Chapter 13 : Cold as the Grave
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Barty focused on this discomfort with what little scraps of energy he had left, dove deeper and deeper into his own swirling despair. He relied on the sharp edges of pain to slice off everything else: shrieks of other high security prisoners, hisses of dementors, thoughts of his father.
If he thought of his father he would go mad, mad, mad. He would writhe in his cell and scream with the injustice of it all. The dirty scumbag would pay, pay for putting him here, if only Barty could get word to the Dark Lord, then his master would right it all, he and his father would switch places and Barty would rise before the world while his father shriveled away to nothing, the dementors chipping away at his cold, cold soul.
The dementors. If he concentrated on the cold, the pain, then they could do nothing. They could not make him feel worse than he already felt. If he clung to the grime under his fingernails and the violent shivering, they would glide on past. If he thought of anything else, like Auró
It was cold. It was so, so cold. And the floor was gritty beneath his bare feet, and the wind was ruffling his matted hair, and Bellatrix was wailing next door just to hear any voice, even her own, and her voice was in his head now...
See, look, Barty. There's the North Star, and there's Sirius, the Dog Star, and, if you look very carefully, you see those specks over there? What're those, do you know?
And oh, if only he could see the stars, and he could tell her that he knew, he knew which was which, in fact he had never forgotten their names again after that night. If only Azkaban had a ceiling like the Great Hall, then he could lie on his back and look at the stars and it would almost be as if they were back togetheró
A cold, rattling breath. The trailing end of smoky cloak. Invisible fingers creeping down his throat, through his hair, between his fingers, and now he was drowning in his own despair.
"I get it, I get it!" Barty screamed. He flung a hand out at the dementor, but it only hit slimy metal. He cradled the limp hand in his lap and closed his eyes, as Bellatrix cackled nearby and Dolohov muttered incomprehensibly.
It was cold. He was shivering. The cells were dank, dark, desperate. The three D's. With that, he should be able to Apparate out...
He staggered to his feet and concentrated, spun in a shaky circle. For a moment he couldn't breathe, the sounds faded, and he felt a tendril of hope bloom to life. Then he collapsed to the ground, coughing, coughing, coughing, and somebody snickered.
Barty looked up through layers of greasy hair. He couldn't see. Not past the cold, the hopelessness that the dementors projected. He couldn't even bear to look at it. He dropped his eyes.
"Is he alive?"
Something rattled, metal on metal.
Cold. So cold. He wouldn't hear a thing.
A scabbed hand shot through the bars and clasped him about the throat. Barty's chin was forced up, his eyes caught by his father's identical ones. He couldn't find the strength to wrench them away. The dementor's slimy hand retreated, but Barty couldn't move. He focused all his loathing, all his collected pain, on the man standing erect before him.
"Your mother wanted to see you."
Barty's gaze finally slid past his father. A hobbling, haggard woman drooped toward the floor behind Bartemius Sr. Her breaths shook nearly as much as the dementors'.
"Hello, Mother," Barty said. He narrowed his eyes, so that in the slits he saw only her face, not the despicable man standing beside her.
"Barty," his mother whispered. It took an age for the single word to escape her lips. When she raised her arm to his cell, it quivered terribly. He could not make himself raise a hand to meet her.
"Why?" his mother asked. "She wouldn't have... wanted this. Lysandra... wouldn't..."
"Don't say that name!" Barty hissed. He lunged forward, curled his arms around the bars. "You know nothing of her, Mother. You never did. And as she is gone now, you never will. Don't bring her up just to get my attention; I have others who sympathize, who can help me."
"You think the Dark Lord cares about you?" his father chuckled. "Think again." He turned sharply on his heel, hooked his arm around his wife's, and they were being led out before Barty remembered what his comeback was supposed to be. The prison rang with the sound of their scorn, and he sunk to the floor, gasping, unable to keep the images from pouring in. Lysandra, by the river, stepping up to fight. Flashes of light. Shooting stars. Aurora, telling him to make a wish, blushing when he asked what hers was.
"Quit that moaning!" someone shrieked, and Barty bit on his tongue. The terrible wailing sound that had been irking him abruptly stopped.
"The Dark Lord will come back for us, and we will forever be in his debt for saving us from this hellhole," Bellatrix said to someone else across the room. She'd stopped talking to Barty long ago. Black spots swam in Barty's vision, his ears began ringing. He felt the ground beneath his knees, then his cheek, then his eyes.
The shivers crawled down his spine, tickled his ear. He shook his head violently and peered up.
"Come to see me so soon, Father?"
Bartemius Sr. eyed him warily. "It's been a month. Your mother insisted."
She bent and bowed, his eyes playing tricks on him. Her skin hung in folds despite the fact that she was smooth-faced in all his memories. Her eyes trailed the ground. Rows and rows of bars separated them, were swimming before his eyes, and refused to stay put no matter how many times he blinked. There were too many bars for just one cell.
"Mother," he said hoarsely, "what did they lock you up for?"
Her eyes froze on his, flooded with something new, but before he could decipher it, Bartemius Sr. dragged her off. Barty began to boil underneath, shook a fist after them. A passing dementor brushed it aside was ease and Barty hung his head. What he wouldn't give to face his father, no bars in between them, nothing stopping him...
He knew what she would think of these thoughts. He knew what she would say. But she was surely off star-gazing.
It was cold. So, so cold. The wind was cold. The floor was cold. His stiffened clothes were cold. His heart beat colder with every second.
He could have sworn his mother was behind bars the last time he saw her. But this time she was definitely on the right side of the cell. He no longer bothered to acknowledge his father's presence, even in his mind. He dropped his head, left it there even when he felt the prick of hairs being yanked from his crown, a goblet shoved in his clammy hand.
Barty finally looked up. His mother trembled before him, also clutching a goblet. He could not tell where the command had from from, who it was directed at.
Barty didn't see the sense in obeying anything. He'd been ordered about his whole life by his father-- aha, his father! He was there too, behind his mother. No way he was drinking anything that man gave him. Did he really think a bit of wine could compensate for a lifetime in Azkaban?
"Barty," his mother rasped. "For me. Do as your father says." She screwed her eyes shut and sipped from her goblet. Bartemius Sr. had to support her elbow.
Barty sniffed the goblet dubiously. It was clearly poison. They were trying to trick him into drinking it, show him his mother tasting supposedly the same wine. But they wouldn't get him that easily; a servant of the Dark Lord would never fall for so low a trick, and the assumption alone was insulting.
Just as Barty raised his arm to throw his goblet to the ground, Bartemius Sr. strode forward. The wine sloshed around a bit as his own, cold hand covered Barty's and forced the goblet to his mouth. The other held his jaw while it was poured down his throat.
It was far too thick for wine, Barty realized. He spat half of it out onto the moldy straw at his feet, but the rest made it down. He screamed and lunged for his father, was caught by the bars. For once his father did not look down his nose at him. Instead he glanced around, almost nervously, though Bartemius Sr. certainly wasn't a man to grow nervous. He drew his wand, murmured a steady stream of spells, eyes scouring the room all the while. The other Death Eaters, separated by cold stone, murmured to themselves obliviously. They wouldn't have been bothered if Barty swore and screamed, as they all fell into fits at some point or another. All the while Barty leaned against the back of the cell, waiting for the poison to take effect. He closed his eyes, and let all the images of Aurora flood in, memories he'd beaten back for so long...
"Bartemius, hurry," his father hissed. Barty vaguely felt himself being dragged out of the cell, but when he glanced over his shoulder, he was still in there, looking back at himself. His other self grimaced and coughed. Barty closed his eyes and smiled; he'd not felt a thing, other than Aurora's open arms and Lysandra's beaming approval. He and his father began the walk out of Azkaban alone.
Good bye Aurora. Only the Dark Lord can save me now.
"My dear Helena," Flitwick said slowly, as he supervised the slow process of the main staircase mending itself. "How can you possibly know what went through his head? Not only that, but if he really did began to go insane at this time, how can you trust his word?"
"The mumblings of a mad man are always informative," sighed the Grey Lady. "After the Triwizard Tournament, after Dumbledore used Veritaserum to get the truth out of Barty, he was left under Minerva's watch. The remnants of the potion in addition to his victory left his mouth loose for a while yet. I came by and didn't have to linger long to hear that neither death nor Aurora were ever far from Barty's thoughts. However, the pieces didn't come together entirely until you told me his story."
"Being magically imprisoned by his father would leave Barty plenty of time to stew in his own dark thoughts," Flitwick frowned. "You've heard all about the time leading up to Quidditch Cup, I presume?"
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