They were dead.
They were both dead and it was all his fault.
He didn’t cry. He had no tears left in him to cry. He didn’t rage; he’d spent weeks doing just that, slamming his fists into the stones until his knuckles had bled; until his fingers were broken, but the pain never fazed him. He ate mechanically as the healer fixed his hands and the next day, he’d punched the stone all over again and again trying to feel something … anything.
He screamed. He shouted that he was innocent. He threatened to kill his former best friend, his brother. But it was for nothing.
It was all for nothing.
He was the one who had been betrayed; the spy who wasn’t; he was guilty in the eyes of the world and nothing he could say was going to change that.
And no one was listening anyway.
At first he thought that at least he would come. His best friend; the one who he had trusted most outside of the one who was his blood brother. The one who he had kept secrets for; the one who was so thankful and confused as to why they even called him friend, called him brother in the first place.
But he never came.
He too thought he was guilty; that he was just like the family that he had tried so hard to run from.
The days turned into weeks which turned into months. He paced; he ran on the spot; he spent hours doing push-ups and sit-ups; contemplated making a noose with his thin shabby sheet and just ending it until the rage consumed him once more. He was not going to take his own life; not while he was out there, the truly guilty party, the spy, the one that he had once called friend and brother.
The months dragged into that first year and his thin hold on his own sanity started to slip away from him as he counted the days, digging the rock into the stone to tally his sentence.
On his twenty-third birthday, he spent the day in fitful dreams; memories of the woman that he had called mother holding her wand above him and telling him how worthless he was; how spineless and unworthy he was to be in the Most Ancient and Noble House. He relived the feel of the torture curse, seeing his mother holding the wand; relived the pain of the belt that his father struck across his back and when he heard his own screams echoing in the stone cell — he clawed at the stone until his nails bled.
By the second year, he forced himself to transform the moment the memories came to the surface. He forced himself to think of happy thoughts, but he couldn’t remember any. Had he ever been happy? He was innocent. It wasn’t a happy thought, but it wasn’t a miserable thought either so they couldn’t take it away from him. He hadn’t murdered those people, true. But could he really be considered innocent?
It was his fault that they were dead; his decision; his stupid mistake.
He was innocent.
He was guilty.
He was innocent.
He was guilty.
He paced the cell back and forth; back and forth, marking the days each morning when he woke. He slept as a dog; woke to eat the gruel that they called porridge; one hour of push-ups; one hour of sit-ups, keep the body disciplined, keep the mind sane, he told himself repeatedly. He’d nap as a dog; wake to eat the gruel that they called stew and as the first wave of unhappy memories would unfold into his system, he’d transform and whimper in the corner.
By the third year, he had his routine down to a science. No one spoke to him. The healer came to check on him once a month; let him wash with a bowl of lukewarm water and a clean cloth. The healer never spoke and the soul-sucking creatures hovered as the healer trembled, waiting for him to finish so that he could leave. The moment that the healer was gone, he became a dog once more.
When he started his count into year four, he knew that he would die alone in this very cell. No one would ever discover that his old friend had been the real one to betray them; the real one to trick those who cared for him.
No one would ever know his story.
The voice sounded foreign, almost too far away. He recognized the Scottish burr, but he couldn’t place it. No one had spoken to him in four years, six months, and seventeen days. Was that his name? His head pounded, but for the first time all day it was clear, telling him that the soul sucking creatures had distanced themselves, at least partially, from his cell.
The hesitation in the voice now got his attention and he realized that it wasn’t a memory; someone was actually speaking to him.
Someone was outside of his cell.
He moved towards the bars, long thin fingers gripping the iron and his grey eyes bruised around the edges meeting the square beady brown eyes that he recognized so well and his heart stopped at the sight of them.
“Minnie?” he whispered hoarsely, the old nickname slipping out before he consciously thought about it.
The brown eyes rolled in exaggeration at him and for the first time in four years, six months, and seventeen days — he felt a bubble of laughter rising in his throat.
“Sirius,” she said softly, reaching to hold his ice cold hands where they clutched the iron bars tightly. “You remember me? I was worried that I might have been too late. The healer said… never mind. You know me.”
He shook his head, clearing the cobwebs that lingered there. “Yeah,” he said roughly. “Why are you here, Professor?”
Her eyes looked sad as she gripped his hands tightly from where they were clutched around the bars. “I’m sorry that it took so long, Sirius, I’m so sorry, but you are finally getting a trial. A trial to prove your innocence.”
His dark grey eyes met hers in shock. “What?”
“I don’t believe for a moment that you betrayed James and Lily, Sirius. I never have. James was like a brother to you and you… you loved that little boy. You deserve a trial. Maybe if we can understand why you…”
Sirius snorted now, his fingers gripping hers as he realized what she was saying. “You believe that I murdered thirteen people in a crowded street, but I didn’t betray my best friends. Interesting view you have of me, Minnie, my dear.”
“Sirius,” she said again, her voice quiet and stern. “I believe that you are innocent and I have been campaigning for you to be set free from the moment that you were arrested. Finally, the Minister has taken heed of my words and agreed to give you the trial you should have been given years ago. It will be in three days time.”
Sirius squeezed her fingers gently. “I am innocent, Minnie. I would never have betrayed them, never!”
McGonagall nodded, smiling at him. “I know. I will see you in three days, Sirius. I’m rooting for you.”
As he watched her leave, he felt the darkness pressing in on him once again and he moved away from the bars, letting his back rest against the cool stone.
Four years, six months, seventeen days — but he was getting a trial.