I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
The white phantom ships of dawn sail into the harbours of a thousand imprisoned minds and release strings of foul mockeries from blistered bow to shredded sail. Of all the passions they invoke, shame is the loveliest, the mystery to the righteous, the all-consuming demon of the misguided.
It is mainly the misguided that dwell here. Not so much dwelling as slinking into a dark nothingness that invades their minds and the reeking cells they inhabit. It is a place where bones wither to dust, blood seeps from open wounds and wide, unblinking eyes gaze from hollow sockets. A sense of sadness so complete that you could choke on it fills the air with its rank odour, made more palpable by the fact that after so many years, use and old age make the prisoners accept these bars, and they begin to need them.
All that we know who lie in gaol,
Is that the wall is strong;
Azkaban has made him hollow.
Great shadows linger underneath painfully sharp cheekbones, and underneath eyes that have seen too much. Nobody looks in his eyes any more, but if they did they would see a frightening sheen of guardedness, a barrier put in place by a soul that was broken years ago. They were coloured once. They flashed proudly, narrowed in distaste and glinted with mischief, but not any more. Even he has forgotten their shade. Matted hair was once bright but all that was coloured has faded to lead, as everything diminishes into the same horrific grey.
There is just nothing there.
A bird circles outside the window and a skeletal arm grasps the bars to haul itself up. The outside world tastes of the sea, of ships and of freedom, of waters of iron that lash against rocks and malevolent clouds scudding across a war torn sky. The wind suddenly howls with a shrill chorus of demented noise and tears the bird from the air. It is thrown towards the land and he almost feels the thud of its lifeless body as it hits the rocks. There is another thud as he falls to the floor, his limbs trembling, his muscles shivering with weakness and a cold he doesn't consciously feel.
One of his fingers sticks out at a crooked angle, broken. Broken, broken, broken. A record of his days, his mouth moving without sound, forming the words that ring around his own head without cease.
One skeletal hand reaches up to grasp the iron bars of its prison.
One skeletal fingertip tastes the air.
One skeletal face moves into the single, diminishing shaft of sunlight.
It catches on hair that is so thick with dirt and dust that it looks brown. For the most fleeting of seconds, a flash of colour erupts where once hung the flawlessness of youth. The head ducks and the sunlight is left to gleam elsewhere. Not that this meagre light would be referred as sunlight by anyone anywhere else. It has no warmth or vibrancy, Azkaban does not allow that. The mere presence of the place is enough to drain the colour from the sun and the heat from its glare.
No. There is no brilliance or lustre that which makes the dust motes dance. It is a cold light, a pallid light, fitting to illumine the dankest cells where the most detested of prisoners rot.
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.
One touch is all that is left in the withered remains of a memory. The thought of one touch, one breath, one stolen kiss that seemed like it would be the beginning of many. Thousands of opportunities seemed to stretch out ahead, a lifetime seemed endless and a second melted into a century with the ticking of a cacophony of clocks to mark the time.
There was one touch, and then nothing. The other memories have all gone. Faded. Sucked greedily beneath a Dementor's hood to feed the rotten flesh that lingered there.
One touch of his hand on his skin.
That moment he can recollect with perfect clarity, although he does it rarely, for fear of losing it to darkness. All he has now are nightmares, and in such abundance that his every moment of slumber is plagued with cold sweat and an icy terror so abiding it creates a winter in his heart and draws from his body that which would have been surrendered in a Kiss.
That's what Azkaban does to you.
Some lose their love when they are young,
Some when they are old;
He wrinkles up his nose at the sudden smell and closes his ears to the sounds of screaming and tongueless muttering. As soon as he stepped across the threshold, he had shivered uncontrollably at the colour of death that laces the air and his knuckles grip his wand so hard they were white. His hand runs nervously through his hair, it has been a long time since he was here, and each time is more dreadful than the last. He has watched the faces of the prisoners as he moves past the cells, they grow more wearied with each visit, the light of defiance visibly fading from the blank eyes that stare back at him.
A Dementor turns to him, drawing a long, rattling breath and motioning towards a small chamber. He steps through, his eyes never leaving that strange, fleshless creature. It closes the heavy door with a snap that makes him jump.
"Hello, Draco," A hoarse voice from the shadows startles Draco and he raises his wand immediately. The face that emerges is void of any emotion, but still there is a strange familiarity about the features which have been so wasted.
"Holy shit!" He cries in surprise, beholding the person before him, before coughing apologetically. "Sorry, Potter, but you look…" he trails off, unable to finish. Harry looks so much worse than the last time he saw him, all bones and skin, "how are you?"
"Alive, still alive, always alive," Harry mutters, wringing his hands and sitting hesitantly on a stone bench, "The Boy Who Lived Who Cannot Die." he says in the same distant voice that Draco has only heard him use once before. Draco sits down uneasily, his heart rupturing as his eyes travel over the face he had once so wildly worshipped, and the lips he had once so madly kissed. He takes a deep breath,
"I'm here because the trial happened on Wednesday." he says, only slightly surprised to see very little reaction in Harry. That is the way he is now.
"Wednesday?" Harry repeats the words as though it is of some long forgotten tongue.
"The Wizengamot watched through the pensieves of Weasley and Creevey," Draco says quietly, his voice heavy and laden with sadness, "stupid bastards. They only saw one half of the picture."
"Half the picture." Harry repeats vacantly. He is looking at Draco, whose figure, to the prisoner, seems to distort itself in and out of view. Eyes that are made hazy by fatigue and sorrow see only half a person at a time, now the bratty boy he had known at Hogwarts, now the solemn man whose mind, as ever is unfathomable. Harry flicks between these facets, unable to separate the two, unable to strike a contrast. They are one and the same, everything is the same, everything is fading.
"Am I murderer or victim?" He asks, with a look so reminiscent of his own self that Draco stares at him, as though trying to see the boy he had loved.
"To them?" he asks, shaking his head, "Still a murderer." his voice is full of regret. He has spent a week arguing with the Wizardgamot. They have compiled evidence, a body count and a need to be seen doing something, and with it they have sentenced Harry to life.
"Murderer, cold blooded murderer," Harry murmurs, the light dwindling in his eyes again, "my blood is so cold it freezes, I must be a murderer."
"Harry," Draco sounds distressed; he bites his lip, "stop it, stop talking." he snaps, more harshly than he intends.
"Why do you come here?" Harry asks suddenly, his mouth curling into accusation.
"I wanted to see you."
"I'm all alone here, Draco, all alone," Harry says, "Why don't they believe me?"
"Nobody saw Voldemort possess you," Draco answers, as gently as he can, "it looked to everyone as though you were acting of your own volition. All anyone saw was you killing all those people,"
"Why do you keep trying?" Harry asks, suddenly defeated, all pride wrenched from his soul and all dignity lost to the rats that gnaw at the bleeding flesh that's left on his body. "Why don't you give up on me like everyone else?"
"I believe you," Draco says softly. A stream of pallid sunlight drifts ephemerally through the high, round window and illuminates them with its cold glow. Harry looks up at it, wincing as if such feeble light hurt his eyes. They remain trapped in the lone beam of light whilst everything around them is darkness and despair.
"No-one believes me any more," Harry murmurs.
"I do," Draco lays his hand on his shoulder, but Harry snarls suddenly and turns,
"Liar!" he yells, grabbing Draco by the throat and hurling him into the wall, "You hate me, Draco, why do you come here? To taunt me?" his fingers are as thin as bones but wiry and strong and they close around Draco's neck, as he scrabbles against them fearing them as much as the unbalanced look that appears in Harry's eyes. He is suddenly not himself and some wild, abused animal is clawing out at the world that has so tortured him.
"Let go, Harry!" Draco splutters, managing to throw Harry off. The young man is so thin and weak that he crumples brokenly against the wall and sinks to the floor. Draco stares at him, rubbing his neck and breathing hard. He has seen Harry act like this before, when it has all become too much, he should have expected it, every time he sees him he loses him a bit more.
Harry is so pale and white. His skin is practically diaphanous, the strange lines of blue veins shining through their pellucid veil like rivers of blood.
"Do you want to hurt me?" He asks, shielding his face from Draco and the sun. He takes up so little space when curled against the floor like that. Draco feels his heart rate returning to normal, and bends down, prying Harry's arms away from his face like a child.
"I believe you, Harry, I'm trying to help you." He says, and lifts Harry's chin so that Harry is looking right at him.
"What are you doing?" Harry asks in a voice barely more than a whisper. There is something there in his eyes, something real, alive. Maybe Harry isn't gone after all.
"Giving you something to hold on to," Draco says, closing the distance between their lips and pressing a soft, insistent kiss on Harry, his tongue flitting to brush cracked skin before Harry responds and melts into Draco like a wave breaking over a beach. The wind howling outside quietens suddenly and Harry's knotted hands reach up to touch Draco's silken hair. Draco lets him touch him, taste him and drink him to the core of his soul. Harry breathes from him the strength of the world outside and for a fleeting second he is back in Hogwarts on the Astronomy Tower and they are kissing like teenagers. Harry returns to himself and to lucidness, his mind clearer than it has been in weeks.
"I promise I'll get you out of here." Draco says as they part, and Harry believes him, his heart soaring into his throat, his eyes brimming with unshed tears. He nods and Draco leaves.
Some strangle with the hands of lust,
Some with the hands of gold;
Harry now has something else to hang on to. One more memory unstained by the Dementors. His miseries and wretchedness rise and fall in an oblivious host, shades of love and death, tossed among shadows and thrown into pits of despair. But still there is the kiss, the one, perfect kiss, and the memory of Draco. It will keep him alive, he knows it.
It takes only one kiss to free his soul from torment.
It takes only one kiss to free him from his soul.
As the Dementor lifts its hood and Harry beholds the gaping sockets over which are stretched scabbed mockeries of skin, he screams as he has never done before. The other prisoners are screaming too, a terrifying chorus of noise and fear that rises into the air to hang for a moment as a testament to the terror of Azkaban and of the imprisonment of a man.
Draco is in Harry's mind as his lips are forced open.
Draco is in Harry's mind as his soul is wrenched from his body.
Who could have known that all of this would result from one kiss?
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.