It was a strange sort of torture to be told you're going to die a good time before it actually happens, yet it was equally as strange the number of moments he was numb while thinking of it as though he'd accepted death. He'd have thought he'd be afraid sitting here in the holding cell, cuffed with Lissa and that man he'd seen in the mess hall a while ago along the bench with him, yet he wasn't. Justin might have had fight in him when he'd first come here, yet look where that had gotten him: thin, beaten, unrecognizable. They'd forced him into a shower before they had thrown newer prison clothes on him and set him here. The glimpse he'd seen? Yet Lissa had it worse, he thought, glancing over at her. He'd tried to say hi but had received a wand to the face from the guards and explicit instructions not to talk. There were a few others, ones he didn't recognize, although he hadn't quite tried to look at them. They were dead men like him. No point in it.
"Stand up," a gruff voice said, and Justin looked at him, wondering what was next. Was this it? "The lot of you," the man said, and Justin realized he wasn't standing yet. He scrambled up, instantly regretting it for the dizziness it caused. He stood still, though he felt he was swaying. Perhaps he was. Justin had no way to tell anymore, no mirror, no friend. Lissa was smart enough not to risk anything for him, surely, although there wasn't much left to risk. He dared a glance, but that was a mistake. His stomach lurched and he retched, a bit of his breakfast making its way back up. He spat it away.
"Now, I know a lot of you ain't seen the outside in quite some time now, but I doubt I need remind you there will be a number of guards present to ensure no funny business, and if you decide to pull any, there are some fates worse than Death. The American death sentence, for one."
Justin shuddered. There had been tale and mention of it in History of Magic, one of the few things that had stood out. The Dementors brought fear and depression and worse, yet there was something about that.
"Eternal torture, for another." Sark side-eyed in Liam's direction. Justin didn't bother to see if he made eye contact, content in staring at the small pile on the stony ground. So bright in the darkness surrounding it.
"Check their shackles," Sark barked, and Justin felt those around his legs and around his hands and waist tug. Magic. They were tethered together now, forced to step together or suffer together. "Now, off t' the boats with ya!"
The cell door opened suddenly, the clunk of the metal causing Justin to jump, and the tug of his shackles as the person before him took a step forward nearly caused him to stumble. He didn't know how, but somehow, he didn't.
It seemed to take ages to reach the door leading to the outside of the prison building, and as he followed mindlessly forward toward what he supposed were the boats, he couldn't help but notice how treacherous the ground was. Some of it crumbled as a a wave crashed only feet from where they were.
"Steady does it!"
The voice wasn't Sark's, but the crack of a hand across the inmate's face confirmed to Justin it was an inmate. His stomach churned. A slap was nothing compared to what they would be receiving. There would be Dementors there and Guards present to ensure no one escaped the Kiss.
Kisses were supposed to be pleasant and cherished as the ones he and Lissa had shared so long ago it felt almost like another lifetime. How long had it been since he'd held her in his arms? Since they'd laughed? Since she'd made that meal they'd never eaten thanks to Gideon's letter?
How long since the kiss that had almost ruined everything? How long til the Kiss that would ruin everything eternally?
The boat rocked beneath him as he stepped in, and he had to catch himself on someone's back to steady himself before sitting down. How would they row in this water, shackled as they were? It was treacherous, so tumultuous it would be a wonder if the boat didn't capsize before they could get away from the island, much less to land. Only, he didn't have to wonder after moments more had passed and they reappeared in a small meadow he recognize vaguely.
Where were they? It was so green, and the sun was so warm on his cheeks, on his skin, though his eyes hated its brightness and he could do nothing to filter it out but to squint and hope he would grow used to it quicker rather than slower. Yet did it really matter? He'd be dead soon. They all would be.
And then what?
Was there anything after death? or would they simply cease to exist? These were things he'd never given much thought. The best he could hope for was that there was something and that it was pleasant. After everything he had endured, he wanted pleasant, though he would give it up in a heartbeat if it meant Lissa would spend the afterlife happy.
"Walk! Left, left! Left, right, left!"
The cadence of the male guard's voice seemed to rouse the complacent row of prisoners as one by one, they started to go, some bumping in from behind who were quicker to step in line.
It wasn't long until he saw the wooden platform that he'd only seen here once before, only it was smaller then. For that one leader. The Order leader, the group that had been painted terrorists. Justin couldn't help but wonder how false that was now as he found himself marching toward it.
Moments later, "Halt! About face!"
Justin gulped. This was it.