Wahey. One shot.
When Sirius is given the Newspaper by Fudge.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. If I did, I'd have published a book about the Marauders (hint hint, JK? :) )
Cornelius Fudge hated inspecting Azkaban almost as much as he disliked Gringotts goblins, which he often swore were the bane of his existence. Just the mere thought of the place chilled him to the core and a day there often wore him right down, making him vow never to make a mistake in his position to avoid ending up in the same twisted position as the inmates he was inspecting. But being the Minister for Magic had such responsibilities, and so, with a sigh, Fudge tucked his copy of the Daily Prophet inside his pin-striped suit, swept up his bowler hat and placed it on his head before joining his Guard to travel to the prison.
The thing that was really disturbing about Azkaban, mused Fudge as he passed through the gates, was how that the screams of prisoners in the deluge of lunacy did not tear through the lingering sense of complete isolation.
He started off with the crimes that could be considered 'petty', sentences of a week or two. There was a very long row of cells guarded by just one Dementor, and though one was enough to trigger bad memories, it was nowhere near as bad as Fudge knew his day would get when he visited the high security prisoners. He passed with a small nod or quiet word to each of them, and followed the Dementor-in-charge to the next ward of cells.
As the day passed on, Fudge began to feel increasingly hollow. However, his insides turned to ice as he entered the high security block; he wrapped his arms across his torso to try and keep himself together.
He looked into the cells as he passed, unsure as whether to talk to each of them or not, when a face pressed up against one of the bars. It was a woman; a woman with maddened grey eyes and voluminous black curls, shrieking insults at him like there was no tomorrow.
"It's Fudge!" she screamed. "Fudge the fickle! Fudge the COWARD! FILTH! BLOOD TRAITOR! SCUM!"
"Oh, shut up, Bellatrix," a hoarse voice from the cell next to her sounded. "My ears are bleeding from your relentless babble."
Fudge was intrigued – the voice did not sound scared or insane like the other shrieks that were around them, more the sound of a man who had given up battle a long time ago. Fudge allowed himself a peek through the bars, using his paper to guise the fact that he was peering in on the prisoner's personal space.
The man was relatively young, probably in his early thirties, pressed up against the furthest wall with his legs pulled up into his chest. Fudge was weary to hazard a guess of who the man would be, when his thoughts were confirmed.
"YOOOOUUU!" shrieked Bellatrix angrily. "YOU BLOOD TRAITOROUS LITTLE SHIT! DEFYING OUR FAMILY! YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF THE NAME OF BLACK!"
"I ran away for a reason, Bella," snapped the man. "Anyway, I'm sure I've been blasted off of the family tree by now."
It unsettled Fudge how calm the man was; Sirius Black was, after all, a traitor who had betrayed his closest friends to Voldemort. But the way he acted now, he showed no shame or insanity. In fact, it scared Fudge. It meant that either the man truly believed he was innocent... or he had no regret.
Black looked up through the cell, his grey eyes connecting with Fudge's. Fudge remembered those eyes, the anger they held.
"Si-Sirius Black, is it?" Fudge asked loudly over the top of Bellatrix's insane screams.
Black nodded politely. "Hello, Minister."
"And how are you finding Azkaban?" He regretted the words as soon as they came out. They sounded far too innocent like he was inspecting a Holiday Inn rather than the highest security wizard prison.
"Top notch," Sirius said with a smile. "Five stars. Excellent staff."
Fudge allowed himself a little smirk, before forcing his features straight. What was he doing, making jokes with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's number one Death Eater?
"Very good, very good," Fudge ended the conversation, and looked back at his paper. There was an array of articles on topics such as Puddlemere United and some family winning a competition, advertisements for job positions and a subscription leaflet for the Quibbler that caused Fudge to snort. But after that, there was nothing of interest in the paper. "Usual garbage," he muttered, making to put the paper back in his suit as he waited for his Guard to reassemble.
"Um, Minister?" Black interrupted politely. Fudge looked up at him, startled.
"Yes?" he spluttered, inhaling to puff his chest out importantly.
"I'm really sorry to ask, but if you aren't going to read that paper, could I have it please?" he asked gently. "I mean, I would pay you back and all. I could give you my Gringotts details. It's just a little on the tedious side, all this being remorseful."
Fudge found it odd how nice this man seemed; at first guess he wouldn't have marked him as evil. Perhaps Azkaban had changed him. In the brief moments he considered this, he remembered Black required an answer. "Oh... Er... yes, I suppose... that should be fine..." He held the paper in through the bars, trying to keep as far away from the cell as possible. Black stood up; he was much taller than Fudge, and a lot thinner than he remembered. He seemed to have wasted away in here to an almost skeletal like being.
Black smiled in gratitude. "Thank you, Minister. This'll entertain me until next year." He looked down at the front page in concern, eyebrows creasing together.
"Is there a problem?" asked Fudge interestedly. Black looked up.
"Oh no, nothing," he assured him with a grin. "Just recognised Arthur Weasley."
"BLOOD TRAITORS!" shrieked Bellatrix at the mention of the redheaded family.
"Yes, well," Fudge said, with an air of importance. "I think we have spent enough time here. I see everything is up to scratch." He nodded to an Auror named Shacklebolt. "Shall we leave?"
"Of course, Minister," Shacklebolt nodded slowly. "If you think everything is in due course."
"Why wouldn't I?" snapped Fudge briskly, and began to chivvy the Aurors from the prison like a sheepdog herding lambs.
A week later, Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban. The Aurors were thwarted – they had thoroughly checked the cell and said that there was nothing in there that instigated an escape.
But Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, sat at his desk, staring solemnly at this week's Prophet.
Perhaps what he had deemed garbage had created possibly the biggest chip on his shoulder his career could have ever received.
"We will catch you," he vowed to the picture of his mug shot on the front page, "and when we do... I will personally make sure the Prophet has you removed from its subscription list."
Hope it wasn't too cringy.