wet cloth to wash himself with, and if he was lucky he might hear some of the other prisoners attempting to talk to each other through the walls of their cells. After all, it was the only human contact he had these days.
As it turned out, however, that day was different. Later in the day some new arrivals were being brought in, which meant that they would be brought past his cell, writhing in their binds and swearing at their captors. Sirius heard them coming and so made sure he was looking out for them, desperate for the sight of another human being, even if they were Death Eaters. People he hated on principle, no matter what else they did or who they had been before they signed up.
And, that day, one of them he knew. Mulciber from school, who noticed him as he was dragged past and smirked triumphantly at him.
“Black!” he gloated, shouting over his shoulder as he shuffled further down the corridor. “Big day for your lot today! Too bad you were stuck here, means you couldn’t go to dear Potter’s funeral and admire your handiwork … ”
That was all he heard, but those few words were enough to crush Sirius even more. Today must have been the day James and Lily were being buried. The best friends he’d ever had, and he wasn’t even able to be there to farewell them, couldn’t even pay his respects to two of the few people who had always treated him as him, not as a blood purity snob or blood traitor, based on his surname. Two of the people he had loved most in the world.
Not that he could remember why he had loved them, not now. After all, those were happy memories, and the Dementors who were stationed outside his cell day and night ensured that he had no happy memories left. No, all he had left was the guilt, the anger and the self-loathing. How could he not have seen it was Peter? Peter, who had always hung around those who were more powerful and talented than himself. Peter, who looked to others for protection and support. Peter, whose Animagus form was a rat, for God’s sake! Surely that should have been a clue? The fury and anger he felt towards himself hadn’t dissipated one iota in the time he’d been locked away.
Yes, it always came back to that. No matter what he forced into his mind to occupy his thoughts, they always returned to Peter and what he had done. Though, if Sirius was honest with himself, there was a tiny bit of admiration in there as well – after all, no one had even considered that Peter might even be capable of what he had pulled off, so he was obviously smarter than he’d let on for all these years. Or maybe some of James’ and Sirius’ smarts had rubbed off on him, he couldn’t rule that out as a possibility. But Peter was always there, at the bottom of everything, ready to come back into his mind when he was least ready for it and when the self-loathing was bound to return stronger than ever. It was easy to understand why there were so many deaths in this place, Sirius reflected, because the effect of the Dementors meant that any thoughts of self harm or worse came right to the surface. It was only because he could become a dog whenever it got to be too much that he hadn’t succumbed to that sort of thing himself.
Peter. Sirius wondered idly what he had done today. Had he been triumphant in the burial of his most famous victims? Had he spent the day with his fellow Death Eaters glorying in his victory? Or was there some guilt there, perhaps even some self-loathing of his own for his role in the deaths of James and Lily, the wrongful imprisonment of Sirius, and the abandonment of Remus? Particularly now Voldemort had fallen, and it appeared Peter had thrown his lot in with the wrong side. Well, Sirius would fix that. If he ever got out of here, Peter had better watch his step, because Sirius would be dogging him to his death.
Sirius punched the wall in frustration. While he was undeniably getting weaker due to the woefully inadequate diet provided to prisoners, he still had enough strength left to loosen a couple of small stones in the ancient wall. Not that he thought he might be able to escape from here through thumping a hole in his cell, but it was still good for fending off the frustration and anger he felt. What sort of world was it that allowed Peter to be out there, free and alive, when he, Sirius, was locked up in here for a crime that Peter committed? That allowed James and Lily to be killed in cold blood like that, that allowed someone like Voldemort to get as powerful as he was? He punched the wall again, grimacing at the pain but relishing it as one of the few feelings he could still access. Why could he not fight back? Somewhere deep inside himself he knew that he should be able to, but that was probably linked to happy memories as well so that was why he couldn’t access it.
Another punch, and he saw with satisfaction some more dust loosened from the crevices in the stone. Why (punch) could (punch) he not (punch) attend the funeral (another punch, extra hard this time) of his best friends (punch)?
Blood was streaming down his knuckles now and the pain was getting more and more intense, but he paid it little heed. What did a potentially broken hand matter? In the greater scheme of things it was a pittance, a minor irritation but nothing else. Not when two of the best people the world had ever known were being laid to eternal rest, because of the sneaking betrayal of someone they had loved and trusted. Someone they had thought was their friend.
No, it was all down to Peter. Sirius growled in anger and considered turning into a dog to get a more satisfactory noise out. Peter. If Sirius ever got out of this place, Peter had better run and hide if he had any idea what was good for him. There would be no rest until this was atoned for. It was the only thing he had to look forward to.