Azkaban lay under a moonless night. The stars had long ago surrendered their glow to the breath of a thousand dementors and the encroaching sea was a frigid, watery grave of festering regrets and broken spirits. Many a dream had died here, rocked against the shore of the fortress’ tall exterior until it had broken into a thousand little pieces and surrendered itself to the depths of the unforgiving sea. Another countless victim.

Inside, the temperature could only be described as uninhabitable, more a product of the soulless creatures that prowled in the dark than a simple depression in air humidity. The sun’s light was a feeble orange shadow that brought a hint of color to the otherwise black interior, its promised warmth noticeably lacking. Cold as the sea, and just as merciless.

The manacles made deep imprints in the warm flesh of his hands. Heavy chains weighed him down and forced his back into an uncomfortable slouch, shoulders sinking towards the ground. No amount of hesitant steps or shallow breaths would delay his eventual decline into an unfeeling purgatory of dismal memories and plaguing voices. His breath fogged up the air in his wake, and he felt chilled to the bone. Here it was always winter.

One man was no mean force against the foulest of creatures and the most wretched of places, and Hagrid felt his chest constrict as though the weight of the entire sea was pressing down on him from all sides. His feet pattered heavily across the slick ground, his eyes downcast lest he catch sight of the dark shadows that solidified around every corner.

Just keep walking. Don’t think, or they’ll steal that away too - along with your freedom. Keep your head above the water.

He shuddered involuntarily. The granite walls around him were growing taller and closing in with every step, the lights dimming as his guards led him through the long, barren passageways. The calm was misleading, the still air before the storm. No sounds apart from his beating heart and the soft moans from within the depths of the chambers they passed, the procession leading him to his own quiet doom.

Wrought iron cells lined the walls, a dementor floating territorially, almost hungrily, near each one. He struggled, his fist tightening uselessly around the chains that shrouded him, willing his mind free. The cold swept over him in constant waves and he ground his teeth to stop their chattering and dug his nails into his palms, fighting to keep himself in the present.

How had he sunk so far? How many times would he drown in despair until he couldn’t resurface anymore and lost the will to live?

Treacherous thoughts. He could fight it all. He would withstand the current until it had him down to his knees. Then he would crawl until he bled. Even then, the hurt would remind him that he was still alive.

Alive for what? What did he have to live for? No father, missing mother, and a criminal record.

Hagrid clamped his eyes shut. He would think happy thoughts, thoughts that would ultimately free him. He would remember how it had felt to receive his Hogwarts’ acceptance letter, how he had saved Harry from the Dursleys, and how Dumbledore had stood up for him when his father died.

If his father could see him now. What would he say?

He wouldn’t think about his father, the memory of his laughter and his unshaven smile would all be stolen from him and replaced with nagging doubts and harrowing regrets. Spinning until his mind was not his own anymore, until the small voice that called on him to fight the piercing frost was silenced. In its place, bitter surrender to the soulless. He wouldn’t succumb to an easy death. Not while he still had two legs to stand on and the will to remain afloat.

Not much time now. They’ve got you drained. Dad would be so disappointed.

The chains cut into his hands again as the dementors prompted him forward. One foot in front of the other. His mind was numb, floating as it was in fetid waters. Had he the thinking capacity, he would have found hope in the large windows that punctuated the impenetrable stone and lead to the gray sea, and hope in the quiet solitude of misery.

Fighting is useless. You’ll just sink faster.

Another jerk and the procession came to a sudden stop and he opened his eyes feebly. Rotting, gray hands grabbed him and he shivered at their chilly, lifeless touch. His shoulders sunk further as they pushed him into his cell. He didn’t bother looking around. The sound of the door slamming shut behind him was a death sentence.

Can’t break me. I'm made of tougher stuff than they’re used to.

As it was, he could hardly remember his name. Just a vague memory of himself kept him from collapsing under waves of emptiness and giving in to the impulse to sink to the ground in surrender. Just enough awareness to stop him from yelling out.

His eyes shut tightly again and he could hear the rasping breath of the dementor right outside his cell. With every breath the creature took, swelling waves of desolation threatened to overtake him. It was a slow but insistent tide that found egress through the hidden torments of his past. Blurry images flashed behind his eyelids and he tried to block them out.

His hands clutched at his head and he pushed them into the sides of his skull. The chains gnawed at his wrists but he was past feeling.

Son, are you afraid of the dark? Or the cold stone and the deep sea? You never did learn how to swim.

He screamed. Voice echoing a hundred times, bouncing off the walls of his cell until it was all he could hear.

Yelling is the first stage of surrender, my son. Until your voice becomes raw and you whimper and moan. Won’t be long before you’re on your way.

No. He was stronger than that. The images replayed in his mind with a greater frequency, gaining focus and resolution, sinking faster and faster. He could almost distinguish each blade of grass sticking out of the frozen ground through the window, and see the sun shining brilliantly off of the panes in the church.

Another laboring breath and he was under, the frost had eclipsed all hope, and with a last bloodcurdling scream, he had sunk.

A man was speaking. The congregation was listening intently, as though they knew or cared. A simple wooden coffin lay at the head of the church. Hagrid stood at the back, eyes unfocused and tears falling freely.

Why did everyone leave him?

His chest felt hollow and every breath was a curse. Why did he get to live when his father didn’t? He was nothing special. He was a burden, and now he had driven his father away too.

Long after the man had finished his speech and the people went back to their lives, he sat. The coffin had been safely moved to the graveyard behind the church and he had stayed. Snow fell in a torrent of flakes and ice, and he shivered in the deathly cold.

The church blackened and he was back in his dark cell. The dementor was grasping the bars, long fingers tightening around the hard metal and head tilted towards him as it took a long, racking breath.

This time, he didn’t fight it. There was almost a perverse pleasure in the prospect of sinking into the pain. Outside, the new moon hung low and high tide was coming in, the fortress at the mercy of the ruthless waves.

There was no escape from the sea.

  Hi! This is the hardest I have ever worked at a story. This one-shot took a lot of rewording, editing, and generally hitting my head against the wall in an effort to try to convey real fealing through my writing. Hope you like it! Please let me know what you think- is it too much? Overload?

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