23. Visions of Insanity
Remus and I became the best of friends. When the other boys were busy with quidditch practice, detention, or tormenting Severus, the two of us would find ourselves together in the library or on the grounds just enjoying each other's company and talking freely. It had been a logical conclusion for me that Remus was also Moony, my mystery date from the ball, but we never spoke of it. Instead we swapped childhood stories and continued our game of 20 questions in person. Remus and I both loved walks in the woods, so sometimes we'd sneak into the forbidden forest and climb into the trees to read together.
Sometimes he'd catch me working on portraits of my friends as I saw them. He critiqued and praised them all. I drew each of my friends, Severus with an old dusty potions book and a stare of concentration, James with his cocky grin and snitch, even Remus with the drawing split in half a shy, bookish boy on one side and a glaring wolf on the other. I even showed him my rendition of Snily the Magic Wonderbeast. He thought it was brilliant. He helped me get Sirius's soulful, puppy eyes just right when I drew him as he had been in a formal duel a few nights before in duel club. He even helped me come up with ideas for my portrayal of Peter. We made him more childish and drew him as an adorable little fanboy, decked out in clothes that were scribbled with autographs and a plushy snitch clutched to his chest.
The two of us were so inseparable that even Sirius and James began teasing us about being a couple. Sometimes they'd stop in the middle of a pretend match on their brooms and start chanting, "Remi and Dezzie sitting in a tree..."
Remus and I would just laugh it off and ignore them until they got bored and went back to their game. Sometimes we'd go along with it and joke about pretend dates we'd supposedly gone on. Other times we'd just tease back loudly about Lily and Marlene.
When the time came for Remus to sneak off again, it seemed far too soon. The boys and I walked him to the hospital wing and then nervously headed to the RoR. We'd gathered all our supplies over the last month and were going to be testing out our incense for the first time. None of us knew exactly what to expect though, because the notes were often scattered and unclear after the past animagi had meditated.
"We're going to start with you two." James said chewing his lip.
I nervously played with my ring. "How will we know if someone's having a bad reaction?" I whispered.
"We won't. But you were meticulous with your measurements and we're going to be overly cautious with the time. Unfortunately, we also have to be willing to scrap the project and go straight to McGonagall if something goes wrong." James sighed. "Hopefully, nothing will."
I frowned and settled into a beanbag chair next to Sirius and watched as James and Peter prepared everything. The RoR had given us a soundproofed room with padded floors in case we flailed or screamed. James and Peter put on gas masks and took the beanbags across from Sirius and I respectively. James would keep a close eye on Sirius and Peter would watch me. Finally once everyone was situated, James lit the incense for us and the two of us closed our eyes.
I cleared my mind as best I could before the high took over, focusing only on my inner self. It seemed to hit me in stages. First was the African Dream Root. My mind went on a horrible, hazy trip where green flashes lit up what appeared to be a battlefield. Everything moved so quickly and became so blurry that it was hard to follow, but from the little I could catch onto, it seemed to be everyone I loved deaths. Lily's tear-streaked face and a fan of bright red hair as she fell. Sirius, gaunt and starving, staring down a whole fleet of ice cold dementors. James flinging himself in front of a curse to save someone else. Severus, older, but slumped against a wall, blood flowing from a huge snake bite.
Everything went hazy for a few minutes and I forgot much of what I had seen as the Hazia replaced it as dominant. I saw my dragon patronus doing battle with something white as snow. I tried to focus on the second creature, but the whole scene changed before I could.
Cold. The crunch of snow beneath a lithe body. Excitement. Blurring trees and crisp white snow. The thrill of the chase. The feel of the wind rushing by as I ran. A distant sound of beating hooves. A great leap and a landing on a firm, solid body. The sweet smell and coppery taste of blood, like sucking on a coin. The warmth of the blood sliding down my muzzle and neck. The satisfaction of the kill. The weight of the deer as I dragged it to a safe place to feed. The sound of flesh tearing as I ate. The taste of fresh, raw meat. An unnatural sound... yelling... humans in my territory. I stashed my kill under a massive rock and ran. Claws tearing at bark as I climbed to find a place to hide. The yelling got louder. The humans were close, too close. I must fight. A mighty roar tore through my throat. I launched myself from the tree and landed... on the floor?
I coughed and looked around, my vision seemed to be doubling. On one layer, I recognized Peter and James staring down at me in the Room of Requirement surrounded by pillows and soft chairs. On the deeper layer, I could see the snowy forest where strange hunters were invading. I roared again to warn them off, but it came out as a scream. What was real? If I was in danger I had to fight. Was I in danger? If I was with the Marauders, I couldn't fight. Were the Marauders even real? Who was I? Human or beast? Peter and the hunter with the spear both seemed to move closer.
I growled deeply and took a swipe at them. A human hand and a massive white paw with big black claws layered over each other. What was going on? I backed myself into the corner of the room, up against a rock wall. Confusion, terror, panic. I didn't... I didn't know... A red flash, and then darkness.
"Calm down, Sirius. We just had to stupefy her to calm her down a bit. She was halfway under the effects and halfway aware. She'll be fine when it wears off." James whispered urgently.
"You didn't have to stupify me, James. Something went wrong." Sirius snapped and I felt his hand rest against my forehead and then my cheeks. "She's burning up, James. We have to take her to Pomfrey. Now."
"No, I'm fine." I managed to mumble. "Water. I need water."
The boys bustled around, bringing me water and some sandwiches that seemed to appear from nowhere. Sirius propped me against his chest and held the goblet of water to my lips. "Don't talk. Just drink. I was thirsty as hell when I woke up and that was hours ago."
He helped me drink as much as I could manage and even fed me a few bites of a turkey sandwich before I waved him off. "I'm not a child, Siri. I told you that I was fine, now stop it."
Sirius sighed and moved away, allowing me to sit on my own. He stayed close though and watched over me like hawk as I struggled to eat enough to appease them.
"So, what'd I miss?" I yawned, laying my head on one of the various pillows scattered around.
"Well, Sirius is convinced that he's a wolf or something like that. Says all he remembers is howling and moonlight." James shrugged. "By the time we cut you guys off he was curled in a ball on his seat asleep."
"But we had to stun you. You were all panicky and we thought you might hurt yourself... or us." Peter stammered, looking warily at me.
"I thought of myself as a beast of some kind... I remember snow... and blood... and hunters." I frowned at the hazy flashes. Green light. The crunch of snow. The taste of raw meat. "Whatever I am, I'm a wild predator. Carnivore probably."
"You tried to scratch Pete, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say a cat." James shrugged. "We have one moon before summer, but we can always get together without Remus if we need to. All of our parents would be fine with us visiting Sirius. And Walburga lets Sirius visit me, albeit reluctantly, all the time."
"Is there a blanket in here? I'm freezing..." I yawned, curling up sleepily.
Sirius handed me a blanket and touched my forehead again. "You're going into withdrawal already. Hopefully, it won't get too bad."
I wrapped the blanket around myself and closed my eyes. "Are you boys going to freak out if I go to bed now? I ate, drank, and even talked a bit, but it's late. Plus it's friday, so I can sleep it off all I want."
"Yeah," James nodded. "We all should get some sleep. When we wake up we can see if you two are feeling well enough to watch over Pete and I."
I chuckled and closed my eyes, letting myself drift off. My dreams were scattered and confusing as my mind drifted between human and animal. Snow and trees. Remus and the marauders. Running and feeding. Chocolate and old books. Moony's yellow eyes peering through the dark, a piercing howl, the luxury of a warm tongue cleaning my fur. Me and Remus feeding each other expensive chocolates and laughing together about our friends. The feel of a warm body resting next to me lulled me into a deep sleep.