Chapter 1 : Wendigo
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This story is based on the Native American myth of the Wendigo, a dark spirit associated with winter, famine and starvation, though it should be noted that the Wendigo’s presence in this story is more metaphorical as opposed to literal.
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work.
Starvation was punishment enough for the guilty. Slow. Painful. An act shared by aesthetic hermits and men of God and the wraiths of famines. For most of his life, Peter had never known what it was like to go hungry, to forsake food until one’s tongue turned to ash and the body began to feed on itself. He’d never known what it was like to ache and ache and ache, not from the heart, but from the gut, where the intestines festered like poisonous snakes and the first rot of decay took place.
But he was starving now. Devoured by spirits and turned against himself…even as his marrowless bone rattled like war drums within his flesh.
And in the years to come, he would remember that he hadn’t known the hunger before November 1st, 1981, when the bodies of Lily and James Potter were taken from their home in Godric’s Hollow, the last of the autumn leaves mimicking the tones of vermillion and orange and crimson for all the blood that wasn’t spilled and the fire that never came.
And when that winter came, Peter didn’t feel the cold. Because he was starving and the dead would never be fully sated.
They fed him only gruel. And it was gruel. A worthless broth of boiled milk and oats, (sometimes littered with stray rice) served in a round wooden bowl that kept the mold but not the warmth. It all reminded Sirius of Oliver Twist and workhouses and cockney street urchins with greasy neckerchiefs and drawn, pinched faces. And like Oliver Twist, he learned not to ask for more because the Dementor’s would rattle their lipless mouths and he would forget what it was like to see the sun.
It was easier to starve in Azkaban than to forget what the sun looked like, over and over and over again.
Sirius had heard of prisoners starving to death in Azkaban and he liked to think that maybe the guards waited to see how emaciated a man could become before his spirit went flying out of his mouth.
Sometimes he thought he saw such spirits. He knew them from the way they misted through the halls on clouds of savage cries and took the shapes of deer and men and grotesque creatures that were neither and both.
And when he saw the deer with their tangled and red-veined antlers he thought of James. And when he saw the men with their unclean eyes and tattered lips he thought of Peter. And during the in-between times, when he saw both deer and man and neither, he thought of nothing except starvation.
In the world that was wide and cold and commanded by the North Wind, Peter watched the minutes of his life. And as they passed he watched the flesh drop from his bones and his fat dissolve and he thought that he would die, that he would surely die…if only he weren’t starving.
He could not live amongst the open spaces and so he hid himself in rabbit dens. In rat holes. In the attics’ of Muggle houses where paper flowers dried and became dust.
Sirius decided he would rather sell his soul than starve. Night by night, between the aching cold of the Dementors and the damp of the unsettled sea, he watched for the deer men.
And when they didn’t come he stopped eating his gruel and weakened, weakened until he could see past the film of this world into the world of forests where he was a lost hunter.
It was an agony of eternity before James found him, James who was half man and half deer and had eyes that were not kind, but of fire. When he spoke it was with a tongue that was bloated with blood and he words were carrion promises. Promises of things that were mad and promises of things that made Sirius forget he was starving.
And all Sirius had to do was refuse his gruel. And when the time came, he could slip through his cell bars wearing naught but bones and skin.
In the summer, when he scampered through meadows, his distended belly so close to the dirt, searching for berries, he thought of Lily’s red hair. At midnight, when the moon was full, he thought of James’s round glasses. And in the morning, when the larks would drink dew from off the leaves, he thought of baby Harry and how the child would laugh whenever Peter turned himself into a rat.
But in the winter, when he saw cloven hooves mark patterns in the snow, he remembered that he was starving and he gorged himself on field mice. And the hunger remained. It remained and remained and remained until he dreamed of men with deer’s heads and spirits that lived in the frosty caves high in the brooding mountains.
In dreams, Peter heard him coming. Crashing through the forest with limbs that towered over the trees, his eyes sunken and his mouth agape, and hungry. And Peter knew what it was to be starving.
He ran. Into the tall grass, away from the forest, away from mice holes and rabbit dens and the life of a rat. Ran with the mind of a human into the world of the beast. And when the moon darted behind clouds, he thought he felt the phantom jaws close about his body, crush his bones and devour his spirit, forcing the last of his soul out. Out into the North Wind where he would not die, but only hunger. And Peter decided he would sell his soul to die instead.
Sirius was kept alive by hunger alone. He let it twist his gut and casts vines into his heart until he could only starve for meat and blood and revenge.
When the summer came and the North Wind left, he hid in the hollow of a willow tree and prayed to the deer man and James and promised his soul for starvation. His soul for Peter.
And on the night of the full moon, when the great hunter beast of the forest was raised up to a god, he found what was left of the rat in the high, fragrant tall grasses.
Peter Pettigrew remembered when he first saw the Wendigo. It was a creature not unlike him. A creature that knew the torment of endless need, of insatiable appetites that broke one’s soul and fed it to the North Wind. The very creature he had become on November 1, 1981, when Lily and James lay murdered in their tiny cottage.
Now Peter thought the Wendigo almost looked like Sirius Black, with all the memories of starvation upon his face and the echo of winter in his mind.
Sirius left the rat laying dead the tall grasses, a used up shell of life that could no longer hold a soul. And he sat beneath a tree and studied his gray hands and the heavy veins that roped around his knuckles. When he inhaled, his breathe rattled like war drums.
No relief. No respite.
And he would never be sated.
Amidst the summery breeze came the North wind, twined with blood and misery and spite. And Sirius thought he saw the deer James moving amongst the tall grass, but when the creature, the Wendigo smiled he knew he had been deceived.
Deceived by his own revenge. His own hunger.
In the pit of his stomach, he felt a pang. And Sirius began to starve.
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