By day it was the fleas that plagued him, burrowing into his fur and setting into his skin, feeding viciously. At dusk, when he would rise from four legs to two, still running, it was the midges that descended, drawn by the stink of sweat and blood and stale, clammy fear.
For the first few days, when he ran until his feet bled, Azkaban loomed behind him, invisible and vast, encompassing the green hills and the blue skies. He was afraid that he would run full circle, back to the shore; that the world itself was confined within the walls of Azkaban, and every crushed blade of grass an illusion. In those days he thought the midges were merely dementors in another guise, feasting on flesh at last. It was almost a relief to think they would finally finish him, would have been a relief if not for the rat, the rat, the filthy rat.
As the moon swelled towards full, his skin began to itch, lumpen with bites. As a dog he could arch his back against signs and rocks. As a man, under the moon, he dug up handfuls of parched earth and rubbed them against his arms, scouring the poisons out.
Slowly, other memories returned. It was no longer just the rat, damn him, curse him, kill him, or the blood and burning walls and broken glass scattered across a beloved face. It was no longer the ghost of betrayal.
The memories of touch came first, a long-fingered hand smoothing cream over similar bites. He remembered the sting of it, and the relief, and how that hand had lingered.
He remembered the smell of grass, freshly cut and sweet, stuffed down faded robes, someone squirming beneath his touch.
There had been fruit, sweet, wet cubes pressed between his lips by those same fingers, even the memory of the flavour on his tongue overwhelming.
He remembered, as he dug at his itching arms with broken nails, the sound of laughter.
It wasn’t until he collapsed, needing to sleep, facing the night sky, fingers gripping his own shoulderblades through his skin, that he remembered a face.
“Moony,” he whispered to the sky, and shuddered at the sound of his voice, so long silenced.
“Moony.” The rat had taken this too. The rat had destroyed this.
A breeze sighed over the fields, soothing his prickling skin.
“Moony,” Sirius said, for the third time, the charm, and slept.