Chapter 1 : For Her
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e i g h t e e n s e c o n d s . . .
The sun is rising. I can see its rays peeking through the cracks in the stone walls, sidling through the bars of the one, small window in my cell, sneaking their way towards me as night once again fades away.
Morning has become my favorite time in Azkaban. Early morning before the other prisoners are awake, before the guards come in to check on us and distribute breakfast, early in the few moments between the rising of the sun and the waking of the day...those are the moments that I cherish. Those are the moments when I think of her.
Before I came to this place, years ago during the height of my power, the fullest years of my life, years ago I saw her for the first time. Then, she was a child, nothing more. I cared nothing for her, felt nothing for her but contempt and disdain. There was nothing I would do for her, no thoughts I would spare for her sake.
Then, later, I saw her again. Now she was grown, a true adult, a true warrior. She fought in the Final Battle with more grace and beauty than I had ever seen before. Then, I wondered what had changed. I wondered how the silly child I had once seen had morphed into the beautiful woman before me. And I wondered—for the first time in my life—I wondered if I could change. I wondered what I would do for her, what I would be for her.
None of that matters now. I have not changed. I did not and will not, and the inside of this prison cell is enough to prove that I never will. The sun is slipping its way closer to me and I wonder if it knows that I will never be enough for her, if it knows that I cannot change, not even for her, for the only person to ever make me want to be different.
Here, I am Prisoner W2DE19, the nineteenth Death Eater catalogued and admitted to the prison at the end of the Second Wizarding War. I am no longer Antonin Dolohov. I do not strike fear into anyone’s eyes, have not raised a wand in nearly four years. I have not dueled another person, have not struck down an enemy, have not seen the light leave a person’s eyes for so very, very long.
But more than that, it has been too many days and weeks and months since I have seen passion, seen real light, seen her. The sunlight that seeps into the prison each morning pales in comparison to what I have witnessed in her: a radiance that hums and glows, blocks out everything else, conquers even me. I thought that I could not be defeated, that my heart was hardened against all feeling, all emotion, all passion except that for taking another's life. I was wrong.
She is the passion that was absent from my life for so very long. She, so much younger than myself, with so much more life, so many more choices and opportunities, she showed me without ever knowing that there is something beyond what I had made for myself, something different, something more.
All I have to remember her by is a single photograph, a moving, flickering image torn from a newspaper nine weeks ago, crinkled and hidden beneath a stone in one corner of my cell. In it, she stands alone—I carefully ripped away her husband and the gaudy announcement of their wedding—smiling widely, more beautiful than ever, her bushy hair untamed, jewels glittering in its strands, her eyes bright.
Those eyes are the light that poets write odes to, that men die for, that men kill for. I know that in them, I could have found hope: hope in a war, a foolish thought, but nonetheless, hope that I could have stared into for years, hope that I could have drank in, consumed, possessed. In her eyes, I could have drowned, would have, for her.
There has never been a person I was willing to die for, but maybe she could have been that for me. Maybe I could have changed for her. Now, as the sun rises higher into the sky and lights the stones around me, now I think that maybe I could have wanted to change. Had I renounced my Master, my beliefs, my identity, I could have found a different life, a life that I would have lived outside of the bars of this cell.
In the end, I was unwilling to do that. Maybe I still am unwilling. Maybe the small voice that whispers in my mind is right: that I have not changed, that I never will. I have had four parole hearings since I entered Azkaban, four chances to plead that I am different, that I deserve another chance, but I have never said a word at any of them.
True, I am a model prisoner. I start no fights, beg for nothing, do not cry out in my sleep. Azkaban is a part of me, but it will never consume me with despair as it does to some who know they will never again breathe the free air. There is nothing here to destroy the flicker of hope that I feel when I think of her; the Dementors are long gone from this place. Now, Magical Law Enforcement officers patrol the corridors. They are not cruel, but neither are they friendly. I find a way to never have a qualm with them.
The article about her said that she works for Magical Law Enforcement, and I constantly wonder if I will see her here, in this place. Part of me wishes for that daily, conjures dreams of it in my sleep, dreams that I wake from with words and confessions begging to tumble from my lips, but the other part of my trouble mind...the other part acknowledges that she sees none of the side of me that loves her so ardently. She knows me as the rest of this place does: W2DE19, nothing more.
Now, the sun has fully risen, and I still lay where I am, staring blankly at the shadows that the light has created on the walls and floor of my cell. Every day as daybreak ends, I realize that those shadows will always block out the light. The sun returns every day, but there is always darkness, and the night always follows and quashes my hopes, and nothing I do here will ever change that.
I could love her every day and never destroy those shadows. I could do all in my power to change, to be better, but none of it would matter. All I do for her will stay here, hidden in this cell, in the recesses of my mind, and she will never know.
f i f t y - o n e s e c o n d s . . .
The time will always pass, and no change will come. I hear the other prisoners begin to awaken, and I know...I know that she is the thought that keeps me alive in this place. My breaths, each one shallow and unsure, unsure like everything in my life but her...each breath I take is for her.
She knows nothing of me; she never will, but she keeps me breathing, keeps my heart beating. She is brighter than the weak sun I follow through its course in the sky. She is more, has always been more. Someday perhaps I will tell her. Someday perhaps she will know...that all I have done, all I do now, has always been and will always be...for her.
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