Chapter 31 : Illuminated
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Time waits for no one,
So do you want to waste some time, oh, oh tonight
Don’t be afraid of tomorrow,
Just take my hand, I’ll make it feel so much better tonight
Illuminated - Hurts
The guard raised his eyebrow curiously.
“You wanna see ‘im?” he said in a surprised tone.
“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” Araminta snapped, her ice blue eyes boring into the man.
The corner of his mouth lifted in a hostile smirk.
“Cell twenty-seven. You go’ ten minutes.”
She nodded briefly, before passing his desk and heading down the corridor in which the Ministry cells were. She raised a shaking hand to brush the hair out of her face, and asked herself why she was doing such a thing. The only answer she could come up with was that something, something, did not feel right. Things didn’t add up. And the only way to solve the mystery was...
She halted in front of cell twenty-seven, and peered through the bars into the dark space behind. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw him. Barely sixteen hours since things had kicked off and already his face was gaunt and pale, and his eyes lifeless.
Or perhaps he had lost the will to live weeks, months before, and she just hadn’t noticed.
He looked up sharply at the sound of her footsteps.
“Araminta,” he said in a surprised tone, scrambling to his feet. “What are you doing here?”
He approached the bars, and wrapped his hands round them. She subconsciously took a step backwards.
“Why did you do it?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper. “How could you do it?”
He grinned, the same maniacal grin that had adorned his face only two hours previously.
“How could you do it?”
Of all the responses she had expected, this was not one of them. She fell silent, and frowned down at the floor.
She then took a deep, shuddering breath, raising her head to look him in the eye.
“Why did you hate Gideon so much?” Her heart ached as his name passed through her lips; it was the first time she’d mentioned him in weeks.
Sirius cocked an eyebrow.
“I didn’t hate him,” he said hollowly.
“Well you certainly acted like you did,” she snapped suddenly. “He died thinking you hated him.”
He looked crestfallen; he sank to the floor, and crossed his legs. She imitated him, and shuffled closer to the bars.
“I had a girlfriend,” he stated suddenly. “Her name was Mary...” His face lit up as he said her name, and she saw a glimpse of the youthful, handsome man he must have been before the war ravaged hearts and families. “I loved her so, so much. She was beautiful, funny, and so wonderful. I never asked her, but I always knew that one day, once the war was over, I’d marry her.” He sighed sorrowfully. “I should have asked her when I had the chance...”
He tailed off, fiercely wiping a stray tear from his cheek. He drew in a shuddering breath, before continuing.
“The four of us – Mary, Gideon, his wife Louisa and I – went on several Order missions together. We all worked well together, you see. But then, one of them...” He paused again. “It was my fault, all my fault. If I hadn’t been such a rash fool, they’d both have lived...”
His eyes, once blue, now cavernous black, met Araminta’s.
“Mary was pregnant. She had told me that morning. I was to have a child...”
He swallowed, and looked back down at the concrete floor.
“Gideon and I blamed each other for Mary and Louisa’s deaths in the immediate aftermath. We were both convinced it was the other’s fault, and said some awful things ... when I knew, deep down inside, that it wasn’t his fault, but mine. If I’d acted sooner, I’d still have had a girlfriend and a child, and he’d still have had a wife...”
“You have no idea how many times I’ve lain in bed at night and gone over the night again, wishing I’d acted that split-second earlier. And ... and every time I saw Gideon, at Order meetings, at the Ministry, I’d be reminded of that guilt, that I was responsible for the deaths of three people...”
He raised his shaking hands to his face.
“He was such an incredible man, he never had a bad word to say for anyone, and Louisa ... she was such a beautiful young woman ... they had their lives ahead of them, and in one rash move, I lost them both that future ... and every time I saw him since I’d see the hatred in his eyes, hatred caused by what I’d done-”
“He didn’t hate you,” she cut in, in a croaky, tearful voice. “He ... he blamed himself, Sirius. He thought he’d brought about their deaths. He never hated you, he hated himself, and every time he saw you, that guilt just came back to haunt him yet more ... but he never blamed you.”
She reached out a hand through the bars and grasped his, in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. He looked up at her, his eyes swimming with tears and emotion.
“I – thank you,” he said hoarsely. “Thank you for telling me this.”
“You loved Arieda.”
He closed his eyes, a resigned expression on his face.
“She was ... she was there. She was always there for me. But ... she loved Fabian.”
“I guessed.” He opened his eyes. “When you watch someone that much, you pick up things like that.”
Her heart ached for him.
And then she frowned, remembering why he was here, why she was here, and wondering why she was comforting him...
“How could you betray Lily and James? Betray us?”
Footsteps sounded down the corridor.
His eyes widened.
“I didn’t betray them! I could never do that! After Mary died, they were all I had left ... they were my family ... I loved them, I could never betray them...”
And as she held his gaze, Araminta knew he was telling the truth.
The guards had reached them. Araminta and Sirius both scrambled to their feet, on either side of the bars; she stepped aside as one of the guards slid the bars open.
“It’s Azkaban time for you, Black,” he sneered.
His eyes filled with fear.
“A-Azkaban?” he whispered.
“Azkaban?” Araminta repeated. “But – but he hasn’t had a trial yet! You can’t send him to Azkaban without a trial-”
Another one of the guards turned to look at her, a smirk on his face.
“This madman doesn’t need a trial for us to know he’s guilty.”
Sirius’s jaw dropped.
Two of the guards grabbed hold of his arms and pulled him out of the cell.
“Wait!” Araminta burst out. “Can you give us another couple of minutes?”
The guard who had spoken laughed evilly.
“You’ve had your ten minutes,” he said cruelly. “Can’t keep the dementors waiting!”
Araminta reached out and took Sirius’s hand, and squeezed it gently.
“It’ll be okay,” she said in almost a whisper, not believing her own words.
The guards pulled him forwards, yanking his hand out of hers.
“Sirius!” She yelled after them. “Who did it?”
He half-turned his head.
Her heart went cold.
A hand grabs her arm and tugs her into the alley.
“Well, well, well,” a cold voice says. “Look who it is. The traitor.”
She does not reach for her wand.
Nobody notices the flash of green light that illuminates the alley, or hears the thump as a comatose body hits the floor. Nobody hears the evil cackle of an avenged Death Eater, or sees her scuttle away triumphantly to hunt down her next victim.