The things people throw away! I found this completely unused journal and a broken pencil in the garbage. What would I not have given for a pencil twenty-four hours ago? Oh, the things people take for granted! I could have--and did--talk to myself in the endless hours with nothing else to do and got the same thoughts out, but there is something that feeds the human soul about writing things down. I remember spending hours drawing letters in the dirt of the cell floorsometimes I did not even write wordsI just had a need to draw out the letters. It was one of those pleasures that kept a man alive.
One might protest that the presence of Dementors makes it impossible for a man to experience pleasure. A man could not live in the total absence of pleasures. The Dementors make happiness impossible. If a prisoner is to survive Azkaban, he must understand these unhappy pleasures, those which give him no enjoyment, only aid in his survival. The unhappiness in writing was, in my situation, that there was nothing happy to write. When my hand did form intelligible words, they were bitter and hopeless, and yet the pleasure in forming the words was unfathomable.
Even now, I find myself quicker to indulge in the unhappy pleasures that filled my years in that cell than the happiness which is now allowed. These seem safer, and are just as necessary. The pondering of the nature of these pleasures was a pleasure in itself, as were many similar thought processes. I very much would like to discuss, now that I have paper and can record them, some of my observations from Azkaban, some of the things I thought about and discussed with myself in my mind. Those thoughts kept meI will not claim that I escaped Azkaban with my sanity completely intact, butable to keep the bulk of my wits about me.
Only a fraction of the prisoners in Azkaban were still able to converse normally after the first few monthsand usually not that longof imprisonment. The reason I was able to keep my mind alive was that I entertained it. I exercised my brain by discussing with myself all that I write now, and it is a very liberating feeling to actually write it all down. This gives a finality to the thoughtsI will never again depend on them for my survival.
When Azkaban has visitors, which is very rare, but not completely unheard of, when a relative or an old friend braves the presence of the Dementors to see and give some comfort to a person they must know is very likely to be mad or dying, the first thing they always notice, and feel very uncomfortable about, is the laughing. There is always someone laughingit is something that the sane and the mad shareit is a survival mechanism. I remember a man who must have literally laughed himself to death. He was at it all the time. He did not eat. He kept me awake all nightit was infuriating. I wanted to sew his mouth shut. Perhaps he used up too much energy, or simply starved since he was not eating. He might have just given up; sometimes it is hard to tell, but when he died, as much as I hated the continuous infernal noise, when it was gone, something felt wrong.
I did not exactly make friends in Azkaban. I hated most of the people there, and with good reason. It was a prison, and though there were some decent people imprisoned wrongly, they were few, and with Darwinian irony, tended not to last as long. But though I may have despised most of the people around me, the need for human contact, especially in the presence of the Dementors, was insatiable. Even if it was just a presence: the laughing of the man I mentioned earlier or the particularly loud snoring of a nearby sleeping prisoner, we all needed to know that other people were around.
I was incredibly lucky...or unlucky, however you choose to view it, to have in cells very close to mine an exceptionally bright couple. You see, many prisoners lose the capability of being able to form coherent sentences very early on, and there are not very many people to talk to. The three of us fed off of each other, each of us ravenously scraping for information or philosophy or anything else that could feed our starving minds. It was, in a way, a symbiotic relationship, but in another it was violently competitive. I despised them both. I do not feel bad about it, for I have no doubt that they hated me equally. Unfortunately, we needed each other. But, to be honest, my ambiguity serves no purpose. I speak of my cousin and her husband.
I have always hated my cousin. Since we were children, I have seen the most disgusting of the human qualities in her and an absolute void of the redeeming ones. I had often been scolded because of my grossly exaggerated condemnation of everything to do with her, and I will admit that perhaps I sometimes use unnecessarily strong language to express my dislike of people, but never in my life have I met a person who deserved my contempt as did that foul, sordid, and loathsome harpy.
The couples admission into Azkaban was the first I had ever seen of my cousins husband, and my first reaction of him was not the worst. Certainly, next to that monster of a woman, this quiet mild-mannered man could not be so bad. Surely he had been the sad victim of cruel coincidences which tied him to her as is so often the case among pure-blooded children, many of whom end up with spouses they do not like, or sometimes even whom they have never met. After observing him, however, I somehow do not think this was the case. At one point in my prison experience, I hated him more than her.
Placed in a cell near mine, there was a small dark-headed boy, far too young to be in a place like this. He looked so distraught over the knowledge that he was to be imprisoned here that, if we did not know better, would have appeared to us to have been living in the presence of Dementors for weeks now. He told the story of how he was placed under the Imperius curse, and most of the veteran prisoners scoffed. I did as wellI had heard the story so many timesuntil I caught his name, one I recognized, and found that I had known his parents in my years at Hogwarts. (Actually, I had dated his mother, but naturally I was not about to tell him that.) His parents were good people and would never raise a son in such a way as to deserve imprisonment. He produced an uncanny description of what it felt like to be placed under the Imperius curse, I told him that I believed his story. After hearing the summary of what he intended to do after he was freed from prison to right the wrongs that he had unintentionally done, I went on to share with him my story of innocence and framing. The knowledge seemed to encourage him considerably, or at least calm him down, and we might have become friends, had not my cousins disgusting husband begun talking to the boy himself.
I do not remember the words he used, and really the words themselves were not as important as the way he spoke. I cannot describe it, and I did not and do not understand how it happened. Perhaps it was some kind of dark magic, some powerful spell I had not heard ofsomething he could do without a wandbecause I had never heard anything like it. The boys condition was already so fragile. The first night of his imprisonment was the only time the boy ever accepted food. I blame it entirely on that infernal man.
This was not the only change he brought about in a new prisoner. I remember how a woman who had been wrongly imprisoned was recruited as a Death Eater during her time in prison thanks to his words, and such was the nature of several of the other prisoners exchanges with the man. Whenever I think of him, however, it will always be of that boy he killed. What makes me angrier than anything else was that it did not even do anything to aid his twisted cause.
As much as I hated these two, I have to admit, I owe them my life, or at least what sanity I have left. As I touched on earlier, they were the only people who stayed alive for any amount of time with whom I could talk. It was the intellectual stimulus I needed to keep my wits about me. As much as we hated each other, we recognized the necessity of intelligent conversation. Moreover, she was the sole believer of my story of innocence. She had no doubt in her mind that my story was true, that her stupid cousin would never indulge in such a thrillingly satisfying purge of the useless inferior beings in the world. She ranted confidently: If the rat was still viable, why did he not make his talents useful? Why was he not here? Why did he not take his place among the proud sufferers for the Dark Lords cause? (As if the most valuable thing to Lord Voldemort at the time would be for all of his competent Death Eaters to be rotting away in Azkaban.) But it was necessary for me to be believedby anyone. I found amusing the fact that I was so dependent upon someone I hated so much.
There again was another unhappy pleasure: grim humor. It was one of the most valuable possessions of the intelligent prisoners. And yes, I viewed such abstractions as physical possessions, for when you are in a place where not even your thoughts and memories were privatethat was one of the most terrifying things about the Dementors: that they had access to a persons minduntouchable intellectual things seem more solid and tangible. If a thing can be stolen, its existence is provable.
Grim humor could be found in several forms, especially those of ironies and paradoxes. This is what we found to laugh about, and we needed to laugh. During my last week of imprisonment, that is, between the time that I decided to break out and the time that I actually executed my plan, I dwelt on one irony in particular. I am perceived by my allies to have committed a certain crime which is no doubt thought of as worse than the murder for which I am imprisoned. This crime was committed by the man I was charged with killing, a man who now walks free, while I, who attempted to avenge his wrong, waste away in his cell, bearing the full force of his rightful punishment.
But I am not one to allow providence to play with me in such a way. I am adding my own irony to those cruel quirks of fate which have forcibly engaged me. The man whom I am punished for killing, that man who continues to be free, while not deserving to receive a breath of precious air from this world which is too good for him, will die by my hand. Grim humor demands the question: If a man pays for a pair of shoes, should he be obliged to walk around barefoot? Why, therefore, should a man suffer for committing a murder when he is denied the indulgence of the act itself?