Sirius was chasing his tail again when he heard the voices approaching. Even dogs will get neurotic if you lock them up in a small space long enough. Voices meant visitors and visitors could see him. Quickly he reverted to human form and moved to lounge on the bare mattress of his cell cot. One of the voices was Cornelius Fudge. A small smile played at the corners of Sirius' mouth. It wasn't a happy smile. He was never happy these days. Thirteen long years locked in a tiny cell with only a slit of a window for light would drain the all the joy and happiness out of anyone. If that didn't the Dementor guards surely would.
However Cornelius Fudge was such an easy target, it gave him a morbid satisfaction to disturb the man as much as he could every time the Minister of Magic came to visit. He'd been a famous prankster in his day, a lesser god within the halls of Hogwarts. The thought of Hogwarts brought thoughts of James and Lily. Of how he'd failed them. The words he'd said to Molly Weasley when she'd come to beg him to tell her it wasn't true, that he hadn't betrayed the Potters, came back to haunt him. 'As surely as the words fell from my own mouth.'. He'd laughed at the time. It had been a painful soul destroying laugh. His world was in ruins around his feet. Oh, how the favored of the gods had fallen. They'd believed themselves invincible. The title from a muggle song filtered up through his brain out of the past. It was odd the way somethings would come into his head out of nowhere these days. It fit though, they'd truly been the Kings of Oblivion. James, Remus and him. They'd gotten away with so much for so long that they had come to believe nothing could touch them.
Maybe that's why they had fallen so far when fate had finally caught up with them. Sirius' eyes ached, but he had no more tears left. He'd lost them long ago, the day he'd caught up with Peter in that alleyway. It was all his fault. He'd been the one to convince James and Lily to use Pettigrew. He'd convinced his best friend to lay his and his beloved's life on the shoulders of a sniveling coward. Pettigrew would pay for that one day, him and his twisted excuse of a master. But there would be time to dwell on that later, right now he had to take his chance to find out about what was going on outside before it passed him by, literally.
The voices grew closer and Sirius sat up, leaning forward as the Minister approached. He must be on his best manners, after all his Mother used to say Manners were what separated them from the animals. Muggles in her mind being just another kind of animal. The irony of the fact that Sirius could actually become an actual animal now, thanks to his being an Animagus wasn't lost on him. His Mother would likely see it as him finally showing true to form he was sure.
Cornelius Fudge neared the door and Sirius drawled casually. "Come for a visit have you, Minister?", He kept his tone light and easy as if Fudge had simply dropped by for tea and a social call. He notched up a silent point when Fudge started visibly. It was rather like playing mental chess with an unarmed opponent, Sirius thought. He couldn't take any pleasure out of something that wasn't even a challenge to begin with. At least the dementors wouldn't be able to steal from him. Contempt was not a good emotion or even one Sirius was proud of, but they say your oldest habits were the hardest to break.
"Good day, Black.", Cornelius replied politely trying not to twitch too much. Politeness was apparently one of Fudge's oldest habits. The Dementors made him nervous, almost as much as Sirius Black did. The man simply wasn't normal. No one should be that calm, that sane, after thirteen years in this horrible place. And yet there he was, looking like a mad-man and speaking like they were just meeting for lunch at some uptown cafe. He had to be a very dangerous kind of insane, Fudge was sure of it.
"How are things at the Ministry these days?", Sirius asked lounging back against his cell wall, crossing one leg to rest his ankle on his opposite knee. His hands folded over his stomach to keep them from shaking. The picture of ease and nonchalance, never would he let Fudge see what it cost him to be in here for so long.
"Fine, fine.", Cornelius smiled tightly, shifting the newspaper under his arm to the side facing Black. It wasn't fine. Things were uneasy at best and he could feel the ground changing beneath him ever so subtly, but he didn't know why or in what direction. A seasoned politician Fudge knew something was in the wind, but he couldn't put his finger on what, so he pushed it to the back of his mind. If he ignored it long enough, it might resolve itself and just go away with him having to do anything about it. Fudge never liked to act unless he absolutely had to.
Sirius caught sight of the newspapers front page, he idly read the headlines as best he could as he said. "Good to hear. It's good to know the country is in such capable hands." The sarcasm in his voice was thick enough to cut with a knife.
A photo on the page caught his attention and it was all Sirius could do to stay seated and not lunge at the cell door and try to rip the paper from under Fudge's elbow. He could feel his heart beating against his breast fit to burst through his ribcage. It was HIM! He'd know that form, that Rat!, anywhere. How many times had he seen Peter transform? Helped him learn how to do it, for Merlin's sake! None of them had caught the significance until much too late. He had to have that paper! He had to find out where Pettigrew was!
Cornelius frowned heavily, he didn't need to take this from a convicted killer, the betrayer of James and Lily Potter. He puffed up pompously and replied. " I haven't got the time to stay and chat with the likes of you!"
Sirius fought to stay where he was as Fudge turned to leave. "I understand. You're a busy man, but if you don't mind. Can I have your paper?", It cost him dearly to say that in such an off hand manner as if he didn't care one way or the other.
Fudge looked back at him blankly. "My.., My paper?", he repeated uncertainly.
"I do so miss doing the crossword puzzles.", Sirius replied picking the first innocent seeming response that popped into his head.
"Of course.", Fudge handed over the paper with the oddest look on his face. As if he wasn't quite sure why he was doing it, but couldn't think of a good reason not to.
"Thanks, Fudge old' boy.", Sirius carefully took the Daily Prophet from him under the watchful eye of Fudge's Auror guards. His heart sang with thoughts of death and destruction. Finally a chance for revenge, a chance to redeem himself to James and Lily. To pay the debt he owed them in the only acceptable way he could think of. He kept his head down as he moved back to the cot, not wanting to chance anyone seeing what he was sure was burning in his eyes. Taking a delicate steadying breath he got himself under control and sat back down to face them again. He tossed the paper down on the bunk beside him. Not wanting to make it seem like it was anything, but the idle gesture of a mildly bored man. Howling demons of vengeance coursed through his veins as he fought to keep any hint of it off his face. Azkaban had been excellent for nothing, if not teaching him how to control his emotions.
Fudge hesitated and Sirius now wanting him gone so he could study the article with that picture said. "I know the matters of State must be pressing, but do come back and visit again soon." He added an elegantly dismissive wave of his hand copied perfectly from his mother sending Kreacher off on an errand.
Fudge twitched and gave a rather sickly smile before he hurried away too unnerved to stay any longer. His entourage followed hard at his heels, unequally glad to be getting as far away from Sirius Black and Azkaban as they could.
Sirius gave a feral smile as he watched carefully until Fudge and his entourage were out of sight. Then he snatched up the paper and hastily read the article about the Weasleys. Seven children? Six, count them, six boys!, What had Arthur and Molly been thinking?, He wondered in a mental aside as he scanned through, his eyes hungrily devouring the text. He had an idea what Molly had been thinking at least. She'd never gotten over the loss of Fabian and Gideon at Dolohov's hands. And Arthur, well Arthur never could stand against Molly in anything, but the most dire circumstances.
Sirius felt a stab of pain as he looked over the picture of the smiling family. At least someone had gotten to be happy, to grow old together with their loved ones. A bottomless pit of despair opened before him in the depths of his soul. Sirius teetered on the edge, but his eyes found Pettigrew riding on Molly and Arthur's youngest son Ronald's shoulder. Hate rose up like thick bile in the back of his throat and washed the pit away. It was a hungry empty feeling that would be filled by only one thing. For the first time in years Sirius had a goal. Hogwarts. The article said Ronald Weasley went to Hogwarts and Peter Pettigrew was with him.
Another thought occurred to him, one that brought him back down to reality with a thump and a chill that went all the way down to his bones. James' son Harry was at Hogwarts. Pettigrew was near James' son. The article mentioned that Ronald Weasley was a close friend of the Boy who Lived. Sirius gave an animalistic growl, low and deep in his chest as all the rage he'd been holding in for thirteen years spilled to the surface. Pettigrew was going to die and it was going to be by his, Sirius' hand.
He sprang to his feet and started pacing his cell. It was going to take careful planning and, Merlin help him, time. Time that seemed to have suddenly become a very precious commodity. He wracked his brain as he paced the room focusing down on one thing and one thing only. How was he going to escape the inescapable? Getting out of his cell wasn't the problem that would be the easy part. To get to the main land, now that would be a challenge.
He obsessed over the thought for days as he came up with and abandoned several ideas. It haunted his dreams and possessed his every waking moment, until he determined there was only one way. He'd have to swim the North Sea. There was simply no other way. Even in his Animagus form there would be no way to slip into a boat. Anyone coming or going would not only notice him, but surely wonder what a dog was doing on Azkaban anyway.
That left only the wait for the perfect weather. The calmer the better. It would be hard enough to swim the freezing cold northern waters as it was, but on a rough night it would be suicide.
It was nearly a month after Fudge had given him the paper when he decided he couldn't wait any longer. It wasn't a perfectly calm night. But it was the quietest the sea had been in weeks. Soon it would be September and the coming of winter would bring storms. That and Hogwarts would start term in September. He had to reach it, to be in place when the students and Pettigrew arrived.
As the sun set, Sirius changed form. The Dementors were busy serving out the evening meal. He quickly wolfed down the thick porridge like gruel they brought. His last meal in this nightmare place. He'd been eating every scrape they'd brought recently. It wasn't enough for him to gain any weigh, but he'd need all the energy he could muster. While the guards were busy with the others on the next cell row, Sirius slipped out between the bars of the door. As a dog he was more than skinny enough to fit.
Cautiously he crept down the hallway, crouching against the nearest cell door whenever a dementor floated past. They couldn't sense him very well as a dog and Sirius used it to his advantage. He needed to be well away before they discovered his empty chamber and raised the alarm. Fast as he dared he made his way to the docks. The cold spray of the ocean in his face was a shock to a system not used to the feel of anything touching it, but his own hands in thirteen years.
He almost hesitated, but the rage and hate for Pettigrew burned too strong. The need to finally quench his burning thirst to settle the debt between them drove him forward. The need to hunt, to chase, to rend flesh and shatter bone with his teeth coursed silently though his canine soul as he leapt into the water. Its icy chill quickly numbed him, despite his heavy coat of fur. Still he swam on. It burned his paws and choked the breath in his throat as the salt water stung his eyes making him loose sight of the distant coastline. Still he wouldn't allow himself to falter. Pettigrew was at Hogwarts, he told himself over and over. It became a chant, a mantra, a rhythm to time his swimming strokes to.
His paws grew leaden and became just lifeless weights that he could no longer feel. An almost continuous growl resounded within his deep chest as he pushed himself to the limits of his endurance and beyond. The growing sight of the cliffs getting nearer drove him on. Then the current changed and the waves pushed him towards the shore. He stumbled when his paws hit the pebble beach no longer able to feel anything with them. With a last heaving effort he stumbled ashore and dragged himself above the high tide line.
'You can't quit yet.', Sirius nagged at his aching and unwieldy body. To stay there was to die. If the sea didn't send an over large wave and drag him back, the cold would send him into oblivion and he couldn't face James and Lily, not yet. Staggering he forced his paws under him and made his way up the beach. He lost track of how far he walked. Of how many times he felt, or collapsed, once even almost falling asleep.
He almost lost hope when he nearly walked into the side of a stone barn. He stared at it dumbly for a second, unable to comprehend what it was. Then light dawned and he willed himself to be a man again. Leaning against the stones for support he made his way to the doors of the barn and let himself in shivering violently.
With the last of his energy turned back into a dog and burrowed into the deep pile of moldy straw in one dark corner. The dementors would be out searching for him soon and he could not take the chance of his thoughts betraying him in his sleep. He passed out with the knowledge he had escaped Azkaban and was on his way to Hogwarts. He was on his way to finally complete what he'd started out to do thirteen years ago. Kill Peter Pettigrew
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