Disclaimer:...sigh Of course it's not.

Scratch

"Lights out!"

The shrill voice rang down the grimy corridor, bouncing off the cold stone walls and ringing in the prisoners' ears. Sobbing could be heard from multiple cells as the dim candlelight flickered out, leaving Azkaban Prison submerged in darkness. A gradual coldness crept between the cell bars, as it had done for over a decade, enveloping screaming men and women, forcing them back into their pasts. Dementors glided forward, occasionally wrapping their clammy hands around the metal bars, as if longing to touch the prisoners themselves.

Bellatrix huddled in the darkness of her cell, her back pressed against the thick outer wall. It wouldn't be long now. Sometimes, on her better days, she could manage to hold it off for hours, but it would come in the end. Tonight, after a particularly furious row with her husband, it would be mere minutes.

It had been a silly argument, one they had every few months because neither of them could ever win it. Rodolphus had long ago given up any hope of their master returning to strength and freeing them. Bellatrix, on the other hand, was adamant in her belief that they would be rewarded for their continued loyalty. She had to be. That last shred of hope was the only thing keeping it from winning.

She knew others heard it too. She had heard people screaming at it to stop, beating their heads on the stone floor till their ears bled, and even killing themselves in the darkness for it to just stop. Bellatrix had watched as they did. Some removed their clothing and strung themselves from rafters. Others pressed themselves to the Dementors mouths, sacrificing their souls in an embrace of death. Last week she had lost her cellmate to voluntary starvation. Everyone's reactions to it were different; they had to be, because no one goes insane in quite the same way.

It was here.

She had lost her concentration in her musings, forgetting to watch for the signs, but they were all there. At first it would hover at the edge of her awareness, like a fly waiting to be smashed, teasing her, making her jump at the slightest movements. The next part was the worst. It would grow louder and louder, until she could hardly bear it any longer. It would pound in her ears for hours on end; unable to be ignored, her own mind poking fun at her insanity.

scratch.

Rodolphus could never hear it; even when it pounded so loudly she was sure it would cave in the old walls. Then it would fade as the sun came up again, retreating into the back of her mind, hidden from the others till the next night.

scratch. scratch. scratchscratch.

She could feel this thing, this pressuring madness, filling her entire being, echoing through her bones, pulsing in her blood. She sucked in a gulp of air, knowing even the coldness of the air would do nothing to calm her.

scratchscratchscratchscratch. scratch. scratchscratchscratch….

Tucking her knees to her chest, she realized she was humming again. It was a haunting tune from her childhood. An image of a music box accompanied it, and she vaguely recalled it was a gift from her aunt. She used to play it incessantly, twirling and laughing as the dancing ballerina on the top spun in a circle with her. Narcissa had smashed it in a jealous rage the following Christmas. Bellatrix had forgotten about it over the years, and was surprised that it came to her now, as the madness closed in around her. Sinking to the floor, she curled up in a defensive ball, continuing to hum, desperately trying to ignore the madness stirring inside her.

She knew it would win in the end. She had watched the others be consumed by it in the darkness of their cells; their minds snapping one by one under the pressure. Bellatrix sometimes wondered if she should just let it

scratch………scratchscratch…..scratchhhhhhhhhh

The first scream ripped from her throat unbidden, joining in the unending shrieks already racing down the halls. She screamed until her throat was raw and angry, and still it was there. Always there. Always. Eventually she grew weary and her screeches trailed away into heaving sobs, and she brought up her feeble dinner. The vomit spread along the floor, tickling between the cracks in the rough stone, dripping onto the occupant beneath. Bellatrix smirked weakly as shouts rose to her ears; she couldn't help it if there happened to be a guard office down there. She did not move to the other side of the cell.

scratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscracthscratchscratchhhhhhh

Rodolphus was muttering in the next cell, undoubtedly dealing with his own demons. She put a hand on the wall separating them, trying to show some compassion in her deranged state. Dawn could not arrive fast enough.

scratch. scratchhhhhhhhhhhh…..

She tried not to listen to the wailing surrounding her, but it was the only thing that could distract her, even for a moment, from her own mind's tricks. People wept and begged forgiveness, pleaded their innocence, screamed and prayed for a second chance that they would never get. Closing her eyes tightly, she wished she could do the same with her ears.

scratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchscratchMAKE IT STOPscratchscratchscratchscratch….

When she opened her eyes again, the small holes in the outer wall glowed gray. Dawn. She sighed, seeing Rodolphus reaching out blindly from the bars on his door, their argument forgotten in the night's terror. She crawled over and grasped his dirty hand in hers. Knowing what his answer would be, she asked the question she repeated every night.

"Can you hear it Ro?"

"Hear what, Bell?"

Grasping his hand a bit tighter, she gazed at the light trickling from a small hole above her. Raising her chin defiantly, she completed the ritual.

"Nothing."

Marking another line on the wall with her free hand, she knew the next night was already fast approaching.

scratch.

A/N: ...well that was intersting...What'd you guys think? And I'd like to thank my Beta's cyropi and animeluvr8 from the bottomof my heart. This wouldn't exsist without them! And if anyone was curious as to how this came into being, I just saw the word scratch on TV one day...Leave a review please!