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Repost: Stray, Chapter Three: The End of the Holiday - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Repost: Stray, Chapter Three: The End of the Holiday
I changed very little here--put in a few missing words, I think. I added a bit to try to explain the discrepancy between Moody being retired and Moody having been Tonks's mentor. Mostly, this is a time-keeping chapter, to move Sirius from Brazil back home, and to pass the two months it took for Harry to get a reply from him.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

They flew inland along the curving slash of the river, visible in the moonlight like a shining path. Sirius kept Buckbeak high, not allowing him to skim the canopy as he liked, as the Aurors had apparently sent out half of the local law enforcement people on broomsticks. It was impossible for them to see Buckbeak or Sirius directly through the Disillusionment spell, but if they made too much noise or commotion, it would be a giveaway. One came close enough that Sirius was sure Buckbeak's lower talons would graze him, but he dipped down at the last minute to circle back from another direction. He saw the pretty young Auror zipping back and forth in a very smart pattern to find someone hiding under this particular charm, casting detection spells in every direction. Kingsley, a bit further to the north, seemed to be doing the same thing. Sirius stayed above the range of the spells, urging Buckbeak further west, further across the canopy, moving as fast as he could, trying to get far enough ahead of them for a hole to appear in their magical net.

Or to outlast their patience.

The two Aurors finally zoomed toward one another and leaned forward to confer. Sirius could guess the direction of the conversation--had he slipped away from them, gone out to sea perhaps? Should they call it off?

Buckbeak was wheezing heavily from the effort of staying up this high, and bits of foamy sweat were standing out on what appeared to be thin air. They had to come down soon. A bead of sweat rolled off his flank and fell.

Kingsley looked up in disgust. "Damn! It's going to start raining again."

"He'll have to come down sometime," the girl said, her voice floating up in broken fragments. "He'll show."

With obvious regret, Kingsley sent a signal to their local partners, then he and the girl turned their brooms around and headed back toward the sea.

Sirius let out a sigh of relief, and leaned forward to let Buckbeak know it was all right to start down. Buckbeak dove gratefully toward the trees, and moment later, they skimmed the surface of the Amazon, then slipped into the deep shadows of the forest. Buckbeak landed at the base of a vast tree whose gnarled roots made a cave high enough for Sirius to stand up in. He looked around it suspiciously, then Conjured a tent inside of it, sealed against any creatures who might find wizard or hippogriff an exotic dinner, then fell to the floor and slept deeply. He dreamed of Azkaban.

In the morning, his back and arms were sore from the flight, and he could tell from the way Buckbeak was mincing about that he was sore as well.

"You get some rest," he said. "I'll find us something to eat."

Buckbeak looked at him with almost human gratitude, and collapsed back down to sleep. Sirius wished he had the makings of a Painkiller Potion. It wasn't the first time he'd wished it--Buckbeak had looked like this after the flight from the Outer Hebrides to the Greenland coast as well, and Sirius hadn't even been able to give him a rest, at least not until he felt out of the reach of European authorities. They hadn't really been able to rest until they found a secluded part of Northern Maine in the States, and even there, Sirius hadn't been comfortable. Canada and the States were easy to get lost in if no one was looking, but a warrant for a murderer carried perfectly well. The further they got away physically, the better it would be. Nowhere was entirely safe, but--at least as far as Sirius knew--the treaties were weaker in some places than in others, and he'd he had to make for one.

At least this time, Buckbeak didn't have to follow one frantic flight with another. He could rest, at least if Sirius could figure out what they could eat. He supposed fish would do as well as anything else, though catching them would be a bother. He supposed there would be plenty of small animals around that he could chase as Padfoot, but he was no naturalist--he didn't fancy the idea of getting himself turned around here and not being able to find his way back to his little camp. The river was a handy landmark, so it was the river he would go to.

The tree to the river, the river to the tree--it was the size of his world for the next week. The first two days were interesting, discovering a hundred creatures, magical and Muggle, living in that patch of land, but it all became routine quickly. Fishing turned out to be fairly easy magically--he just cast a Summoning charm on some of the slower fish and flipped them into a Conjured bucket. Aiming was difficult and it took some practice to keep hold, but an afternoon's practice was all it really took. Buckbeak wasn't impressed with the fare, but he ate it, and as the days passed, his movements became normal again. Sirius started thinking about where to go next. He belonged at home, watching over Harry, but that wasn't an option. He'd do Harry no good back in Azkaban.

Of course, he wasn't doing a fat lot of good here, either.

Buckbeak was also getting restless. He didn't like the heavy heat of the jungle, the near-steam that hung in the air. On the beach, the cooling breeze from the ocean had mitigated it somewhat, but here, the hippogriff, never bred for this climate, was falling into a sullen daze. He gave Sirius a rather large scratch on the eighth morning of their exile, and went off for a flight without waiting for Sirius to Disillusion him. He came back an hour later, and spent the rest of the day pawing at the dirt and looking up at the sky.

Sirius wondered briefly if a good warming charm would make Antarctica livable.

He awoke on the ninth day to a sound that was truly exotic here--the hooting of two owls.

One was a small brown owl with no distinguishing marks. The other was a great snowy owl... Harry's. Sirius had seen her when he'd been on the Hogwarts grounds last year.

He reached for her, and she held her head up proudly. The other owl looked a bit sheepish. Sirius was willing to bet that Harry's owl had been the one to find the way, while the other was lost.

He took Harry's letter eagerly. It began as a simple, newsy thing--how his life with the Dursleys was (unpleasant), how Dudley's diet was going (badly), and how they were kept in check by the knowledge that Harry's godfather might show up at any moment (Sirius paused to savor this notion). But the second-to-the-last paragraph, written in a tone so carefully casual that Sirius estimated it had taken Harry several hours to compose, read:

A weird thing happened this morning, though. My scar hurt again. Last time that happened it was because Voldemort was at Hogwarts. But I don't reckon he can be anywhere near now, can he? Do you know if curse scars sometimes hurt years afterward?

I'll send Hedwig with this when she gets back; she's off hunting at the moment. Say hello to Buckbeak for me.

"Hello from Harry, Buckbeak," Sirius muttered, then glanced at the P.S. on the note and smiled--Harry's yearly imprisonment was over, at any rate: he was off to Ron Weasley's, and apparently the tickets that had eluded Kingsley hadn't got far... Harry was going to be there.

He'd have to scrounge around his bag to see if he'd grabbed any parchment in his flight from the hotel. He knew he'd grabbed a quill and ink along with the magical items, as Muggles always seemed to find it curious. He decided to see what the second owl was carrying before he wrote his reply.

It hopped over. The writing on the envelope was Lupin's. Sirius took it and opened it.

I assume Harry has written to you, so I told this owl to find Hedwig and follow her. The owl I tried to send to your previous location returned somewhat confused.

Harry is fine.

I say that before I begin, because he may have told you he was actually
at the Quidditch World Cup when the Dark Mark went up--

"What the..." Sirius started.

--and the Death Eaters showed up. He is fine. Arthur Weasley got him safely out, and Dumbledore assures me that he is perfectly well protected at the Weasleys' home until he gets to Hogwarts. Don't come rushing back here to check on him. Of course, this may be the first you hear of it, and I rather hope it is, because I could open with what would concern you most. There is no need for rushing headlong back to Britain.

However, Dumbledore and I spoke at length after the World Cup incident. Things are changing in ways neither of us cares for, and I'd assume you don't care for it much, either. If you are careful--which means more careful than you apparently have been (yes, after my first owl returned, I heard about your close scrape)--it may be wise to be somewhat closer at hand. I have the impression that Dumbledore wants all of us ready; he's already brought Moody out of his "retirement" (which has technically lasted nearly a year, but, I am assured, was never assiduously observed) to fill my old post at Hogwarts. I am still where I have been, and the island is isolated, but be careful. I do have visitors from time to time, and am watched. If you come, don't approach without your best disguise, and keep your companion Disillusioned and quiet. I would personally prefer that you wait until we find Peter and bring him before the Wizengamot--he can lie to them, but they'll know he's lying, as he's actually there to give evidence rather than many years dead.

But things are moving in the world. Perhaps it's time for you to move as well.


Sirius pulled over his rucksack, found a crumpled piece of parchment resting along the side, and tore it in two. On the first half, he wrote a quick reply to Harry, telling him that he'd be moving north. On the second, he wrote,

I would have come even without your permission, though the hospitality is welcome. I'll be well-behaved and make no noise whatsoever. My companion and I will fly as quickly as possible.

He tied the letters to the two owls. "Don't be seen," he told them, then gave them a boost, one on each arm, into the sky.

When he turned around, Buckbeak was waiting, his lead dangling from his beak.

If he had been asked, at Azkaban, whether it would be harder to get away from the Ministry's Aurors or to get himself right in the middle of them, he'd have chosen the former without even thinking about it. Of course it would be harder to get away.

That was before he tried to get back in.

He'd imagined himself taking the route he'd taken down to South America, just in reverse--skim up North America, island-hop across the North Atlantic, land far enough from Remus's to keep off suspicion if he happened to be caught, then make his way up there and get the full story. He might even be there before Harry got back to school. He'd just... avoid detection.

Which turned out not to be such an easy trick.

Once he flew out of the jungle, he realized that half of the law enforcement divisions in the Americas had been set after him. He barely got Buckbeak out of range of a strange net of spells above Caracas, noticing only a moment before it was too late that he'd abruptly lost his own Disillusionment and swerving to the west. Another net had been cast across the entire Panamanian ithsmus--they must have realized that he might try to get back, though their reasoning was probably more along the line that if the Death Eaters were active again, he'd want to be with them. He'd heard enough muttering from the Death Eaters in Azkaban to know that the person who really had passed information to Voldemort that had proved nearly fatal would hardly be welcomed with open arms.

He swerved west again, in a counter-intuitive direction that he dearly hoped they'd miss. With each passing day, the idea of the pain in Harry's scar seemed to grow in his mind--he was being kept away, probably escaping any vital owls along with the Aurors, and he didn't like the idea of that pain at all. He knew very little about the subject, and decided to take it up with Remus (he supposed Harry had written to Remus as well, and the question was already being thoroughly researched), but he knew that whatever it meant couldn't be good.

Buckbeak was exhausted after the fourth day of traveling, and Sirius was forced to take a chance on landing, choosing a remote spot in the great flat lands in the middle of the United States. They slept in a field of fragrant, soon-to-be-harvested corn, and when he awakened, he looked out toward the frighteningly distant horizon, and could see three separate rainstorms pounding the fields far away. He left Buckbeak to chase the abundant field mice, transformed into a dog, and scavenged food for himself from a Muggle rubbish bin. He also found several plastic sacks, and used them to help himself to several dozen ears of corn to tide him over. He doubted the farmer would miss them in this apparently endless field.

After resting here for two days, he took a chance on flying northwest again, stopping in remote areas to find food. Three times, he found himself face to face with his wanted poster (though, to his surprise, they had not added the information about Buckbeak). Every magical area he passed seemed to have detection spells on it, all the way through the volcanoes of Washington and the majestic mountains of British Columbia. Some days, the zig-zagging path he took left him no more than a hundred miles from where he'd begun. Trying to get food became difficult, and he eventually settled for sharing Buckbeak's rats, though he found he could only stomach them in dog form.

Finally, as the water narrowed toward the Bering Strait (by now, he was daily Conjuring a heavy coat for himself and even giving Buckbeak a warming charm), he turned away from the Americas and flew out over east Asia. The treaties here weren't quite as strong, and he was apparently not expected, so he made better time. He took another rest in Mongolia, then made much better time winging across Russia. He stopped one last time in Lithuania, hoping that he'd thrown pursuit off sufficiently, at least for the last place he could think of whose ties to the British Ministry were less than strong.

He landed near a Muggle village and found a deserted barn, leading Buckbeak into it with great care.

"I need to know what to expect," he said. "I have to take a bit of a chance here. If I don't come back tonight, fly off on your own."

He had no idea how much the hippogriff understood, but he guessed it was quite a lot, as he was rewarded with a look of very deep suspicion.

He shrugged, then pulled out his Azkaban robes and Transfigured them into a Muggle suit. He put it on, curled and colored his hair, and Apparated to Vilnius.

He had a handful of Muggle money left over, and he changed that to litas before finding his way through a maze of narrow streets into the magical neighborhood, a place he'd visited once in his childhood when taken to visit a cousin of one variety or another, whose mother had met and married a Durmstrang student and moved here. That had been an awkward visit--neither cousin was interested in the clumsy match-making their parents had been up to, and they hadn't particularly cared for one another--but at least it had given Sirius some idea what he was looking for. He found a tiny reading room above a tea shop and asked if they had any issues of the Daily Prophet. The small man minding the place had poor English, so Sirius switched to French, which he apparently had a slightly better grasp of, though it still took a few tries. Finally, he got a handful of Prophets and began to scan them. There had been no mention of his near capture, as far as he could tell, and he wondered briefly where Remus had come by the information. The Death Eaters hadn't been seen again. To his complete shock--and grave discomfort--the Tri-Wizard Tournament was scheduled to be held for the first time in many years, at Hogwarts. Students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang would be arriving there soon. Beauxbatons was fine; he'd visited a few times. But Durmstrang? He knew their curriculum (if Dad hadn't, for once in his life, put his foot down, Mum would have packed him up and sent him there the moment he'd made friends with James) and didn't particularly care for the thought of its students in striking distance of Harry.

Nothing suggested that he would be flying back into an ambush, from either Aurors or Death Eaters, but he was uneasy about it anyway. He Apparated back to the barn and found Buckbeak enjoying a pile of rats that he'd apparently killed for himself. He offered one to Sirius.

"No thanks," he said. "I'll live until we get to Lupin's. Think you can make one last long flight tomorrow?"

Buckbeak gave him an eager sort of nudge.

They slept close together that night for warmth in the cold of late October. The steaming heat of the jungle seemed like a dream, a brief fantasy from which Sirius was now waking up to accepted reality.

They took off just before dawn, skimming the sparkling Baltic Sea, going high over the tip of Sweden to avoid any magical defenses, then dropping low again as the North Sea stretched before them. A miserable kind of foggy drizzle was falling, which Sirius tried to tell himself would at least give him cover, but all it really made him think of were Dementors. Somewhere out there, Azkaban rose out of these waters. He had no interest in seeing it again. The drizzle finally cleared as the sun set.

It was far past the autumn equinox now, and dark was falling rapidly when he saw the Scottish coast rising majestically from the water. By the time he'd followed it northward to the islands, the light was coming from the waning moon, the stars, and a greenish white aurora flashed into the sky like a great curtain. It was exactly, Sirius thought morosely, the color of an onrushing Death Curse.

The little island Remus lived on was otherwise uninhabited by humans, as a particularly demanding hogboon still claimed it, and its last surviving descendant, a city woman who had no interest in Orkney living, had rented the house to him after he'd agreed to try and expel the cranky old spirit so she could sell the place. Reading between the lines of Remus's letter, Sirius guessed that she'd given him no break in the rent for this service, but since Snape had decided to spread Remus's secret around, he hadn't been able to find any other landlord who'd rent to him at all.

Sirius guided Buckbeak down to a stone circle on a hilltop and left him on a patch of land that wasn't quite as sodden as the rest, then transformed and padded down the hill toward the tiny square of firelight that was Remus's window. It grew bigger as he went, and soon he could see the little house with its crumbling stone walls. A newer veranda--more of a little stone platform extending out in front of the door--had been added, and Sirius guessed this was Remus's contribution, so he could sit down and read or sketch outdoors during the summer without dealing with the often-marshy ground. Sirius jumped up onto it and put his paws on the edge of the window to make sure Remus was alone before barging in. He didn't think it was much of a concern; he couldn't imagine many people who would come out here in the middle of the night to visit.

So he was quite shocked to see the table set for two and strewn with take-away boxes. Remus was sitting at one end of it, smiling faintly, one knee drawn up to his chest, and his chin resting on it, looking for all the world like the world's oldest first year, but that wasn't what nearly made Sirius fall away from the window in shock.

At the other end of the table, turning her teacup in absent circles on its saucer, was the pretty young Auror who'd already nearly caught him once.


22 comments or Leave a comment
From: severely_lupine Date: March 14th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius knew--the treaties were weaker in some places than in others, and he'd he had to make for one.

It looks like you've got an extra word in there. Shouldn't it just be "he'd had"?

He'd heard enough muttering from the Death Eaters in Azkaban to know that the person who really had passed information to Voldemort that had proved nearly fatal would hardly be welcomed with open arms.

This is probably just my work-addled brain, but who is being referred to here?

It's so sad to see Sirius in this condition, and Buckbeak, as well. But yay for finally arriving at Lupin's!
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 14th, 2009 06:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Fern was refering to Peter there.
From: severely_lupine Date: March 14th, 2009 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I get it. Because by trying to kill Harry, Voldemort nearly died. Thanks. :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, definitely an extra word there!

At least Sirius is mostly free during this year, even if it's necessary to hide a lot.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 14th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius thinking that aurora looked like an AK? Slayed me. It just reminds me of what a waste JKR did to his character. Such a shame, really. Yay for arriving at Remus'!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, I could see the sense of killing one of Harry's father figures. Sirius, Dumbledore, Lupin, or Snape... any of them would have an effect. But dang Jo--all of them?
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: March 14th, 2009 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
What made me laugh is the thought of a net over Panama! I spent the last couple of years of my military career there, and it was pretty lawless, in a mellow, tropical sort of way.

If the magical authorities are anything like the civilian ones, Sirius could have rented a car and driven straight up the Panamerican highway into Mexico. Nobody in the city would ever hear the country people's stories about a white man driving north with a chupacabra sitting on the roof of his car...

"Remus was sitting at one end of it, smiling faintly, one knee drawn up to his chest, and his chin resting on it, looking for all the world like the world's oldest first year..."
Cute Remus!

Edited at 2009-03-14 06:46 am (UTC)
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 14th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! That's a great image! Poor Buckbeak having to pass as a chupacabra, he might be too proud for that.
My great aunt used to scare us with stories about the chupacabra when me and my cousins were little; we were so afraid we'd wake up and find someone sucked dry in the morning we'd sleep in the same bed!
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: March 14th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Buckbeak would never know. I figure people would just assume he was a chupacabra since there's no such thing as a hippogriff, and everyone knows Englishmen are crazy.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha, yes--if he'd thought to rent a car and Transfigure Buckbeak somehow, he'd probably have sailed right on through! (If he can drive.) It may not have been the Panamanian Aurors... just a nice narrow space for British Aurors to try and cover completely.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: March 15th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
But see, he wouldn't have had to transfigure Buckbeak. Nobody actually knows what a chupacabra looks like; they'd just see a weird looking critter and assume that's what it was. And he wouldn't have needed to know how to drive, either. Heck, he probably could have bought a leftover American hoopty for a couple of hundred bucks. (One day I'll tell the story of how I got my Panamanian driver's license. It was basically a test of my ability to produce a twenty-dollar bill.)

In the New World, magic isn't governed, except insofar as people in power may use it (there are rumors that Noriega used a very dark variant of Santeria.) Sirius could have popped into any botanica, explained his situation (on the run from some basically Caucasoid authorities), and gotten a santero to hook him up.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know. I'm already panicking about that. ;p
(Deleted comment)
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: March 14th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
It's just as great as the first time around. Your portrayal of Sirius, Remus and Tonks is really my favourite.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I really enjoy them.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: March 14th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is moving along at a ripping pace. My heart aches for Sirius -- you write him so well that we see the responsible adult and the reckless young man fighting for dominance inside him. The poor man never did have a chance to grow up, did he?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
He really didn't. He might have always been one of those men where you can see the boy very clearly, but his life was broken up when he was barely out of adolescence, and was probably still in sort of a wild time, celebrating his freedom from the ancient and most noble, et cetera.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: March 14th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, well, at least he had a chance to see a bit of the world, right? Even if it was from the sky and at a great speed...

He should have gone via Colombia. They wouldn't have many Aurors patrolling the sky there :P

The aurora being the same color as the AK... *sad*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
He should have gone via Colombia. They wouldn't have many Aurors patrolling the sky there :P

Ha, quite possible... though there might have been a wizarding equivalent of the War on Drugs, and he could have ended up with American Aurors on his case...
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 27th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)


Sirius was lucky enough to land in a field of sweet corn? My understanding is that most of the "maize" grown is not sweet to eat. Anyone know?

mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 16th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am really enjoying reading Sirius' point of view on things. I loved Buckbeak's offering Sirius a rat. What a sweet hippogriff! ;)

LOL at the ending of this chapter, especially the description of Remus. :)
22 comments or Leave a comment