Disclaimer: Sirius Black doesn't belong to me. Cornelius Fudge doesn't belong to me. Peter Pettigrew doesn't belong to me, either, for which I'm very grateful. Come to think of it, none of this belongs to me; it's all property of JK Rowling. Please don't sue.

The dog lay quietly in a shadowy corner of the cell, eyes closed, thinking determinedly of nothing. Waiting. What he was waiting for, he didn't know, but if he wasn't waiting, then why was he still living? If he wasn't waiting, why hadn't he given up on everything long ago? Since he was still there, determinedly keeping every thought from his head, he must be waiting for something. He hoped he'd know what it was when it came.

He was thinking of nothing because he'd long ago decided he had nothing left to think about. Nothing that was worth thinking about, anyway. They wouldn't let him. Dimly, he remembered that there were good experiences he could dwell on if they would, but even those were tainted. Tainted with a traitor. With a memory he'd lived over and over again until deciding, determinedly, that he would think of nothing.

So the dog sat in the shadows, thinking of nothing and waiting.

The shuffling of feet broke him out of his trance. His pale eyes sprang open, his ear twitched towards the sound. Footsteps. They didn't have footsteps. They glided, like ghosts but more horrible. It couldn't be them. It had to be something human. Something that could see. And they weren't supposed to see a dog.

He shuffled to his feet. Stiffly, because he'd lain there so long— he didn't know how long, because time, here, was a thing that didn't matter. Once on his feet, he didn't stop getting taller, growing into a man rather than a dog. A tall, very thin man with long, matted black hair, glancing apprehensively where the footfalls were coming from with eyes that were all that proved he was no corpse. He wondered if he wanted to know.

He recognized one of the men when they appeared, dimly— the one in the pinstriped robes, nervously fiddling with the newspaper in his hands. He struggled to find a name for him, not sure it was still in his memory. It was so difficult to find a name for anything, anymore. At least those things living. The only two whose names came to him in an instant were dead— and it was as much his fault as it was who dealt the blow's.

The nervous man in the pinstriped robes noticed his stare before he could take it off— his name was Fudge, Cornelius Fudge, he suddenly remembered. The Minister of Magic. Fudge nodded to him. "Black."

He started first, before nodding. Had it really been so long since he'd heard his own name, that it startled him? But it was his name— Black . . . Sirius Black. "Hullo, Fudge."

Fudge looked startled, staring at him like he'd said something much stranger than a greeting. "You don't . . . don't seem mad."

Sirius managed a weak smile. As humorless as that was, he was startled he could manage that, with them around, breathing their deathly chill into the air. "Not yet."

"Yet . . . well, that's certainly an option, then." Fudge twisted his paper in his hands, looking nervous. It wasn't Sirius he kept glancing at, however. It was one of them. Cloaked, hooded, drifting outside the door, looking from one man to the other. Or it would be if it could look.

Sirius managed a nod. He was far more used to their chill, used to them sucking everything from the air. He didn't like it, but he could stay calm. "Inspection?"

Fudge nodded, now staring straight at it. He was sweating, too, still twisting his paper.

"Are you done with that?" Sirius asked suddenly, nodding towards the paper. He startled himself with the question. He didn't know why he wanted to know. If there was anything good happening outside, they wouldn't let him register it. And there was enough bad here.

Fudge nodded, finally tearing his eyes from it. "I . . . I suppose I am. Why?"

Sirius managed to draw himself together. He had been here so long and not fallen apart yet. He'd managed to hold onto it, and if he lost it . . . if he lost it, he'd lost escape. He shrugged. "I wonder . . . sometimes . . . what's going on beyond here. In the rest of the world. And I miss doing the crossword."

There was irony in that last sentence, such a different form of humor he managed to hold onto it for a second or two. It was so odd, that that should come to him. The crossword. A shock he even remembered what a crossword was.

Fudge looked startled, too. "You're supposed to be mad."

"I'm not." I'd rather be, he couldn't help but think, though unhinged by them was probably even worse than sane around them. Mad, he wasn't sure it was just them. But sane, he had to face up to it. Had to admit that, though there was more to life, it was real. And he'd done it.

Fudge blinked and stared for a moment. Then he handed over the paper.

Sirius flipped it over, glancing down the front page. 1993. That was . . . twelve years. Had he really been here that long?

His eyes stopped halfway down the page, staring. His breath caught in his chest, rasping out. Blank shock stopped everything in it. It was something he hadn't felt for a very long time, but something he could hold onto.

He was there. There in the picture. Hiding within this picture of a smiling, happy family, on the shoulder of a boy. He was there. Free. Positioned for news. Waiting. Like Sirius, he was waiting, but he didn't know what for.

The shock was burned out, slowly, by fire. The fires of hatred, of anger, started to eat away at him. Sirius Black had stopped waiting. It had found him, and he knew what it was.

. . . Peter . . .

Author's Note: I wrote this in the dark. Is anyone surprised? So what do you think? I'd love to hear from you, and I'll be glad to return the favor and check out one of your stories. Cheers! — Loki Mischief-Maker