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Repost: Stray, Chapter Two: Fugitive in Paradise - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: Stray, Chapter Two: Fugitive in Paradise
Okay, worked in some of the comments here and caught some typos. I also tried to smooth out some poorly thought out time sequences at the beginning. Canon-wise, I just had to tweak something, since clearly from DH, you can't put a "tracer" on Apparition, or the Trio would have been found at 12GP a whole lot sooner.




The first thing Sirius had done when he'd arrived was get a haircut. He'd gone to a Muggle barber--the first time he'd ever tried such a thing, and he felt quite daring about it. On a whim, he had it brought back to the style he'd worn the last few years before Azkaban, the way he'd worn it at Lily and James's wedding.

He stared at himself in a mirror when it was done. When his hair had been long and matted, he could fool himself that he was still the same foolish boy he had been then, just unkempt. Now, he could see the changes--the lines that had begun to form around his eyes, the strange, nameless difference in his skin, even a tiny spot where he thought his hair might be starting to recede, though, to be fair, that was now covered by his fringe.

"It is all right?" the barber had asked in accented but perfectly understandable English.

"It's fine," Sirius said.

"You should get sunlight," he said. "English people... you all need sun."

Sirius smiled. "Yes, I suppose we do." He paid the barber with a bit of Muggle money that Dumbledore had sent him (Dumbledore claimed it had been changed from gold in an Order vault that Sirius had contributed to years ago, but Sirius had his doubts), and went out into the tropical afternoon. The world felt full of possibilities, and in the three weeks since the haircut, he'd made it a habit to go out every day, when the sun was at its brightest and hottest, when most visitors were seeking shade and cooling... twelve years in cold, dank Azkaban had left him with a craving for sunlight, and he felt like he could absorb the steaming tropical heat every day for a year and never get enough of it to make him feel truly warm.

After three weeks, he'd developed a routine of lazy mid-day exercise, going through the Muggle tourist area, heading to the fringes of the wizarding district (he didn't dare get too far in, but he could, as Padfoot, scrounge for newspapers), then sitting here, on a bench along the beach, watching the path down to the ocean.

Two pretty girls went jiggling past, wearing only the bottom parts of their bathing suits (how Mum had loathed that fashion... possibly the only thing she and Lily had agreed about), and he appreciated the scenery. One of them looked over her shoulder and winked at him.

He waved at them, and they giggled.

It drilled into his head. The scenery wasn't good enough to put up with giggling. Sirius liked women who laughed--big, loud belly laughs that made their feet twitch... or the promise of the same, at any rate--or, even better, he liked a woman who fought against laughing until she couldn't help it and doubled up, curling her legs under her and collapsing into a pillow. But he'd rather a girl didn't laugh at all than have that silly, self-conscious titter. Narcissa always giggled and Bellatrix always tittered (Mum, of course, did not laugh at all). Andromeda had once had a full, fine laugh, but the war had sobered and quieted her. He wondered what sort of laugh Nymphadora would have by now. Lily, for her part, had an honest enough laugh, but Sirius had never been able to get a real belly laugh out of her, even when they'd all managed to get her going.

He shook his head.

The girls had long since moved on, and he was staring stupidly into the sun and lost in thoughts of people he no longer had. That was no way to start a new life; he'd have to break the habit.

He made his way down to the Muggle hotel nearby, where, again, Dumbledore was providing for him. Buckbeak, Disillusioned, prowled inconsolably around the small area, and Sirius knew they'd need to go flying soon.

An owl was waiting with a note from Remus, who had removed himself to the bloody Orkneys for a post Dumbledore had found for him. He was undoubtedly going about in sackcloth and ashes. Come winter, he'd be sleeping on the snow to chastise himself, or maybe taking daily skinny-dips in the North Sea for that purpose. In carefully worded sentences using only nicknames, his first letter had assured Sirius that Harry had got safely to his aunt and uncle's, and was now just miserable, according to Arabella Figg, who kept a distant watch on him. Ron had taken the little owl. Sirius should not, under any circumstances, attempt to come back until they'd found Peter. Was that clear?

Moony, Sirius wrote back, You always were a lousy correspondent. Stop scolding and tell me something. Padfoot. A week later--all of the security charms Sirius was using to keep himself hidden made communication somewhat difficult for new birds--an owl arrived with a message that said, The Chudley Cannons are still losing. Moony.

Sirius had considered continuing the game, which went back to the summer after first year, when he'd written daily to James, Remus, and Peter in the hopes that they would distract him for a few weeks. Remus's parents had him out of the country chasing cures and he'd been short-tempered about being stalked by owls, and his lack of skill as a pen pal had been a running joke ever since. But when there was an ocean between them and everything needed to be written in code--Remus was undoubtedly being watched, even though he hadn't seen anyone--it was idiotic to continue the childhood game, so Sirius wrote a real letter back instead, and Remus now seemed to be obliging him by writing a perfectly normal--though still-coded--letter in return, catching him up on a few corners of their social circle he was still in touch with.

Sirius replied immediately, asking after a handful of people Remus hadn't mentioned, and telling him what little he could tell about life here without giving anything away. The letter didn't say anything important, but it seemed necessary to try and normalize things with the few people who knew where he was. He'd thanked Remus earlier for the loan of a wand, but made a point of thanking him again. Remus had rarely had a chance to be the materially generous one. This particular wand had belonged to his father, and Sirius knew it must have been a wrench to give it away--Remus had kept it rather than burying it with John because it was really, after all the costs of his lycanthropy, the only thing he'd had to inherit--so he didn't mention that the match was a very poor one, and his spells went awry as often as not with it. The first time he'd tried to Disillusion poor Buckbeak, the hippogriff had ended up pink and tweeting like a canary. He'd got used to the way the wand responded since then, but it still wasn't reliable. Some wands simply didn't get along with some wizards.

You could use mine, a voice piped up eagerly in his head. Just until you get a brand new one. It's really both of ours, since it was Grayfur's, and it only works a little bit better for me...

Sirius clenched his teeth, willing the memory of his brother to stay quiet. His own first wand--an inheritance from the great-grandfather he'd been named for (the Blacks, of course, had to worship their ancestors and keep the wands of every head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black)--had exploded in a first year mishap during Transfiguration, and Reg had offered his own inheritance from Phineas Nigellus, since he didn't need it yet. He'd been quite excited at the idea that he could help. Sirius had, instead, cajoled his father into buying him a new wand of his own from Ollivander. That was the wand that had been snapped when he'd gone to Azkaban. Regulus had got a new wand of his own in his fourth year, simply by virtue of taking Mum's side in an argument about Ministry policies, and the inherited wand (which had, indeed, worked as well for Sirius as it had for Regulus when they'd played with it illegally as children) had gone back into the bureau in the room they shared, and as far as Sirius knew, it was still there.

And he was not going to retrieve it.

He'd gone back to Grimmauld Place last year to retrieve the key to his vault, and he'd found his mother's body (and her mad house elf), and he would not be going back. Let her portrait rave to empty corridors. He'd seen her decently buried, little as she deserved it, and as far as he was concerned, that was the end of his business, literally or metaphorically, with the Ancient and Most Noble, et cetera, ad nauseum.

He shook his head sharply, trying to clear them out of it, and arched an eyebrow at Buckbeak. "Would you like a walk? I can take you over near Rua Escondida, and then we can sneak out toward the jungle, maybe fly a little if no one's down at the river wrestling that boiúna."

Buckbeak came forward eagerly, knocking over the wooden chair at Sirius's writing table, and Sirius fitted him with a lead by touch. When he was done, he Disillusioned the lead, so he wouldn't appear to be walking with a leather strap mysteriously attached to nothing at all. They took the fire stairs down to the lobby, as it wouldn't do to have a Muggle guest back into an invisible hippogriff in the lift, then headed out into the slowly cooling evening.

He skirted close to Rua Escondida--Hidden Street, the magical district that mainly served tourists; the local one was on the far side of town--and slipped into the green shadows of the rain forest. Colors and scents assaulted them from all sides. There were no magical tourists wrestling the giant river snake today, though Sirius had spent several pleasant evenings watching the contests last week. The would-be monster-fighters had all seemed to be older teenage boys intent on proving their manliness to one another. Most of them ended up thrown up out of the water into the mud, dripping wet. Sirius had thought about giving it a try, but when they'd seen him, they'd looked at him like an adult and been dreadfully respectful about the whole business, and the idea had lost some of its fun. Instead, he'd gone back into town, shopped for a birthday cake for Harry, and sent it with a great tropical bird, hoping it wouldn't be stale by the time it got to him.

Buckbeak went eagerly to the river's edge and drank, and Sirius sat beside him, watching warily for the boiúna, which seemed occupied with something upstream. A rat scuttled out of the undergrowth, and Sirius killed it with a quick Curse, then Summoned it over and tossed it to Buckbeak, who leapt up to catch it, the Disillusioning spell making the air waver.

Sirius glanced around quickly, then Disillusioned himself. "Come on," he said. "Let's have a flight, shall we?"

Buckbeak bent his knees eagerly and let Sirius climb onto his back, behind the wing joints. Sirius didn't bother steering, letting Buckbeak dive and soar as he would. The rain forest rolled luxuriously away beneath them as they skimmed the upper canopy, startling large birds and butterflies. Buckbeak seemed keen to grab one of the birds as a snack, so Sirius urged him downward, where he could feed on less interesting parts of the animal kingdom. If he was lucky, perhaps one of the rats he caught would be Peter.

They landed on the far side of Rua Escondida, and Sirius slid off Buckbeak's back with a sigh. He broke the Disillusion spell on himself and then, feeling petulant, on Buckbeak. "They're not down here anyway," he muttered. "They're probably stalking Privet Drive, thinking I'll go after Harry..."

Still, it wasn't wise to go about totally undisguised, so Sirius Conjured a straw hat and a pair of sunglasses. He'd look like any other British wizarding tourist, sunburn and all. He didn't think Buckbeak was recognizable enough on his own to--

He stopped.

They'd reached a circle of stylized shacks on the beach, where local wizard boys sold tourist trinkets and magical drinks to beach goers. Sirius had been in the area a few times, but hadn't done business there. He'd just found a few Daily Prophets behind a newsstand, and he'd passed a few words with a boy trying to sell him a tropical-looking drink that he promised would make him feel eighteen again.

That boy was now glancing at a piece of parchment that Sirius recognized perfectly well--it had hung all over Britain last year, with his own face staring out at everyone who could see. It was being held by a tall black man with a shaved head and an earring. Beside him was a pretty young witch with wild blue hair who looked like she'd rather be sitting down at the beach. The boy looked like he wouldn't mind being there with her.

"This is Sirius Black," the wizard said, tapping the poster. "If you'd care to look at the poster instead of my colleague, perhaps you could tell me if you've seen him."

Sirius thought--very briefly--of fading back into the jungle with Buckbeak, but decided it was safer to keep an eye on this pair of Aurors, if that was what they were. If they were where he could see them, after all, they wouldn't be sneaking up behind him.

He re-cast Buckbeak's Disillusioning spell and tied his lead to a handy tree. "I'll be back later," he whispered. "Be still." Buckbeak had grown used to this command over the weeks they'd been together, and crouched down quietly in the undergrowth.

Sirius slipped around to the far side of the shack (which was actually a well constructed building meant to withstand some rather extreme weather while still looking like a casual lean-to) and positioned himself in the shadows, where he could see and hear better without showing himself. A wild part of his brain wanted to sit down and order a drink, to see if they recognized him, just for the thrill of having a quiet drink six feet away from people who wanted to send him to prison. At the last minute before he stepped into the plaza, reason won out over desire, largely because he remembered that he hadn't brought any wizarding money with him from the hotel.

The young bartender finally took the wanted poster and peered at it for what seemed a long time, then shrugged. "I don't know. He looks like a vampire."

"Imagine him well fed and with a haircut," the older Auror said, waving his wand at the poster to alter it.

The bartender frowned in puzzled concentration, then shook his head and said, "Maybe. But lots of people come through here."

The Auror sighed. "Fine. It was another long shot, anyway." He turned to his companion. "Shall we have something to eat before we go back?"

"God, yes," the girl said. "One more day of take-away curry in the office, and I might make a run for it." She pulled a chair out from one of the high tables, then promptly knocked over three bottles of flavoring potions and a floating candle. "Oh!" She looked apologetically at the bartender, and for an instant, she was looking directly at Sirius. He nearly stopped breathing, but she didn't seem to recognize him in the shadows. She blushed. "Sorry, mate, I'll just... er..." She waved her wand and everything righted itself, then smiled sheepishly at her partner. "They're not going to make me take the stealth test again, are they, Kingsley?"

The man--Kingsley, apparently--muttered, "I may. Honestly."

Sirius picked up a newspaper and sat casually at a table deep in the shadows, casting a non-verbal spell to hear their conversation better from a safe distance.

The girl picked up a menu and scanned it absently, chewing her lip. "Kingsley," she started, then stopped.

He raised his eyebrows. "Out with it. You've been keeping your mouth shut way too often lately."

She tapped the base of her wand on the table thoughtfully, then carefully said, "A Confundus Curse would have worn off by now. It's been weeks."

Kingsley rubbed his head. "You want to talk to the Potter boy."

"I want to talk to all three of the children. Fudge said they were all there, and Confunded into thinking Sirius Black was innocent."

"I know."

"If the curse has worn off, they could tell us what happened and how he got away."

"They were locked in the hospital ward," Kingsley said quickly. "They wouldn't know how he escaped from the tower."

"And if it wasn't a curse, they could tell us why they think he's innocent."

Sirius's ears perked up. He hadn't really considered the idea that they might revisit his case. Both Dumbledore and Remus thought it unlikely, but an Auror...

Kingsley let out a long, slow breath. "And then what?"

"What do you mean?"

"If we find out why they believe he's innocent. What do you propose we do with the testimony of three children?"

"Well, we... we give a report! If it's a good reason and makes sense, of course. We re-open the case. We--"

"We aren't picking him up for the murders," Kingsley said interrupted. "We're arresting him because he's escaped from Azkaban. The murder case was closed twelve years ago."

"But--"

"I don't like it any better than you do. I smell a great, huge rotten fish, if you'd like the truth. But do you know what I like less?"

"What?"

"Aurors playing at being judges. That's not our job. There's a reason that's a separate division altogether."

"But he wasn't properly tried the first time."

"Then he should have bloody well stayed put and asked for a trial this time!" Kingsley jabbed his wand at the menu, and his order appeared over a short order cook's grill. "Why would an innocent man hide for year--even from his friends--and then run? You can't tell me that Dumbledore wouldn't have sought amnesty while we tried to figure it out, if he'd gone to him first."

Sirius felt his spirits droop. He hadn't realized how well he liked the direction of the conversation until it changed. Why hadn't he gone to Dumbledore? It seemed so obvious now, but he'd been convinced that he had to do everything himself...

The girl looked less than convinced of Kingsley's line of argument. "Still, I think--"

"Don't," Kingsley said. "Look, I know what you're getting at, and for your own sake, don't. They're already suspicious of you for the obvious reasons--"

The girl made an unladylike suggestion about where the Auror Division might store whatever its "obvious reasons" were, and Sirius decided that, if and when his name was cleared, he wanted to buy this particular Auror a drink.

Kingsley was apparently used to her; he just smiled faintly. "Nevertheless, let me handle any questions about this. It's my case, anyway; you're just helping."

She frowned at him, then shrugged. "D'you reckon this tip was any better than the one in Athens?"

"I'm starting to doubt it. It sounded good--I was in my first year at Hogwarts when he was in his seventh"--Sirius tried, and failed, to remember him--"and he was something of a legend. Wrestling a boiúna is just the sort of thing he would have done--but no one in the wizarding district seems to recognize the picture. I think our young tipster may have just got overexcited when he saw the wanted poster after talking to a dark-haired Englishman." Their drinks came, and Kingsley paused to pay for them. "Not," he said when they were alone again, "that I mind getting out of London for a few days. If they decide to send me out to check the World Cup site one more time, I'm demanding tickets."

"You can have mine," the girl said. "They didn't mind handing me two tickets because they knew damned well they were going to schedule me to work for the first three days of it."

Kingsley grinned. "You're our junior Auror. Don't tell me--it's you and Williams at the office."

"Everyone else seems to have found heretofore unsuspected holiday time. Savage couldn't get time off either, but his mother fell ill. Looked just terrible when I saw her zooming around the Ballycastle goal posts, laughing her head off."

"Well, it's an odd sickness going around. Totally symptomless, but serious enough to require care from several members of any given extended family, and completely curable by Viktor Krum catching a Golden Snitch."

"You think it'll be Bulgaria?"

"I think it'll be Krum. There is no Bulgarian team, just a Seeker. And that's all they need."

Their food appeared on the table with a flash, and they tucked in. Sirius almost left, thinking their conversation was over, and they seemed to be on their way, but between bites, the girl said, "Is it me, or Crouch been twitchy lately?"

Sirius, half-turned, stopped dead at the name. In his year on the run, he'd learned quite a bit about Bartemius Crouch, but even disgraced and demoted, it seemed impossible to imagine the strutting little bastard being "twitchy."

Kingsley snorted into his plate. "Probably afraid Black will come after him next. It's been since he got away."

"Mmm." The girl ate a few bites. "Right interested in where Bertha Jorkins has got to, though. He's been on Scrimgeour to get us on that instead of Sirius."

"That's odd. He's the one who had Black imprisoned in the first place. I know he was quite embarrassed by the escape."

The girl nodded seriously, then the corners of her mouth twitched and she hiccuped out a broken laugh.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"What's nothing?"

"Oh, I just have a brilliant theory. How does this strike you? Crouch and Jorkins were having a torrid affair for years, but while he was off for hours at work, Sirius Black seduced her, and now she's run off to be with him. It' all very melodramatic." She grinned. "Well, come on, Kingsley--just think of Bertha in a filmy nightgown standing on a picturesque sea cliff somewhere, torn between two lovers who are mortal enemies..."

Sirius bit his lip to avoid laughing.

"You're an odd woman, you know," Kingsley said.

"The really funny part is that I can't think of a better theory. That doesn't bode well for my career."

"Well, it's certainly outside the box," Kingsley told her. "And it fits the facts we have. Or rather, they fit inside of it, and have a lot of room to grow."

The girl smiled, then grew serious again. "He forgot I wasn't a trainee anymore," she said. "He set me to the Jorkins business until Scrimgeour pulled me off for this. Did you know there've been animal mutilations near where she was meant to be traveling?"

Sirius frowned.

Kingsley looked up sharply. "What?"

"Or that it's close to where Professor Quirrell went off to on his sabbatical year, and came back so... odd?"

"I knew it was in the same country," Kingsley said. "I caught the Quirrell case when he died, not that there was much to find. No one found anything there, and that forest has always had a bad reputation."

"Apparently, a well-deserved one."

"Sometimes, reputations really are deserved." He tapped his fork against his plate. "Do you know what bothers me?"

"What?"

"Dumbledore. He came to Scrimgeour about a Muggle who disappeared. Scrimgeour wasn't interested, but Dumbledore seemed to think it meant something."

"Should we look into it?"

"As I was reminded when I suggested it, the Ministry doesn't exist to investigate the whims of the Headmaster of Hogwarts. I think--oh, damn."

The girl looked up in surprise, and Sirius peeked around the edge of the bar far enough to see what they were looking at. A self-important little man was striding into the bar, his elbows thrust out to the sides. "Communication from London," he said "You're to return to a floo point immediately."

The girl rolled her eyes extravagantly. "If it's not a World Cup emergency--"

"Not enough grass to cover the ground? We don't have enough security set up in the upper atmosphere?"

"--I'm putting my money on a tip from Outer Mongolia."

"Mm," Kingsley said, dropping money onto the table. "I'll put ten galleons on Madagascar."

"Oh, can I change mine? In case I jinx us, I'll pick somewhere nicer. Bali, maybe. Ten galleons on someone absolutely seeing Sirius Black in Bali."

"That will take a few days to get through the floo system, anyway..."

Sirius watched them go, then slowly went out to their table, trying not to attract attention. The girl's half-finished drink still had ice cubes melting in it.

Sirius debated following them, but decided it was too much of a risk to go into Rua Escondida only hours after they'd been showing his picture. He'd have to be much more careful than he'd taken the trouble to be when he left.

But he would have to go later.

It sounded like there were matters in need of investigation.




Sirius slipped back into the jungle and went to the tree where he'd tied Buckbeak. The hippogriff was quiet, but had dug deep furrows in the marshy ground, apparently out of boredom. The Disillusioning spell kept him hidden, but as Sirius approached, he could see the shimmer of movement as Buckbeak got up to eagerly greet him.

He gave a quick bow--it wasn't necessary anymore, but it was a good a greeting as any--then untied the lead and took the quickest route back to the hotel that wouldn't involve passing through crowds. He stopped behind the kitchen quickly to forage for rats, letting Buckbeak catch a few of his own as long he was out, then took the fire stairs back upstairs. The heavy tropical evening was darkening in its vivid, lovely way--night plants were beginning to open, night birds starting to make their strange sounds in the trees, prey and predators awakening to another shadowy chase only a mile beyond Sirius's room.

His safe, comfortable room.

He looked around at it--at the large but somehow sterile bed, the spotless desk with its unused writing paper and visitors' brochures, the rug that was blameless other than Buckbeak's area (which Sirius kept under a spell that distracted the housekeeping staff), the anonymous art on the walls, the silent Muggle telephone.

What are you doing here? What sort of place is this for a Black?

"Shut up, Reg," he mumbled, rubbing his eyes. For a man who'd been dead for fourteen years, Regulus seemed to have developed quite the running commentary on every subject under the sun this year. That particular voice had arisen from Sirius's first flat, where Regulus had been absolutely forbidden to visit him, as he no longer existed. He had visited anyway, but spent the entire time criticizing the accommodations.

Stupid little git was probably just gathering information for his little friends in masks, Sirius told himself. In case they needed to curse his toothbrush or whatnot. Though he supposed the Death Eaters could have used Peter by then, if they hadn't been using him all along, if they'd wanted to know in which drawer Sirius Black kept his small collection of cutlery.

He broke the Disillusioning spell, and Buckbeak shook his feathers a little at the sensation, then looked over his shoulder imploringly.

"I can't take you back out," Sirius said. "It's not safe."

Buckbeak turned his back on Sirius, then scooted to the far part of his corner, sat down, and pouted. Sirius considered giving him a pat on the beak, but he'd seen this mood before, and decided he'd rather not spend another three days trying to get a hippogriff bite to heal. There was just no way to take him out as often as he wanted to go. Especially not if the Aurors were already poking around.

Buckbeak was safe here.

Just like me.

Sirius swept his arm across the desk, scattering the brochures and writing paper. A loose bit of paper fell on his shoe, and he picked it up and tore it.

Bertha Jorkins had disappeared. Animal mutilations. Somewhere that Voldemort had been.

"That's it," he muttered. "I'm doing something."

He looked dubiously at John Lupin's wand, then shook his head, pointed it at his hair, and said, "Cirratus." His hair curled absurdly into ringlets. It also turned green. Not entirely inconspicuous. He ended the spell and tried again. It curled into large, bouncy waves this time, but stayed black. With some trepidation, he tried Erubesco to turn it red, which worked, but looked absurd. He sighed and left it; he was trying to hide himself, not impress anyone. He didn't dare try more advanced appearance charms without his own wand, and it was now fully dark, so dark glasses would be more than a little noticeable. He'd have to count on the brim of his hat and hope no one looked too closely.

"Buckbeak," he said, "I'll be back soon."

Buckbeak snorted, then lay down with his beak on top of his talons, staring into the corner.

Sirius thought about changing into a set of wizard robes that he'd stolen from a clothesline in Florida as he flew through, but decided against it. Robes weren't nearly as entrenched here; his Muggle tourist clothes wouldn't cause a stir. He grabbed a bag of wizarding money, then slipped out into the night, where the dance clubs and shows were beginning to take over. Crowds of attractive young people passed to and fro, laughing and playing. A golden-haired boy took a great leap in the air to catch something his companion had thrown, and shouted in buoyant French when he got hold of it.

Sirius turned away from them, and headed for the shadowy neighborhood that led to Rua Escondida. On the outside, it looked like one of the city's slums, but that was a carefully maintained facade. Someone who looked closely would note that the trash was always suspiciously fresh, the indigent oddly polite and and helpful, and always suggesting the same tacky little tourist shop.

The shop itself was called A Casa de Praia--The Beach House, Sirius thought from the small store of Portuguese he'd managed to pick up--and the front of it was a selection of bad plastic figurines of people on the beach. Further back, there were some equally bad figurines of a one-legged plastic boy with a red cap and a pipe--a saci, Sirius remembered from long ago classes with Kettleburn--and finally, worked into the back wall, a mosaic of a lizard labeled "Teinagua" worked into the tile. Flanking it on each side were tiles with a design that would be meaningless to Muggles but clear to any wizard tourist: they showed a golden bar pointing at a series of red hexagons that diminished in size. Sirius looked at the lizard and poked his wand against several randomly arranged red tiles, from the biggest to the smallest.

The mosaic lizard turned its head, then slipped down onto the floor and looked over its shoulder at Sirius to follow. It slithered along the floor, tiles clicking against each other, to a tiny door marked "Saída de emergência/Salida de emergencia/Notausgang/Emergency exit/Sortie de secours/аварийный выход/Nödutgång." Some wag with too much time on his hands had added several other languages to this notice, but Sirius didn't recognize them.

The lizard slipped beneath the door, which glowed brightly and opened onto a torch-lit street with a banner stretched over it, announcing an upcoming festival. As in any tourist area Sirius had ever visited, there was a money changing booth sitting right at the entrance.

The lizard waited expectantly, and Sirius tossed it a Sickle, then went to the booth. He considered putting on a different accent, to throw the trail off, but if he did it badly, it would be more memorable than simply one more Englishman from London's well-off class, taking a holiday here in the tropics. The young girl on duty took no notice of him whatsoever, actually continuing to read her magazine as she waved her wand over the coins Sirius had spilled out onto the counter. As he watched, they rearranged themselves, expanded more than a little, and turned into wide gold pieces with blue edges and green centers. A handful of smaller green stones appeared, and Sirius supposed they were change. The girl shoved a directory of monetary values at him and muttered, "Boa noite."

Sirius smiled, hoping that it was "Good night," and thinking that he might have done better to try Guyane, as he knew enough French to pass. But Guyane was still connected to the French government, and the damned Ministry would have contacted them, and they'd be on a deeper lookout than the Brazilians.

He turned a corner and nearly slammed his nose into himself--the wanted poster was hung on a notice board in a plaza. Someone had drawn horns and a tail on it, and the Sirius in the picture--much to the amusement of the real one--had given up his endless braying laughter to bat at it and twist away in great offense. Sirius used John Lupin's wand to add a fake mustache, curled diabolically up at the ends. The picture started clawing at its face in horror. Sirius stuck his tongue out at it.

Amusing, but not what he was there for.

He had found the back of the international news stand as a dog, and scrounged a handful of Daily Prophets, but he hadn't been there yet, as he hadn't quite dared to go straight into the wizarding center of town. The newstand would be on the east side, he knew--it was toward the beach. He moved on down the street. More posters appeared, one on each hut, all screaming at him. They looked oddly fresh and new.

He found the shop he was looking for eight buildings down. It was open-fronted, and three walls of newspapers and magazines surrounded a comfortable looking plaza. Sirius took a deep breath and went inside. A sign informed him that they spoke English, as well as French, Spanish, German, and Dutch, and could perform a translation spell into several other local and international dialects. He went to the counter and asked for the past month's Daily Prophets, paying with two of the large gold coins. He received a handful of green and blue stones in return.

He skipped the front page stories--mostly about the fast-approaching Quidditch World Cup--and went directly to the back pages, to the stories buried between advertisements, the little things that no one cared about. Most seemed genuinely trivial--settled legal matters, fashion tips, and so on--but he carefully circled those that seemed suspicious to him.

The Albanian Minister for Magic missed his national team's elimination due to an unexpected illness.

A breach of security at a magical serpent preserve in Croatia, with one particularly large snake still at large.

Livestock missing in Austria. A week later, more livestock missing in Germany. The reporter drew the connection between the two events, but no one seemed to be connecting them with a giant missing snake... or to be connecting a giant missing snake with a particular speaker of Parseltongue.

Unicorns killed in the Black Forest. There was a small hand print found at the scene, but the article didn't note whether or not it was missing a finger.

A Belgian girl predicting the end of the world because she'd seen a hundred rats marching like an army.

Always moving north and west.

Always--

"Catching up on our reading, are we?"

Sirius froze.

The Auror he'd seen earlier, the girl with wild-colored hair, was standing at the far side of his table, wand drawn, looking at him with deep suspicion.

He gulped and pushed his chair back. "It's been a long holiday." He stood and dipped a small bow in her direction, hoping she would be fooled by the hair color and think she was mistaken. "Have you been here long?"

She didn't warm. "I'd like to see some identification."

The man at the counter scuttled over. "What are you doing? You were meant to be gone!"

"Can't get a Portkey until morning," the girl said, then turned back to Sirius, wand leveled. "Which may turn out to be a good thing." Sirius moved his hand, and she said, "Don't even think about going for your wand, Sirius. If you come back, you'll get a--"

But Sirius didn't let her finish. He liked her, but she was young and naive. In a quick movement, he hooked his hands under the table and flipped it upward as hard as he could, shoving it into her, knocking her into the proprietor.

He ran for the edge of the Apparition barrier.

"Kingsley!" he heard her shout as she pushed her way out of the newsstand. "You were right! He's here! Must've been in the Muggle district!"

A Stunning Spell flew at him, and he jumped to avoid it, knocking over the notice board he'd seen earlier. His ink-mustached face gaped at him. He rolled over and put the board between himself and another Stunning Spell, now from a new direction.

The gate to the shop yawned before him, and he dove through it just as the Aurors cast a closing spell at it. This didn't buy him any time--they blasted through the back wall of the shop.

Sirius ran full tilt through the rows of merchandise, knocking down figurines and tourist kitsch and sending it shattering into the corridor as he made for the Muggle street. The more debris he could get on the floor, the more obstacles there would be.

A spell that he suspected was stronger than a Stun hit the wall beside the door, knocking out a chunk of wood, but it only grazed Sirius's shoulder He launched himself at the door, and a moment later was beyond it, in the strange, fake slum. A young witch wearing stylized rags looked at him in surprise.

The Aurors burst out behind him.

"Sirius Black!" Kingsley called. "You are--"

But Sirius didn't stay to hear, "Under arrest."

He Apparated directly back to the hotel room, nearly landing on top of Buckbeak, who gave an angry squawk.

"No time," he said. "No time at all." He grabbed his bag and stuffed what he could into it--anything that would identify him went first, then anything magical. There was no room for any of the extra clothes; all that he had left were the Azkaban robes that had been ignored at the bottom of the bag since he'd got here. There would be no time to clean up Buckbeak's mess.

"Come on," he said to the hippogriff. "We need to leave from here."

Buckbeak backed into his corner, balking.

"Not now, come on." He pointed his wand; Buckbeak raised a talon.

Sirius gritted his teeth, then his eyes went wide. He could hear footsteps pounding in the hall outside.

The girl's voice: "You're sure this is it?"

"I traced magic use. Something's Disillusioned in there, and he's got the room blocked. This is where he is."

"He could Apparate out..."

"Dammit," Sirius hissed, and cast a quick extra security hex on the door. He bowed stiffly to Buckbeak. He could Apparate out. Buckbeak couldn't, and Buckbeak's sentence was steeper than his own. A thundering fist hit the door.

Shaking, Buckbeak bowed back. Sirius slipped forward and took his lead, winding it around to make a harness.

The door burst open in a rain of wood.

For a moment, he and the Aurors looked at each other.

"The missing hippogriff," Kingsley said. "You got away on the damned hippogriff?"

"I'm innocent," Sirius tried. "They won't--"

"You're under arr--"

Buckbeak reared up, flashing a talon and knocking Kingsley's wand down. Kingsley toppled into his partner.

Sirius pointed his wand at the window and hooked one knee behind Buckbeak's wing joint. "Reducto!"

The glass shattered outward, and Buckbeak ran for the open sky, Sirius hanging and jostled on one side.

Far below, he saw the Aurors rush out onto his tiny balcony, shooting spells up at him, already out of range.

With a tap of his wand, he Disillusioned himself and Buckbeak, and turned out over the open jungle.

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Comments
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: March 13th, 2009 06:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Tonks knows Sirius is her cousin, and she remembers him from her childhood, doesn't she? And wouldn't Kingsley know about the relationship? And wouldn't Sirius guess who Tonks was? Or is this somewhat AU?

I must have missed the original!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 13th, 2009 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)
That's what her "issues" at the Ministry are. You know Those Blacks... they're always going to bend the rules for each other!
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: March 13th, 2009 06:36 am (UTC) (Link)
AWESOME. More please!

I especially like all the details about the wizarding community in the area, and the confrontation between Sirius and Tonks (whom he obviously doesn't recognize).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 13th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Making up a random wizarding community in a country I've never been to was fun.
From: severely_lupine Date: March 13th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I have to say, I'm always so impressed with your way of creating such rich and believable (well, within the context of a magical world) communities. The werewolf pack, the Veela community, that werewolf village in whatever country that was, this place... you really have a way of making me feel like I'm there.
From: severely_lupine Date: March 13th, 2009 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Love it. I also like how you mention what you had to change. I hope you keep doing that.

Fun to see Tonks and Sirius interacting before he realizes who she is, and that bit with the drawing on the poster was cute. Though, knowing what we do now, I couldn't help thinking of Snape when Sirius saw the bit about the snake, and wondering what thoughts might have gone through his mind at that moment had he known that snake would end up killing his childhood nemesis.

I'm looking forward to when Remus enters the story (in more than letters). Him and Sirius are such fun together.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll definitely keep saying what I've changed.

wondering what thoughts might have gone through his mind at that moment had he known that snake would end up killing his childhood nemesis.

Hurry up, Nagini? ;p
From: severely_lupine Date: March 14th, 2009 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Haha, definitely something less than kind. Aw... it's sad how they could never get along.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 13th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Reading such an action packed chapter right before bed has me wide awake all over again! Great chapter, Fern I really love all the detail you managed to include about the Brazillian communities, it felt very authentic.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. The details are fun.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: March 13th, 2009 10:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Love the local colour!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Hey, as long as he's hiding out someplace, why not make it brightly colored? :)
From: daphne_23 Date: March 13th, 2009 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I remember this from the first time it was posted - great chapter! Looking forward to re-reading the rest, and hopefully new stuff as well...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)
There'll be new stuff, though it may not come every day like the repost is.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: March 13th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was even better this time than it was the first time. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I'm actually pleased so far at how little I have to change.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: March 13th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
...had gone back into the bureau in the room they shared, and as far as Sirius knew, it was still there.

You had Sirius and Regulus sharing the Phineas Nigellus bedroom, are you going to leave it as a childhood bedroom, and then have the boys move to their teenage, House-themed rooms? This was a nice chapter, I too love your Brazilian wizarding community. It rings very true to me, even though I've never been to Brazil (I made it to the border, but I was underage and they wouldn't let me pass) but it's still a neighbouring country and a
popular destination for people my age, so I hear a lot about it. It's a good place to hide for a fugitive, though if Sirius had decided to hide in a favela, Kingsley and Tonks would have never found him.

And the bit when Kingsley sees Buckbeak was priceless. I LOLed.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Aack. I knew I'd miss something entirely.

Retcon, which I'll put in a later section: As little boys, Regulus and Sirius shared a room, but after Sirius came home from school, he wanted his own space, and Regulus decided that he didn't want to live in the "nursery" anymore, either.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 13th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am so happy you are reworking this!! You've made my day!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to get back to it.
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: March 13th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm really enjoying reading this in Sirius' POV. I can't wait until Sirius realizes who Tonks is! This whole Regulus business is really interesting, especially because he ended up working against Voldemort.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
On some level, I'd guess Sirius knows that Reg wasn't a lost cause, or at least he'd hope it enough for Reg to be a solid voice for good in his head.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: March 13th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oddly, the first post was only mildly familiar, but this one was much more so. But still, I enjoyed it even more this time around. Cracking action!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay. It took me a long time to learn to write decent action scenes. I'm proud of them.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome!
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: March 13th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
*loves it*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 14th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great chapter! I loved the action scene with Kingsley, Tonks, and Sirius. You also wrote an excellent description of Buckbeak's behavior. LOL at Kingsley's comment, "You got away on the damned hippogriff?"

Excellent job as well with the newspaper articles and Sirius' beginning to make connections. Very well done! :)
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