Chapter 1 : Fading Strength
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Dedication: For Shelby. This is what I've been working on, and your love of Sirius was the inspiration I needed for this. Thank you so much for being such an amazing friend. ♥
Chapter Image: callisto@TDA.
Azkaban. A place for the foulest of the foul humans that walk the Earth, to be guarded and tortured by the most horrid beings the Ministry could find – Dementors'. The two species live, one full of terror, the other far too happy for such a desolate place, in a repetitive cycle. Fresh blood was savoured, especially if it wasn't to stay for very long, and the slow and painful descent into madness was enough to drive anyone to their limits...
New prisoners were hardly ever brought immediately to the higher floors. Unless they were morbidly afraid of heights, they were shunted off into the lower cells and moved at random, becoming anonymous, a mass of shadows in the many corridors. They stayed in those cells, day by day, night by night, however time had no meaning to anyone here. It was all one continuous stretch of darkness-sunlight was completely foreign here; almost as if it were afraid. Its beauty would go unrecognised, unappreciated. The guards sucked all glimmers of hope from the fortress, and the prisoners would think it was their slowly decaying minds playing a cruel game.
“Get your filthy hands off me!”
Awaking from his daze, Sirius Black opened his sunken eyes, confused as to why such an intelligible shriek was heard at one of the higher floors. Rubbing his grimy temples, he heaved himself from his small, uncomfortable bed, his bones protesting with cracks at the rare movement. Slowly, he shuffled over to the door of his cell, peering through the bars. Several loud bangs and what sounded like chains clanging to a fall on the stone floors echoed around, causing a couple more curious faces in the row opposite appear behind the thin bars. Some started muttering incoherently, others looked confused and shaken, and one loud “HA!” had most certainly come from his cousin. Sirius shuddered, and raised an eyebrow when the faces slowly sunk back into the shadows.
Feeling the engulfing presence of the Dementors getting closer, he tried to remember his graduation day from Hogwarts, of finally being free of his family ties. The faintest hint of a smile crossed his gaunt face, and the pressing air lifted slightly.
Figuring that the Dementors had stopped hauling their prisoner any further, he too slunk back into the shadows, his ears focused in case anymore screams were heard. Although hardly anyone screamed now. They had been locked up long enough to have gone quiet, or had realised that their pleas for help or mercy had fallen on deaf ears.
Suddenly, the door to the corridor crashed open, the sound intensified by the dark silence. Immediately, Sirius could tell that there were many Dementors - the entire place dropped about 20 degrees and even more whimpers were heard.
Ignoring the pictures of his best friends' cold, motionless body that were flashing in his head, Sirius hovered behind his cell door again, looking on as more than ten of the prison guards escorted a petite young woman. The look on her face was pure loathing, and she continually tried to shake the chains around her hands. Half way down the corridor, they all stopped, and Sirius saw one of the Dementors clasp the woman's wrist with it's scaly fingers.
Feeling their annoyance at the prisoner, Sirius stepped back, trying to clear his head. The images and memories he was bombarded with had made him shake, and the guilt was pulsing through his veins. He felt sick, and he clawed at his ragged robe furiously, shredding the hem-line. It was compulsive, and he felt himself slowly slip into the madness he tried to hard to avoid.
“That's my wedding ring, you prick, don't you dare-” the woman shrieked with horror, but to Sirius, she sounded a million miles away. He was at Godric's Hollow, and she was in Azkaban; both two completely different places. He was with the dead bodies of his best friend's, and she was in a grimy corridor, shrieking over a ring.
From what Sirius could see, he was caught in the Potter's house, screaming, tears rolling down his cheeks, straightening the glasses on James' nose. Prison had no meaning to him anymore, for it was hell on earth, and he was at an entirely different reality. Trapped, with the dead bodies for company, and a baby's cry heard timidly through the haze.
Confused and disoriented, Sirius reached out, his fingers trying to grasp the photo of himself, James, Lily and baby Harry to keep, but his fingers only found air. Cold air, laced with desperation and repressed memories, telling him that it was his fault, it was and always will be his fault.
He gave a scream and twisted on the floor, clutching at his head. “Go away, make it go away-” he muttered, before twisting once more. In his place was a shaggy black dog, twitching with it's eyes closed. It's breathing was heavy, and it's sharp teeth gnashed at the air, before it stretched it's long body and curled up in a ball. It heard the sound of the cell door next to his own creak open, and the woman shriek at the guards, demanding her ring back. Sirius sniffed the air - she still had hints of perfume, and her sweet scent of cleanliness, which had no place here, lingered through her open door and into the corridor outside.
The smell of normalcy tainted with the stench of rotting death and decay. It was all so rare to be found in Azkaban, especially on this high floor.
Still in his animagus dog form, Sirius waited for her door to clang shut and the lock and bars be put in place by the guards, before padding over to his door, where a crack at it's hinges gave him a sliver of a view into his the cell next door.
He saw her, her forehead was leaning on her door, and her blonde curls were hiding her face from view. He heard her sob, and her small shoulders shook under her black robe. He sniffed, feeling sorry for her. He noticed that her hands with perfectly manicures fingernails were drumming on the door, almost in defeat.
Feeling as though he was intruding, he padded away, and felt it safe enough to regain his human form now that the many Dementors had left, leaving only the normal amount to guard. With a twist, he was sitting on the floor in his tattered robe, as though nothing at all had happened. Stretching his long fingered, he was relieved that the horror of his friends fate gone from his mind. In its place was the normal blankness he had trained himself to think of, and the almost calm sense that came with it.
Having been here for so long, Sirius had come to learn how to ward off a bit of the depression that seeped from the cold walls. If you had no happy thoughts on your mind, the Dementors could not steal it from you. If you had terror on your mind, the Dementors intensify it. If you had nothing but blankness, you became forgotten, just another empty soul that blended in with the walls - a chameleon. Which was a way to survive in this god-forsaken place.
With a heavy sigh, he started idly drawing in the dirt with his finger, feeling drained. He cursed himself for letting the Dementor's get to him like they did. He thought he had trained himself well, but he obviously had mistaken. He clearly was just like every other miserable prisoner here, not immune to the Dementors at all. His heart sank, and became tired of fighting. He let in the horrors of his past, rolling into a fitful sleep in the floor, baby Harry's cries haunting his mind.
He awoke to the sound of sobbing. With his wet cheeks, he thought it was him, but he realised with a scowl that it was raining outside and it was trickling in through the window. He sighed, realising that his entire cell was dripping with water. Damn this place, he thought, shaking his wet hair out of his eyes.
He heard the sobbing again, and he remembered the woman that had been brought in earlier. He remembered her loud shrieks, demanding her wedding ring or something. Unless she was a Death Eater, he couldn't think why a woman would be up at such a high level.
The worse your crime, the higher you're sent, he recited, the song the first years used to sing when he was at school. He had forgotten the rest of the rhyme long ago, and hadn't bothered to try and remember it.
The woman next door had become quiet, only occasionally giving a hiccough. He contemplated saying something, just a kind “Hello”, or to help her block out whatever horrors of her past she was being forced to remember.
Despite what the Prophet had printed about him, Sirius was a Gryffindor, both by house and by nature. Even though he came from a now infamous family, he had never once been called a Slytherin, and had always prided himself on that fact. To hear a woman cry and for her not to be offered help was wrong, but with the accusations about him, he doubted that she would receive his concern well.
He sighed, and headed over to the door of his cell, where there was a small patch of dry ground. He hoped the rain would not stay for long. It always gave him a head cold, and the so called 'healers' here had never once been of any help. They just gave him an extra slice of stale bread at meals.
“Is someone there?” a shaky voice whispered.
Sirius turned his head to the right, and saw the sliver of a pale, tear stained face through the weakening joins of the cell walls. He saw a wide green eye staring at him, bloodshot from crying.
“Hi.” Sirius' voice came out as a soft, rasping croak. It had been so long since he'd spoken, and his throat felt tight from so little use. He tried to smile, but thought twice at the lack of dental hygiene Azkaban offered.
The woman started to speak again, but Sirius held a finger to his lips, feeling the cold presence of a Dementor coming down the corridor. To his relief, he then felt it leave, and looked back through the crack.
“H...how long have you been here?” she squeaked, shivering. She looked at him pleadingly, confusion clouding her eyes.
“Just over three years,” Sirius whispered. He shook his long, matted hair from his unshaven face, and tried to smile again. He remembered what it was like to be new here. He had thought his life could not get any worse, but he had been wrong. Azkaban was a darkness he had never imagined in his darkest days in the Order, and was certainly not a place he had ever expected to be. After the unfairness to him, he often wondered how many other innocent people were locked up here, too.
She whimpered, and left the crack. Sirius could hear her pacing and muttering quietly. He felt sorry for her, he really did. It would be a blessing in disguise if she were not to last long. Strength meant prolonged suffering in Azkaban. It was the war all over again, but at least some Death Eaters were getting their comeuppance.
A dark shadow crossed his haggard, aristocratic features as he thought about the Death Eaters. He found it insulting to be branded as one. He looked down to his left arm, where not a tattoo was visible. This was the proof that he was a good man. This was the reason he had tried to help. That 'help' had lead to their deaths. And being trapped here reminded him of that fact everyday.
Pushing the thought from his mind, and feeling the air chilling, he noticed that it had stopped raining and that night was falling. Dinner would be served soon, he realised, and he was not hungry at all. He headed over to his small bed, which was thankfully dry, and stared up at the crumbling ceiling, pulling the thin blankets around his shoulders.
He was afraid.
Afraid that if he went to sleep, his mind would re-play that day. He had ignored it for so long, stuck his head in the sand, lived as peacefully as he could here. He cursed himself for his curiosity. If only he had stayed away from the guards, he wouldn't be so shaken.
Normally, he was strong enough to think of when he lost the Quidditch Cup, or facing the boggart in his fourth year; those had been quite unnerving at the time. Maybe he wasn't so strong. Azkaban is meant to make you insane with depression. Today, for the first time since he'd arrived at Azkaban, Sirius realised how easily it could happen. And he sure as hell never wanted those memories to play across his mind again.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading! If you have the time, I'd love it if you reviewed! This is my first time writing about Sirius, so any con-crit or suggestions you have, you are more than welcome to let me know. ^_^
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