Warnings: MALE/MALE things, dark, AU, first person, OC POV.
Dedication: Written for figliaperduta who wanted a fic from the POV of a healer called Aaron and something that featured evil!Sirius. (Because we both love him…)
Disclaimer: Whilst I solemnly swear that I am up to no good with these characters, I’ll give them back to Ms Rowling when I’m done.
Summary: A healer reflects on the many types of madness, and the dangerous pattern of hatred and desire so evident with Sirius and Remus. (AU SBRL)
Cast your eyes on the ocean, cast your soul to the sea,
When the dark night seems endless, please remember me…
- Dante’s Prayer
I stare at the pale, shaking ministry guard, who stares back with frightened eyes. He’s white – skin almost translucent in the dim light of the torches – and, I suspect, is actually so nervous that he’ll scream at the first hint of a shadow if I’m not careful.
“Tell me again,” I say, watching him with suspicious eyes.
“Tried to…slit his wrists.” He’s shaking harder now, and I have the sudden worrying thought that I’m probably doing the same. I glance down at my hands. Yes, I was right. Looking back up, I see him swallow, a convulsive, frightened movement that sets his Adam’s apple bobbing. He’s young – too young to be working here, and I have to wonder why exactly the Ministry decided this was the right post for him.
“How?” Despite the shivers wracking my body, my voice is steady.
“Rusty hook…on the wall.”
I nod, absently, already heaving my medical bag onto my shoulder. “Can you show me to his cell?”
The guard nods – another slow, jerking movement – and indicates the door behind me. “It’s this way,” he says, unnecessarily. “We put him apart from the other prisoners, in case he tried it again. We don’t want…” he trails off, leaving the rest unsaid.
We don’t want them seeing something like that; they’ve already suffered enough. The words hang in the air, unspoken. Azkaban does that to you – you pity those sent here. I personally never understood the reasoning behind locking witches and wizards away to suffer endless torture. To me this is a place of no morals; no human being deserves this much suffering, no matter what they’ve done. Far easier, in a way, to give them the death sentence, and I’m a healer, I should know.
The guard leads me down a small flight of steps.
Surprisingly, Azkaban isn’t dank and slimy – far from it. It’s simply made of dry grey stone. The cells are kept relatively clean and there is a healthy amount of fresh air allowed in through small vents some twenty metres apart down the corridors. The prisoners aren’t expected to sleep on straw – nothing as blatantly mediaeval as that – but on small neat cots pushed to one side of their individual rooms. However, it’s not the physical aspects of Azkaban that I disapprove of. The mental torture the prisoners go through is something phenomenal. Dementors guard the prisoners – each is even assigned his own creature. The more dangerous the prisoner, the more Dementors they place around the cell. This is the cruelty of which I disapprove as men and women are kept, trapped, in their own personal hell, day in, day out.
As I said, it’s unethical.
We pause outside of a cell, quite near to the entrance, and I glance around, nervously. No Dementors here – too near to the guard room – but their icy presence still lingers. I can tell they’ve been here, very recently, too.
“He’s in here.” The guard takes a bunch of keys out of his pocket, and despite the gravity of the situation I can almost be amused. It looks so…muggle in its small, quaint ceremony, like a stereotypical jailor’s ring from an old black and white film. The jailor holds the keys on a ring, I remember, and he jangles them importantly when the prisoner has a visitor. This guard, however, does not jangle the keys. The cell door is unlocked without the designated ceremony, and I have to wonder whether working with the Dementors so long has turned this man into a human without any true character.
“I’ll wait out here,” he says, stuffing the keys back in his pocket. “If there are any problems, just shout.”
I nod, still shivering (as is he) and push open the door.
Sirius Black is sitting on the edge of the solitary cot, his feet propped up on a small stool. He is gazing out of the window with a moody, half disdainful expression on his face. He turns his head as he hears the slight squeak of the hinges, and I am surprised at how attractive the man is.
Long black hair that is still sleek and neatly tied back, falls to his waist. His eyes are a sharp, penetrating grey, set above a straight – almost thin – nose and a soft, mobile mouth. His skin is extremely pale, but it appears to be a natural pallor as opposed to something induced by the Dementors. His robes, whilst slightly crumpled, do not appear to be dirty, nor are they particularly old. I’d heard somewhere that he had been in Azkaban for at least six months and it surprises me to notice that he doesn’t appear much changed from the photo released just after his arrest.
“Oh, hello,” he says, shooting me a swift glance with those sharp eyes from under thick lashes. “Are you the latest poor soul suckered into coming and ministering to our bodily needs?” He smiles, and it is a needle-sharp expression that is gone almost before it appears.
“I’m Aaron,” I reply, as if this, in some way, explains why I’m here. “I was told you tried to slit your wrists,” I add, as he turns back to the window, clearly not interested in the slightest.
“Oh, I tried,” his voice is bored, casual elegance, as though he is simply commenting on the weather. “I failed, of course. A good job too, Remus would probably have thrown a fit.” I can see the side of his face, and it appears that he’s smiling again – this time in something bordering on satisfaction. His fingers idly drum against his thigh and he yawns, delicately. I catch a glimpse of the deep, angry red wounds, (bound with thin strips of what looks suspiciously like bed linen) running across his wrists. Before I can stop myself, I stride forwards.
My first instinct is, and always has been, to heal. So before Black can protest, I have snatched up his hand and I’m examining the cut. Blood flakes under my fingers as I probe the wound, carefully checking for signs of infection. Black turns his head, watching me with a hint of superior amusement, grey eyes glittering cruelly in his pale face.
“It’s pointless, you know,” he comments at length, as I reach across to my medical bag and take out a bandage. “Azkaban poisons the mind, not the body.”
“I notice you’re managing to maintain you’re sanity, despite this little episode.” My voice is dry as I open my medical bag and carefully point my wand, charming several strips of gauze to attach themselves to the bandage.
“Well.” It is not a reply, it is a conversation stopper, but he is still watching me, clearly unimpressed. Shifting in his seat, he sighs – beautifully constructed arrogance, a defence against the boredom, which has, no doubt, set in. If you took Black out of this setting, placed him in, perhaps, a garden, he would look like the pureblood he is. His fine, aristocratic features are wasted here.
I may be straight, but I’m not blind.
“Well, that’s the best I can do for you,” I say, packing away my medical kit. “Try not to slit your wrists again any time soon. I won’t appreciate having to come back to patch you up a second time.” I smile – a little coldly, I realise – and pick up my bag. I’m still shaking, and I can feel the pervading sense of ice that warns me of the Dementors that are, no doubt, lurking nearby.
“I’ll do my best,” his voice is as cool as my own, but a hint of mockery sparks in his eyes, and his mouth twists in something that might have be a smile or a grimace.
I nod, and exit the cell, bag once again slung over my shoulder.
Outside, the guard is still waiting – although he is sweating visibly now – and I am hurriedly led back up the flight of steps and into the warm confines of the guardroom. Here, a kettle is whistling on the old–fashioned stove and several mugs are arranged, neatly, on the table. Two other guards are perched on hard wooden chairs, and they look up as we enter. They don’t smile in greeting, but merely nod at my escort. I doubt anyone smiles here, anyway.
“Lupin’s arrived,” one says, jerking his head towards the door again. “I said we’d let him in as soon as the healer was done.”
The other guard nods and looks up at me. “He alright, then?”
“Yes.” Briefly I wonder if they can speak in any way apart from these short, sharp sentences.
“Send Lupin through then.” The first guard addresses mine, who inclines his head – not even really a nod, this time – and ushers me back out.
As I exit the room a slim young man who is standing a few feet away catches my eye. His hair is tawny, and cut in a shaggy, almost careless manner that only seems to accentuate his sharp, intelligent face. His clothes are shabby and dark circles ring his eyes, but despite this, he seems quite alert. There is something almost predatory about him and I nod, politely, as I am hastily shooed past.
I wonder if this is ‘Lupin’.
As if in answer to my thoughts, the guard waves a hand at the young man, indicating back down the corridor. “You can go through and see him, Remus,” he says, and his face twitches in what could have been a half smile.
Strangely, the Dementors don’t seem to affect this man and he nods in thanks before turning sharply on his heel and striding off. I pause, looking after him, and take a moment to wonder what his connection is to – evidently – Black, and whether he and the guards of Azkaban have some kind of agreement. Normally, visitors aren’t allowed – it’s something that intrigues me.
“Come on.” The guard takes me by the elbow, firmly, but not unkindly – escorting me in the opposite direction.
As we round the corner, I pause again, hesitating. There’s something…not right about the little scene I saw just now. Lupin looked almost feverish, distracted – was he really that eager to see Black, I wonder? Surely nobody would want to see a convicted murderer. Wasn’t there something in the paper, as well, about how Lupin had been Black’s friend, and had been under suspicion when the Potters were killed?
The guard clears his throat impatiently, and I jump, startled out of my thoughts.
No, something isn’t right with Lupin and it takes me only a split second to make up my mind.
“My roll of bandages!” My voice is unnecessarily loud in the unnatural silence of Azkaban. “I left them back in Black’s cell.” I sigh, looking irritated. “I’ll just go back and get them.” Without waiting for a reply I turn sharply on my heel and march back down the corridor. Behind me, I can hear the guard muttering something under his breath, but he stays where he is, clearly unwilling to go back into any part of the prison that might contain Dementors.
Sirius’s cell door is standing half open as I approach, and I wonder for a brief moment whether Lupin has rescued his friend, but as I draw nearer I can hear low, urgent murmurs drifting down the corridor and I nearly smile at my own stupidity.
Of course Black hasn’t escaped. The locks in Azkaban are purely ones made by the mind.
Slowing my pace, I glance quickly around, ascertaining that I am alone in my observations. Once satisfied, I bite my lip, edging closer to the door, all the while telling myself that I am purely interested in my patient’s mental health – not that he should have any in a place like this.
“You killed them,” I can hear Lupin’s voice clearly now, and through the partly open door, I can see him standing, his back to me, facing Black. “You’re evil, Sirius. You killed them.”
Black shrugs, head tilted upwards to look at Lupin, his expression the same bored one he had directed at me. “So? What’s your point?”
“They were our friends!” Lupin is shaking now, and I have the strong suspicion his shivering is not Dementor-induced. “I hate you.”
“And yet you keep coming back." Sirius’s voice is low, intimate; he is watching Lupin from under half-lowered lids.
“Yes.” Lupin draws himself up to his full height and looks down at Black. I cannot see his face, but I imagine his expression to be cold, furious. Swiftly, he reaches into the pocket of his robe. There is a flash of silver and, suddenly, a knife is at Black’s throat. I stifle a yell at this action – it would only bring the guards, and could make Lupin jump so much that he accidentally slits Black’s throat.
The air in the cell is thick with tension; I can hear Lupin’s breath, coming heavier than it should be, and I watch, worried, as Black moves. Oddly, he straightens in the chair from his slumped position, tilting his head back slightly, eyes now wide and intent on Lupin’s face. He leans forwards, pressing his neck into the sharp edge of the knife and I can see the sudden keen interest in his expression.
“What are you going to do now, Remus?” His voice is low, husky. If I didn’t know better, I would say ‘seductive’.
“I’m going to kill you, like I should have done right at the start of this mess.” Lupin speaks from between gritted teeth, and I can see his shoulders are knotted with tension under his robes.
“Kill me?” Sirius laughs, softly, wickedly. His eyes are glittering with a maniacal light. Slowly, incredibly slowly, he raises one slender pale hand – runs it along Lupin’s outstretched arm, fingers lightly brushing, until he pauses just above the hilt of the knife.
Remus moans, half angry, half desire-stricken, and I can see from my vantage point that Sirius’ eyes darken at the sound. This, clearly, is what he craves to hear, and even as Remus’s hand shakes so much that the blade nicks his pale skin, sending a slow droplet of blood easing down his pale throat, he presses forwards still further, his fingers scraping lightly over the blade itself.
“Stop these games, Remus.” And Black’s hand brushes away the blade, almost as though it is of no consequence.
“They’re not…games.” Lupin seems hypnotised by the slow trail of blood, which gleams darkly-wet in the reasonably dim light. The knife hangs limply at his side, forgotten, for the moment.
“No?” Black laughs, standing up abruptly. “How many times have you come here with the intention of killing me?” He turns his back on Lupin, staring out of the window. “And yet you never do. I’m always left behind after your visits, wondering whether you ever had any real intention in the first place.” He pauses, turns back and licks his lips. “Maybe you just see me as the personification of your guilt, Remus. Maybe you wish to kill me because of that – because you trusted me.”
“Stop it,” Lupin’s voice is a harsh, carrying whisper. “Stop saying these things, Sirius.” He turns, following Black’s movement as he paces across the cell, half angled towards the door. “It’s your fault, not mine. Never lower me to your level.”
Sirius smiles, deceptively, his hand straying to his throat. “But you are on my level, Remus.” He brings his fingers away, the tips wet with blood, and moves closer to the other man. “You’re as bad as me.” Slowly, almost tenderly, he brings his hand to Lupin’s lips, brushing the blood across them. It is a strange, darkly seductive move, and it seems Lupin cannot help himself as sighs, licking the blood away.
“You see?” Sirius’ fingers still rest on Lupin’s lips, his eyes burning in his face.
“Not like you…” Lupin moans, trapped between hatred and desire, and Black laughs again, that low wicked sound of debauchery.
“You are, Remus,” And he kisses him.
I want to look away, but can’t, horrified fascination rooting me to the spot. Black’s hands are fisted in the front of Lupin’s robes, pulling him closer. One of Lupin’s arms is wound around Black’s waist, in the other hand he holds the knife, which raises, wavers, then drops to the floor with a clatter. Burying his now-free hand in Black’s hair, Lupin pulls their lips crushingly close, and this time it is Black that moans.
‘This’, I think, as I watch Lupin begin to push Black slowly backwards step by step, ‘is true madness’. They are locked together, devouring one another; the hated and the hater bound in a never-ending cycle of loathing and lust. Blood drips crimson and unnoticed from the wound on Black’s neck, and to me it is a scarlet reminder of how twisted love can become. Neither man seems to notice this, however, and Lupin breaks away, panting, blindly stumbling backwards away from Black.
“What you do to me…” His voice is low, slightly guttural and he ignores the knife now gleaming on the floor.
Black smiles at him slowly – a hint of self-satisfaction in otherwise mirror-like eyes. “You see, Remus,” he purrs, stretching his arms above his head like a lithe, contented cat, “you can never resist me.”
Lupin turns his head away, clearly unwilling to show Black the flash of pain and self-loathing that spasms across his face. Black notices, however, grins darkly and makes no comment. Instead, he simply goes and sits on the edge of the small bed, his every movement filled with predatory grace. “One day,” he says, watching Lupin pick up the knife and slip it back into his pocket, “you might be able to kill me. At least then you will be free of this madness.”
“Madness?” Lupin looks at him and I have to draw back slightly behind the door as his gaze flashes over to where I am standing. “Not madness, Sirius. Desire.” He smiles, ruefully. “And as long as you exist, I will desire you.”
“There is a fine line between desire and hatred,” Sirius prompts, and his eyes are dark again, gleaming. He seems darkly amused to see Lupin flinch.
“Yes, there is. And I feel both for you in equal measures.” Lupin turns away, back towards the door, and Sirius turns to look back out of the window.
“Next time,” he says, staring out across the sea, “make sure you kill me.”
I hear no more as I scurry back down the passage, nearly bumping into the guard who has come looking for me. I offer no explanation to him, save to proffer the bandages that have been in my bag all along. He simply nods, not curious, and as I follow him out, I realise all the curiosity must have been wrung out of him in this hellish place.
As I sit in the boat on the way back to the coast, I stare morosely back at the prison. Black. Lupin. Their hatred has affected me more than I like to admit, and I shiver, feeling the final brush of the Dementors – unable to shake the chill from my bones. The ferryman looks at me, frowns and hands me his hip flask, which contains, as I discover, whiskey. He nods in approval as I take a huge gulp, the harsh liquid burning my throat and warming my stomach.
“You look like hell,” he comments. “Shivering and everything.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” And I genuinely haven’t.
He raises one eyebrow, surprised. There is a long pause, the only sound the waves slapping against the side of the boat, until he clears his throat, and makes another stab at conversation.
“You look thoughtful. Anything pressing on your mind?”
I half turn in my seat, looking back towards Azkaban, half-knowing that somewhere, in there, Sirius Black is looking out of his window, watching a toy boat make its way slowly back across the sea. Remus Lupin is probably in the guardroom, already arranging another visit, and I realise their cycle of desire and hatred will never truly be finished.
“Not a lot,” I reply, looking away and feeling the salty sting of the sea on my face. “Just madness.”