Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. All the other crap is mine :)
Turns out there aren't many people qualified to do weddings who were willing to do one in Azkaban, but two weeks after I made my request, I got my visit. I was taken by Side-Along Apparition with the Minister and the vicar (I think he was actually just a Ministry worker with the power to marry people, but vicar was as good a word as any to describe his role in this) to a small courtyard on an island in the middle of the sea. The courtyard itself was full of cracked stones which must have fallen from the twenty-foot wall surrounding it, with long, tangled weeds sprouting up all over the place. In the centre of the courtyard was Azkaban prison, a black tower so tall I couldn't make out the top of it; it seemed to go on forever. The air was thick and cold, far colder than normal January weather. Dementors, I realised.
The Minister took us through the door and asked the guard to let down the protective enchantments while we ascended the stairs to the cells. It was a long climb, and I came to the conclusion that it wasn't the Dementors that put people off visiting; it was the dreadful exercise you were forced to do. The Minister was in worse shape than me when we reached the top, though, which made me smile. That is, until he did some fancy spellwork to let us into the prison itself (like a password, I think) and the chill of the Dementors tore the smile right off my face.
They were everywhere, gliding along past the cells and sucking the life out of the prisoners. I could hear screaming, sobbing, maniacal laughter. I took back what I thought about the stairs; this was why people didn't visit Azkaban. This was the real horror of Azkaban: the madness.
"Black is on the next floor," the Minister said, leading us towards the first cells. The stench of all kinds of human waste filled my nostrils and I immediately switched to breathing through my mouth only.
The narrow walkway between the row of cells and the stone wall opposite curved round a corner, following the circular shape of the tower. We walked all the way around, keeping close to the wall and trying not to look through the bars. Dementors continued to glide up and down, ignoring us but still having an effect; again, I heard Remus' shouts down the phone, I saw Sirius' young face splashed across the front page of the Prophet, I felt the emptiness that came with losing so many people at once. Even after mere minutes in the place, I understood how it drove people mad. I bit my bottom lip and focused as hard as I could on the happiest memories of my school days, and the Dementors' effect seemed to diminish a little.
At the end of the corridor was a set of stone stairs that spiralled up to the next floor. When we reached the top of these stairs, we saw an identical floor to the one we'd just been on, complete with Dementors, insanity, and foul smells. The Minister walked more slowly now, glancing at each cell as we passed until he came to a halt. My stomach churned as I stepped up to the bars that bore a small plaque:
Sirius Black: Life.
I bit my lip as I peered through the gloom into the small, dirty space. Curled up at the back of the cell was a dark grey lump, twitching and moaning as he slept; my best friend, broken.
The Minister banged his wand against the name plaque loudly. "Mr Black, wake up. You have a visitor."
The lump stirred, slowly turning around. Matted curtains of black hair shielded his face from view, and dirt-covered hands gripped the torn, stained fabric that clothed him. He looked up, hair falling away to uncover a pale, grimy, sunken version of the face I used to know. I saw his cold grey eyes widen slightly, and he blinked slowly a few times.
"Terry?" His voice was quiet, gravelly and hoarse, hardly recognisable as the same voice that used to be loud and arrogant, frequently punctuated by distinctive barks of laughter.
I shuffled closer to the bars, and Sirius did the same, shakily rising to his feet as he did so. I could feel tears burning my eyes as I whispered, "Hi." It had been hard enough to know my best friend was locked up for a crime he didn't commit; to see him in such an awful state was heartbreaking.
"W - What are -" He cleared his throat and spoke a little louder. "What are you doing here?"
"I turned thirty the other week," I said.
Sirius frowned in confusion for a second then his eyes widened in realisation. "Surely you don't mean...?" I pulled the parchment out of my pocket and unfolded it, then held it up for Sirius to read. His face broke into a grin, cracking the dried-on dirt that had settled after years of not smiling, and I saw my old friend peering out of the darkness. It was the most beautiful sight in the world. The fact that he remembered our agreement made me feel warm inside despite the chill of the prison. Somehow, Sirius had resisted the madness. Somehow, the boy I used to depend on had survived, and was standing right in front of me, now only slightly hidden behind the mess that was Azkaban.
"I missed you," I whispered, not realising just how much until then.
"I missed you too," Sirius replied, reaching through the bars and cupping my cheek in his hand. I forgot about the smell and the muck and just leaned ever-so-slightly into his touch. "So much so that I have to wonder if I'm imagining this." He even managed to attempt his trademark smirk.
"You're not," I told him firmly.
"Are you sure? People don't usually visit this place."
"Are we doing this wedding, or what?" The Ministry vicar interrupted us.
I opened my mouth to reply with the affirmative, when Sirius beat me to it.
I stared at him incredulously, and his hand fell from my cheek. "What do you mean, 'no'?" I asked. I had expected opposition from the Ministry, not from Sirius himself. Especially not after he seemed so happy to see the note.
"I can't let you marry me, Terry. I mean, look at me. I'm a mess! I'm a fucking criminal, love, you don't want me," Sirius said sadly, grin gone, staring right into my eyes and drawing my tears closer to the surface.
"But you're innocent, Sirius, I know you are!"
"That's not the point though, is it? I'm still stuck here because everyone else thinks I did it, even though I could never-" His voice cracked, and he shook his head angrily. I reached through the bars and took his hand in mine. He looked down at our joined hands, and a tear landed on the back of my hand. I'd always believed he was innocent, but now I knew it for sure. Sirius Black had never been much of a crier, and if he'd been the one who gave Lily and James up for slaughter he wouldn't be standing in front of me like this, grieving them still.
"Sirius..." I started, squeezing his hand.
He cut me off by looking back up at me, each cheek bearing a streak of white where his tears had slid through the dirt, and starting to speak again. "Remember back at the party when you first suggested this? You said it was so we wouldn't die miserable and alone. I'm in prison for life, for fuck's sake, I'm going to die miserable and alone whether I'm married to you or not," he said fiercely. "But you, Terry, you've got plenty of time to go out there and find 'the one'."
I gripped his hand harder now. "I found him when I was eleven years old," I whispered. "I just didn't know it until I lost him. And since we're kind of engaged now, I'm never going to lose him again. Got it?"
A small smile crawled back onto his face. "Just as stubborn as ever, Terry," he said, before turning to the Minister. "Well, Minister, I guess we're getting married!"
A/N: To those of you still reading even though this story isn't the cheeriest, thank you :) If you've got a minute, please let me know what you think :D The next chapter is going to jump back to when they were at school again, in an attempt to break up the gloom xD