The Sugar Quill
Author: Jack Ichijouji (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Other Prisoner of Azkaban  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: I've been told “Of Contraceptives and Snogging” has humourous disclaimers. Go there. These are the facts: don't own anything in here.


Time isn't much of an issue in Azkaban prison. Nothing much, in fact, is an issue in Azkaban prison, except occasionally food. Often, after an inmate's been there a while, not even that.


So Sirius didn't know what time of the day it was when the new prisoner was brought in. He might not have even noticed another prisoner in the first place if not for the smell. It was familiar: like soil and mulled mead and a touch of various wild animals. So familiar, in fact, that the dormant canine part of his mind dragged up a memory. A man twice as tall as any other, with a huge beard and a big smile.


Hagrid.


Sirius stood abruptly, shifted, then stood again on two legs. He hurried to the bars of his cell to peek out. Sure enough, it was Hagrid, only there was no smile hidden in that wild beard. He could barely even see him, thanks to the Dementor guards. He didn't know why they insisted on moving in pairs, as one Dementor was more than enough to deal with any prisoner. He wished they'd move out of the way.


As if hearing Sirius' unspoken request, the Dementors moved to allow Sirius to see his old friend. He was crying, but not the loud, booming sobs he'd heard occasionally before. These were tears of sorrow and anguish. They were quiet. It was heartbreaking to see those big black eyes so impossibly miserable.


Perhaps that's why the Dementors moved, Sirius wondered bitterly. They wanted his misery to be more pronounced. But no, they were allowing Hagrid into his cell. The Dementors didn't push him in. Dementors don't shove.


They locked Hagrid's cell, and Sirius thought for a moment, What could Hagrid, of all people, be in here for?


Still, though he felt guilty for it, he did feel a bit happy that Hagrid was there. He was a friend, at least. Or had been, once.


Then the Dementors walked by his cell, and he forgot about Hagrid, as one always does with happy memories in Azkaban, leaving him only with the guilt, the sadness, and the one thought that kept him going: I am innocent.


~*~


Sometime later, perhaps days, perhaps weeks, perhaps even months, Sirius remembered about Hagrid. The Dementors were elsewhere, excited because one of the prisoners was dying, and they weren't paying much attention to the rest of the inmates.


With the return of Hagrid's face to his memory, Sirius again wondered what Hagrid would do, could do, to earn such a high punishment.


Maybe he was innocent. After all, Sirius was innocent of his crime.


But how many times is that likely to happen? his mind asked him.


It happened once. Who's to say it can't happen again? After all, this was Hagrid, for God's sake.


Why couldn't Hagrid have commited a crime worthy of Azkaban?


Because it was Hagrid.


Just like it was Peter?


A sobbing voice broke him out of his thoughts. Hagrid was crying, presumedly in his sleep, and muttering about “Norbert” and his father and Professor Dumbledore. He seemed to think he'd let them all down.


“That,” he told himself, “is why he can't have done it. It's Hagrid.” With that thought in mind, he leaned against the bars of his cell. Suddenly, he noticed that he wasn't really leaning on them, but through them.


Hope lit up the darkness of his mind like a candle. Perhaps he could... no, there wasn't any way. Slipping through the bars was not a possibility for a man Sirius' size.


But for a dog Sirius' size...


With a slight pop, Padfoot appeared where Sirius Black had been. Yes, the bars were just far enough apart for him to squeeze through. After a moment of wiggling, he set foot in the corridors of Azkaban prison for the first time in... years, probably.


It was almost frightening, being in the corridors and out of his cell. The memory of his incarceration was still fresh in his mind, back when time had meaning... but he couldn't focus on that now.


Hagrid's bars were easier to slip through than his had been. Appropriate, as no one wants to to break into prison, he thought. There was Hagrid, curled into a ball in the corner. He barely fit in the cell at all; it was the kind of thing Sirius might have found comical once.


As he'd suspected, Sirius noticed days' worth of uneaten food sitting by the cell door. With a whimper, Sirius looked to the sleeping Hagrid, and back to the food. How to do this? he wondered.


“Wazzat?” he heard Hagrid say. He was still asleep, wasn't he? “What're yeh doin' here? How'd yeh get in?” Apparently not. He turned to look at Hagrid, who was still curled against the wall, although his eyes were now open. He sat up, wiping the tears away from his eyes like a child might. “Yer a Grim, aren't yeh? I'm dyin'?”


Not if you eat, you stupid man, Sirius wanted to say. He settled for shaking his head and using his nose to push one of the plates of food to him. He whimpered and gave Hagrid an expectant look.


“Want me to eat, huh?”


Sirius nodded.


Fortunately, whether because he was hungry or because he wanted to obey the dog, Hagrid ate the stale bread and drank the warm water. Then he reached over to pet Sirius, and Sirius allowed it. “Yeh remind me o' Fang,” Hagrid said, tears welling up in his eyes again. “Hope Harry's takin' good care of 'im.”


Harry? Sirius wondered. He's that old already? Sirius noticed that Hagrid's petting had stopped, and he found that Hagrid had fallen asleep again.


He slipped away, back through the bars, and into his own cell. Just in time, as a Dementor guard glided by, apparently checking to see if anyone else was dying. After becoming secure in the fact that everyone was alive, the Dementor returned to its vigil over the dying inmate.


~*~


Sirius stayed human a bit more so he could watch the sun and moon to keep some track of the time. For the next couple of days, he visited Hagrid for a moment at a time, making sure he was eating. He wasn't sure why he did this; when the other inmate finally did die, the Dementors would return, and he'd probably forget about Hagrid. But Hagrid had been a friend, and Sirius had a lot to atone for, besides.


The inmate, he learned later, had been Barty Crouch's son. Sirius watched them bury him, noting that they'd probably return soon.


But they didn't come for the rest of the day. In fact, Sirius heard footsteps, something he hadn't heard in the corridors since they'd brought Hagrid in. But these were too fast to be a prisoner. And there were too many, as if there was an entire group.


There was, in fact. He watched them walk by, going straight to Hagrid's cell. He heard a voice... “Rubeus Hagrid,” it said, “by order of the Minister of Magic, you have been cleared of all charges against you, and you are welcome to resume your position at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry whenever you like. We are very sorry for your inconvenience.” Sirius snorted quietly. Inconvenience.


“I can go?” That was Hagrid's voice, sounding almost... happy. He was getting out. Sirius almost smiled. He knew Hagrid was innocent.


“Yes, and for what it's worth, we truly are sorry about this.” Sirius recognised the voice now. Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic. He came by every once in a while to see if Sirius was dead yet.


“I saw a Grim,” Hagrid said absently, dazed by the good news.


“Really?” another voice said. “We got to you just in time then.”


As Hagrid walked by, Fudge hung back, looking around the cells. His eyes fell on Sirius, and he seemed to give himself a satisfied nod.


After what Sirius was almost certain was a couple of weeks, he saw Fudge again, once more searching the cells.


“Over here, Minister,” he said, shocked by the sound of his own voice.


As he came over, dressed just how Sirius had remembered him, he looked nervous. Sirius wasn't surprised, as few people were as lucid as Sirius was after at least ten years in Azkaban. “So you're still here then,” Fudge said finally.


“Last I checked.” Fudge's hands were twisting something he held. The Daily Prophet, Sirius noted. “Are you done with your paper, Minister? I've so missed the crossword.”


//
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