Sirius Black, the Prisoner of Azkaban
Chapter 1 - Breaking Out
Just under twelve years later
In the dim dawning light in a particularly dark cell was Sirius Black, doing his daily count of the stones on the floor from his resting place in the corner to the magical iron gate, blocking him from freedom. Mind, it wasn't the only thing in the way. Just outside stood the most fearsome creatures that had ever walked the earth, wheezing the rattling breath of the devil. Shuddering slightly, the diminished prisoner recounted the stones. Was it just him, or was there an extra one?
Probably just him, Sirius conceded darkly to himself. He bit hard into his already ruined nails and looked up at the dingy lightless ceiling. Grey morning light was seeping in, casting shadows of the bars across the floor in ominous height, announcing the start of another day. But what is day? In there it seemed the meaning was more crying out from his dubious neighbours, more rattling breath of the demons to jar him into the nightmare. The nightmare which reminded him every day that he was innocent and that Wormtail was out there somewhere.
He could also hear the waves outside bounding relentlessly onto sand, blowing in gusts of terrifying speeds which beat against the walls, slid in via cracks and roared across the rooftop. The cry of a raven soared over this great sea, its croaky, hoarse voice sounding hollow.
The cold crept over him slightly as another one of the hooded horrors tread quietly down the hall outside. Sirius, more than ever, desperately wanted his wand and good solid meal. Like an animal, he crept over to the other wall and began rubbing his nails over the stone, shivering from the scratching sound. In a cell down further, someone screamed. Before he knew it, he was a dog, with mere thoughts, surveying the cell from far down on the floor.
A new scent was gliding down the corridors into his cell, blown about his snout. No, it couldn't be feeding time just yet. The lack of stirring outside his door convinced Padfoot that it was too early to claw his way through an unappetizing slop, trickling down his throat. Ah, that was it. The smell of someone new.
Come to join us, have you? mused the dog. Come to suffer with us?
Approaching footsteps, springy and light, no hope lost. Couldn't be a prisoner then...In no time, a filthy man had reappeared on his hands and knees, listening intently. A pompous step, brisk and down to business. The air of arrogance proceding far ahead of whoever it was seemed to announce the coming of some one you'd hate to get on the wrong side of...someone in power, but a little blustering, maybe.
Shifting his head to the side, Sirius watched Cornelius Fudge approach, spinning his rounded hat slowly, nervously looking ahead as if to avoid contact with both prisoner and guard alike. His pinstriped travelling cloak (complete with silver fastenings) hung a little lopsided and touched up with a smiling mask. Clicking boots, dressed too well, the Minister for Magic paused in front of the heavily guarded cell and peered in.
"Hello, Minister," Sirius said politely, amused by Fudge's startled reaction.
A little unnerved, Fudge frowned slightly, taken back. Whatever he had hoped to find (and Sirius wasn't sure what that was) had been dashed with two simple words. The hat stopped its orbit suddenly and the Minister leant forward just slightly, careful not to place himself within the reach of the two Dementor guards. A silence followed, broken only by the mutterings coming from a few cells down.
Sirius noted, with some hunger, that Fudge had tucked under his arm, a Daily Prophet. Barely stopping to think what he was doing, the prisoner asked as pleasantly as possible, "Have you finished with the paper? I miss doing the crossword, if you don't mind."
"What?" squeaked Fudge in disbelief.
Black did not allow the threatening smile to reach his face. He stared out the visitor calmly, hoping to appear without malice. He waited patiently for the Minister to reach a conclusion, hoping that it was the more preferable one. Finally, Fudge handed over the newspaper with cautious ease, nodding curtly. "I must be off, Black. Expect to see you again shortly."
With that, he spun on his heel and walked briskly down the passageway, perhaps with a little more haste than he had originally planned. Sirius smiled, then turned to the precious paper in his hands. With trembling gentleness, he unfolded it and smoothed out the front page, wondering when he last had held a newspaper. He had no interest whatsoever with the comings and goings of the wizarding world anymore. It seemed this had also been stolen from him with the happy memories.
The grey light had turned into a soft throbbing orange glow, making the shadows from the barred window appear more like Halloween figures than anything. Halloween...Shaking the thought off, Sirius turned a few pages idly, as though he could no longer read. The text seemd fused together, so small that he had to squint almost to make it out. After a short article about some petty theft, he once again become accustomed to the print. Soon enough, he was drinking in all the information, basking in the glory of finally reaching a portal in which to see the world. His world...
An article accompanied by a picture (moving as they did in the wizarding world) seemed to jump out him. Perhaps it was the words "grand prize" in the headline, perhaps it was because of the cheerfully proud picture beside it. There was nothing odd about it at all, nothing out of the ordinary. A little disappointed, Sirius studied the picture carefully. It was a big family, each smiling in different ways. The boy in the middle sported a Head Boy badge and glasses, almost wearing a dignified smirk. The was only one girl, he realised with bemusement, but she seemed happy enough. One of her brothers had an arm around her, beaming at the photographer.
He also had a rat on his shoulder. Padfoot's lip twisted sardonically - he didn't much like rodents. A long time ago, they hadn't bothered him, but one night was enough to change that. As it was, his mind shot back to Peter Pettigrew and connected the two rats instantly. About to discard this, he frowned. The rat pictured was missing a front toe. This reminded him of the stories that had slowly trickled in over the years. What was it? Ah, yes, the story stating all that was left of the fat bastard was a finger.
Black swore softly. The article told him five of the children in the picture attended Hogwarts and by the looks of it, Peter was the "adoring" pet of a student. The vermin would be close to Harry...Harry Potter. Close to danger and the orphaned boy didn't even know it. Growling deep in his throat, Sirius threw the newspaper into his corner, angry and frustrated that he could not leave Azkaban. Hate flared into his veins, hate directed at the bastard who'd done this to him.
He threw back his head and a cry, not unlike the one he had loosed all those years ago outside the Potters' house, ripped down the corridors, full of anger and hate. Ringing into cells, bouncing off uninvited walls and gates, the cry silenced even the most insane prisoners for a whole minute. No one dared make a sound.
One Week Later
Sirius did something he'd rarely done. He paced his cell sin a horrified trance, walking backwards and forwards, running a hand through his long tatty hair. Sitting placidly by the iron gate to freedom, was the newspaper, open to the very page. Waving up at him, completely unaware was that family. He cast a shadow upon it each time he passed, glancing down unseeingly at the poor souls but unblinkingly at the rodent...no, the vermin...
Outside, his two vile guards shifted restlessly, the rustling of dry musty cloth swirling just slightly, but driving eddies of dust into the cell. Pausing to watch this, Sirius was in time to see a slimy, scabby hand slip opening the gate slightly, leaving whatever it was that kept the prisoners alive. Desperate as he was, Padfoot avoided eating it when he could. But this wasn't what had captured his burning interest. Retreating like a snake, the hand vanished back to hell's fire where it belonged, locking the unrelenting gate with a swfit movement.
As crazy as it seemed, Sirius decided he was going to slip out and lay his hands around Wormtail's neck and squeeze the life out of the scoundrel. Looping his hands as thus, he looked at them. The beginnings of a smile registered on his gaunt features. Excellent. The burning desire to avenge the Potters (and his own imprisonment) did not waver or fade out as he began calculating by the light reaching his cell from the barred window when the next meal arrived.
The light began to fade slowly, tauntingly creeping away as though prolonging the moment, daring Sirius to back out. He inclined his head thoughtfully at the dare and accepted it, challenging his own resolve. He rocked backwards slightly and look up far above him, a manic glint in his eyes. Not long now...not long at all. He could almost taste the freedom, could almost feel the outside air pressing in on him in a distorted comfort. Soon, oh so soon!
The darkness enveloped the enclosure, chillingly sly and covering. Walking on all fours, Black reached the iron gate to freedom, throwing a vicious snarl at the barred window behind him. It was a half-challenge, half- mocking snarl, which morphed into one on a thin dog. So thin was he, that through his ratty fur one could see a rib cage, almost as if announcing that this was not a dog, no, merely a skeleton.
Ominous footsteps, light and heavy, could be heard, bringing with the sound of footfalls a devilish creature. The dog's nose quivered slightly, suddenly wary and uncertain of what lay ahead. It ducked its head to sniff the newspaper before gripping it between yellow fangs. Again, the slight animal heard the feather-light, rock-hard steps grow louder and softer with each passing second. For a wild moment, Sirius thought that the Dementor would not come his way, but the steps became louder, as though someone had turned the volume up.
He began shaking slightly with barely suppressed anxiety. Ahead the demon could be seen, hunched over slightly and turning its hooded head this way and that, although it couldn't hope to see anything without eyes. It stopped sharply outside the cell and that stealthy hand slid out and opened the gate ever so slowly, pushing forward the revolting paste. It didn't even notice as a wraith silent dog stole past and began a fast trot down the long stone corridor.
Padfoot looked in each cell, recoiling in terror every time the occupants stared out at him with lifeless eyes, shifting to watch him out of sight. Aiming staright ahead, the dog clambered down dusty grey steps two flights before stopping, panting quietly and lolling its tongue through fangs. In front of it was an ornate archway, bearing the crest of the Ministry on a key stone in the dead centre. Squeezed snugly into this was a beechwood door, untarnished and stripped bare.
The dog nosed it and pulled back with indecision. Was it locked sercurely? He shot the Dementors down the other way a terrified angled look, then fixed eyes squarely back on the bleached wood. Sirius pushed a little harder and with a soft thud, the door swung open - only just. Cautiously, filled with pent up excitement, the dog bounded out onto the beach.
At first, he didn't know what to do, just rolled about in the sand and sniffed washed ashore items, then looked up at the cloudy night sky in jubilence, all the while not daring to make a sound. A gust of wind nearly bowled him over, swinging his head in the direction of the prison. Standing there defiantly was Azkaban, glowering down at the escapee. This seemed to strike a hammer of fear and urgency into the animal's heart.
Sirius whuffed quietly and began treading through the shallow water which chilled his paws and lower legs, the fur shimmering about. He threw himself into the waves and began paddling furiously against the onslaught, desperate to leave. Far ahead was land, dangerously out of reach. All the traveller knew was that he was in the English Channel (La Manche) and nearer to Azkaban than anything else.
Early morning on the Beachy Head at Newhaven was a quiet time, easy going. Meandering aimlessly along was a slight woman, collecting driftwood and muttering a few words under her breath before stowing it in a canvas bag hanging off her arm. She was hoping to collect a considerable amount before the sun really rose and glared down. Humming to herself, she bent over to pick up a decent sized piece.
While she was doing so, her eyes shifted to the water, and held. Completely rigid, she forgot all about the driftwood. What she had seen was a furiously paddling black dog, big and determined, struggling to make it to shore. She smiled and put aside the bag. She was a witch, and one who did not believe in such things as graveyard Grims signalling death.
Trotting slowly, the dog sat back on its haunches, panting heavily but safe. The woman pulled out her wand and performed a simple drying spell, keeping eye contact with the beast. She sat back on her heels. "What's a nice dog like you doing out here?"
The dog whined softly, pawing the sand and snorted through its nose. What she didn't know was that Sirius was staring at her in amazement, for he recognised the witch in front of him. Bellina Figg leant forward carefully and gave the dog a scratch behind the ears.
"Well!" She laughed. "If you're not going to say anything." As if I would, thought Black. "I'll do the talking. Do you mind walking with me?"
The dog looked at her as if she was mad. Perhaps she was, who could tell? Bellina picked up her bag and began making her way up to the road. Halfway there, she looked over her shoulder and saw the dog trotting behind her, ears twitching. Once he'd caught of with her, she told her silent companion matter-of-factly, "I have a cosy nook at Lewes nearby. I suppose you have your own cosy place somewhere, though, with a niec master."
She looked down at a whine and saw the dog shaking its head, "Well, maybe not. I'm going to my sister's place today - she lives in Surrey."
They reached the road and began the slight climb up to a nearby cottage. It had clearly been abandoned, but Padfoot had the feeling there was more to it than met the eye. Pushing the door carelessly, Bellina walked over to a fireplace and pulled out a small sack she carried under her cloak. She noticed with some interest that the dog bounded over into the fireplace immediately.
"Wizarding dog, huh?" She smiled at the nod her companion gave her.
She let him leap aside before shouting, "Incendio!"
Cheerfully crackling at them in the hearth was a fire, warm and inviting. Bellina threw a fistful of the Floo powder, explaining shortly, "Never took my Apparation test. Doesn't seem worth it..."
The green inferno sent a spriral of ash in her direction. She coughed and noted with amusement that the dog sneezed. Seizing a handful of his fur, she wheezed out as she stepped in the fire, hauling her companion along, "Ten Privet Drive!"
Sirius went sprawling and whuffed loudly. Walking out, calm as you please, was Bellina Figg, dsuting herself off and pulling on spectacles. The dog blinked - having never seen her wearing glasses before. Clearing her throat, the woman called, "I'm here!"
And sneezed loudly. She could have sworn that the dog guffawed before shaking ash out all over the living room. Arabella stormed in and began sweeping the place up with a grand gesture with her wand. When the task was done, and done well, the mistress of the house tucked her mahogany wand into her large billowing robes and beamed in a way only sisters can.
"It's so good to see you, although I could have done without the ash," mused she. "So whose is this dog you travel with?"
With any luck, Sirius decided, he could get a decent shelter for a short time and wouldn't have too much trouble finding where he was. Excellent.