A/N: So I got asked this a couple times and I'm going to clarify it here - this is going to be set sort of during the Prisoner of Azkaban, and it begins just around the end of June - since Sirius escapes around the end of July. Just to clear that up. Thanks to everyone who reviewed.
Disclaimer: I own Danica Clarke and the storyline, but not anything in the Harry Potter universe.
Chapter 3: A New Plan
"And how are you today, sunshine?" Jeff asked cheerfully, leaning against her door frame.
If she had a paperweight handy, and had some hand-eye coordination, Danica was sure she would've thrown said paperweight right at Jeff's head.
"Oh just great - we could even go as far to say peachy." Danica spat out, glowering at him.
"Whoa." He held up his hands in surrender, coming slowly into the office. "You don't have to get all testy at me because Sirius Black didn't come clean and tell you everything."
"I don't want him to tell me everything." Danica fumed. "I want him to tell me that he's innocent and give me the proof so I can prove it to everyone else." She balled up yet another perfectly good piece of paper and threw it at the wall.
Jeff watched as the paper when array and landed near the window along with all the other paper balls Danica had been throwing for most of the day. He tilted his head and glanced over at the young reporter. "And you think this is going to help?"
Danica let out a long sigh. "No…but it's making me feel a little bit better." She pulled herself to her feet and grabbed her robe and wand. "And it makes me postpone the inevitable."
"Which is…?" Jeff prodded as he followed her out of her office and down the hall.
"In the front or back yard?"
Danica rolled her eyes. "Digging for information…you know, brainstorming every little bit of everything I know about Sirius Black until I can either put the pieces together myself, or black mail him into telling me."
"I'm assuming you're going for the former?" Jeff inquired as she stepped through the door to the outside world.
Danica looked back and grinned at him. "Well I'm not ruling out the latter just yet."
Danica flopped down on her couch, staring up at the pale ceiling above her. She had arranged another visit to Azkaban for three days later, and she wanted to be prepared this time. Sirius Black was not going to wheedle his way out of her hour and her questions. But she needed to be prepared.
She'd had questions…all the questions she thought she needed. But he hadn't answered a single one of them - not one. Maybe they weren't the right questions…or maybe she was looking for the wrong answers.
Danica sat up, pondering the last thought. Black had said that no one would believe his word…a fact that, belatedly, Danica found herself admitting. She wouldn't believe it if Bellatrix Lestrange came out saying she was a saint and innocent - and to the wizarding world, Black and Lestrange were exactly the same.
So she had to find some evidence to prove they weren't. Then his word might matter.
Jumping up she went over to the very clean and straightened desk that sat in the corner of the living room. Flopping down she grabbed some paper and a pen, biting the end of it as she thought.
One of her boss reporters at a Muggle magazine, a couple years before she'd joined the Daily Prophet, had told her that to get an idea flowing you have to brainstorm a bit about the subject. It could be what the subject's grade had been in school, or if he liked ice cream…whatever it took to get something flowing.
Sirius Black she wrote in bold on the top of the paper. The name stared back at her mockingly. What connected to Sirius Black?
A flash of a memory reminded her, in her first year she had seen the fifth years shortly after they'd finished their OWLs. When the Marauders, Sirius Black's little gang, had not only made a complete, or more complete, laughingstock of Severus Snape, but had then been royally shamed by Lily Evans. It had been slightly funny, and while at the time Danica had thought that the Marauders had been quite jerks, she'd learned afterwards in the years to come that they did have loyal, good hearts somewhere in their prankster bodies.
Besides, she really hadn't liked Snape.
Danica blinked out of her memory and found she'd written out those events in a scrawl going up the side of the page. Brainstorming, she grinned to herself. To one side of Black's name she wrote out James Potter, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew - The Marauders. Then she proceeded to write under each name.
Under Sirius' she put criminal, in Azkaban for 12 years, murdered then she drew an arrow to Peter's name. Under Peter's she put dead, killed November 1st, 1981 - remains: finger. And finally under James' - killed by Voldemort, October 31, 1981 with his wife Lily Evans (Danica wrote her name bigger, just in case she needed to tie something in with her as well) succeeded by his son Harry Potter - the Boy Who Lived. Again Danica wrote Harry's name just slightly bigger. She continued writing and scrawling all over the page, adding memories or pranks that come to her mind from her days at Hogwarts, or even events she'd heard about after. When she finally stopped to look she realized that the only person who had nothing under his name, was Remus Lupin.
Danica frowned. She hadn't known Lupin at all, except that he'd been a Prefect, and was in the Marauders with the other three boys. But that was all she knew. She frowned slightly, unconsciously drawing circles around his name until the cat rubbed up against her legs, breaking the trance.
But before she went off to do her duty as cat-owner, she drew one more circle around Lupin's name, this time in red ink. Maybe she shouldn't just be paying Black a visit - maybe she should also pay the Remus Lupin one too.
The same man led her to the 'Deatheater's Wing', this time without many of the previous crass comments. Before she knew it she was standing alone in front of Black's cell.
"You have got to be kidding me." Black's distressing voice was enough to send a grin onto Danica's face. She folded her arms over her chest and gave him an appraising look when he came near the bars, into the faint light.
Black grunted something incoherent. "You are crazy - "
"You have nothing better to do than bother me?" His voice was brusque, not as rough as it had been the first time she'd met him, but still like he wasn't used to using it.
Danica smiled. "You should feel honored."
"I feel sick."
She almost laughed, but caught herself and leaned on the bars, watching him. "Tell me about the Marauders."
He looked up at her sharply, his eyes confused. "What…did you say?"
"Tell me about the Marauders. James, Remus, Peter, you. You were the Marauders at school. I remember you walking into breakfast one morning announcing that the Marauders were coming and to show your appreciation." Danica said, watching him. If he wasn't going to answer her questions about Voldemort and Peter, then maybe he would answer these. And if he trusted her enough then maybe, just maybe, she could get the other answers she wanted too.
Black studied her, with a thoughtful look as though he was riffling through his brain to find that memory. "Why do you want to know about them?" He asked slowly.
Danica shrugged. "Why not? What have you got to lose?"
Black glanced around at the cell he was in and then looked back at her. "Nothing." He replied with a finality that told Danica he was being completely serious.
He paused for a moment, still looking unsure. Perhaps it was the concern of trusting her with such valuable memories as the Marauders most likely held. But then he finally spoke, "James' mom scolded us once, said we were marauding all over the place, and going to get ourselves into trouble. I liked the name, and convinced James to keep it."
Black stumbled over his words as though he was trying to piece together a long forgotten puzzle. "Remus was our conscious…he always said he should've done more to keep us from getting into trouble…from beating up on Snivellus…but he enjoyed it too, the getting into trouble bit at least. But he was always there to keep us from going too far…" Black stopped for a moment, but then he went on, almost like he was talking to himself, as though he'd forgotten she was even there.
"James was the leader, everyone always listened to him." Black' voice was dry. "He was smart…a bit of a big-head sometimes but he was always there for those he cared about…" Black looked down, his eyes sad. His voice was filled with the sort of love that Danica remembered seeing whenever the two boys were together. They were brothers, in more than blood. How could anyone think Black would follow anyone but James?
"He never once accused anyone of anything…never believed there was a spy trying to sell him to Voldemort…couldn't believe one of his friends could do that - "
"Wait." Danica stopped him. "What do you mean…a spy?"
Black glanced at her with a strange look in his eyes, as though seeing her for the first time. "The spy…" He mumbled, his voice trailing off as he stared at her, then shook his head. "It's not important anymore…"
"Obviously it is." Danica said abruptly.
Black glared at her. "Who do you think you are?" He suddenly barked at her, anger leaking into his voice. "Coming into here and riffling through my memories, like I have that many left..."
"I am not -"
"You don't even have a reason for thinking I'm innocent, and have you considered the idea that maybe I'm not as innocent as you think?" His voice echoed loudly in the cell, rage pouring out of him as though he'd never had the chance to get rid of it in twelve years…which was probably the case. "Maybe you're wrong - maybe I'm guilty and I'm just biding my time until Voldemort comes back…that's what everyone else in here is doing." He snarled at her.
Danica swallowed hard, almost taking a step back before the stubborn side of her kicked in. "You are crazy." She finally said.
Black laughed loudly, the shrill crackling sound echoing around him as he fell back to lean against the wall, half covered in shadow. When the echo finally died away, he looked at her with a black blaze in his dark eyes. "Oh no, I'm sane…disgustingly, pathetically, unhelpfully sane."
He slid down the wall and sat, his elbows resting on his knees and his eyes still on her. His chest was heaving from his yelling, but his anger seemed to be subsiding.
Danica stood watching him, her ears ringing from his tirade. She thought about moving away, leaving Azkaban and the story forever. But instead of moving her toward the door, her feet nearly collapsed underneath her, and she sat down on the other side of the bars, level now with Black.
She thought she saw his nostrils widen suddenly, as though he was inhaling her scent. But as that was impossible, she brushed it away. But his eyes were still on her.
"What?" She asked, slightly exasperated at being left once again with nothing to go on.
"Who are you?"
Danica cocked an eyebrow at him. "I told you that already…I'm Danica Clarke…a reporter for the Daily -"
"Did you go to Hogwarts?" He was looking at her thoughtfully.
Danica made a face at him, the topic of conversation was so different, so completely opposite from what she had wanted to discuss….
And yet she found herself answering…"Yes."
He frowned at her. "I don't remember you…you'd think I would, you're not exactly ugly."
'Not exactly ugly'? Danica debated slapping him right there, then decided that wouldn't be the best course of action. She probably couldn't even reach him through the bars.
"I was in 3rd year your 7th." She told him. "You didn't date anyone under 5th, so I'm seriously doubting you'd have noticed me." She said it plainly, straight to the point.
Black gave her that measuring look, though behind his eyes she thought she saw something like a person scrounging around for a memory lost long ago. "That's a pity."
Danica was pretty sure that the heat on her cheeks wasn't from anger. Quickly she turned her face away, looking up the long hallway in time to see one of the Dementors gliding along the wall. She shivered unconsciously, her eyes still on the ghost-like creature.
"They scare you?" It was a question. She turned her gaze back to meet his and gave him a little half smile.
Black studied her. "They scare everyone." It was the first question of hers he'd answered, though true to form he hadn't answered it the traditional sense.
They sat there silently as the minutes stretched on. Danica could feel her legs starting to fall asleep, but she couldn't bring herself to stand up. Next time, should bring a chair, she told herself.
"You're 12 years late, you know." Black said absently, watching her.
She frowned. "What do you mean, I'm 12 years late?"
"I've been here for 12 years…and you're just now coming to try and prove my innocence? Wasn't interesting enough 10 years ago?" He asked, a slight edge of bitterness in his tone, but mostly his voice was casual.
"Twelve years ago I was still a schoolgirl." She pointed out and watched as he shrugged a shoulder and looked away. That didn't account for five years ago or three years ago. Why had it taken her this long? Because she had been a nothing for so long in the world, she had been almost non-existent in the wizarding world for years, and even now she couldn't call what she did show-stopping, or world changing. But after all those years she was finally in a place, the Daily Prophet, where she could do this story and get it noticed…and after all those years she'd finally gotten up enough guts to go for it.
So far those 'guts' had gotten her to sitting on the floor of Azkaban prison talking about Dementors and Hogwarts with a sane, insane accused mass-murderer.
Life was lovely.
"If you'd come then at least I might've retained some of my good looks and glittering charm." Black continued as he glanced over at her. Danica snorted in an attempt to not laugh and Black studied her. "Don't think I retained any of my looks, do you?" He demanded, but something was tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Danica shook her head, looking at his gaunt face…maybe if he ate something or got out in the sun…or cut that hair… "I was told it was wrong to lie." She told him, grinning.
Black's eyes seemed to glow with, could it be amusement? But it faltered slightly as he spoke. "There are plenty of worse things you could do than lie, Danica Clarke." He told her slowly.
She watched him silently, pondering exactly what to say when the door at the end of the hall opened. Danica jerked and saw the man peaking out at her as he had the first time.
"Sorry, Ms. Clarke, you gotta leave. Minister Fudge is coming this afternoon for inspection."
Danica swallowed and nodded. "Okay…I just…" She stopped as her eyes fell on the cell. Black was gone. She could hear his breathing, but he had hidden himself back in the shadows. "I'll come back…another day…" She said it to the darkness, but by the sound of a shifting body, she knew he'd heard her.
When she got home the long rays of the afternoon were stretching out across her living room in oranges and reds. Danica tossed her cloak to the side and stepped over to the desk, looking at the paper she'd scribbled over that morning. Her eyes landed on the circled name and she nodded to herself.
It was definitely time to pay the remaining Marauder a visit.
Tell me what you think. This story finally clicked so I have a sort-of plan which was more than I had (I was going on instict) so the reassuring side of that is that this will actually get done :) If you're also reading As the Wind Blows, don't worry the next chapter is almost done and I am in no way forgetting about that story. But anyways, please review!! And I'll get a new chapter up soon :)