Chapter One: Azkaban
Alexandra Moody shivered and drew her cloak closer around her body, drawing the hood up as a protection against the rain. Gusts of wind put her in danger of losing her balance as she skirted the walls of Azkaban on her way to the main entrance. She still felt a bit queasy in the stomach from the journey. Just her bad luck that she had to come here on a day like this.
Not that she had wanted to come here at all, she certainly had not volunteered for writing this article, but as her colleagues had not wanted to do it either, it had been obvious whose task it would become. Utter nonsense, an article about famous convicted Death Eaters and their lives in Azkaban five years after their trials. How would these people react to her questions? Certainly not with much sympathy and understanding, but as the dementors were gone they should at least have remained sane.
Alexandra sighed and waited for her companion, a very fat Auror, to finish the formalities at the gate. Then she had to sign her name in the register and they were on their way into the fortress.
It was quiet inside, the sound of the wind and the sea did not penetrate the massive walls.
Their footsteps sounded loud on the stone flags of the corridors. From somewhere deep inside the building shouting could be heard. They passed wooden doors – some open, some closed - with people working inside and names next to them – offices. Alexandra wondered where the prisoners' cells were. Somewhere underground?
The Auror stopped at the door at the end of the corridor and held it open for her.
The small visitors' room was bare except for a simple wooden table and three chairs. Two chairs were on one side of the table and looked uncomfortable, but ordinary. The other one was very solid with chains attached to its armrests. Alexandra shivered again. The chair for the prisoners.
She removed her cloak and draped it over one of the visitors'chairs to dry, then she took her notebook and a pencil from her briefcase. She had never got used to quills. Scanning the list the prison management had provided (Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy, Severus Snape) she decided to interview the Death Eaters in this alphabetical order, as she couldn't think of a better one. Ready to face the first prisoner, she nodded to the Auror.
30 minutes later she had developed a splitting headache and a strong urge to vomit.
Bellatrix Lestrange definitely had become insane despite the absence of dementors, but she had been in Azkaban before, perhaps that was the reason for her current state. Fat and filthy, her long, greying hair unkempt, madness gleaming in her eyes, she had either babbled in silly baby-talk about 'ickle Harry' or had regaled Alexandra with juicy details of her sex life during the days of Voldemort. Disgusting.
Lucius Malfoy appeared sane and composed. He was also well-groomed and well-fed, with sleek hair, now more white than blonde and elegant grey velvet robes. He entered the room with the air of owning the place. He winced a little when the chains fastened themselves around his arms, but nothing could wipe this arrogant expression of superiority from his face. He answered her questions condescendingly, making it clear that he considered himself wrongly imprisoned and the ministry a place ruled by imbeciles and left no doubt that he believed times were about to change and that the Malfoys would experience a rise to wealth and power again. Disgusting.
And now for the third Death Eater. The Auror who had been watching the interviews from the next room through a large glass partition came in and asked if she needed assistance with Snape.
"He's got a reputation for violence, he's nasty and bad-tempered."
Alexandra shrugged. Anything would be more agreeable than Lestrange and Malfoy.
"I don't think so. What can he do, he'll be chained to the chair?"
The Auror nodded and gladly left for his old place in the next room.
Two guards appeared with Snape. Alexandra's eyes widened in surprise about the difference between Malfoy and this man. Snape was wearing a tattered, dirty and damp grey prison uniform, work boots and leg-irons. His head was shaved, his face with the large prominent nose streaked with dirt, an ugly looking scar ran across his left cheek; there were also scars and an angry red welt on his neck. He smelled of rain and unwashed humanity and looked tired, glad to be able to sit down, he didn't show any reactions when the chains bound him to the chair.
His hands were calloused and red, the nails broken and dirty.
The guards left, Alexandra and Snape looked at each other.
"Well?" it was he who finally broke the silence. Alexandra brought herself out of her reveries and remembered why she was here.
"I'm Alexandra Moody, I work for the Daily Prophet and I'm here to do some research for an article about convicted Death Eaters…"
"Moody?" he interrupted her, "are you a relation of Alistair Moody?"
Oh God, first prize for the most original question of the century, she thought.
"Yes, he's my uncle," she said aloud.
He looked at her thoughtfully.
"Why do I not know you? Which school were you at? Beauxbatons?"
"No, St.Catherine's school for girls in Oxford. I'm a squib."
She felt her cheeks become hot. Now, why had she told him this? She stared at him defiantly and was surprised to see a little smile of sympathy in those hard black eyes.
"A squib," he said softly, "oh my."
When she didn't react he went on.
"It must be bad to be a squib in the wizarding world, but to be one with the name of Moody must be absolutely dreadful."
There was no sarcasm in his voice, he really meant it. She looked at him incredulously. Death Eaters had been obsessed with being pure-bloods and all that kind of rubbish, he certainly couldn't have understanding for a squib.
"What do you care?" she asked.
"I know what it means to be an outsider," he said quietly.
"Mr Snape, I'd like to ask you some questions. Why are you, I mean, Mr Malfoy and you…" He laughed bitterly.
"You mean, why do I look so much more like a prisoner than he does? Ms Moody, it's all a question of money and influence. He's got both and I've got neither. So all I get is standard issue and I have to work for my keep."
"Yes, Azkaban has been partly destroyed during the war, and now the prisoners must re-build it. Paradox, isn't it? I'm part of a chain-gang."
He moved his feet and the chains clinked.
"We work twelve-hour shifts and I must admit that I really appreciate the hour of rest in a warm and dry room this little talk provides me with. I thank you."
"But - that's not fair!" she exclaimed.
"Of course not, Ms Moody, but that's the way it is. Since when has life been fair?"
"What do you miss most, Mr Snape?" she took refuge in one of her prepared questions.
He sneered. "This is a very stupid question, Ms Moody. What do you think a prisoner misses most? Freedom, Ms Moody, freedom."
His voice was bitter again, but after a moment's hesitation he added, barely audible and more to himself, "and books."
"Do you regret your crimes?" The next question on her list.
He smirked. "Now, what does a good Death Eater answer to that?" His voice was dripping with sarcasm. "No, I regret nothing. The Dark Lord will rise again!"
His hands clenched on the armrests. He sighed wearily.
"Ms Moody, I regret each and everyone of my mistakes and my crimes, I deserve punishment. And I don't want to answer any more of your silly questions. Write whatever you like, I don't give a damn, I'm locked in here for the rest of my miserable life."
He closed his eyes. Alexandra swallowed. He was right. The questions were silly, the article was silly, the Daily Prophet was silly, her whole life was purposeless and silly. Suddenly she felt like crying.
"Tell me," he said and looked at her through narrowed eyes, "why do you work for the Prophet? Wouldn't you be happier in the Muggle world?"
Alexandra somehow felt that the interview didn't proceed the way it should, but couldn't help answering him.
"Jobs for journalists are scarce. I tried to find a job with a Muggle newspaper, but didn't succeed." She sighed. "And my family has always wanted me to come back. Perhaps they think if I'm surrounded by magic some day I will catch some. They made me marry a wizard – well, I admit I thought I was in love – and when the marriage didn't work because I could not have children, they helped me to get this job with the Daily Prophet."
"You don't like it?"
"No, it's not a good newspaper and they don't really accept me there. They talk behind my back, because I can't work with magic and they don't use Muggle technology, computers and so on. I always get the tasks nobody else wants."
"Like interviewing Death Eaters?" He grinned.
She grimaced. Why was she confessing these details to him? He was a stranger, he was a convict, for heaven's sake. He shifted his position a little, the chains preventing further movement. His eyes were still fixed on hers, his expression unreadable. She felt compelled to go on.
"But I don't see a way out. What possibilities are there for someone like me at my age? Sometimes I just feel so useless."
Now, why had she said this? Why had she admitted this to him of all people? She blushed and would have liked to sink through the floor. She averted her eyes and looked down at her hands in her lap. The silence stretched between them.
He cleared his throat. "There's always a solution. Don't do anything silly", he said hoarsely.
She looked at him in surprise.
He shrugged depreciatingly. "Professor Snape's advice of the week."
Then he pointed his chin at the glass partition. "Your Auror is getting restless. Shall we call this interview finished?"
She rose and went over to his chair.
"Mr Snape, why did you do this?"
"Listen to my problems."
He answered with an ironical curling of his lips. "I didn't have much choice, did I? Besides, I'd do anything for some extra time in a warm and dry room. I usually don't have visitors." "No visitors in five years?"
She looked at him and tried to imagine what his life must have been like before Azkaban and what it must be like now. Their eyes locked and she felt that there was something more, something he wouldn't reveal.
"Tell your Auror I want to leave."
His tone was harsh and commanding. She obediently gestured to the Auror. The guards re-appeared, made the chains remove themselves and he got up stiffly.
"Move, Snape," one of them said and punched him in the back, making him stumble in his shackles. Alexandra clenched her teeth. It wasn't fair.
Thanks to J.K.Rowling for inventing these wonderful characters.