Chapter 1: New Azkaban
"Do you ever get used to it?" Reginald Ares asked, his face stony. "Walking through those disgusting corridors?"
His mentor shrugged. "I wouldn't say I've become accustomed to it by any means," Harry Potter said boldly, "but it's part of the job, and I've accepted that."
They both turned slightly, allowing their eyes to wander across the exterior of the gigantic prison. They were surrounded by a peculiar variety of vegetation and foliage, from tall trees that blocked the light of the sun, to brambly bushes that stabbed into the skin of any who attempted to pass through them. The island that housed Azkaban was considerably larger than most probably knew-the prison itself obscured this fact, making the surrounding land look small in comparison due to its large size. But it was roughly two miles away from the vertical structure where Harry Potter and his student of a partner stood, surveying it with an intense mixture of awe and repulsion.
"How many times have you visited this place?" Ares asked, turning to stare at his mentor as he spoke.
Harry Potter's emerald eyes flickered away from the formidable building for a moment, taking the time to examine the expression on the face of his apprentice.
Ares looked somewhat uncomfortable. Though somewhat shorter in stature than a few other wizards that Harry knew, he was standing in such a firm and steady upright position that he appeared taller. His face was clean shaven, his hair raven black and ruffled. His small, cold eyes were darting back and forth, occasionally scanning the prison.
"About once a year, since I became Head Auror" Harry responded. "Unless there's trouble, of course, then me and Ron get called up. So several times in total, really."
Ares continued to shift his eyes over the large building, his mouth quivering for a second before he voiced his opinion.
"Those prisoners are too healthy" he said quietly.
"Too healthy?" Harry asked, eyeing him with interest. "How could anyone be too healthy?"
"They look strong; intrepid. Barely any of them had the emaciated physique that signifies lethargy. The guards are just begging for a revolt if you ask me, those prisoners need to be broken. How many times a day are they being fed?"
"Three" he was answered simply, and Ares sneered.
"Three is two times too much" he said coldly. "Sufficient nourishment should not be a priority. Do they get dessert when they behave?" he added scathingly.
"They're still people, Red. Dangers to society, yes, but still human."
"If they cared so much for their health, they would not have broken the law. They chose to bathe in their primitive behavior, doing little or nothing to stop themselves from exhibiting the flagitious tendencies of their peers. They want more food? They should have thought about that prior to their criminal activities."
Harry sighed, though he appeared to have no answer for this-or perhaps he was simply tired of answering it.
Ares turned his focus solely to Azkaban. "The lack of security worries me" he said sternly.
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise. He had not been expecting this particular statement. "Worries you?" he asked, and he resumed walking. "Red, Azkaban is probably the most secure place in the world. Right up there with Gringotts and Hogwarts."
"There isn't enough supervision" Ares rebutted at once, walking at a slow pace as well. "Any talented wizard can perform the wandless magic necessary to attack a guard. Those prisoners in therewere exceptionally dangerous; we are not dealing with impecunious cretins who stole food in an attempt to appease their stomachs. The men and women imprisoned here are highly capable. The Ministry should attempt to reconcile with the Dementors."
"Red!" Harry shouted, his voice as reprimanding as it could be. "The Dementors are not an option, nor will they ever be again! They were vile creatures, and their containment is as necessary to the safety of the public as the containment of the men and women that you just saw!"
Ares narrowed his eyes unapologetically. "I am merely concerned" he said. "You asked me here today to cast enchantments around this island, which only serves to prove that you too do not believe it to be as secure as one would hope."
Harry sighed. Scratching at the back of his head, he stopped moving and reached for Red, spinning him around so that he was facing the prison again.
"I'm going to let you in on a little secret, Red. That right there? That prison you see? That's not Azkaban."
Now it was Ares who raised his eyebrows. He gave his superior an incredulous look.
"It's not" Harry continued. "It's New Azkaban."
Ares groaned and rolled his eyes. He went to remove himself, but was stopped abruptly.
"Red, I'm serious!" Harry said, making sure that it sounded in his voice. "It's completely indistinguishable from the old Azkaban in every way visible, but it's ten times more secure!"
"You don't get it, do you? The Dementors were holding this place back! They limited the amount of actual manpower we could have, but this prison is guarded day and night by some of the most talented wizards and witches in the Ministry of Magic! And that's not even mentioning the enchantments!"
"Enchantments?" Ares asked, his expression softening slightly.
"AutomaticAlarm spells, powerful protective jinxes on the exterior of the prison, Illusion charms on the interior, a variety of hexes and curses triggered by movement or magical presence-deadly ones, at that-and numerous other defensive spells. Red, what you're staring at right now is the crowning achievement in wizarding security."
Ares looked much more comfortable at these words. To help him further, however, Harry threw in an additional comment.
"And if you're worried about these 'highly dangerous' prisoners, as you call them, teaming up and making some kind of a revolt, I can assure you, that's impossible. The most lethal of them are separated from the rest, as well as each other. There's even a high security cell in there for if we ever run in to someone who poses a serious threat-"
"A cell to be occupied by some great waste of magical potential, I am sure, but that has nothing to do with those who attempt to aid from the outside, those who attempt to penetrate the walls of the prison and help-"
"- Red, you haven't the slightest idea of the dangers that someone faces when when they're on this island" Harry said sharply, shaking his head. "If I told you about some of the magical creatures that they have wandering this place, I could lose my job. I'm the Head Auror, Red, and I could lose my job!"
"But I haven't see anything!" Ares shouted, his nostrils flaring suddenly. "No deadly creatures or anything of the sort! Nor have I felt any enchantment-"
"Well Red, I'm walking you down a very specific path" Harry argued back, pointing down at a shoddily made trail. "And to be honest, the reason I asked you to come with me today on this check-up of security was to ask you to add your own spells to this area specifically! Just as additional protection! Think about that now...your own spellwork is just a superfluous layer of magic. What does that tell you about this place, eh? It would take an elite team of the most highly trained Aurors that we have to get in or out of this place without prior knowledge of its dangers. It's impenetrable, Red. In every sense of the word."
Ares said nothing, though his face had returned to normal. He looked almost embarrassed. "I'm sorry, it's just-"
"I know, Red" Harry cut him off quickly. "You're not as confident in the protection that we give as I am-give it time though. You'll learn to realize that the Ministry is extremely effective, on the whole. Especially when pertaining to Azkaban. There have been break-outs and break-ins before, but never again. Not with what we've got now."
"We aren't always effective" Red said, somewhat under his breath.
Harry sighed, deciding not to touch on the subject. He knew exactly what his pupil was alluding to. That single day in Hogsmeade; those dead children. He had hoped that Ares would have understood the way that things worked by now...that not everyone could be saved. That it wasn't always the Ministry's fault when something bad happens.
They continued walking, Harry ducking down slightly to avoid a stray tree branch, while Ares simply walked under it. They weren't far from the disapparation point, when they'd be able to put the entire ordeal to rest. He knew that it had been a bad idea to bring someone to Azkaban so early in their career.
In an attempt to cure the silence, he reverted their conversation back to what it had been before Red had seen the interior of Azkaban.
"So anyway, yeah. I'm proposing."
"To Weasley's sister?" Ares asked.
"Mr. Weasley" Harry corrected him icily. "And yes, Ron's sister. Ginny" he added her name, smiling to himself as he did so.
"Congratulations" Red piped up from behind it, moving aside a collection of vines dangling in his way. He sounded sincere, which Harry took to mean that they could continue with their current conversation.
"I'm having a little trouble figuring out the best way though...I'm not the most romantic type. I'd ask Ron for help, but he's even worse off in that department, and he'd blab anyway."
"Simple words should suffice, nothing special" Red said gruffly. "Perhaps aPatented Potter Pick-Up line, for the young lady?"
Harry couldn't help it; he laughed.
"A Patented Potter Pick-Upline?" he choked out, wheezing. "You just come up with that now, Red?"
He couldn't see his friend behind him, but he was sure that there was a rare sheepish grin on his face.
"I came up with it weeks ago" he said. "I've been waiting for the appropriate time to use it."
Harry gave another chortle. "That's a good one Red...I'll have to remember that."
They continued walking at their slow pace, but Harry knew that they were nearing their destination. Returning to silence, he led his companion around a large cluster of bushes and towards a less dense portion of the island. Waves could be heard crashing at this point, slamming up against the jagged rocks that surrounded the island that housed the infamous wizarding prison. Once they reached the edge, they'd be able to apparate out.
As they drew near, however, Harry heard the footsteps behind him stop. Turning slightly, he saw that Red had turned as well, again facing Azkaban, which could still be seen clearly even from such a far distance.
"Can I ask one more question?" Ares said, turning slightly, his choppy hair blowing fiercely in the wind.
Harry sighed. "Go ahead."
Ares cleared his throat, as though his next question would ultimately decide if Azkaban was truly as powerful of a fortress as it was made out to be. His cold gray eyes stared out into space as he spoke.
"You said that no one individual could possibly penetrate the magical forces of this prison; that no one could possibly break-out. Even you?"
Harry removed his glasses and wiped at them with his robes, considering the question. "Even me, Red" he said truthfully. "Even with all that I know about the protection around it, I couldn't get out by myself. I'd need at least some help."
Ares breathed a sigh of relief. Harry continued in a more lighthearted fashion, hoping to clear the air.
"So that means that you have to make me a promise right here, Red. If I ever get locked up in this terrible place, you have to help bust me out. Got it?"
Ares turned to face him completely, his expression strangely grim-perhaps he didn't understand the intended sarcasm.
"Mr. Potter," he started, "I can assure you, if the Ministry of Magic is ever so corrupt that someone like you has been imprisoned in Azkaban, then I'll have already been dead for years."
Harry Potter snapped out of his daze with a jolt. His memory vanished on the spot as he wiped at his eyes, attempting to familiarize himself with his current surroundings. He was no longer on the island surrounding New Azkaban-he was inside of it instead. He felt someone tapping him through the bars of his cell.
"Wh-what?" he said calmly, looking up. His high security cell was just as depressing as ever; just as filthy. The hand tapping him through the bars, however, belonged to the kindly guard who always made conversation with him.
"Sorry for disturbing you, Mr. Potter" he said, though his pink face was beaming. "But I thought you could use some good news. You'll be getting out of this cell for a few hours, in just a few days, sir. Mr. Shacklebolt has used all the of the influence he has left to allow you to see your family."