"And from the dark secluded valleys
I heard the ancient songs of sadness
But every step I thought of you
Every footstep only you
And every star a grain of sand
The leavings of a dried up ocean
Tell me, how much longer? How much longer?
With every prison blown to dust
My enemies walk free
I'm mad about you
I'm mad about you."
- Sting, "Mad About You"
It had been days since he had had a chance to get near any water. His fur was filthy, paws achingly caked with dirt, his brain hopelessly muddled. He was soiled from the inside out, and he couldn't stop. Not now, not when it was so near - when it was all so close. An all-too-human grin, accentuated by a shallow and temporary insanity, pulled at the dog's jaw. He was too close to stop now.
The canine thoughts fell and scattered as a familiar scent of ~cleanfresh~ penetrated the senses. A creek, nearby. Exhausted and joyous paws bounded down the forest path, cutting in between prickly bushes and cracking fragile twigs in their wake. Rare sunlight, perfect as if in a place more lyrical and hopeful, flowed down to illuminate the running water, bubbling without consequences or repercussions on its path away from the vast woods. The dog seized his chance.
Looking all around for any other strays, its figure slowly began to shift and bump, fur quickly disappearing, leaving filthy gray robes in its place, paws turning translucent white, skin stretching painfully taut over shaking bone. Sirius Black stood and walked up to the water.
Now was not the time to reflect or take in the innocent beauty that was there, underneath his blistered feet. The cool, almost burning, lightness that surrounded his skin, however, was trudging up too many seemingly long-forgotten memories, memories of lives lived long ago. There had been a creek, very like this, a little ways away from the Forbidden Forest. It stretched its way around the outskirts of Hogsmeade, running up and across a large hill that housed a ramshackled old building with boarded up windows and no doors...
Crouching down slowly, he lowered himself until the bottom of his robes was completely immersed in water. A spindly and suddenly altogether unfamiliar hand waded through the liquid, taking in every bump and roll against the rough fingertips. Focusing on the bluish lines around the knuckles, he considered. This hand used to look...quite different. Eyebrows furrowed, he tried to remember. Darker? Smoother? Able?
"Mmm ... Padfoot ... such nice hands ... oh ... God..."
Gathering up all fingers in a tight fist he let the water seep fast through, leaving the skin moist and cracked. The other hand, up until now placed firmly in the bend of leg to body, stretched out and mirrored the motion. More skin wet and cracked. Now face, the fresh coolness damping the waxy cheeks and forehead. Blue eyes blinked rapidly as drop after drop descended down the brows and onto black lashes, darkening them further. Pale, sore lips opened up as a tongue flickered out and caught a few drops, the sweet tang of summer lingering only momentarily before disappearing back into nothing.
"What else?.. Your lashes ... the way you sort of ... flutter them against my hand in the morning. It's ... nice."
A swipe of a hand and the eyes were again dry and free to look around for any danger once more. But everything was calm. Only the odd butterfly passed in the light streaming through the lowered branches. It had been too long. The silence, to a mind in the first stages of awakening from a deep, dark sleep, is oppressing. He put his lips together hesitantly and blew. A whooshing sound came out. He twirled his tongue lightly against the pallet and a note escaped.
Was there an echo? He turned around - a mockingbird was fluttering about a few feet away. It was practically a symphony.
Slowly, wasted muscles protesting any slight shift, he seized his robes and pulled up. A piece of parchment fell onto the earth, grass scratching its dry surface. A family of nine blinked, smiling up at him, a small inconspicuous rat shifting its tail lazily on a thin shoulder.
"And you ... you will be Wormtail. Why not, the tail sort of looks wormy... Hey, you can't protest, I'm Moony, for Pete's sake!"
The sunken eyes flashed and turned away.
Water. Clear and cool, it splashed down onto the bony chest, rare hair glistening uncharacteristically. Arms, stomach, hips, legs, back, away, away, clean it, now, clean it, wash it off. No, no, no...
"No!" A growl, a whine - he wasn't sure what had come out. He couldn't think of it now, not now, he would think of Harry, he had to save Harry, Harry, Harry...
"I think he likes you, sure. I mean, any son of James's has got to, hasn't he? I'm not sure why, though... just because you're somewhat prone to mischief and have such a large ... ego ... Ow!"
He couldn't afford to break down now, he simply couldn't. His body seizing his mind, he fell painfully to his knees, jagged rocks cutting into the cracked skin, jarring bone and tissue. Spider-like hands covered his face. Wasted shoulders shook with all the fury they could muster.
Gone, gone, gone, it was gone. He couldn't, he couldn't, shouldn't, no, no, no...
"Remus...Please...You h-have to believe...wasn't...m-me..."
Twelve years - twelve years, and it all comes falling out now, spilling from his mind out into the world, open. He should have mastered his own emotions long ago, he shouldn't have been thinking about something that has no place here, it wasn't right...
"Harry, Harry, Harry.... It has to be Harry... Later, later, all later..."
He heard wailing, deep, heavy wailing that couldn't have been made by any human. Not human... He felt the wails escape his lips. Not human ... not human anymore. A thing, a mission, an obsession - not human. No human left.
A tug of fabric and a swish of paper later, the shaggy black dog ran fast from the creek, something intangible in pursuit, snatching at his heels and making him run faster, faster, away.
Better, better, it will get better. So close now... A lonely howl sounded deep inside the dog's consciousness. A low howl answered it. A scurrying of paws, neck to neck combat. A sniff. A bark.
So close now.
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