They came up from the black water like a battalion of abused skeletons. Dressed in cloudy grey, the prisoners-turned-fugitives emerged, sopping, and dropped into the damp, dark sand. Not all of them managed to succeed against the unforgiving undertow and many limp frames were dragged back, limbs flopping weakly. Some of them never surfaced again, leaving the shoreline with the simple, desperate memory of a hand or a forehead slipping beneath the murk. Those that pulled forward, clawed at the beach, clinging with ragged and grubby nails. One, spewing seawater from his mouth, clutched a knot in his strained muscles. Another collapsed on his hands and knees. His long, matted hair was draped over his head and dripping with cold water. None of them spoke for nearly a quarter of the hour. They rested there, an unmoving dozen, on the bank, allowing the murky waves to scrape at them.
Anxious, bright eyes opened, darting in the deep pits they used for sockets. The side of her face was buried in the sand. She dug her fingers into the dirt, taking in a gasping, awakened breath, spitting out sour water and drawing in dusty sand. The woman was the first to stir, coughing. A set of soaking, tattered and soiled robes clung to her rigid frame like damp paper. She tensed, seeming to have found purpose, and tried to rise, making a small, confused noise. A few other heads turned, a few other muscles were inspired, a few other memories were recovered. A man sporting arching shoulder blades sat up with a grimace. He watched the woman shakily push herself up onto her hands and knees. Another man, across the sand, gave a howl of pain when he tried to sit up, suffering from some hurt in his leg.
The woman, galvanized, began her crawl away from the water.
She passed one of the larger framed men, who wore skin that held tight to his face and forgotten muscles that drooped from his arms. The man looked at her as she struggled along. Something was sparked within the grottos of his ravaged mind. He lugged himself to the woman and opened his mouth to speak when she became aware of his presence. Only a gargle and a grating sound came from his throat and he choked. The man tried to speak again, managing a small noise. She stopped in her travel and craned her weedy neck to glance at him, squinting in the darkness to make out his face. After a moment, she turned without a sound, save for her pained breathing, and tottered onwards, continuing her mission.
"Bel..." he rasped, his voice deep and gravely, like a neglected cello. A willowy man let out a delirious cry that seemed to be half a laugh and half a sob, a little ways away, his teeth gnashing. "Bella...Bellatrix." The large man who watching the woman managed her name and she stopped again. He hoped she'd turn back to him once more, but she seemed to only want to try to walk. Struggling and ignoring the man and her name, Bellatrix crouched and then, with a grunt, she breached upwards in an attempt to stand. Her weary legs trembled beneath her. She quickly lost her footing and found herself in a crumpled heap in the sand once again.
A stronger, younger looking man with cleaner robes, was the first to successfully stand. His hair only came to his shoulders and though his skin was pale, it was not stretched tight. He looked back across the churning waters. An older, skinnier man was crying a little and scratching, in deranged habit, at the raw skin on his neck.
"Kiss…" the older man wheezed, his eyes distant and horrified, "Kiss." The young man who had stood spoke, his voice fuller, but somehow hollow,
"We can't…" he took a breath, his muscles aching from swimming across the channel, "can't stay here." A few pairs of eyes looked at him and he limped to where Bellatrix was headed, towards the higher, rockier dunes, towards the foreboding edge of a forest. Looming grey trees seemed to be stretching to glare at the criminals. "Come on." Encouraged the limping, younger man roughly as he tried to stir some of his fellows near the shore, "The tide."
"Bellatrix." growled the large man, who was trying to get her attention again. "Where are you going?" She threw herself up again, trying to stand and fell.
"Him..." she hissed the word reverently, her vocal cords scraping together so that she coughed again. "To Him."
"Wait." He was determined to reach her though he was unsure of how he knew her name. He had his suspicions, but so many memories had been stolen from him, it was hard to tell. The name was so familiar. "Me." Each sound he made hurt. For years he had screamed. He had screamed until his throat was tattered and throbbing and then all sound ceased.
Bellatrix stopped for a rest, the sand drier where she lay. The man pulled towards her, his legs feeling dead behind him. He reached the lady and knelt, dizzy, beside her. Bright eyes found him.
The two fugitives stared at each other for a few minutes, studying the other while rest of the group stirred behind them. Through the thicket of the dark hair she bore, the man saw a shadow of a memory. Her eyes were set deep in her skull, her nose more pronounced, her once rosy cheeks, were now two caverns on either side of her face. Her lips were bland and cracked. She made a noise in the back of her throat, scooting a little away, her eyes as wild as if she had seen a horrific phantasm. He grunted to her, moving after her,
"Me." He choked while Bellatrix pursed her lips and sifted sand through her twiggy fingers, searching her small collection of memories. She blinked hard. "Me."
"Who." She demanded of him, glancing towards the forest again, not forgetting her goal. The question was, tragically, almost too hard for him to answer. Finally he decided,
"Lestrange." He told her. Bellatrix blinked again.
"Me." She said defensively, "That's me."
"Maybe." Lestrange droned. She seemed to be near recognition of him when she began to sputter again, each cough racking her frail body. Bellatrix doubled over on herself, sprawling on the grey ground, her harsh breaths pushing sand away from her mouth.
"He's sick too." Said the young man who had limped towards them, thinking Bellatrix to be a man.
"She." Lestrange rumbled. The healthier man tensed, looking again at the skeletal creature that was coughing,
"Is that…" he hissed, "Oh, look at her."
"Be...Bellatrix. That is…Bell…" Lestrange informed the younger man. Bellatrix had stopped coughing and began panting again.
"We've..." someone screeched, kneeling, "we've done it!" His face was the worst of all. His sharp features were accentuated, his eyes bulging among dark circles. His hair was longest, falling around him like a curtain.
"Lestranges?" said the younger man, not paying attention to the crazed jubilation behind him. Lestrange nodded,
"Remember me? Dolan? Wicket? Dolan Wicket?" No response. "You're Rodolphus, aren't you?" Rodolphus Lestrange looked at his hands, thinking, "Rodolphus?"
"...doesn't matter." Bellatrix groaned, sitting straight again, her shoulders shaking, "we have to go back." Her lip was bleeding now, she had not spoken for so long that her lips had chapped. Bellatrix put her tongue to the cut.
"How long did we swim?" questioned a beady-eyed man, trying to sit up, his voice cracking near the end of his inquiry,
"...don't know." Managed Rodolphus,
"Two kilometers." Wicket garbled. Bellatrix, brushing a tangle of hair from her damp face, began to cough lightly again. The wind was picking up and the tide began to calm itself.
"Two..." another healthier man clutched his side, "only two? It-it felt like..." he winced, "like twenty." Bellatrix slumped, trying to catch her breath before her next attempt towards the woods.
"Nicholas Morille?" asked Wicket, clearing his throat. Still holding his side, Nicholas Morille looked up through beady eyes at Dolan Wicket,
"I need a wand." Came a cry from near the water, "A potion…"Morille wavered but managed to stand.
"We need healers. We need somewhere to rest." He said,
"No one will have us." Wicket stated,
"Well, we can't stay out here…"
"I know that." Wicket frowned.
"We can't stay...we-"
"Wait." Croaked Rodolphus quickly. Bellatrix's brittle hand had brushed her husband's wrist. She withdrew as if she had been burnt upon contact. Hissing through her teeth, she looked at her fingers. For an instant they had tingled. She did not look at Rudolphus' eyes.
"What?" asked Morille gratingly, falling to his knees in the sand again. They didn't answer, "What?" He tried again.
"Again." Rodolphus said huskily.
"No." She spat. Wicket understood,
"They haven't felt human touch…"
"Fourteen years, maybe…:
"Fifteen!" raved Bellatrix, "Fifteen years, s-seven months, two weeks, three days. Fifteen years, seven months, two-two weeks, three days…" She continued to repeat,
"What do we do?" asked Wicket, watching Rodolphus reach for his wife's ankle as she crawled away mumbling.
"All we need to do is steal one wand without being seen." Grumbled Morille,
"Where are we going?" asked an old man, missing most of his teeth,
"I don't know." Admitted Morille, "Where the hell are we?"
"We'll just kill some mental old cove."
"But are we nearest to muggles or wizards?"
"Muggles…" growled someone else dangerously from the ground,
"Dementor!" the man with the longest hair wailed in a panic, his voice shrill, he gripped the sand tightly, nails digging deep in the gravel. The toothless man jumped to his feet, shaking, "Dementor! Dementor!" In a tangle of limbs Bellatrix turned on her stomach and buried her head with her arms, sobbing loudly into the sand.
Heads whipped about, stray drops launching themselves out of the prisoners' long hair and onto the grey sand. Wicket didn't scream like most of the others did, but surveyed the calm, clear sky, his chest rising high a little with caged panic.
"None!" he rasped over the din of his companions. "None!" He marched towards the longest haired man, minding Bellatrix's wriggling form and knelt, his dull, damp robes swinging, to grab him by the shoulder. "There aren't any here!" He barked.
"None." Said Morille, finally calming down after whipping around wildly, but Bellatrix still howled, along with the crazed man and a few others.
They all knew the dementors too well. They were alarming creatures that occupied Azkaban, the wizard prison. They drifted about the halls sporting tattered cloaks that covered their featureless faces. They slipped into the criminals' cells and sucked out happy memories with cold, frigid kisses. There were no prison wraiths to be found on the beach, however.
Rodolphus dared to reach for the troubled woman, again. He craved her warmth. Bellatrix shrieked when he touched her, tossing onto her back and thrashing violently. In her madness she gritted her teeth and tugged at her lengthy matted hair. Rodolphus drew back in surprise after being hit once by one of her flailing limbs.
"No!" she screeched, "No! Get away! Go away! No!" Rodolphus blinked, withdrawing his skeletal hand as Morille told him,
"That's right. You'd best get away from her…"
"What did you do, Nicholas?" Wicket from little ways away, turned with his brow furrowed.
"I didn't do anything!" Defended Morille, over Bella's screeching,"He grabbed her! She got upset…"
"Fine! Just shut her up!" Wicket said, coming closer, "As if I don't have enough of a headache!" he looked down at the woman as Morille tried to coax her back to sanity, keeping his distance.
"No! Get away! I said, get away!"
"Quiet, Quiet, we're going to Master!" He told her as Rodolphus watched from where he sat, looking wearier than ever. The other fugitives had quieted, some peering at the trees beyond the far stretches of grey rocks and others squinting out to sea, still wary of the spectral guards they had abandoned. "…to The Dark Lord."
"He might not even want her anymore…" commented Wicket darkly, looking down upon her contorted face.
"Shut up." Morille warned, having finally managed to get her to stop yelling. "There."
"Now what? Is there anyone else capable of more than drooling?" Wicket scoffed, glancing at the sordid group, "Is he dead?" Morille saw the unlucky fugitive, too. He was lying on his side, near the groping waves, not shivering like the others, with his arms relaxed.
"When we start moving I guess we'll find out." He noticed Wicket surveying the trees at the edge of the beach but continued to study the man, "Poor blighter, after that swim."
"Well, it's not me. It's not you." Wicket noted, pitilessly. Brushing back his mane of dark hair, he asked, "Where do you suppose those trees go?"
"No idea." Morille replied, taking a final glance at the way they had come, "But we'd better hurry. There's fog coming." Wicket knew very well what that meant. Dementors spawned in foggy conditions. Bellatrix was mumbling again.
"Come on! Get up. We need to go." Wicket signaled to the others, shaking the drowsy Rolphus from his stupor.
"Where are we going?" Lestrange managed through tortured vocal chords.
"To find Master."
"Fifteen years, s-seven months, two weeks, three days. Fifteen years, seven months, two-two weeks, three days…" Bellatrix chanted mindlessly, crawling after Wicket, her deranged gaze fixed on the darkness of the looming trees. Rodolphus followed.
The fugitives made their lethargic pilgrimage towards the forest, lugging their drained bodies across the sand. Their long robes and hair hung from them like bothersome shadows. Though their legs were numb. They were cold with sweat and hot with fever, every breath through worn lungs was for their Master, newly arisen. They continued onwards, leaving imprints like limp, unraveled ribbons on the shore behind. The fog watched them progress towards their old lives.