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Stray, Chapter Two: Fugitive In Paradise, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Two: Fugitive In Paradise, pt. 1
Okay. Chapter one was getting my feet wet. Now, I guess I dive in.

In Chapter One, a dream sequence in which Sirius remembers a day in Diagon Alley, playing Hide and Seek with Regulus, who was annoyed with him because he never ran back to home base, which is the rule. He wakes up in a strange place and vows never to go home. Parts of this were from one of those challenge calls I've been doing, this one a challenge from olympe_maxime, back in November, though I changed my mind about saying which tropical city he's in (and the geography doesn't match Rio anymore, anyway, because I couldn't resist a giant river snake I found in folklore).

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.

He was also too damned skinny, but he'd spent his days and nights eating well and exercising his body as vigorously as he could, and he was slowly beginning to look healthy again.

"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 he had made it his 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 that 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, for some reason, removed himself to the bloody Orkneys, where 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 Canons 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, 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--had exploded in a mishap during Transfiguration (Mum had gone on at great length about how irresponsible Minerva McGonagall had always been), 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 House of Black.

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 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, 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. 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."
24 comments or Leave a comment
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: June 7th, 2007 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)
If jumping around and yelling: "Fern fic!!" wouldn't wake my family right now; I'd do it!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 7th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, ho! So, Dora and Kingsley have arrived. I grant you they're good Aurors, but what put them on the right trail this quickly?

The ancient Roman Regulus was well known for his battle with a giant river snake. Did that have anything to do with your including this river monster in the story?

As usual, waiting with bated breath for the next chapter.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
but what put them on the right trail this quickly?

I'll get into it in the next section, when Sirius shows off his mad eavesdropping skillz, but basically, they're following up on a sighting, one of many; it happens to be a real one, but they don't know it.

I didn't know that about the ancient Roman Regulus. I was just looking for Brazilian folklore animals. There's a one-legged mischievous thing that Sirius might get along with well...
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 8th, 2007 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Just to give you the Roman Regulus story -

During the Punic Wars, this Regulus was leading an army in Africa against the Carthiginians. Evidently, part of their route took them through a lot of tropical jungle. They came to a river but, when they tried to cross it, they were attacked by a monstrous serpent. They tried crossing at different points and they also tried fighting the serpent when it appeared but, apparently, all they got for their trouble was a rising body count.

Regulus thought matters over and declared that they had been making a major, tactical mistake. The serpent, he said, was like a fortress in its strength and in its ability to withstand them. Therefore, they must fight it as they would a fortress.

By that, he meant they needed to bring on the catapults.

After tossing several, very large, probably multi-ton stones in the river, the serpent was slain.

Its skin was sent to Rome where it was kept for many years. Supposedly, it was over a hundred feet long (I'm not saying that's a reliable report, but that's the story).

From: (Anonymous) Date: June 7th, 2007 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)

big belly laughs, etc.

Wonderful installment, Fern. You got that belly laugh out of me when I read about Buckbeak turning pink and tweeting like a canary. Loved the continuing memories of Regulus and I'm thankful that the aurors that tracked him down were friendly.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: big belly laughs, etc.

I expect Sirius subconsciously wanted a good laugh, and that's why John Lupin's wand malfunctioned in that way. ;p
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: June 7th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Feed the addiction, Fern. Even if you get jossed, it will still be early enough to fix it (I hope. Fernfic should not be stopped.)

Just a note about Remus is the Orkneys. During the summer, that's about the furthest north Remus could get - long days, short nights, short full moons. While it may look like punishment to Sirius (whose reputed brilliance seems to be limited to magic and not so much to commonsense) it's a good scheme for Remus for the summer.

But he's right about Remus in the winter.

Great beginnings, Fern.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
True, and honestly, when I made his little shack in the Orkneys for "Conflict of Interest," I personally thought it sounded like a kind of idyllic setting. But for gregarious Sirius, living alone on an otherwise uninhabited island (he's renting from a trow) would be deeply troubling by itself!
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 7th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Tee Hee!

I had to sit and think for a minute to remind myself that it's not until the END of GoF that Sirius running smack into Kingsley and Tonks will be a good rather than a bad thing. Well, we know that he evades capture, but it's way cool and exciting to see Tonks from an earlier era and from another person's perspective.

I don't see why anything you write now shouldn't be perfectly salvageable, no matter what we learn about Regulus in July.

Also, I wanted to comment on Tonks' sorting, which I loved. I loved how when Granny was hiding under the bed, Ted's first reaction was to crawl after and retrieve her Muggle fashion rather than reaching for a wand. I think it's a great demonstration of how he's never really changed, and how he's reamined grounded even after all these years in the magical world.

And of course, seeing the much younger Weasley family was just precious.

As someone else said, yes, please continue to feed my addiction.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Tee Hee!

I'm mostly worried about some offhand comment that will undermine the whole scenario, like Ron's comment that Sirius never knew Tonks's family would have if I hadn't chosen to retcon on the notion that Ron doesn't really know about it all. If Remus says something along the line of, "I never met Tonks until she joined the Order," I'm pretty screwed. ;p Or if Regulus and Sirius turn out to genuinely have been bitter enemies who had no use for each other.
excitedrainbow From: excitedrainbow Date: June 7th, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whoever said that they wanted to run around yelling "Fern fic!", can I join you, please? XD

Aww, this is great Fern. Sirius's thought processes are really good - and hee, Remus in sackcloth and ashes! As usual, I love the little details - his haircut being the one he had just before Azkaban, Remus being a lousy letter writer, that giant snake - it all adds wonderful colour and life.

OMG Kingsley and Tonks.

I love it!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sirius really has Remus's number when it comes to self-defeating behaviors, I think. I doubt he'd have put up with HBP Remus for long without needling him a whole lot more than Arthur and Molly did.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: June 7th, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, still out-of-the-loop Kingsley and Tonks, but yeah... why not bring them in? They're looking for him, aren't they? ;p
golden_d From: golden_d Date: June 7th, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh...cliffhanger! Unfair! ;) I can't wait to read more. You do write Sirius excellently.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. This is kind of fun--Sirius is very sharp about some things, and very dense about others... and they're kind of the opposite poles from the things Remus is sharp and dense about.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: June 7th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I come back from a long vacation, and what do I find? FERNFIC!

I love you for choosing to do GoF from Sirius's POV, I've always thought that was the perfect Fern-fic waiting to happen! I love you for choosing to do Sirius, coz you do him SO well... and I love you for writing anything at all at this stage. From the prologue it seems to me you're going to go into what the deal was with Regulus (and since it's in his POV, maybe we'll even get some specifics and original theories fromy you), there's rather a high chance for jossing there, don't you think? I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong.. this is just wonderful!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
On Regulus, I'm hoping that I'll introduce the ideas slowly enough for them to still be nebulous on July 21, and after that, I'll solidify in JKR's direction. ;p Still, yes, jossing potential is high, which is why I hesitated for quite a long time before starting. But Sirius doesn't like to shut up once he opens his mouth...
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: June 7th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Eeeee YAY! Kingsley and Dora! I love all the little character details you include here... like Sirius losing interest in monster-wrestling as soon as they treat him like an adult... and like his consideration of Remus not normally being the materially generous one. See, this is why I need to keep up with your fic. It's DAMN good.

Only one typos: you said the Chudley Canons! I think it's Cannons. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 8th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops! It's the Suethor mistake in the other direction. Either that, or the Chudley team has a very odd mascot.
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: June 8th, 2007 01:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! Gotta love those overcompensatin' guys from Chudley. :)
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 8th, 2007 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I love this so far! Especially the beginning, with his haircut, and having to acknowledge that he actually did get older. Also when the teenager treated him like an *adult.* Poor Sirius, it's not his fault he never actually got a chance to grow up.

It just occurred to me that a Sirius-fic might have a different format than a Tonks or Lupin one, as there's no full moon problem to keep things in a regular pattern. Are you planning to have interludes in this story?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 8th, 2007 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I am, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how to structure them! ;p
24 comments or Leave a comment