She thought she would be used to it by now.
The cold, the damp, the chains... When had she stopped thinking of them as a necessary part of the sacrifice? When had she started thinking of herself as a prisoner, as someone who deserved this treatment?
A hunk of bread was tossed through her bars. She scrambled, grateful that this time, the chains allowed her to get close enough to reach it.
When had she stopped brushing off the bread in favor of eating it as soon as possible?
The cold intensified. She shut her eyes firmly, unwilling to look at the Dementor she could feel begin to enter her cell.
The chains rattled as she shifted position to avoid the inevitable.
But it didn’t enter fully this time. This time, it left her alone, and the icy cold retreated into gloomy chill.
She knew she would never get used to Dementors, but she hadn’t realized how much they would affect her when they weren’t around. She could barely remember the reason she was here. She could barely remember her own son.
If she tried hard enough, she could focus on the candle of her hope. She remembered, then, the ardent passion that had drawn her here. She remembered convincing her beloved husband that Azkaban was no place for a strong, vibrant youth like her son. She remembered imploring him to let her go instead, make the switch, let her son live a normal life...
Somehow, fire could reach her then, if it was only a single flame. But for how long?
The Dementors were cold, and with every visit, the flame diminished.
A persistent image tugged at her memory: that mark she had seen briefly on her son’s arm as they traded places, as her son wrapped the chains around her wrists and neck. It looked so much like that other mark, the one they thought was gone forever.
Was he guilty then? Was her sacrifice for nothing?
It was suddenly frigid. She saw the leering face of her son as he blew out the flame to her candle. Her son's mocking laughter was the last thing Mrs. Crouch experienced before the darkness came and never left.