A Way Out
I confess, I had not been expecting that little piece of information. It appeared that she was as full of secrets as her husband was. Now that my plan had been given wings on which to take flight, I experienced a moment of indecision. In my mind it was a huge risk to take merely for a visit, for what would a visit achieve but to make them more aware of what they had both lost. But if they used the opportunity for something bigger, something more ambitious, then perhaps it would be worth the jeopardy we would all be placed in if we attempted it.
Her now lively eyes sparkled at me, waiting for my response, wondering if I would back up my fine words with solid actions. I think then that she was testing me, compressing all my resolve beneath her challenge.
“It would be difficult,” I began guardedly. “You do not know the prison like I do, but I suppose a map could be procured. You would need to keep it hidden, of course, and be prepared to destroy it if necessary.”
She nodded slowly, waiting for me to come to my own decision. Patience was either her own innate virtue, or something she had learned whilst locked up in this frozen cell.
“But a visit seems so inconsequential,” I said, waiting to see how open she would be to the risk of escape. Only one person had escaped from Azkaban in the past year, and he had perished beneath the high, cruel waves of the North Sea. To this day, no one had worked out how the poor, drowned man had escaped from his cell and the locked gates, but escape he had, for all the good it had done him. So meticulous planning was crucial to any escape. Desperate efforts were destined to end in a desperate manner. Our plan, when we arrived at one, would have to be calmly executed.
“If a visit is all we can achieve, then so be it,” she replied quietly. “But freedom would be preferable.”
At no point did I think she was playing a game with me. And some might say I was foolish in this. I was in the wing of lunacy and this could be just one aspect of her madness. She could well have been pretending to be complicit with my little scheme, tucking away my treachery to my employers until a later date. But I didn’t think so then; I wasn’t remotely concerned. If this was to be my folly in life, then so be it.
Tonight would not be the night to allow her to roam from her cell. If we were to plot towards escape rather than a visit we would need to plan and plan well. I would need to find a way to break this news to Professor Snape, and to inform him of the arrangement. He should be pleased, but I had learnt that it was impossible to gauge his reaction to anything, and it was possible that he would be angered by these secrets we kept.
“You must leave it with me,” I said. “I will try and make arrangements and inform you of the plans when they are ready. I think it will be risky, but I think it can be managed, with your ability.”
“Very well,” she said with a nod. If she was disappointed that she would not see her husband that night, she did not show it. A taste of freedom, or reconciliation, was all she needed to give her some hope and it was pleasing to see it. Having spent so long around the bleak, it made an uplifting change.
I moved to leave and she followed me. “Tell me,” she asked. “Why you are doing this? It cannot be merely because you feel like performing an act of rebellion against a regime you are not entirely happy with. A sensible person would just leave their job.”
“I wasn’t unhappy with it until I came here. I always knew there were faults with our law-enforcement departments, but this is something else. This prison is inhuman.” I turned to her and felt suddenly alone and couldn’t understand why. “It saps at your soul and makes you see things clearly. This is not the way to punish people. And it’s certainly not a place to sweep things away to when they become uncomfortable for society to deal with. I believe that both you and your husband have been victims of a Ministry that wishes to be right all of the time, and will create scapegoats in order to maintain that fallacy. Perhaps in this one act, I can make them see they are not infallible. If you and your husband successfully escape, then they will have to look again at this case. And for all its faults, the Daily Prophet will find this a juicy story and will have another dig at it.”
Maeve gave a strange smile, knowing and doubtful. “We shall see, Katherine. Hope is small, but her fire still burns. I’ll leave it with you… And give my husband my love when you next see him. Tell him the raven still has her wings.”
I nodded, not understanding the message, but knowing that it contained the intimacy of a close bond between two people. It made me feel, once again, very lonely.
After just three hours sleep, I was back on my own corridor and walking with trepidation towards cell sixty-six. Time would wait no longer for him to be told about the fate of his wife. I would need to formulate my campaign that night, a campaign that would not need to depend upon outside help, for I would not know exactly when I would get access to her again. Apparation was impossible from the rock, although with my wand they could create a Portkey, but that would leave a trace, albeit a faint one. I did not think there was a broomstick to be had on the island, and in any case, it would prove too cumbersome. On a broomstick they would be slow-moving targets. There were the tunnels beneath the castle, but they went nowhere and had been the source of many a failed escape attempt in the past. The authorities had kept their little tunnel-trap quiet so that none of the prisoners knew about their lack of a destination.
So what to do? I resolved to discuss it with Professor Snape before I fermented the plan any further.
He looked up eagerly when I entered and my heart gave a leap of anxiety at what my news would bring to his now resigned mind.
“Good morning, Miss Carr,” he said, by way of a greeting. “Your book was, if you will permit me to say so, a good choice. I found the chapter on Time-Turners in the Muggle world particularly fascinating. Only people as dim-witted as they could have such a treasure in their hands and not realise its possibilities.” He gave a little snort of derision and slid the book from the folds of his robes towards me. I immediately swapped it for one that I hoped would hint at what was on my mind.
He picked it up and read the black letters along its red spine, his face immediately perplexed. “Escapology: How to Prevent the Determined Witch or Wizard Succeeding. Is this a joke of some sort?” He looked at me and there was an almost hurt look on his dark features. “Is this a taunt?”
“Not at all,” I replied in an even voice. “It is research for you. I have not read the book myself. I bought it when I learned of my posting here, but I quickly realised that if people wanted to escape, then good luck to them.”
He still looked baffled by my words, and I steeled myself to deliver him from his ignorance.
“Professor Snape” – I knelt down, my face now lower than his – “there are some things you don’t know, important things.”
“Oh?” He looked down at me. “And what might they be?”
“It’s about your wife.”
He was about to move, pushing back against his chair, but I grabbed for his hands and pulled him back, the shock of the contact making him pliant. I could see him preparing to let loose some of his anger again and knew I must prevent it.
“Settle down,” I instructed. “This is not the time to become excitable. Eamon will be in in an instant if he senses unrest and I must tell you this.” His face grew still and he relaxed against the back of his chair, preparing himself for bad news. I kept hold of his hands as I delivered my information.
“Professor Snape, your wife is not dead.” I paused to allow his heart to skip a few, unruly beats before I continued. “She’s here, in Azkaban.” I tightened my grip on hands that grew clammy with disbelief. His eyes had a volcanic quality about them that did not bode well for keeping Eamon at bay, but he gathered himself and pulled his hands slowly away from mine.
“This is untrue,” he hissed, “and cruelly so. How could you?”
“This is not untrue,” I insisted. “She said to tell you that the raven still has her wings.”
The volcano inside him lost its heat and his eyes filled with a desperate longing, a painful dagger of loss that was quickly hidden by his self-control. “How long has she been here?” he asked, his voice hoarse with emotion.
“I don’t know for sure,” I admitted. “But I saw her just a few hours ago and she is bearing up well. She had no idea you thought her dead.”
“Why are you telling me this?” he groaned, bringing his hands to his head as if to suppress the knowledge I had just transferred to him. “It will do neither of us any good. She is there and I am here and we must now try and exist knowing the other is close by and yet still untouchable. She might as well be dead.”
“You would have had her bear the knowledge alone? She knew about you. The balance is now redressed.”
“What can I do?” he asked. It was a question without any real meaning, for he believed that he could do nothing.
“You can read that book,” I replied, tapping the scarlet cover with my forefinger.
He looked at me blankly, still not quite understanding the significance of the title that sat on his table. “What are you suggesting?” he asked, looking back at the title and then pressing his lips tightly together. “You are not… escape from Azkaban is not possible.”
“Oh, it is possible. A certain member of the Crouch family managed it, as did the notorious Sirius Black. It can be done.”
“But the risks,” he snapped. “The risks would be too high. It would mean certain death if we were caught. There would be no trial; they would simply dispose of us. I cannot do that to my wife.”
“Then we must make sure it is a success. Your wife is more than willing to try. Surely you are a match for her. And what would you rather have for her; a slow, torturous death here?”
“She always was a rash, foolish woman,” he spat, but there was a trace of admiring affection in his voice. “But it is impossible. I will not risk her life in this way. The future for her here is uncertain. Unlike me, she may not die here.”
“But you already thought her dead,” I pointed out, with a sense of mounting excitement that he had reacted better than could have been expected. “So you really have little to lose.”
He stood up then, wearied by the discussion, his recently acquired peace of mind shattered. I watched him pace, waiting for him to break the newly-born silence. His face worked against the cold of the cell; trying to come to terms with this new treasure he had been given.
“You are as bad as she,” he finally said. “Both of you rush headlong into things without thinking of the consequences, of the danger. You bring me books and now you bring me something I never thought to see again… a decision to be made.”
“Then make it,” I said. I stood up and moved towards him. “Professor Snape, I am prepared to take risks, and believe me, I am risking a great deal here. But it has become apparent to me that my life is something of a sham. I do not want this.” I flapped my hands at the wall. “I want a life filled with something other than sadness and despair. I’m beginning to think all of this darkness becomes a part of you, if you spend long enough here.”
He appraised me with calculating eyes for a few moments before speaking again. “And how do you propose to go about this?”
“Maeve would Morph into me, while I would take her position in that cell. She could come to you, with my wand, and an escape could be effected from there. You are two very intelligent individuals; it would not be beyond you to leave the prison if you had a wand, I’m sure.”
“This has possibilities,” he mused. “This is much the same way that that young fool Crouch escaped, but we would have no need of Polyjuice Potion. And what would become of you afterwards?”
“I can keep my head down long enough for you to escape. By the time I need to show my face, you both should be long gone. I can make up a story about her overcoming me, stealing my wand. It would make me look incompetent but...” I gave a shrug. “But what does that matter? I will take a leave of absence and not come back.”
“And have you thought how we would get away from the fortress?” he asked, his mind already crawling all over the problem. “The normal means would be impossible, surely.”
“No Apparition, no Portkey, no Floo and no broomsticks,” I said gravely, waiting to see if he would have a rejoinder. He didn’t, he simply clasped his hands together and frowned.
“Very well,” he said. “Let me think on it. Did you have a time frame in mind?”
“The next time I apply for overtime on that wing I may be assigned to her corridor, so we need to create a plausible plan and then we can put it into practice on the spot.”
He nodded. “I understand. Thank you.”
It was a gentle dismissal and I gave him an encouraging smile, which was lost on his concentrated mind, and left him to his thoughts.
For the first time since arriving at this ugly, barren place, I felt I was doing something useful. The feeling was a fine one.