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Chapter 43 Sirius had been brought in laughing hysterically, putting up no resistance. Now he rarely spoke, and he never screamed as he could hear so many doing. Most of the time he would transform into a large black dog and lie on the cold floor of his cell. When he was in human form he would lie on his cot or sit staring out the barred window at the water outside. He didn’t know how it was possible, but it seemed as if the sun never penetrated this place. Creatures scurried in the dark, spiders found it a haven and something that might have been moss had there been any light grew in a furry green patch on one wall. It was his world now and it was a very cold place indeed. He could think clearly of James, Lily and Harry because his thoughts were never bright. He had killed them, or as good as killed them, or so he thought. He could think of Peter Pettigrew because the resulting emotion was that of rage, hatred and finally of his own perceived failure. Pettigrew had escaped down a sewer and Sirius’s one true wish was that he could find him someday and exact revenge. He knew it was impossible though because he would never leave this place longer than it took to be sentenced. He could only ever think of Megan in the most horrible moments, when Voldemort had captured her, when she had lost their baby. He could picture her crying in her sleep but he could no longer think of her laughter, her smile, her warmth. Any of those thoughts and the bitter cold would descend upon him and he would be back in the worst moments of his life particularly the moment in which he had realized that the Potters were dead. Sirius truly believed that he was the person at fault. He had persuaded James to switch secret keepers. If only he had been able to see through Pettigrew. He cursed himself for his own blindness never realizing that Pettigrew had fooled them all and Sirius was not to blame. He had always been a lighthearted young man, joking, teasing but at his core loyal, true and loving. In the deepest night, when he slept he would dream of beautiful things like spending Christmas at James’s parents place when he was seventeen. The kindness of Ignatius Potter and the feeling of warmth, love and security that he found there. He would dream of his friends when they were young, playing pranks and laughing all the time. In those dreams, Peter had never existed and it had just been the three of them, always together. He would also dream of Megan laughing with delight when she had first cooked an omelet successfully or the way she kept her eyes open when he made love to her. In his dreams she would hold him and tell him it would be all right, they were all safe. He never knew that he would occasionally call out in his sleep that he was innocent because his waking mind rejected the thought. As soon as he awoke he would lose the dreams because the dementors were able to rob you of anything happy but the dementors could not touch the emotions of dreams. The air in Azkaban was fetid and had a damp quality to it chilling visitors while simultaneously repelling them nearly as much as the guards there did. Each cell was isolated from the others at least in terms of view but the screams of anguish and the constant weeping echoed throughout the dank, dungeon halls. Outside Sirius could hear water lapping up against the shores of this horrible, isolated hell on earth. It was over a month now since he had been brought here and he was to stand trial soon, or so that anemic piece of work Brothersby kept telling him. Wizardry law required that Sirius be kept apprised of developments in his case and Brothersby worked for the Ministry in this capacity. The monotone Ministry trial worker would drone on and Sirius would stare at various parts of his cell while he could see them. It was rare that the torches flamed bright in these cells because the dementors were blind and needed no light. The atmosphere seemed designed to break a man’s will as much as the dementors were. The horrible, tall guards would suck out every good feeling you had ever had and the place itself would destroy whatever else was left. The shrieks of the imprisoned, the constant drip of water from the damp stones the stench of the dementors that filled this place was more than enough to grind nearly anyone into pieces. The torches flared brightly, always a warning to him that he had to transform back and Sirius did so wondering who would be coming to this place at night. There were footsteps ringing out against the cold stone but the stride did not fit that of Brothersby. This person was walking briskly, as if unaffected by this place. Sirius sat on the edge of his cot and waited. It was probably a visitor for another prisoner and he knew that their confident stride would slow when they had to pass by the two dementors that always flanked the bars of his cell. He was considered one of the worst murders ever captured alive. The footsteps did in fact slow, and then they stopped. “Hello Sirius.” Sliverton said easily trying to ignore the smothering sadness that was trying to seep into him. “You two, off with you.” But the dementors remained and uttering, “Damn, have it your way.” Sliverton produced his wand and said evenly, “Expecto Patronum.” Silver mist shot from his wand in the form of a dragon and rushed towards the guards who immediately recoiled and began to float away. Sirius felt slightly better at once. “It’s a good to see you.” Sliverton continued speaking as if Sirius had greeted him but Sirius had ceased to speak in anything other than one word answers weeks ago. There was nothing he wished to say. “I wish I could say you’re looking well, but I’m afraid that you aren’t. Is there anything I can arrange to get for you?” Atticus paused, he had known it would be bad but he had not expected anything like this. Sirius’s hair was matted, his skin filthy and his robes hung around him in a manner that suggested he was losing weight by the day. “Sirius, you can be as silent as you like but it won’t help anyone.” Atticus said firmly. Sirius considered the situation, Sliverton probably wouldn’t budge unless he said something. “They’ll have you in here too if you conjure another one of those things.” His voice was a croak. “I doubt it.” Atticus smiled in a friendly fashion. “I’ll just tell them I lost my head and conjured a Patronus, repeatedly.” Why was he acting as if he were glad to see him? Sirius wondered. “Sirius, I know, or at least I think I know part of what happened.” Sliverton went on to outline his theory. For the first time in a month Sirius felt warm as he listened but the feeling began to ebb away quickly. There was no one who could corroborate his story. There was no point in telling it. “I want to help you Sirius but you’ll need to talk to me.” Atticus Sliverton came closer to the bars. “It isn’t a trick Sirius, Dumbledore knows I’m here and so does Megan.” Megan. He couldn’t stop himself from responding to her name a bit now that the dementors were gone. “She hates me?” Sirius asked but his voice was toneless. “On the contrary, she loves you very much.” Atticus said. “Expecto Patronum!” He shouted as the dementors began to try to creep back towards the cell. This time the dragon had been large and breathing silver fire at them. They retreated again. The second they were gone Atticus took several bars of chocolate from his robes and slid them across the cell floor to Sirius. “There, hide those, quickly. At least you’ll be able to have some peace from time to time.” Sliverton spoke hastily, the dementors were blind but not deaf. “Sirius, we need to hurry, I’ve only got fifteen minutes in here and I know I won’t be able to get back before your trial. Tell me what happened.” Sirius stooped automatically and picked up the bars, shoving them beneath the mattress. “James and Lily are dead because of me that’s all the matters to anyone, isn’t it?” “I don’t believe that Sirius,” Atticus said. “I think they are dead because you all trusted the wrong person too much. It’s happened to all of us.” “But I should trust you?” Sirius said, eyeing him with suspicion. “Who are you to me Sliverton? I can answer that, you’re nobody.” This place was taking a terrible toll on him already, Atticus realized. “It’s true, I’m not your closest friend but I am your friend Sirius, please let me help you. There’s something very odd about Pettigrew’s death, I think you can tell me what that oddity is.” Sirius hesitated for just a moment, but he knew that regardless of what he told Sliverton it would not matter. None of them had ever been registered animagi, hell, his only hope of freedom hung on something that might very well land him for a stint in Azkaban anyway and there was no proof of what Peter had done. None. “Go back to your father’s estate and play with your pets Atticus, I’ve got nothing to tell you.” Sirius said wearily. “Sirius, please, don’t do this. If you can’t try for yourself, can’t you at least try for Megan?” Atticus was speaking in rush, he had hoped this would go off better than it was. “She’s frantic Sirius, she’s not even allowed to write to you until after the trial. She’s not a relative, nor an official they won’t let her visit you here, ever. Hurry up, for God’s sake man, tell me how to help you.” Sirius stared and tried to think. He knew there was no help for him, he could send Sliverton off on wild chase after a rat but he would never find him. It was hopeless at least for him. What was the best he could do for Megan from here? The only thing he could do was to make sure she let him go. “Is that why you’re here? Atticus and his rescuing complex trying to save the fair maiden?” Sirius forced himself to speak as horribly as possible, it was Megan’s only real chance of every having her own life. “You’re wasting your time Atticus. The best you can do for that girl is to make sure that she knows I don’t love her, I never did. Go back to wherever you’ve slithered in from and tell her that.” Atticus was momentarily taken aback and then he realized what Sirius was doing. “Sirius, it won’t work. I know you love Megan, I watched the two of you together too many times. No man’s that good of an actor.” There was no use it wouldn’t work. Sirius had to think of something else. Knowing that he would be stuck behind bars. “Fine, yes, I loved her. I do love her.” Sirius rose and came towards the bars. “And because I do, you’ve got to promise me something Sliverton. I do know you. You are a man of his word so promise that you’ll protect her. Everyone knew we were to be married, she’s likely one of the most reviled people in the land because of her association with me. So I will tell you what you need.” Atticus looked at him steadily, waiting and hoping. “Make sure she forgets me. Do you understand? Take her far away. If you have to fill her head with whatever lies you can think of, but make sure that she stops caring.” Sirius looked angry now. “If you want to help me, do that.” “Sirius, I promise to protect her, but I promise nothing else.” Atticus said slowly. “But I can’t make her stop loving you and I’d never be able to make her believe you didn’t love her even if I wanted to do such a thing. Damn…Expecto Patronum!” Again the silver beast drove back the dementors. “Hurry, Sirius, tell me what it is I’m missing! I know there has to be something I don’t know and it can make all the difference. Tell me!” Sirius stared at Sliverton for a moment. “Nothing will make any difference Atticus. The only thing that will make any difference will be if you help her. There isn’t any help for me.” “Sirius, please, I can’t imagine what is in your mind but you’re wrong. There has to be something that will make the difference. Tell me and I swear I’ll throw every resource I have in to helping you.” Sirius laughed then, a bark-like sound that echoed insanely through the close walls. “Then do as I’ve asked and get out of here Sliverton.” “You won’t even try to save yourself? My God man, you can’t live in this guilt forever.” Atticus was appalled. It was on the tip of his tongue to tell him that Megan was pregnant. “Sirius, Megan is…” The goblin custodians were coming up the steps their many key clanking against their belts. “One too many patronuses I expect, Atticus.” Sirius was tired. “They’ve come to heave you out into the night, if you’re lucky.” Sliverton leaned his head against the bars. He had nearly broken his word to Megan but he believed himself to be right in doing so. “Snipe at me as much as you like Sirius but you have to know that Megan is…” “Megan’s softhearted, Sliverton. Just as I expect you are. Ah look, the goblins are here.” Sirius felt himself shaking slightly it hurt too much to think of Megan for any length of time. “You sir, you’ll have to come with me.” The goblin growled out at Atticus. Goblins were completely unaffected by dementors and were therefore the wardens here. “Sirius, I’m begging you.” But just as they were trying to drag Sliverton off with them, long fingered hands wrapping around his arm Sirius suddenly rushed to the bars. “Remember Atticus, remember you’ve promised me. Protect her, please. Don’t let her be hurt any more.” Sirius sounded like he had in the years that Sliverton had known him. “You did promise me!” Atticus looked back at Sirius and saw that his face looked completely different. It was no longer cold and detached but now it looked anxious and yet terribly hopeful at the same time. Even if Sirius could no longer care about himself he obviously still loved Megan. “I do promise to protect her.” Sliverton called out and he saw the look of relief flash over Sirius’s gaunt face. Atticus Sliverton left Azkaban having accomplished nothing that would help free Sirius but having given his word. He never gave his word lightly. When he reported back to Dumbledore what Sirius had said, and failed to say the old wizard had looked grave. “If he will not save himself, then there is nothing we can do to change that.” Albus felt grief rise up within him. He hoped that there might come a day when things would change but for now, the situation looked hopeless. “Professor, you should have seen the look on his face when I told him what I suspected. That man is not guilty.” Atticus felt exhausted. Azkaban had drained him terribly and he was terribly worried about Sirius’s ability to withstand the place. “I suspect that you are correct.” Dumbledore said in a measured tone. “But our suspicions cannot set him free, I fear.” Atticus groaned in frustration. But in a way, part of Sirius had been set free that day. Whether or not it could be proven, there were people who believed in his innocence. He did not blame Remus Lupin for failing to be among them, this loss would have hit him very hard. His dreams that night were beautiful, sustaining. He had been surrounded by all of them, his friends who were all better to him than his family. Megan had been there, smiling at him from across a small pond, beckoning to him. He had waded through the water to be by her side and the water was wonderfully warm. He could not remember the dream when he awoke, but he did finally have an appetite again and he gratefully took out one of the bars of chocolate and broke off a piece. The dreams would increase in strength and happiness. Sirius Black was never truly alone in Azkaban, he had his dreams for company and although he could not recall them, they made the difference. He began to speak more frequently and astonished many people with his ability to sound rational. It would continue this way for many years. Until he read an article in the Daily Prophet nearly twelve years later, it was these nightly dreams of warmth, beauty and love that would carry Sirius through to his eventual escape. :::::::::::::::::: On the same evening that Atticus Sliverton visited Azkaban Megan Hogan found herself with an unenviable task of her own. She had to visit the Snape Home, where Severus was being held under Ministry guard pending his own trial. It had only been through the intervention of Dumbledore that Severus had been removed from Azkaban and sent back to his boyhood home under guard. Dumbledore had sworn that Severus Snape had been a spy within Voldemort’s organization for years and that his time as a Death Eater in training had been the only time he had actually followed Voldemort at all. Snape’s father had been killed in a raid months previously, crashing to the floor of a cavern and Severus was unable to mourn his loss. He did mourn for his mother though who had died not long after Snape had left Hogwarts. His mother had been a soft, kind person and she had had great hopes that Severus would take after her, and not his stern, hateful father. She had believed him to be a Death Eater until her dying day and the disappointment had crushed her. Megan surveyed the area as she walked up the path. There were men in red robes stationed at every corner of the house and two more at the door. The house itself was like a hulking beast, large and so dark it might have been painted black. Wrought iron railings surrounded every balcony and gargoyles hissed at her from the roof. The crest of Slytherin was above the door. In a satchel she carried with her the potions that Dumbledore had asked her to bring to Severus. It seemed he had wounds that could not heal and refused treatment for them. She had no idea why Dumbledore would send her on this errand, it wasn’t as if she and Snape had ever been friends. Inside, Snape lay on a couch clad only in a pair of pants. He felt nothing about his situation, in many ways he wished that he had died because inside of him he felt nothing but bitter resentment. Nothing warm, or good remained in him. He had effectively killed those parts of himself through the years of drinking the potions to repress his feelings. Or so he thought. He didn’t care about his fate. When he heard the door to the house open he sat up on the sofa ready to berate whoever walked through the door. He had found this to be the best way to keep these intrusions short. Megan Hogan stood in the entrance to the room holding a leather satchel in her hand and a slight smile on her lips. “Hello Severus…”She began but stopped immediately. His thin torso was covered in scars some open cuts that appeared to be oozing slightly and they were tinged green around the wound. “What happened to you?” Severus was pulling his robe on over his head. His expression was still guarded when he turned back to her and he said simply. “Venom cuts, inflicted as punishment.” “By whom? Did the guards…” Then Megan’s eyes became wide. “Severus, that isn’t what he did to you because of what happened in the forest is it?” Severus answered, “I don’t actually remember. He would punish us for whatever we failed in.” Megan had no idea what to say to this. She had never liked Snape in school, but she did know that she owed her life to him. Plus, she knew that he had somehow helped her before. “Well then don’t be a fool, take off your robe and let me see to them.” They were all over his torso. “If I want them tended, I’ll have them tended.” Severus made sure that his gaze was cold and his expression sneering. “Oh don’t be an ass Severus.” Megan snapped, her temper rising to the surface. She had agreed to come her to help Dumbledore although for the life of her she had no idea what good she could possibly do. Snape was known to hate anyone he considered Muggle-born. Still, those had to hurt horribly so she softened her tone. “Please, just take off your robe and at least let me see to the ones on your back for you.” Despite himself Snape’s heart leapt at the thought of feeling her touch even for a moment but he continued to sneer. “It’s dangerous for you to touch people, remember?” That had stung and Severus felt contrite when he saw that tears had risen in Megan’s eyes. It had to be hard enough on her as it was, finding out that the man she loved was capable of such deceit and murder. Snape could have told her that years ago not that she would have listened to him. “Well that’s a pretty thing to say Snape, always were wonderful with people, weren’t you?” Megan managed to find some of her spirit. “It won’t do a bloody thing to you other than heal you. Now off with your robe or I’ll throw the damn potion at you and hope the bloody stuff seeps through.” It had been so long since Snape had been around anyone beside Dumbledore that cared enough to even try to help him that he hesitated, then peeled off his robe, revealing his thin form from the waist up. “Do your worst then. It can’t possibly do more damage than hurling things at me.” Snape had refused treatment before because he saw nothing left for himself in this life. He had done his job, and he wanted to be finished now. Yet the thought of feeling her, even for momentarily acting as if she cared moved him to try. Megan set out the potion bottles and took a square of clean cloth, moistened with a disinfectant and began cleaning the areas on his back. She wasn’t squeamish at all but these were difficult things to look at. She heard Snape gasp and muttered, “It may sting a bit.” Severus Snape felt his heart pounding as Megan efficiently tended to the cuts. Then she began to blow softly on them. “What are you doing?” Snape said through clenched teeth. His body ached everywhere but in the most pleasurable way he could have ever imagined. “Sorry, it’s what my mother used to do to take away the sting.” Megan was distracted. Why in the world had he refused the help of professionals but allowed her to take care of him? “Is it making it worse?” “Yes it is.” He snapped but it was untrue, the only thing it made worse was a raging desire that had sprung up in him. It was only through years of practice that Snape was able to keep himself from letting his feelings show. “I won’t do it then.” Megan said and began to blot the green wounds with the potion Madame Pomphrey had given her. “I’ve got some ointment here, I’ll just put it on your other cuts, they aren’t healed properly either.” He felt her fingers glide over the first cut and it was all he could do to keep from moaning. Her touch was gentle and light, careful not to hurt him too much. “There we go, all set. You’ll be in fighting form again soon.” Megan’s mind was far off, thinking as usual of Sirius. “Will you be able to see about the front yourself?” Even Snape had limits to control his emotions. There was no way he could look at her as she touched him. “Yes, leave it and I’ll see to it myself.” His voice sounded hateful to his own ears. He drew his robe back swiftly over his head and moved away from her on the couch. “Like it gloomy in here, don’t you?” Megan’s eyes roamed about the dark room, the curtains pulled shut against the fading light outside. “It suits me, yes.” Snape sniffed. “Would you like some tea?” Megan hesitated, she truly did not but Dumbledore had said that Snape had lost his will to live and she needed to make an effort, “That would be lovely altogether, thanks. I’m hopeless at making a decent cup of tea.” “I know.” Snape said his mind still distracted by his body’s response to her. “How?” Megan’s mind was suddenly fully present. “How would you know that?” “I…uh…we’ve…had tea together before.” There was no harm in telling her now, he supposed. “We did?” Megan suddenly smiled. “Was it awful?” “Not bad.” Snape answered the sneer beginning to leave his voice. “I’ll get some.” He left the room for a few minutes and Megan sat, uncomfortable and alone in this oppressively dark room. How in the world was she to convince him of anything? When he returned he poured her a cup of tea, added a bit of cream and sugar then handed it her. Megan took a sip, she was nearly in her second trimester now and the constant nausea was beginning to pause. The fatigue remained. “Well, at least you’re quite the hand at this.” Megan smiled in as friendly as fashion as she could. “Makes sense, you do have a gift for potions, don’t you?” “Hmm.” Was Snape’s only response. “Listen, I’m not any good at this sort of thing. Making chit-chat when there are so many things that are so important.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “You’ve got to know why I’m here?” “I haven’t the first notion actually.” But he did. He knew that Dumbledore had sent her and why. “You’ve given up from what I understand. Dumbledore will not be having that and neither should you.” Megan looked at him seriously. “You fought too hard to help, you should at least enjoy the world without him you know.” Snape shrugged. “Severus, don’t, please. There’s something in this world worth living for you. There has to be.” Megan was very weary. “There is for everyone. Get this matter behind you and do something, find some kind of happiness for yourself.” “Happiness?” He was sneering again. “Pretty concepts, aren’t they?” “Look, I don’t have time for this self-pitying. You think you’re the only person who feels changed.” Megan felt her temper rising even more. “We all do. Now get off your arse and do something with your life or you’d have been best dead long ago.” “What is it that you propose I do?” He snarled. “Oh for the love of…I don’t care Severus. I can’t make your mind up for you. Open a shop, work for the Ministry, teach, do something.” Megan’s eyes were blazing. “But for the love of God don’t shut yourself up in a tomb without any light and pretend that your sacrifice was more than anyone else’s. We’ve all lost things, some of us are fighting like hell to get them back.” Snape began to snarl at her again, but found he could not, she was in tears. “Hogan, don’t upset yourself.” His voice was still cool but it was as kindly as he was capable of speaking to someone any longer. “I am upset and I don’t mean to shout at you.” Megan sniffed and sat back down. “I’m tired, and I don’t know how to help you other than to tell you that you need to help yourself. You can do that you know. You’ve got to be dead strong to do what you did and I won’t claim to know a bloody thing about you, but I do know what you did was dangerous. It was admirable.” He contemplated this in silence. Megan was not speaking now. She had set her cup down and was resting her head against the side of the sofa. The darkness of the room combined with the warmth felt suddenly soothing to her. He watched fascinated as her eyelids began to droop and she slowly drifted into a light doze. He watched her for nearly twenty minutes. His eyes never leaving her face. He had dreamt of this sort of thing and it was like being handed a cup of water in a desert. He made no move to touch her and tried not to make any sound. He knew that if he did, this would end. He also knew in a corner of his heart that this would be the only opportunity he would ever have to be this close to his dream. It was the conversation of the guards that finally woke her, calling a goodnight to each other as they switched sentries. “Lord, did I fall asleep?” Megan looked around the room, trying to get her bearings. “I’m sorry, that was rude. Why didn’t you wake me?” “You looked as if you could use some rest.” Snape answered. Megan laughed slightly but without mirth. “It’s true, I could. I spend almost every waking hour wondering how I’ll ever be able to bring Sirius back to me.” Snape felt his spine stiffen she was still in the love with that murderer? “I miss him so you see.” Megan’s mind was still fogged from sleep and she didn’t even give a though to the person she was addressing. Snape’s lip curled slightly, “Yes, it must be very difficult.” “Difficult?” Megan did laugh then. “Snape, you’ve never been in love, have you?” She was standing and gathering her things. “Good luck to you Severus. I doubt we’ll see each other again, but I do wish you well.” She was standing in front of him now, her expression kind. “Try to have a happy life, put some effort into it.” She looked up at the cold man in front of her. Whatever else he was, he had tried to save her life and Lily’s, she owed him some warmth, she put out her hand, tugged at his robed slightly causing him to bend forward and kissed his cheek very lightly. The taste on her lips was bitter. Snape could not trust himself to speak. She still loved that murderer, that creature who had been willing to sacrifice the lives of the friends he claimed to love? She loved a monster? The hatred he had known for Sirius Black had always been intense but in that moment it began to grow to a nearly insane level. The very woman Snape loved desired nothing more than the company of that maniac? He watched Megan leave wordlessly, knowing he would never see her again and hating Sirius Black for owning her heart so completely. Ever since Megan Hogan had tripped on a set of stairs years earlier and tumbled into his arms, Severus Snape had tried to fight off the feelings he had for her, but it had never been any good. He loved her, in his own, rather limited way. But he would hate Sirius Black with a burning intensity born in a desperate desire to have revenge on closing Severus off from the one area that might have made him happy. It never occurred to him to wonder if Megan could have ever returned his love. It would be more than a decade before he was able to exact a terrible revenge upon Sirius Black for all that he was, and all that Snape felt himself denied. Megan would never guess that it all could have been prevented, if only she had not tripped.

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