Barton Pritchard stepped out into the cold evening air. Though it was mid July, the island upon which Azkaban was situated seemed to remain in a constant winter. There was no snow, but there was often rain, the freezing kind that seemed to chill the soul. While there were no more dementors, save those which had been contained to administer the kiss, the island remained deathly cold. He pulled his cloak over his shoulders and then fished around in one of its inside pockets for a pack of Benson's, a muggle vise he had picked up when he was last in London. With a flick of his wand, he lit the cigarette and took a drag.
It was a relief to get outside the prison walls. He leaned back against the inter wall of the small alcove, the guard entrance. He would be glad to take his two weeks of leave. He took another long drag of the cigarette. It had been far too long since he had been off this forsaken island. He had taken on two weeks extra for a buddy of his whose wife had birthed their first child. He told himself that he would never again offer to cover for an additional two weeks. Any time over the regular four made him feel like he would go mad. Six weeks were far too long for any sane wizard.
Pritchard slowly released the smoke he had been holding in his lungs and turned to look out toward the violent sea. The waves were gray and seemed to bleed white foam as they were sliced to pieces by the jagged shore. It was just before sundown and the sky, which was also gray, held little promise of the lovely sunset that he usually enjoyed from his flat in Diagon Alley. No, there was nothing ever lovely about the sea views from Azkaban prison.
The sound of a screeching bird caught his attention. He looked toward the sound to see a large avamar picking at the bloody entrails of a large fish it had taken from the cold water. Avamar's were filthy birds; they were a cross between a muggle sea gull and a small dragon. The bird had a deadly pointed beak, large black wings and four violent looking dragon like claws. They were roughly the size of a large dog and while fish were their primary diet, nesting female birds had been known to attack humans if desperate. They were usually no threat to a wizard; however, without a wand it could prove somewhat dangerous. They were by no means gentle birds. Pritchard was somewhat surprised to see the bird on this side of the island; they normally stayed on the eastern side which was coated in their grayish white shit. He watched in fascination as the creature dissected its meal.
His attention was drawn away from the feasting avamar by the sound of another. In one steep dive it swooped down toward its companion. The two birds squabbled over the fish for a moment before the smaller stepped away. Pritchard frowned. Never in his seven years of working as an Azkaban guard had he seen a single living creature on the western shores of the cold rock. Then, just as he was taking another drag, the sound of hundreds of wings and screeching avamar calls was heard overhead. Pritchard stepped out from the alcove and stood back in surprise; the entire colony of avamar that had made its home on the eastern shores of Azkaban took to flight and circled round and round before landing before him. "Great Merlin!" He stepped back into the alcove. A few larger looking birds were too close to him for comfort. He moved back and watched with horrified ah as they seemed flap about in some sort of confusion. It was an odd sight to behold. He stepped back until he felt the cold iron door of the guard's entrance, took the last drag of his cigarette, tossed it on the ground and then crushed it out with his boot. He quickly decided to cut his smoke break a little short and have a cup of tea; an entire flock of confused Avamar was not something he wanted to deal with.
The forms of seven darkly robed deatheaters stood out against the white painted rocks on the eastern side of the Azkaban Island. One of which had landed in a large nest, crushing two of the black eggs that had been resting there. He kicked the sticky mess from his boot and cursed the leader of this ill planned break-out. This was not a promising beginning to their mission.
"You might as well alert the entire regiment of Azkaban guards of our presents Wormtail." The deatheater who had landed in the nest kicked some of the yellow yoke onto the robes of the short plump wizard. "Not a good start."
"We're through the wards Parkinson!" the leader of this mission defended himself in a squeaky voice.
"That won't do us any good if we are caught!" Parkinson pulled out his broom. "Just remember you can't use your wands, not yet. We don't want to take any more chances than we already have." He glared at Wormtail through his mask.
Several of the others nodded in agreement, each pulling out their brooms.
"Do you have the potions?" Wormtail asked the deatheater to his right.
The deatheater nodded. A length of his black hair fell across his silvery white mask.
Then, as though silently agreed upon, each mounted their broom and flew quickly toward the fortress, their cloaks brushing along the jagged rocks as they traveled.
Barton Pritchard hung his cloak in his locker and moved toward the small break room kitchen to fix himself a warm cup of tea. It was just the thing he needed before heading back to his post. That Black witch was due for her dinner. He shook his head. He remembered her from when she had been here before. She had always been quite mad; however, there was something very odd about her recently. She seemed almost afraid, still quite mad, but seemingly terrified. In the six years he had been assigned to her watch, prior to the break-out, he had never seen her scared. It was almost human. He had checked on her just before going on brake and he could hear her mumbling to herself as she rocked back and forth, "Bellatrix, Bellatrix, not my hands, not me, not Miriam, not Bellatrix, Miriam, Bellatrix Lestrange." Her mumblings were soft and afraid, confused. She was nothing like the Bellatrix that had escaped. He thought perhaps it was the fear of being sentenced to the kiss. By the morning she would not be anyone but an empty shell.
Just as the whistle on the tea kettle blew, the door of the guard's entrance flew open and the sound of the avamar and the cold wind burst through, followed by seven of his fellow guardsmen, one of which he recognized as Martin Bungslow.
"Hey there Martin!" Barton gave a hello to his friend while he poured the hot water into a teapot. "How's the new babe, boy or a girl?"
Martin didn't answer promptly; however he soon replied somewhat garbled. "Fine, fine, a boy."
"Just made some tea, you want to sit down for a pot? I wasn't expecting you to come until the afternoon tomorrow."
"No tea." Martin replied.
Barton frowned; there was something not quite right. Martin had just returned from the side of his wife and new son; however, he didn't react like a new father should when questioned about his child. "Everything ok?" he asked somewhat concerned. "You got through those avamar's ok?"
The seven nodded.
"Never seen'um act so queer." Barton shrugged and then turned to pour himself a cup of the fresh tea.
The last thing he heard was the sound of someone moving forward and then he felt something hard come down upon his head before the world went black.