Sirius doesn't scream when he is thrown into Azkaban. Not once. Instead, he whispers. He whispers to Lily and James, tells them that they are dead and their son is an orphan because of him and that he is painfully aware of that every second of every day. He whispers to Remus, begs him to forgive him, begs him to understand why he did what he did, even if his actions were the reason everything fell apart. He whispers to Harry, tells him over and over again that he didn't mean to, he didn't mean to kill his parents, he didn't mean to make it look like he killed Peter, he didn't mean to leave Harry all alone, he didn't mean to.

He whispers one broken apology after another, apologies that don't make him feel less guilty, not even a little, but they, along with turning into the dog when it gets too bad, keep him sane. They keep him sane when the Dementors walk past his cell three times a day and make him relive all of his worst memories. They keep him sane when he can hear the other prisoners scream in agony. They keep him sane when every few years, someone from the ministry comes in and asks him if he wants to appeal against his verdict and he just shakes his head wordlessly, because he might be innocent of the crime they are accusing him of, but he is still guilty in so many matters of the word.

So he keeps whispering. To himself, to his friends that are either dead or traitors or a hundred miles away, to his family that has abandoned him long before he went to Azkaban, and he never gets an answer. Until, one day, he does.

Sirius can't tell how long he's been in Azkaban when he first hears the voice. He's lost track of time a long while ago, but the man from the ministry has come and gone twice, so it must have been at least a couple of years. It's sometime around noon – he can only tell because the Dementors have just finished their second patrol that day – and he is crouched on his small, dirty bed that doesn't even deserve to be called one.

His voice is husky and barely audible as he whispers his apologies for the thousandth time, as he begs his friends to forgive him like he's done it every single day since he arrived, although he still hasn't forgiven himself. He is so caught up in his actions, so frantically mumbling the words into the empty room, the he doesn't register the other, the strange voice at first, and even when he does, it takes him a few seconds to fully comprehend the words.

"I don't think they blame you."

Sirius stops mid-sentence, his mouth still slightly opened, an unfinished apology lingering on his dry lips. He doesn't move, doesn't even breathe, doesn't make the slightest noise, just listens.

For a while, he can hear nothing but the occasional screams of the other prisoners, far away, muffled through the massive stone walls of Azkaban, and he's almost thinking that he was hallucinating – nothing uncommon, not with hundreds of hundreds of Dementors around – when he hears the voice again.

"I mean, you couldn't have known your friend was a traitor."

The voice is soft, definitely female, with a slight Scottish accent in it, but what makes Sirius gasp is how unbelievable kind the words it's speaking are. Nobody has ever spoken to him with kindness since Lily and James died, and he is half-convinced that this is a weirdly vivid hallucination. Because, really, there's just nobody in Azkaban who still has the ability to be kind.

But then a thought crosses his mind. Even if this voice was a hallucination, why would the Dementors make him hallucinate something so… pleasant? Their one and only goal is to make him suffer, and they have managed just fine by showing him his worst memories and all his failures again and again, so what would be the purpose of having him hallucinate a voice saying kind things to him?

"I, uh… I'm sorry, I didn't mean to listen, I just… I just wanted to tell you that I don't think they blame you."

For the first time, Sirius notices that the voice is weak and husky, as if it hasn't been used in a very long time. It's coming from a small, barely visible crack in the wall separating his cell from the cell next to him, and he vaguely recalls a day several months ago, when the Dementors dragged an unconscious, fragile figure in there.

"Who are you?" The words leave his mouth before he can stop them, and then he waits nervously for an answer, every muscle in his body tensed.

The answer comes, softly, quietly, with a hint of sadness in it. "My name is Maggie Haddock. Who are you?"

He clears his throat and then he says his name for the first time since he's been thrown into Azkaban.

"Sirius Black."

They do not talk for a couple of days after this.

Sirius is trying to stomach the fact that she was probably listening to his whispered apologies and begs and prayers ever since she was brought in – several months, at least, maybe a year – and that she knows basically every single one of his feelings while he knows nothing more than her name, but that isn't even everything.

His head is full of questions, questions he can't find an answer to. Why is she in Azkaban to begin with? How is she still sane enough to speak to him like a normal person after all her months under the influence of the Dementors? And why in hell did she decide to speak to him when she did and how she did?

He ponders on those questions for a while, and they even distract him from his usual whispers – they become less frequent, but still not a day goes by where he doesn't talk to his friends – until, finally, he asks them out loud to the only person that can answer them. He isn't sure if Maggie – if that is even her real name – is listening right now, so he just speaks into the void of his cell, his voice only slightly louder than his usual whisper.

"Why are you here?"

Silence is his only answer, and he's beginning to think that Maggie didn't hear him or doesn't want to hear him or is being held prisoner in her own mind by the Dementors' powers, but then he hears her voice, quiet and matter-of-factly.

"I was accused of murder."

He hesitates for a brief second before asking a question he isn't really sure he wants to hear the answer to. "Did you do it?"

There is sharp intake of breath, audible even through the small crack in the wall, and then she speaks one single word. "No."

Sirius can't explain the relief that floods his mind at this, or how he's sure that she isn't lying, and much less how he's even able to feel something positive as relief with so many Dementors present. Maybe it's just the feeling of talking to a sane human being – safe the wizard from the ministry – after so many years. Whatever it is, for a brief moment, it feels good.

"What happened?"

The silence that follows now is even longer, but then she speaks again, her voice full of pain and bitterness.

"The aurors found me kneeling over my husband's body covered in his blood. Our neighbors had called them because they'd heard screaming and crying. I tried to tell them that I didn't do that, that I loved my husband, that I didn't now how I got there, but they wouldn't listen. They arrested me."

She takes a deep breath before she continues. "Matt – my husband – he was very high-ranking at the ministry, a very popular opponent of You-Know-Who. They needed someone to take the blame, and I was just convenient. They found letters in my handwriting in which I was plotting his death with some remaining death-eaters, and no matter how hard I tried to convince them that I didn't remember ever writing those letters, they didn't believe me. I was sentenced to life-long imprisonment in Azkaban just a week after Matt's death."

Her voice cracks and he can hear her crying, and suddenly he wishes he could comfort her. He doesn't know how, but a part of him knows exactly that she is telling him the truth. Still, there is one question she hasn't answered yet, and he asks it as soon as she seems to have recovered herself.

"How do you… how do you manage to keep sane?"

She sobs once again, harder this time, and her voice is trembling and barely audible as she says: "I… I have a daughter. She was barely two by the time… it happened. I need to be strong for her."

And then she stops talking altogether and just sobs quietly, and for the first time in years, Sirius doesn't turn into the dog or recites his apologies as soon as the Dementors show up for their patrol. Instead, he just sits with his back against the hard, cold cell wall and endures the memories they're throwing at him, because he now knows that there is someone right next to him enduring the pain with him.

From there on, they talk every day – or night, as sometimes neither of them is able to talk throughout the day when Dementor's are everywhere and screams are tearing trough the stone walls around them.

Maggie tells him about her daughter Clara, about her husband Matt and about their life together until everything fell apart. She tells him about how she's still able to feel his blood on her hands whenever she wakes up from another nightmare and about how she relives his death and abandoning her daughter every time the Dementors walk past her cell. She tells him about all the things she'll do when she gets out (she always says when, never if). She tells him about her fears and pain and hopes and darkest secrets, and Sirius does the same.

He tells her about James and Remus and Peter and the Marauders and how they became Animagi to be there for Remus. He tells her about his parents (who abandoned him) and James' parents (who took him in) and about his little brother. He tells her about how it is his fault that Peter became tJames' and Lily's secret keeper in the first place and about how if he ever gets out of here (he says if), he'll make him pay for everything. He tells her about his guilt and anger and dark dreams and everything else.

She tells him it's not his fault, again and again, and he tells her the same, but neither of them believes the other's words.

They do not become friends. Friendship is something that is way too good to exist inside the walls of Azkaban. But they do become the closest thing there is to it. And for a while, it makes being imprisoned in Azkaban just a little more bearable.

Until everything changes.

Sirius stares down at the newspaper in his hand, fingers trembling as they curl around the torn edges of the paper. His gaze is fixed on the photo at the front and he's breathing heavily, heart racing in his chest. There is no doubt. He would know him anywhere. He's spent most of his time at Hogwarts helping him take this form, after all.

Anger rises in his stomach, drowns out all the pain and despair the Dementor's have filled him up with. The traitor is still alive, still out there, and now he knows where to start, and suddenly all he is able to think is one single thought.

He has to kill him.

He crumples the newspaper to a small ball and tosses it in the corner of his cell. "Weasley.", he whispers into his dark cell. "Weasley. He's with the Ron Weasley. He's in Hogwarts." He repeats the name almost frantically, again and again, his only lead after all those years of literally nothing, and then Maggie's voice snaps him out of it.

"Sirius? What is it?"

He considers lying to her for a moment, but then he shakes his head and says hoarsely: "I know where Peter is."

She is quiet for a long time, and then she says calmly, like she's just stating a fact: "You need to get out of here."

A dry, joyless laugh escapes his lips. "How the hell would I do that?"

Maggie's answer comes abruptly. "You can turn into the dog. Maybe the Dementors won't be able to track it. If you get thin enough, you can slip through the bars."

Sirius swallows hard. Clearly, she's thought about that. Clearly, she's made up an escape plan for him, probably hidden it from him until she knew he actually had a motivation to flee. She knows him well enough by now to know that without the opportunity to get back at Peter, he would never attempt to escape. He feels way too guilty for that.

A thought crosses through his mind and it makes him shiver.

"I'll have to leave you behind."

This is also a fact, and Maggie knows that as well as him. "I know.", she says, perfectly composed. "But this is your revenge, not mine. I'll get back to Clara soon enough."

Her voice trembles slightly at the mention of her daughter, and he is pretty sure that her when is slowly turning into an if. Something inside of him aches at the very thought of escaping and leaving her alone with the Dementors and the screams and the utter despair, but he also knows she's right. If he wants to get his revenge, if he wants to give Peter what he deserves, he needs to get out of here as fast as possible. And he needs to leave without Maggie.

"I'm sorry.", he whispers, barely audible.

"I know.", she says once again.

He looks back once when he's swimming to the shore as the black dog.

He imagines Maggie smiling to him from one of the small windows, although he hasn't ever seen her face.

It starts with a whisper.

It is not the kind of whisper Maggie would give anything to hear (a broken apology, sincere and full of raw pain). The other prisoners – all of them guilty in a way Sirius never was and none of them capable of an apology – are whispering about something coming up, something big.

Maggie doesn't know how much time has passed since Sirius' escape. Two, maybe three years, judging from her more than impaired intuition. All she knows is that those whispers might just be her chance.

When she flees to the shore with the other escaped death-eaters, she pretends to be one of them. Matt was one of the wizards working hardest in bringing Him-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named down, and as they all believe she's killed him, her act is convincing.

She runs away as soon as they have reached the mainland and hides at some long abandoned house in the woods, freezing and hungry and desperate. She cries and screams into the void, because she doesn't know what to do, she can't go back to Clara, she can't go anywhere, she's got no one.

She's all alone.

Sirius hates it at Grimmauld Place.

Sure, there are no Dementors to bring out his very worst memories, but there are enough artifacts and pictures and rooms that are quite good at this too. But here, he's got no one to whisper to him through a wall. He's got no one who knows exactly what it was like to spend all this time in Azkaban.

Remus helps, he really does. But he doesn't understand him, not fully. He doesn't understand what it's like to be around hundreds of Dementors twenty-four hours a day. He doesn't understand what it's like to feel nothing but despair and fear and pain and so much guilt. And he doesn't understand the crushing weight of leaving someone he really cared about behind.

So, Sirius just tries to get by. He smiles for Harry and Remus and the others now frequenting Grimmauld Place, and he does his best to be of some use to the Order, but it just feels wrong. Until, one day, he gets his hands on the latest Daily Prophet.

He just sits there, at the kitchen table, completely motionless, completely ignoring Remus and Molly Weasley asking him what's wrong. Because there, under the headline "Mass-escape from Azkaban", is her name.

He scans the article as quickly as he can, his heart racing in his chest, and then he finds the part he's looking for, and it skips several beats.

"Among the escapees was Margaret Haddock, who was sentenced to life-long imprisonment after the murder of her husband Matthew Haddock in 1988."

His eyes wander down the page, and then he sees her face for the first time. She's pretty, though Azkaban has left its marks on her. Her hair is dark and curly, and her eyes haven't lost all their life yet, and suddenly full realization hits him. She's out there. She's somewhere out there, all alone, and he's here, all alone, and he just needs her.

He looks up and meets Remus' gaze.

"I need to find her."

Maggie doesn't have a wand. Obviously not. So she just grabs the nearest piece of wood she can find when she hears footsteps and holds it in front of her like a sword. She knows it won't do much good against a wizard, but she's desperate. She would do everything to not go back to Azkaban.

The first thing she sees is the light at the tip of the wand and she braces herself, grabs the piece of wood tighter, but then the man who's found her lowers his wand and she can see his face.

He looks worn out, tired, but friendly, and when he asks "Are you Maggie Haddock?", she nods against all reason.

"I'm Remus.", he says, and her eyes widen.

"Lupin?", she asks weakly, almost afraid of the answer she's going to get.

He raises an eyebrow. "How do you know that?"

She hesitates, but then she tells him, blinking against the still glowing light on his wand. "Sirius told me about you."

A small smile grazes across his lips, makes him look years younger, and then he says: "I'm here to take you to him."

The door swings open and then she's standing there.

She's looking at him and her eyes are the bluest blue he's ever seen – he couldn't see that on the black and white photo in the newspapers – and he manages to give her a half-smile.

And then, suddenly, she's running towards him and throwing herself into his arms and he's holding her and breathing her in and everything is a blur.

"You're here.", he whispers into her hair. "I can't believe you're here. Oh god, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

There are tears on his face and on hers and he just holds her closer and swears to himself that he'll never let her go again.

She looks terribly small and fragile as she's sitting on his bed, nearly drowning in one of his pullovers.

Sirius feels the sudden urge to grab her hand, to make sure she's really, physically there, but he resists. A part of him fears that she will break like glass under his touch.

The silence that fills the air between them is slightly uncomfortable, and he shifts on the armchair in the corner of his room. Everything seems different, now that he can actually see her, now that he can see the way her eyes sparkle occasionally or her mouth twitches into something that resembles a smile or her hair curls around her face, now that she is a whole, actual person, not just a voice in the wall.

It's Maggie who speaks first. She tells him about the years without him, about her escape with the death-eaters and about hiding in abandoned houses and stealing food from trash cans, and it is just like it was, only better.

Because now, when she tells him that she can't go back to her family because they still think she's guilty and her voice starts to tremble, he can pull her into his arms and tell her that she's not alone.
Because now, when he tells her about how much this house reminds him of his terrible childhood and about how guilty looking at Remus or Harry makes him, she brushes his cheek with her hand and tells him it's okay.
Because now, when he wakes up shaking and gasping for air from his usual nightmare that night, she is curled up next to him and asks him what's wrong, and before he's even awake enough to know what's happening, her lips are on his.

He kisses her whenever the memories are too much and they're making him panic and he can't breathe, and then she presses herself to him and steals the air from his lips until the tension disappears from his shoulders and he can breathe again.

She kisses him whenever she can see the scarlet red on her hands and she just needs to feel something else beside the pain, and her holds her tight and lets her cry in his arms until she calms down and her hands are clean again when she looks at them.

The days go by, and he almost thinks this is love.


Sirius doesn't want to choose. He doesn't want to choose between the boy he swore to protect and the woman he might love. So he tells himself over and over again that it is not a choice, that he'll save Harry and come back to Maggie, but deep inside, he just knows.

He knows that if he goes to the ministry to fight the death-eaters, someone will strike a blow that will make him unable to ever hold Maggie or hear her voice or feel her lips on his ever again. It is a feeling somewhere in his guts, a feeling that has never been wrong before.

The choice tears him apart. Because, really, he doesn't have a choice. He's promised James to protect his son with his life, and he's not about to break his promise to his best friend. Not when he's responsible for his death.

And so he kisses Maggie goodbye while she's still asleep and sneaks out of the room without waking her, and he feels like a goddamned coward.

When Bellatrix' curse hits his chest, he thinks of Maggie and smiles as the light leaves his eyes.

Maggie knows it the moment Remus comes through the door of Grimmauld Place number twelve.

His smile fades away before it's even really there and his eyes are full of unspeakable pain, and she knows. She just knows.

"Tell me.", she says, her voice hollow. "Just tell me. I can take it."

He tells her and she breaks down, crying and screaming into the emptiness Sirius left, and she realizes she was wrong.

She can't take it.

There is a grave without a body on the far corner of the cemetery at Godric's Hollow.

Maggie is standing in front of it and tears are streaming down her face so she can barely read the name on the tombstone.

"I love you.", she whispers into the cold air. "I love you. God, Sirius, I love you. Please."

But he can't hear her. And she's never said it while he was still able to.

She can see the scarlet on her hands once again, can smell it in the air, and suddenly it's not only Matt's but also Sirius'.

She wonders if her unspoken confession is a stain she won't ever get out.

The waves of the North Sea are roaring against the cliff and Maggie is standing in front of the abyss.

Far away, nothing more than a shadow on the horizon, she can see Azkaban, the place where it all started. She shivers and her fingers start trembling even harder.

She thinks of Clara. Her daughter is out there somewhere, still believes that her mother murdered her father and escaped prison with her fellow death-eaters. She could make it right, sure. She could restore her name and go back to Clara and be her mother again.

But Maggie also knows that she's broken beyond repair. Sirius' death has shattered all of the pieces he'd put back together before, and now she's nothing more than a bleeding mess. She could never be a decent mother for Clara. Not after seven years and everything that's happened.

She clenches her fists tight and thinks of Matt. She loved him, she really did, although it was a whole kind of different love than the one she felt – still feels – for Sirius. The two men had nothing in common, except the fact that she loved them both, and yet they died. Everyone she's ever loved died. Her father, her sister, Matt, Sirius. So maybe it's better if she doesn't go back to Clara.

Maggie takes a step forward until she's standing right at the edge of the cliff and staring into the black, angry waves.

It would be so terribly easy to jump.