I caught two mice today. My Harmony said that I was a very clever cat indeed, which should be obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain but her classmates never seem that impressed. Of course, my Harmony has more brains than any of the other small ones here. Maybe that’s why she has so much schoolwork.
All the small ones seem to speak of is schoolwork, Kwiditch (which I believe is some kind of religion), and their professors, the taller humans who run this castle. There’s Trelawney, who some like and others make fun of, McGonagall, who is respected and feared in equal measure, and Lupin, who seems to be a favorite, though I can’t be sure about him. I smell something a bit…off…in him, yet he is always kind to me. Snape, however, is much hated and I can see why, since he chases me out of his office whenever he catches me. Sometimes he throws things. So sometimes I yak hairballs on his desk.
Still. None of them, not the students or the professors, seem to sense the growing danger that lurks in the castle. Inside the very room in which my Harmony’s friends sleep. Henry and the other one…the loud, orange one. The one with the rat.
The danger is so close tonight, hiding amongst the small ones, so I hurry into the commotion of the common room. Along the way, I kill a fat spider to present to my Harmony. She seems very pleased with it, though her friends less so.
The rat is sleeping, fat and happy, in the orange one’s bag. I wait for my moment and then pounce. The small ones start screaming and try to catch me, but I’m too fast for all but my Harmony. She grabs me and pulls me away from my prey.
“You keep that cat away from him!” the orange one yells. My Harmony yells right back, defends my nature. She is such a good master, but it doesn’t placate the orange one.
“That cat’s got it in for Scabbers!” he shouts.
He’s not wrong.
Days later, on what the small ones call Halloween, I sense I’ll get another chance. The orange one is taking no chances, keeping his rat hidden away from me, so I prowl the castle alongside Henry. Most of the small ones are gone, to where I don’t know, but I hope that means luck for my search.
I follow Henry into the Lupin’s office. There are always things to chase in here. In fact, Lupin (who is smelling quite strange today) invites Henry inside to see something called a grindylow, something I’d love to get my paws on, but I sense another presence. It’s the rat. It’s somewhere. Listening to the same conversation I am.
Not that he’d hear much of consequence. Young Henry seems to be worried about a previous lesson, one with a boggart. Lupin, kindly soul that he is, puts his mind at ease. I knew I liked him.
Snape enters the room and I slide behind one of the curtains. I can sense the rat skittering away, as well. I fear a kick from the dark man’s shoe but I wonder why the rat should fear him. Snape puts a potion before Lupin, some sort of medicine. Henry is uneasy, wondering if Snape means to poison this favored professor, but he doesn’t have anything to worry about. Snape doesn’t like the young professor but he means him no harm. Lupin takes a sip. The strange smell around him dissipates.
I grow bored and leave with Snape. The feast will be starting soon, so I decide to go back to the common room. It’ll be quiet there, with the students gone. I could use some rest. When I reach the portrait, the Fat Lady is not there. I wait in the shadows and, though my eyesight is the best of any creature in this castle, it still seems that he appears out of nowhere. I don’t recognize him as a professor, and he’s too large to be one of the small ones, though he is skinnier than most of the other adults. His hair is long and dark, so very dirty, and hangs in strings around his bedraggled face. His clothes are torn, worn, full of holes. He smells, like someone who hasn’t bathed in weeks but something else, as well. Something I can’t quite figure out.
“Who’s there?” the Fat Lady asks. She’s returned from a painting down the hall.
“Never mind that,” the man says, sticking to the shadows. “Let me in. I’m looking for someone.”
“Well, how very rude,” she replies. “You know I need a password.”
“And you know I don’t have it. Open the door. Now.” He steps out of the shadows, light falling on his face, highlighting the shadows in his gaunt cheeks.
“Sirius Black!” the Fat Lady exclaims. “I most certainly will not. Get out of here before I scream. You know, the dementors are looking for you.”
Black steps closer. “I’m sorry to hear that. You’d better let me in quickly.”
The Fat Lady crosses her arms in defiance and Black’s glare deepens, a low growl escaping his throat. He swipes at the painting, quick, deep blows, and the Fat Lady screams. She flees, her home now in tatters, the pieces hanging in shreds around Black’s thin frame. He shudders and takes a deep breath, then cocks his head. He turns, facing the darkness between us.
“Who do we have here?” he mutters.
I step forward.
CHAPTER 9: GRIM DEFEAT
So cold, so cold, so cold. I hope it stops raining soon. All I want at the moment is to kick back and watch some television, which I smuggled into my quarters from the Muggle world. So clever, those Muggles. They’ve created so many things to distract them from the fact that we exist. Stealing their souls, slowly, sipping from them, here and there, for their entire lives.
Wow, that’s bleak. I’m not normally so dementor-y. I just fell into this work, really. Mum and Dad were both guards of Azkaban. All of my older brothers became guards of Azkaban. So there didn’t seem to be much choice for me. Guard of Azkaban, for life. There’s no backing out, once you take the cloak.
But it’s not so bad. Not really. Most of the time.
Azkaban is not a happy place, it’s true, but I do enjoy going back to my quarters at the end of the day, to my small room with my black market TV. I have to be quiet, of course. And I can’t watch comedies anymore because my happiness draws the other dementors closer. Most of them aren’t the sort you really want to spend your downtime with.
Not everyone is terrible. Some of the prisoners I quite like, like this fellow Hagrid last year, he was great. He was a jolly sort, warm and friendly, or at least he would have been if he hadn’t been at Azkaban. I tried to make conversation a few times but most people get pretty nervous when I open my mouth, you know?
There are bad days, of course, though that’s true of any job. I hate the days I have to deliver the dementor’s kiss. Most of the others…that’s their favorite part of the job. And, I do have to admit, the fresher souls taste alright. A bit like oranges. I do enjoy that. Sometimes…sometimes it scares me how much I like it. I fear I’m becoming more like them. The others.
But luckily (or unluckily, I guess, depending on how you want to look at it) we hardly ever deliver the kiss to the fresher souls. It’s always the ones who’ve been at Azkaban longest. The ones with the most heinous crimes. The evil ones. They taste like cinders.
So, yes, I was excited to get my newest assignment. Guarding Hogwarts has been a cakewalk compared to what I’m normally doing. And I’ve actually been enjoying it, until today. It’s not normally so bad. Boring, but the grounds are quite fascinating. I saw a unicorn just the other day. Today, though, it’s raining and windy and cold. These cloaks we wear are all handed down over generations, so they’re not the warmest. And, as none of us are really wizards, we don’t know any spells to keep ourselves impervious to the wet or cold. It’s supposed to be good for us. We’re not really supposed to enjoy anything too much. It takes our minds off of our duties.
Not that all that much is happening at the moment.
Right now, most of the school is at some sort of sporting event. I can just make out some students on broomsticks flying in the distance. I squint toward the game and, out of the corner of my cloak, notice the others floating closer to the arena. And I know we’re not supposed to cross onto the grounds (the white-haired headmaster was very clear about that), but I can’t help but. It’s so warm over there. So inviting. So I follow.
As we cross onto the grounds, others join us. There are so many of us, and more keep coming. I fear for the innocent ones in our path, and fear for myself as excitement courses through my body. What’s happening to me?
In the midst of our swarm, I see a large, black dog run by. He’s so familiar, and I have a slight inclination to catch him or at least alert someone that he’s there, but instead I keep following the others. I look around, notice we’re on the field now, and above us are some of the students, flying around the pitch. One student is so very high. He’s flying in one spot now, looking down at us, swaying on his broom. And then he falls. It’s terrifying and beautiful and I pretend to hope that he is caught but I really hope he lands in front of us. Even from this great height I can tell his soul would taste as sweet as anything and, though I hate myself, I cannot wait to taste it.