The sky is always clearest when it's snowed. The clouds run away so there's nothing to block the moon as it rises over the mountains. I can feel it as I look out the window, watching the shadows stretch themselves across the snow toward this lonely little shack. I suppose I should worry that someone will see me standing in the window like this, looking out through a gap in the boards that's almost big enough to fit my head through if I tried. I should be scared that they'll figure out that the howls and noises are nothing to do with ghosts and everything to do with one skinny teenager, but no one comes near at night anymore.
I'm glad. It means I don't have to sit here and smell them when the drafts blow through the cracks. It means that there's no chance of running into anyone when the four of us sneak out to play.
There won't be any playing tonight. The others have detention, all three of them. I'd be with them if I weren't here, trying to breathe as the moon slowly crawls into the sky. If I weren't staring at it, a mouse with a snake, too scared to move. I'll get to serve my punishment later, although really, a night without them here is punishment enough.
No one here to calm me.
No one to distract me from the terror that leaves me colder than the snow ever could.
The moon clears the mountains, fills my vision, shatters against the stars and drops from view. I know that the screaming is me, but I don't see how I can be making any noise around the knives in my throat. It sounds detached, distant over the snap of ribs disengaging and being reshaped, over joints disengaging, over the never ending snap of vertebrae and fingers and toes. I can't see. There's nothing to go with the million little ant bite prickles on my skin except black, dancing grey at the edges. There's a tearing wet sound in my head, a creaking noise, a bone jarring pop.
And the world snaps back into place.
The noise is gone so suddenly I have to wonder if I've gone deaf. The pain has left me feeling fragile and wondering if I've finally died. Of course, I wonder that every time, just for a second, before the hunger starts.
The shack is full of chinks in the boarding, places where the smallest wind moans with a fury that only adds to its haunted reputation. The breezes carry the smell of the snow and teasing reminders that beyond the dusty, dilapidated walls, there's a world. There are fields to run through, sending snow up in plumes. There's prey, somewhere, waiting to die.
The change is complete, but my jaws ache. My legs feel cramped. The roof is threatening to collapse on top of me.
I need to move. I need to run. I need to look up and see the moon laughing down at me and scream. Do you see what you've made? Are you happy now?
There are too many walls in this place, too many doors, too many stairs. The doors are all opened, I made sure of that before the moon started calling from just beyond the horizon. There's still not enough room. I skid as I round corners, my hip slamming into the wood. The stairs slow me down. The mice scurry from the frantic clicking of my nails on the boards.
It doesn't help.
The wind calls. My skin feels too tight, like it's shrinking, and my veins itch. There's nothing here to distract me from the compulsive need to run, to bite, to howl. It's as all encompassing as boredom in a small, empty, white-washed room.
It's a slow, unavoidable insanity.
Dust motes swirl down through the mocking moonlight. I snap at them, but there's no release in that, just the taste of air and dust and no resistance against my teeth. The steady itching of my veins makes me want to rip them out, to stop the steady shrinking of my skin. I lift one leg, rip at the fur with my teeth, scratching the only way I know how. Just a little...I just need to scratch it a little and it will go away.
It buries deeper with each bite. It shifts, itching along my ribs and down my back legs. Screaming doesn't stop it, biting doesn't stop it, but it distracts, the sharp tearing of my skin beneath my teeth. There's something to taste now. There's skin and hair and blood and the pain that distracts me from the itching, from the promise of the wind.
I crash into an ottoman that was left by someone and it splinters a little under my weight. I slam into the walls again, deliberately, giving myself something to focus on. Pain versus insanity, frantic activity versus ennui, it's the only thing I can think of. It's the only thing I know.
This is a disease with only two forms of medicine.
I stop and look up, teeth still locked on one leg. I'm delusional, I'm certain. They aren't standing there, eyes wide. They can't be. "Prongs? Worm...what? I thought you had detention. What are you doing here?"
"We did have detention." There's nothing imaginary about the creak in the floor under large black paws. "We snuck out. What do you think we're doing here?" There's nothing delusional about the cold wet nose against my shoulder or the rough swipe of tongue against the stinging gash in my leg. "Now what were you doing?"
Warm, familiar scents, voices outside of the howling in my head, they all offer distractions, blessed distractions from the hunger. "Trying to stay sane..."
"Geeze, Moony, did you honestly think we wouldn't find a way to get here?" Prongs shakes his head, adolescent white spots throwing patches of moonlight everywhere. "We wouldn't just abandon you."
There's a soft thud at my feet. I look down and Wormtail's come too close. I'm bleeding freely and having a drop land on his head is enough that he's fainted.
A soft wuffing sigh and a huge black paw pokes at the tubby form. "Oh come on! We deal with worse than that in potions class!"
"Not on our heads we don't." Someone to talk to. A reason to laugh. It makes me feel almost human again...almost rational. The hunger goes away. This, these three, are the drug I needed. "Give him a break, Padfoot. He'll wake up in a bit."
"Suppose you're right." A swipe of his tongue takes care of the blood on Wormtail's head and then he's moving to the door, scratching with one of those tremendous paws that he still doesn't quite fit despite the fact he comes to Prongs's knees. "So, are you still up for a run, or have you done too much damage to yourself?"
The wind is still there and I'm still eager. "Let's run. Wormtail will wake up when we open the door."
"Right then, step aside!" Antlers are Nature's crow bars, perfect for wedging into cracks and prying loose boards. The wind rushes in as the door opens, just wide enough for Padfoot's bulk. A small flurry of snow swirls in through the gap. The cold wakes Wormtail.
"Come on, let's go!" Prongs and Padfoot go first, Wormtail scampering behind them as if afraid we'd leave him behind. For a brief moment, as they vanish into the snow, I can see what they will be.
Prongs, sans spots, antlers grown and sharpened to a full rack, the regal crest of Heraldry for as far back as anyone can remember.
Padfoot, grown into his feet, a shaggy, black shadow, willing to take on any challenge.
Wormtail, pudgy but still fast enough to dodge anything that came after him, slipping away into cracks.
It's a future I live for, this vision of the four of us, because a future without them scares me worse than the moon.
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