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When she landed in the fireplace and staggered forwards, Lily saw her breath steaming in front of her before she felt the cold.

When she did become aware of it, the frigid air struck her like a physical blow. As she tried to steady herself, she felt it seeping through her skin and winding into her veins, so that her heartbeat only functioned to spread the coldness through her body.

She felt as though she’d forgotten what warmth was. If somebody had described it to her, she would have found the concept laughable - some idiotic fantasy, told to children to keep them quiet. This was all there was.  

There was a rushing in her ears, as of water and, close at hand, yet oddly distorted, she heard Severus’ voice.

“I don’t need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her.”

Then Petunia’s high, cold laugh.

“You think I care what you did at that freak school? I wish you’d stayed there. We were all happier without you.”

And Avery:

“Geez, Evans! Even your own kind don’t want you! How does it feel to be a freak in both worlds?”

Lily tried to force open her eyes. She had expected to see snow or tundra, but there was only blackness in front of her. She wondered whether she had succeeded in opening her eyes at all.

She had a dim notion that there was some kind of pressure on her shoulder, and that it wasn’t cold. But, if it wasn’t cold, she didn’t know what it could be.

“It’s alright, dear,” said a voice. “I’m here with you. They generally keep their distance from me, out of respect.”

As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Lily could see that the dark was actually composed of figures. They were stood so close together that the grey daylight struggled to penetrate the gaps between them. They were gliding forwards, yet somehow jostling, as though greed had made them clumsy, and they were drawing deep, rattling breaths. There were no faces visible, yet Lily had the distinct impression that there was an air of great excitement about them.  

Her curiosity was keeping them at bay, she could see, but already she was beginning to feel a dim acceptance of their presence, already she could feel her attention wandering (no, not wandering, evaporating, for it was not transferred to something else; it was being drawn out of her by nothing).

“These,” Lily cleared her throat. “These are Dementors?”

“Well, what did you expect? Cornish Pixies?”

Lily suddenly remembered that there was a Charm to repel Dementors. She had only ever performed it successfully at school, hundreds of miles and (it seemed) hundreds of years away from the penetrating chill of Azkaban, but she could try it.
She couldn’t imagine happiness now, but that did not mean it didn’t exist. Lily chose to believe that she had once been happy. Maybe even twice.

She knew now that the numbing cold was not all there was to feel. If it was all she felt now, if it was all she ever felt, it would still not be all there was. Even if there was no hope, there was still memory.

The first thing that occurred to her (and she was very surprised that it had) was the evening she had spent playing two-aside Quidditch at the Valance House with Meg, James Potter and Sirius Black.

The memory was vague and hazy, but it still sent a little jolt of excitement through her, like an electric shock. She smiled slightly and tried to peer through the haze at the scene. She remembered the resinous smell of the pine tree as she collided with it, the sting of the pine needles, the charcoal grey of the sky, Meg’s warm, barking laughter, and the feeling (less easy to pin down) that the sun would never set, that infinite time and infinite possibilities were stretched out in front of her, extending as far as the eye could see.

She whispered: “Expecto Patronum” and opened her eyes.

The silver doe, that bright-eyed creature that she had first seen under the stained glass windows in the Prefect’s bathroom at Hogwarts, bounded out of the end of her wand, and cantered around the lightening room.

The Dementors drew back instantly.  

Lily could now see that they were inside the Gatehouse. It was an exterior wall that extended all around the prison. There was a door, with oak beams drawn across it to bolt it in place, that must have opened out onto the cliffs overlooking the sea. But Mrs Mulligan lead her through the door opposite.   

They walked out into a courtyard, carpeted with an untouched layer of snow. The sudden, glaring white made her eyes sting, and her Patronus became translucent in the sunshine, but she knew that it was there. It trotted close to her for reassurance, nuzzling its insubstantial little head against her robes.  

Warmth was expanding inside her again. She watched the snow crunch and glitter beneath her feet with a feeling of calm exhilaration.

The prison building itself was a cube of black granite in the centre of the courtyard, stretching up so high that Lily had to crane her neck backwards to see the top.    

“Funny how the snow can sanitize a place,” Idris Mulligan said conversationally. “Usually, this granite fortress looks rotten. Splattered with seagull droppings. Seaweed clinging to the sides and festering in the sunlight. But today, it looks like it should be on a Christmas card. It could be Hogwarts.”

The fortress did indeed look wonderful, iced with thick drifts of snow that had piled up in the corners of the slit-like windows. Lily could see pale faces pressed to the openings but Mrs Mulligan seemed keen to move on, so she didn’t question her about this.

“That was rather rude, you know,” Idris Mulligan added, as they crossed the courtyard. “I never found a Patronus necessary in my duties. Shows a lack of trust. Very un-diplomatic.”

Lily stared at her. “They were trying to feed on me!” she protested.

“Well, you didn’t expect them to restrain themselves? They’re starving. And you, I’m afraid, are too tasty a morsel to resist.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re used to feeding off the hopeless. The prisoners. They’re used to gathering up scraps of remembered happiness, or corrupted happiness, such as the self-righteous exhilaration of criminals who glory in their crimes. Vindictive joy is not as powerful, not as nourishing, to the Dementors as the kind you cherish in your bosom.”

Lily folded her hands over her bosom as they walked forwards, feeling violated.

“No, they won’t stay here forever,” Idris Mulligan went on. “Starving creatures will feed, whatever the cost. Have you ever tried living on gruel? Have you ever tried to function, while wretched, wrenching hunger eats at you? That is how these creatures subsist from day to day. It’s an outrage that the Minister for Magic allows it.”

Lily’s sympathies were directed more towards the prisoners. She remembered giving a speech in Magical Ethics about how cruel Azkaban was, how inhumane it was to inflict mandatory despair on prisoners. She had even written to the Minister for Magic about it, and had received a condescending letter back, informing her that the Ministry of Magic took her concerns very seriously.  

“In the muggle world,” the Minister had written (in what Lily felt to be a rather accusative tone), “the barbaric practice of capital punishment is still deemed appropriate. We in the wizarding world have progressed beyond such cruelty. We merely imprison our criminals. Yet how to ensure that they feel the proper remorse for their crimes? The Dementors enforce remorse. Wizarding criminals appreciate the full magnitude of their crimes. That is all we ask: that they are conscious of what they have done. There is no possibility of redress, therefore we demand realisation.”

She looked up again at the pale faces pressed to the windows and shuddered.
Mrs Mulligan lead them through several more Dementor-guarded doorways, always with Lily’s Patronus trotting at her side.

Lily noticed that the Dementors drew back from Mrs Mulligan almost as quickly as they drew back from the silver doe. In fact, several of the creatures put up their scabbed, grey hands as though trying to ward her off.

“Why don’t they attack you?” she asked.

“Because they respect me,” Mrs Mulligan replied. “I have taken the trouble to learn their customs and their language. I am their Liaison Officer. They would never harm me.”

Lily did not think this a very good explanation, but she didn’t say anything more, because they were coming up to the cells - grey doors almost indistinguishable from the grey walls, with little grills through which visitors could peer into the damp, rank-smelling rooms beyond. A miasma of stench and despair oozed through the windows and Lily felt her heart quickening with - what? Fear? Sympathy? She hardly knew. Perhaps it was her usual feeble mixture of the two.

At the end of the corridor was a grille with fingers poking through - yellow fingers with tattered, bitten, bloodied nails - and there was a sound too: a feeble, wheezing howl, as though from an asthmatic wolf.

“Tiberius Murk,” Mrs Mulligan muttered. “Thinks he’s a werewolf. Lived for a while in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts, before the Centaurs turned him in for savaging unicorns with his teeth.”

Lily stopped at the grille on Tiberius’s door. The fingers had been withdrawn now, and there were wild, grey, blood-shot eyes pressed to the bars instead.

“He had the cell next to Guillotine Valance’s, didn’t you, Tiberius?” Mrs Mulligan asked, with the air of a teacher addressing a particularly dense pupil.

Tiberius stared wildly at the silver doe nuzzling its beautiful head against Lily’s robes. Its brightness was lacerating to the eyes in the dim corridor.  

“That’s right, Tiberius,” Mrs Mulligan said soothingly, “it’s a Patronus. Haven’t seen one of them in a while, have you? I suppose yours would be a wolf, wouldn’t it?”

Lily thought this was a spectacularly insensitive thing to say, and, sure enough, the feeble howling from Tiberius Murk’s cell was immediately renewed.

Mrs Mulligan raised her eyebrows and began to walk away. “That’s about as much sense as you’ll get from any of them, I’m afraid,” she said over her shoulder. “The Dementors are far more articulate.”

Struck by an idea, Lily rummaged in the pockets of her robes until she found what she was looking for, and then poked it tentatively through the grille in Tiberius’ door, trying to keep her fingers from being exposed. Then she hurried to catch up with Idris Mulligan.       

“What did you give him?” the Azkaban Liaison Officer asked at once. “You poked something through the bars.”

“Chocolate,” Lily said.

Mrs Mulligan stared at her for some time, and then her red lips parted in a grimace of laughter. “Chocolate!” she shrieked, as though she had never heard anything so hilarious. “Chocolate! He’s been here twenty years. He begs for death every hour, on the hour. You think he can be helped with chocolate!”

Lily stared back at her defiantly. “It’s all I can do, for now,” she said.

Mrs Mulligan’s laughter died instantly. She put her hand on Lily’s back and nudged her onwards, murmuring: “Don’t do it again, dear. You could make my job very difficult.”

“Heaven forbid,” Lily muttered, under her breath.  

She glanced back down the corridor once as they walked on, but couldn’t see the man who had poked his fingers so desperately between the bars of his cell.  

“Here we are, dear,” Mrs Mulligan said, as though the previous altercation had not taken place. “This is the corridor that leads down to the Archives. You don’t need to worry about the Archivist. He can’t feed on you; he’s too weak.” She slipped a silvery-white fur coat over Lily’s shoulders and added: “You’ll need this. Memories need to be kept in the cold or they will degrade. The Archive room is bewitched to remain frozen, whatever the temperature outside.”

The coat was made of long, sleek, silvery hair, and Lily was going to ask whether it was Demiguise pelt, but Idris Mulligan was once again prodding her in the back, urging her down the stairs. Lily recognized wizard impatience and went on without further comment.

The cold intensified as she climbed down the steps - but this time it was a wholesome, refreshing kind of cold that had the decency to remain outside her heart. The staircase wound down in tight spirals for what must have been ten or fifteen minutes, until it opened out into another painfully bright world, a world of creaking blue-white ice, dripping icicles and - at the far end, looking very out of place - row upon row of bookshelves. There was no discernable source of light; the place simply glowed with its own dazzling luminescence, and the whole cave echoed with that dry, rustling, clean sound of ice, like the ringing of wind-chimes.

There was a sort of path where the ice was whitest, so Lily followed that. It led over a kind of bridge that crossed a frozen pool; the surface gleamed with loops of rainbow-colours, like a puddle of petrol, and seemed to draw the eyes magnetically. She found that she could walk on the path easily; it must, she thought, have been bewitched with a Gripping Charm, like the Quaffle in a game of Quidditch.
If even the toe of her shoe strayed off the path, however, she found that she slipped (not only slipped, but was pulled towards the frozen pool twenty feet below, as though her foot was being yanked out from under her by invisible hands).

It must have been to discourage prisoners from hiding in this wilderness, she thought, though they would probably freeze to death if they tried. A voice in her head suggested that most of the prisoners would find this preferable. She remembered how wonderful the physical cold had felt after the intrusive, hopeless cold induced by the Dementors (the kind of cold that made warmth unimaginable), and shuddered again.

On increasingly weak knees, she edged her way over the bridge of ice to the endless stands of bookshelves. They were stacked with glass bottles that glittered with frost. Beside the shelves was a ghostly Dementor. He (at least, she assumed it was a ‘he’) was floating above the floor, rather than gliding over it, as the other Dementors would - he couldn’t seem to anchor himself - and he looked oddly blurred; Lily felt as though she was looking at him through dirty glass. In front of him was a stumpy column of stone, like a sundial, or a bird-feeder, and on top of this was a Pensieve: a rudely carved stone basin, empty and etched with runes around the rim.

The Archivist’s whole being seemed to shudder as she came closer. The rattling breath she had expected came out as a wheezing hiss; he reminded her of Tiberius Murk - something broken and weak doing its best to be savage.

The Archivist backed away, almost melting into the shelves behind him, and Lily said, in a voice stronger than she felt: “Guillotine Valance, please.”

One of those scabbed grey hands reached for a bottle on the shelf behind - faltering a little, because on the first attempt, the hand slipped through the glass - and passed it to her. It was filled with the swirling, silvery substance that Lily had often seen in Dumbledore’s Pensieve: half-smoke and half-liquid, like a dense, dripping, clinging mist.

Lily uncorked the bottle and emptied its contents into the Pensieve; then she bent down and let her nose touch the restless surface of the substance.

At once, she was pitched forwards into the basin, and found herself straightening up in a room she recognised, though it had been very different when she had last been there. It was the Valance library: the same vaulted cellar, lined with bookshelves, dusty wine-racks, and candles burning in elegant brackets on the walls, but with no chalked symbols on the floor, no cob-webs, no open books and torn-out pages littering the flagstones, no open windows hanging off their splintered frames.

And Guillotine Valance was standing beside her: the same tight, baby-blonde curls and sardonic brown eyes, but she was not bearing her teeth, a detail which made her almost unrecognizable.

She was dusting one of the many goblin weapons mounted on the walls - a particularly vicious-looking scimitar - and calling a selection of names while she worked. Her voice echoed shrilly in the vaulted cellar.

“Elsa! Jonah! Nearly time for school! You’d better be ready when I find you, or no chocolate frog when you come home! I mean it!”

It was at this moment that the room shook; dust fell from the vaulted ceiling into Guillotine Valance’s baby-blonde curls. A portion of the wall was sliding inwards, and somebody was standing there, somebody short but oddly glittering.  

A goblin had appeared at the newly-emerged entranceway. He looked like a clerk from Gringotts - wearing a pair of pince-nez and a dusty white legal wig. He had a wide, sparkling grimace that he evidently thought was a smile, and several of his teeth were jewel-encrusted.

“I regret to announce that your children have strayed onto goblin territory, Mrs Valance,” he said in a smooth but croaking voice. “They will remain there until we are satisfied.”

Guillotine Valance seemed to reel slightly. She gripped the nearest book-case for support, but she must have swallowed her fear, because her mouth was twisted with fury when she looked up at the goblin again. “They haven’t even left the house!” she shouted.

The goblin’s leer widened. “No, indeed. You see, Septimus Valance built his manor house on top of a goblin mine. Didn’t you know that? He killed all the inhabitants within - including our young and our females - and then built his ugly wizard dwelling over the entrance, as a mark of his conquest. I believe he is quoted in your history books as saying that conquest is not about breaking heads but about breaking spirits. Unfortunately for you, Margaret Valance, my people believe the same thing.”

“Give me my children,” Guillotine Valance growled. “I won’t ask you again.”

The goblin’s leer widened. “Let me make this simple for you, Mrs Valance.” He hesitated slightly. “It’s Miss Valance, actually, isn’t it?”

There was no response from the stony-faced, fiery-eyed woman, so the goblin went on:

“You’ve stolen our treasures, so we have taken yours. And I’m afraid we cannot negotiate an exchange. The matter is not so simple. You must pay for the indignity of displaying our stolen treasures. You have brought visitors to see them, told and re-told the stories of their capture. The accumulated interest of the centuries of ignominious fame you visited upon our goblin treasures will cost you dearly. Yet pay for it you will - if not in silver and sweat, then in blood - the only thing you Valances seem to care for. If you want to see your children again, you will become a treasure-seeker for us. You will travel underground, through the vast networks of dragon-caves beneath the Atlantic Ocean, or to the frozen wastes of the Arctic - places too dangerous for goblins to visit, and that we couldn’t pay wizards to brave for us. For every year of toil, we will release one of your children. If you do not return, they will all die. We have no interest in their father. He is a muggle, and therefore has nothing we want. He may go free, back to his own people. He has not oppressed us, though I daresay that was merely for lack of opportunity.”

“I want to see them,” Guillotine Valance said immediately.

“The longer you take to recover treasure for us, the more of them you are likely to see. Goblins specialize in immortalizing beautiful things, you see. We have a smith who makes jewellery from wizard bodies - teeth, bones, hair, eyes. He can set youth and bloom in stone. He can make the sentimentally precious into the truly priceless. If you delay, we will unleash his skills on your children.”

A stony silence greeted this announcement - Guillotine Valance was holding her head up high, but she was white and trembling, and looked as though she was fighting the urge to be sick.

After a few minutes, the goblin shook his head. “Disappointing,“ he murmured. “But, do not worry, Mrs Valance. We’ll see to it that your children accumulate in value.”

“Please!” she cried. The word seemed to burst from her lips without her volition. “Please. I’ll do anything...”

The goblin’s leer was now so wide it almost reached his ears. “That must have been very difficult for you to admit,” he said “You’ve taken your first step into a wider world, you know.”  

Guillotine Valance bit back whatever retorts might have occurred to her. The goblin seemed pleased at her restraint, and her sagging shoulders. She wasn’t fighting him any more.  

“You will follow me,” he said. “The dragon tunnels can be reached from our mines. See that we are not followed. If the Ministry of Magical Law Enforcement sets foot in here, we will know that you have betrayed us, and your little treasures will become our little treasures.”

Guillotine walked to the library door and locked it. There were footsteps on the other side, and a tentative knock. Lily heard a man’s voice say: “Maggie?”  

Guillotine Valance ignored it. She followed the goblin into the dark.
Part Two of Lily's adventures in Azkaban. This chapter is for my friend, Inge, who wanted to see more of Guillotine Valance (Meg's cannibal-ancestor, who first appeared in The Wisher).
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Veronika-Art Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2015
I get the feeling Mrs Valance is lying... I hope I am wrong, I really hate the idea of her eating the children.... and I am suspecting something here... let´s hope I am wrong...
kel-bell Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
So thrilling! I noticed that you called Mrs Mulligan "Mrs Valance" twice.
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
:hug: Thank you! (You know, I've been meaning to correct those errant 'Mrs Valance's' for nearly two years now! :faint: Will do it right now... :sprint:)
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
She had even written to the Minister for Magic about it, and had received a condescending letter back, informing her that the Ministry of Magic took her concerns very seriously.

That sums up every response to every letter to a political figure Iíve ever sent. -.-ď

I had a brief conversation once with someone once about the ethics of Azkaban. My friend was against the death penalty, yet firmly stated 'some people' deserved the emotional torture of the Wizarding prison. Iím with Dumbledore, though - there are many things far worse than death, and utilizing creatures with no souls is a very dangerous move. Though Iím against capital punishment (and for prison reform in general), inflicting lifelong despair upon criminals seems much more cruel and barbaric than the death penalty. (And Mr. Murk apparently agrees)

((Also, I noticed what I think is a tiny editing error - at one point, just after meeting Tiberius, I believe you refer to Mrs Mulligan as Mrs Valance.))

Your descriptions are fantastic. I wish I had more time to read!
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2010
That sums up every response to every letter to a political figure I've ever sent.

:giggle: Me too! I absolutely agree, I think Azkaban is worse than the death penalty. I understand the reasoning, because they think Azkaban enforces remorse, but in the end, it's only the more sensitive criminals who would suffer. Psychopaths like Bellatrix Black probably didn't suffer much in there! (Oh, I know I shouldn't be directing you to later points in the story, but Sev and Dumbledore have a whole debate about capital punishment in Dittany [link] ). I don't think it's a chapter that reveals much about what's going to happen in the story, but you don't have to read it if you'd rather not. It made me laugh so much to write that chapter, because Severus knows Dumbledore is intelligent, and Dumbledore knows Severus is intelligent, and they're both trying to understand how an intelligent person could hold that point of view!
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
I skimmed until the conversation between them (not wanting to learn too much about the future of your epic fan fiction :) ). Both of them make valid points, I think summarized by:
Bellatrix Black tortures muggles and sleeps in a palace."

"But you and I would rather be dead than be her."

"But she wouldn't, that's the point!"

Well argued, on both sides. :nod:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2010
Thanks! :hug: That's the crux I always get to when thinking about horrible people: it would be a punishment to be them, but it isn't for them! I guess Severus and Dumbledore couldn't get past that point, because I've never been able to get past it! ;)
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