32. Symptoms of Withdrawal
Sirius and I settled into our bean bags and closed our eyes. We knew the drill. We would clear our minds and think of only our inner beasts. A ghost. Quite fitting for the silent, white predator my inner tiger was. This time I didn't feel myself going through the stages. Instead it was as if I fell asleep and woke up as her.
The tiger stretched lithely. Her body was stiff from sleeping on a hard branch rather than the soft grass 50 feet below. It had been a necessary evil. The human side of her brain knew it. The death eaters had been traveling in this area, luckily headed in the oposite direction as she was. The minions and their master were headed south, but she was headed north. She was headed home, to Hogwarts, for the first time in twelve years. It took two great leaps to reach the ground, one to a lower branch and one into a deep pile of leaves. The tiger stretched again now that she was on the ground, shaking of the drowsiness that seemed to stick to her like snow.
She did a quick inventory of her body. No new injuries. The jump hadn't hurt her. Her body temperature was at a low, but still safe level. She was still well fed from the hunt yesterday. She was okay.
Dry grass crunched under the tiger's feet as she made a slow, but sure way north towards Dufftown. She stopped at a lake and dipped her head to drink. Her reflection wavered in the water below her. She'd lost even more weight since she'd started traveling. If she wasn't careful she'd be a simple bag of bones by the time she returned to the United States. She supposed that all depended on if she made it back.
The tiger carefully avoided any and all forms of muggle gathering places, walking and sometimes running through the grassy hills and moors, hoping that she made it to Hogwarts before Padfoot got himself into trouble. She needed to talk to the stupid mutt. She knew in her heart that he was innocent of what they'd accused him of. The Sirius she knew and loved would have died to protect his pack. Sirius may well have killed Wormtail, it's true, but only if Wormtail had turned from the pack first. The tiger had never quite trusted the rat like her human side had.
The vision changed again, mid-stride and the tiger was younger. Her bones and heart no longer ached. The tiger roared in triumph and launched itself at the large, silvery wolf in front of her. Moony growled and moved out of the way before pouncing on her instead. What followed was the most intense and wonderful play fighting that the tiger had ever expirienced. She didn't have to hold back against the wolf like she did with the dog or even the stag. The wolf could take anything she threw at it and match her blow for blow.
By the time the wolf and the tiger had worn each other and themselves out, the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon. The tiger understood what that meant. She gently ushered the wolf towards the entrance to the shreiking shack where he could return to human form and get dressed in peace.
She and the other animals went their own ways to find where they'd hidden their clothes the night before. The tiger had chosen a quiet little beach on the farthest side of the Black Lake. It was the same spot she came when she wanted to go skinny dipping on the nights she couldn't sleep.
The tiger slowly returned to human form, plenty far enough from any peering eyes to worry about her scars. My finger lightly traced the newest one, the one that no one had ever seen. I mourned silently the newest mark on my long ruined body. I loved Remus so much, but I wasn't sure if he would still want me after he saw this.
I had learned to love the rest of my scars, eventually. Beautiful silver and white marks that decorated my pale skin. This mark, however, was not so beautiful. The angry red mark slashed across my chest, disfiguring the flesh of my breast and continuing down across my ribs.
I slowly got dressed, making sure that all my scars, even the beautiful ones, were covered. Too many people would ask too many questions if they saw them. I stayed at my spot, watching the lake slowly turn to gold before finally wandering back to our meeting spot.
The four of us waited patiently for Remus, despite our exhaustion. We would all usher ourselves up to the Room of Requirement and sleep it off together. It was simply the way we did things now that we were a true family. The sun was glittering over the lake by the time Remus crawled from the tunnel, dirty and with only a single new cut that I could see.
Sirius smiled and wrapped an arm around Remus's waist. "Let's go, you sleepy little pup. It's time for bed."
We all went upstairs and collapsed into beds in the Room of Requirement to sleep.
I woke up again in the RoR, but it was groggy and confused. I thought I'd gone to sleep in a bed... Or had that been the Hazia? I couldn't remember most of what I'd seen. Hogwarts. Padfoot. Fighting with Moony. A new scar. It all blurred together, the details falling away the more I tried to hang onto them. It was like trying to hold water in your fist.
It was hot in the room. I thought grumpily, looking around. The window was still dark, telling me I'd only been asleep for a few hours. The boys were spread out all over the room, all asleep still. I scratched lightly at my skin, trying to banish the tingling feeling there. I stretched out, trying to work the ache from my muscles.
I sighed and went to take a shower, taking my time under the cool waves of water,washing the sweat and the remainder of the dream from my system. When I returned, in my school clothes since it was the last day of school, Sirius was just stepping out of another room, also damp from a shower of his own. We gave each other shakey smiles and roused the other two.
"Today is a school day, James. We have literally every class today." I yawned, nudging his shoulder. Sirius was saying similar things to Peter. It took them time to wake and escape to shower and dress. By the time they returned, Sirius and I had come up with a plan.
We all went down to breakfast, saying nothing to the other two. We ate in relative silence, and waited for our moments. Just as breakfast was about to end, before any of the teachers stood up, Sirius and I turned in unison and cast a spell he'd learned in one of his visions.
"Graeci eloquii explicare sermone." We whispered, watching the nearly invisible wave of magic from our wands to encompass most of the hall. Only the handful of students were missed because they were behind us. Panic ensued shortly as teachers and students alike realized they could no longer understand each other.
Dumbledore stood and raised his voice over the crowd. "Qziubi wuzg mecl!" He yelled, silencing the whole room.
"Ci'zz jyfohi pdyb eop!" He tried again. "Mugl qhulxbpihb..." He shook his head and raised his wand. With his wand he wrote: "Unfortunately, I believe we may be forced to cancel classes for today. I'm sure this comes as a great disappointment to all of you. Hopefully things will have returned to normal by the time of the End of Year feast. Please enjoy your day."
The old wizard's twinkling eyes skimmed through the crowd to land on Sirius and I. We put on our best innocent faces and Dumbledore responded with a smile.
Students grinned and seemed to rise as one to head out the doors. Each babbling on, despite the fact that their peers couldn't understand them. The marauders waited until the floods had exited before standing themselves.
"Kzeema khyzzyulp." James smiled, looking at Sirius and I. He chuckled when his words came out garbled.
"Ug Y puzxylf ciyhm pee?" Peter asked, blushing when he realized we hadn't understood the question.
"... Meibl'p Mogkzimehi bqiux gihgybd?" James frowned, groaning lightly at the gibberish. He took out a piece of parchment and dug in my school bag for a pencil. "Doesn't Dumbledore speak Mermish?" He wrote.
I stole the pencil back and glared at him for a moment. Then I took the page and wrote back. "Doesn't matter. No school means sleep."
Sirius smiled and grabbed the pencil and page from me. "Also, not Mermish. This is Gobbledygook. The language of goblins. No wizard has ever learned it."
"Ciyhm." I shrugged, not caring that I was speaking gibberish. The four of us stomped up the stairs to the RoR and some nice comfy beds.
When we woke again it was late afternoon and the sun was beating down on us. I was feeling slightly better, though I couldn't seem to get my hands to stop trembling.
"It's a symptom of withdrawal." Sirius muttered, sitting on his bed with his arms wrapped around his legs. "Not major enough to tell anyone about, but still a symptom. It's lucky that the Headmaster canceled school. We'll have to figure out something else next time."
"You think he knows?" I frowned. "It sure seems like he sees everything."
"No, he doesn't know." Sirius frowned. "He can't know. He'd be obligated by law to turn us in."
"Fair enough." I sighed. "Do you think we'll need another session?"
"Well, I don't know anything for sure." Sirius groaned. "The books say to meditate until you can reach out and feel the animal inside you. The problem is, can I actually feel Padfoot or is the Hazia making me think I can? Is it me or the drugs?"
"I think it's me." I said, reaching inside myself to stroke the tiger's mind. It wanted to be free. It wanted to run and hunt. It wanted to climb and play. "When I touch Ghost, it's not cloudy like the visions. It's not fleeting like the dreams."
"I know. I feel that way too, but what if it's not?" Sirius sighed. "If we rush things, we could fail, or die, or get stuck with a human body and a beast mind. We don't want to take any chances!"
"Yeah, I know, Padfoot." I said, staring out the window. "But if we take things too slow we'll get addicted and also die. Or turn into a mindless husk walking around. The symptoms are worse, despite the time in between highs. Last time it was just a fever that went away in a few hours. Now there's so much more. Fever, confusion, feeling things that aren't there. You're sweating like a pig, Pads, and I'm shaking like a leaf. Suppose it continues to get worse. How many times can we get lucky before the vomiting, seizures and death? Two more? Three? If we're lucky. It could be next time. It could be now."
"You knew the risks, Dez." Sirius snapped. "You knew the fucking risks. We all knew the risks."
"Add paranoia and irritability to the lists guys." James sighed. "I know it feels bad right now, but you both just need baths and some rest. Come on Dez."
James helped me to my feet and took me into a bathroom that appeared just as he reached for the door. James gently pushed me into the tub, clothes and all and started the water. He made sure the water was vaguely cool, but far from cold. As the tub filled up James gently took a sponge to my face to help me cool down.
"You should have mentioned earlier that the symptoms were worse." James scolded. He brushed the hair from my face and turned my face side to side as if inspecting me. "I think you'll be okay."
"I don't know if I can do this again..." I whispered. "I want to be there for Remus... I really do, but I can't do this forever."
"I know honey. I know." James sighed, thinking. "I don't think Pete and I will meditate tonight. We'll wait until we're home so we don't freak out on the train."
"And we don't want Remus to know." I groaned. "Remus would freak. He would definitely freak."
"He would freak if he saw you now, yes, but he'll freak out in a happy way when he finds out he doesn't have to be alone anymore. He doesn't have to worry about hurting us." James assured me. "This opens up a whole new future for him, and all of us."
"I want to show you something." I said, trying to crawl from the tub and splashing water all over James and the floor.
James groaned and pushed me back into the tub. "It can wait Dez. We have all night."
"No. I need to show you now. I'll forget if I don't show you now." I frowned.
"Okay. Just let me call Jenna to help you dry up and get dressed, okay?" James said, setting a hand on my shoulder. "Jenna, can you come here?"
There was a soft popping noise at the far end of the room that seemed to echo forever in my head. Jenna stepped into view just as the echo was fading. "Master Potter, what can Jenna do for you?":
Jenna's eyes landed on me and she gasped lightly before looking back at James with eyes that seemed to consume her rather large head. James brushed a few wet hairs from my face. "Jenna, can you help Dez get dry and dressed? She's feeling a bit faint." He explained softly.
"Yes, Master Potter. Anything for Miss Desari." Jenna nodded, her ears flapping around her head as if they had a mind of their own.
James nodded and left the room. Jenna helped me out of the tub and held me steady as I slipped out my soaking wet clothes. She stayed silent until I was completely dry and dressed. Then she whispered, as if speaking out loud was a sin. "Is Miss Desari really okay?"
I stared at the small elf for a few minutes before nodding. "Yeah, I'm fine. Low blood sugar I think. James is going to walk me down to my room for some candies."
"Jenna could fetch the candies, if you like." The elf offered softly.
"Thank you, Jenna." I whispered, patting the elf's head. "But I think I'd like to walk a bit. I've been asleep since breakfast. Don't worry, James will be right there the whole time."
Jenna nodded softly and hugged my leg before apparating back to the kitchens.