I was innocent. Those were the words that fueled my survival. Over and over I repeated my mantra, until the days and nights became a blur and I knew not who I was, or rather, who I had been. Sometimes, a small shaft of sunlight permeated my cell, and with it came memories. I remember a stern man, but his name eludes me. A laughing woman, whose laughter knows neither accompaniment nor answer. Brief flashes of a life that must have been mine, but seems unrecognizable to me now.
Rattled breath surrounds me. It is all encompassing. With a sigh I transform; becoming an animal seems to be the only way I can fight against the terror, however feebly. The dark shapes move on, and I wince as screams come from the cell next to mine. I seem to be the only one in this hellish place capable of resistance; the others are so lost within themselves they cannot see the reality around them.
One day the screams to the right stop coming. Whoever was in there is gone, replaced by emptiness. The dementors are acting strangely. They come into my cell, and herd me into the corridor. It is the first new space I have been in for years, and I feel panic rising. Before I can react the clammy hands swipe out, pushing me into a new cell. My teeth chatter uncontrollably, and the place where the dementor touched me aches. I can feel my eyes fluttering close, but I struggle to stay awake. I want to examine my new cell, but my wearing body protests, and I fall into slumber.
A soft, scratching noise awakens me. My body spasms, and I'm fully awake. I huddle on the floor, noticing for the first time that the floor around me is relatively clean. The sudden noise continues.
"Who…who's there?" my voice cracks under the strain of the words. Early on in my imprisonment, I had tried to communicate with my fellow prisons, but no one had ever answered. What I was expecting this time, I did not know.
"You speak," a voice said suddenly, and the noise stopped.
"Yes," I reply, stunned.
Perhaps the voice is as stunned as I, for he remains silent for a long time. Just as I'm starting to think I have an overactive imagination, he speaks again.
"How long have you been here?" he (for the voice is male, I have now ascertained) says.
"A long time. I can't be sure how long," I am being honest, the days and nights mean nothing to me now.
There is a cackling laughter; it raises the hairs on the back of my neck.
"They think I'm insane, you know," now his voice sounds strange, upset even.
"Are you?" I ask tentatively.
"Maybe I am. I don't know any more. I have seen terrible things. Maybe my mind is cracked," the walls in Azkaban are not thick, and I can hear him moving against the wall.
"There's a hole here, can you feel it?"
My hand reaches along the wall, grasping until I feel something warm. Something alive. The other hand clasps my own, and I grab back. Tears prick my eyes suddenly, but I'm not sure why. The hand shakes mine.
"My name is Sirius Black," the voice says.
"It's nice to meet you. My name is Barty Crouch…junior,"
Sirius is a voice in the darkness, and I cannot picture what he looks like. Of course, I knew of him. I knew he had supposedly betrayed the Potters to their deaths, but I also knew things were not always as they seemed. He had told me his version of events, and I believed him. In turn I told him my story. He said he believed me. Sometimes we just lay for hours, fingers touching. There was something strange about it, but just touching another human's fingers calmed me.
The dementors made their usual rounds, and choruses of screams rang out. I wanted to ask why Sirius never made a noise, but I could not risk exposing my own secret. He seemed to feel the same; neither of us was sure who could be trusted after all. Although sunlight never reached this new cell, he had found a new diversion in Sirius. They spoke for hours, about nothing. Barty tried desperately to remember things, but his mind was slow from disuse. He knew he was innocent, it was an inherent belief.
Finally, there came about a change in the prison. Hooded figures disinfected both prisoners and cells, spraying sickly sweet soaps and fragrances as if to disguise the true nature of Azkaban. Barty wept on Sirius' hands, feeling utterly violated. Sirius let him do so without a word, and showed no sign that it had affected him at all.
"Something's happening," was all he could say, and he was right.
Voices echoed down the corridor, lights were shone through the bars on his door.
"What's this one?" a voice asked.
"Barty Crouch junior. No need for further inspection," another answered.
The torch was shone into my face, and I cringed back.
"And this one?" the voices moved on, towards Sirius' cell.
"Yes?" Sirius voice rang out, in response to his name.
There was furious muttering outside.
"Sirius Black? Can you speak again?" the voices asked.
"Of course I can speak again. I see you have the Daily Prophet. I wonder if I could borrow it? Missed the crossword you see," Sirius laughed, that same cackle I had heard when we first met.
To my surprise they seemed to push the paper through his cell bars.
"Thanks," Sirius said. There were sounds of flipping through paper, and the people moved on chattering.
After a few minutes, Sirius let out a snarl, and I shrank back in fear. He sounded so angry, and so feral in his anger.
I did not speak, my throat constricted with fear. It was overwhelming
"Barty?" Sirius' voice woke me. My eyes opened to semi darkness.
"Are you awake?"
"Yes," I reply, sitting up from the hard floor.
"I'm going to leave this place," Sirius says, but my ears cannot process this information.
"Leave? How?" my voice trembles.
"I am an animagus- a dog. I am going to slip through the bars and swim to the mainland. But I can't bear the thought of leaving you here. You have come to mean something to me, these past months," he sighs, and suddenly I know his hand is waiting for me if only I would reach for it.
"I can go with you," I say suddenly. I ignore his protests.
"You see, I am an animagus too,"
For once, it is Sirius who is lost for words.
We plan for hours, ensuring nothing can go wrong. Finally, I transform and crawl into Sirius' cell. He laughs when he sees my animal form.
"If I had to guess your true form, Barty, it would probably be this," he says, voice loud to my now animal senses. I glare at him as much as I am able, and he laughs again. Suddenly a large black dog, thin as a rake, appears in his place. Even as a dog he retains his good humor, and smiles wolfishly down at me.
I shake my head at his impressive form, before crawling up into his fur and clutching his neck. Sirius slides easily through the bars, and trots down the empty corridor. There are no guards; who needed guards when every prisoner was trapped in his own head? Once, we come close to a dementor, but as animals we warrant little attention.
Finally, Sirius turns a corner and we're outside. There are scant patches of grass, mixed with chalky clumps of soil. Heavy-laden clouds rumble ominously above us, filled with dirty rain. Even the trees raise naked, spindly branches skyward in some hope to leave this accursed island. Compared to where I have been, it is paradise.
Swimming has never been one of my strong suits. Sirius however, takes to the water the only way a dog ever could; with great flopping motions we make progress across the choppy sea. All I can do is hold on and wait. My eyesight is so poor I cannot see land, and must trust that wherever Sirius is taking me is correct. His paws find sand below the water, and with great effort he drags his weary body to shore. I transform back to human, as he lies on the beach. His eyes are closed and he takes great shuddering breaths, but he is alive. Alive and free. We both are now.
A/N- a rather strange idea that has been brewing in my head for some time now. It all came to me with the thought; what if Barty Crouch was innocent? By all accounts, he was very young when he was sent to Azkaban, which is why I have given him such a needy and rather weak character. I also decided to write from 1st person perspective for the 1st chapter, because I wanted you, the readers, to really understand Barty better before I got into the main part of the story. Anyway, as usual, review! I can't know which stories you want me to update without some help you know! ;)