Table of Contents and Summary So Far
This morning Sirius had planned to return to the cave after visiting the archives, to get more lightweight spying done in Hogsmeade, then perhaps to settle in with a book, if he could scrounge one from somewhere. Instead, he was at Number Twelve, and, after Remus and Dora left, he was alone with two frightened and grieving girls.
Kirsty was quite peeved with him for not endorsing heaven thoroughly enough, but for Elspeth's sake, she was keeping quiet. Elspeth had attached herself to Sirius, and by eight o'clock, he was simply carrying her around on his back instead of having her grab his hand every time he moved.
"Would you like a snack before bed?" he asked.
"I'm not hungry," Kirsty said.
"Are you hungry, Elspeth?" Sirius asked, tipping his head to look at her at an oblique angle.
She shook her head.
"She's tired," Kirsty told him. "She should go to bed."
"Why don't you both go to bed? Things will look better after you've had some rest."
Kirsty looked like she might argue, then surrendered and nodded instead. She led the way up to the room they were sharing. By the time Sirius got there with Elspeth, she had both beds turned down. He put Elspeth down in hers while Kirsty settled down, then, with a flick of his wand, he switched them into nightclothes. This brought a faint smile from Kirsty.
"Can we have a story?" Elspeth asked.
"Only if it's nice," Kirsty warned. "Do you know any nice stories?"
"Sure," Sirius said. "Sure I do." He Conjured a stool and thought about what "nice" stories he might tell them. He'd told plenty of stories to Regulus when they were children together, but these had tended to be about ogres and dragons and brave wizards who dispatched them in increasingly disgusting ways. This brought a memory of Lily Potter, rolling her eyes at him in an exasperated way when he'd tried one out on Harry. (Harry, for his part, had been enthralled, though Sirius doubted he'd understood a word at less than a year old.) "Something from Beadle the Bard, maybe?"
Elspeth wrinkled her nose and shook her head. "Something nice, with a princess."
"Her mother's in trouble," Kirsty suggested, "and has to be saved."
"Ah, all right, hmm." Sirius closed his eyes, and imagined the Brodie girls as princesses. "Once upon a time, there were two princesses, and they had lovely dresses in yellow and pink. Their mother was a smart, kind queen who was merciful and wise."
"What color was the queen's dress?" Elspeth asked.
"Er... gray. It was a sort of silvery gray." Sirius warmed to the story. "But one day, an evil dark witch came to the kingdom, and the queen was locked away in a tower. The princesses said, 'We'll help her!' And they rode off on their ponies, to the edge of the sea, where they found their friend, a special dog who could talk..."
He spun the story out until Elspeth fell asleep (by then, the girls were working with a shapeshifting fairy and a kindly old wolf), then Kirsty said she though she knew how it would end. She turned over and blew out a candle.
Sirius glanced at the portrait frame above her head, and was surprised to see Phineas Nigellus in it. He tipped his head toward the corridor, and Sirius went out. There was a landscape at the top of the stairs, and Phineas was sitting in it, looking quite as gloomy as the stormy gray sky over the ocean. Sirius blocked the sound into the girls' room, then said, "What is it, Grayfur?"
"As I believe I've told you--"
"What is it?"
"Dumbledore was looking for you in Hogsmeade, where you are expected to be. People can't simply wonder where you've run off to now; you've already put them in quite a predicament."
"We have a bit of a crisis here."
"I imagine so."
"Tell Dumbledore..." He shook his head. "You know what? Just tell Dumbledore to floo into the kitchen. I'll unblock it for him."
"Tell Dumbledore...?" Phineas shuddered. "You've clearly never attempted to direct Albus Dumbledore to do anything."
Phineas curled his lip and disappeared from the painting. Sirius went down to the kitchen to change the security on the floo.
A moment later, the flames went green, and Albus Dumbledore stepped out, blinking, into the room.
"Not nearly as dreary as I thought it would be," he said cheerfully, looking around. "I apologize if Phineas was needlessly short with you. There was no emergency; I was merely concerned that you'd been found by someone less friendly."
"Dougie Brodie is dead and Fiona's in Azkaban."
Dumbledore's face grew suddenly solemn. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize something so grave had happened. She's wanted for his killing?"
Sirius nodded. "They're keeping her until they finish the investigation."
"Is she innocent?"
"I--" Sirius sat down at the table. "I think so. I can't see her killing anyone."
"And yet, one can see the Aurors' concern. A husband who will never recover, a young woman who might wish different companionship..." He raised his eyebrow when Sirius didn't cut in. "I see you're not entirely sure."
"I think I'm sure. But I need to talk to her. I need to get her out of there."
"Could Miss Tonks help?"
"She's done everything she can. She and Remus have been running around madly all day."
"Would you have me use what influence I have?"
Sirius considered it carefully--Dumbledore had his enemies, but his influence was still something to be reckoned with. But a cold voice in his head told him that Dumbledore would be spending a lot of his political capital in the coming years, and now was not the time to deplete it on personal causes. "I don't know. I need to talk to Fiona and see what she wants."
"And how do you intend to do that?"
"I need you to babysit for an hour or two." He smiled sheepishly. "I couldn't send my Patronus to Remus or Dora; I don't know if they're alone. And you did help James and Lily now and then."
"I would be delighted," Dumbledore said. "Might I have the privilege of enjoying your library while you're gone?"
"If you can find something enjoyable in the House of Black, you're welcome to it," Sirius muttered. "I'll be back as quickly as I can."
"Sirius... you know you're about to do a foolish and dangerous thing."
They nodded to each other, then Sirius turned his back on Dumbledore and went upstairs to leave.
There was no one in the square, but he Disillusioned himself anyway. No need to take chances before he even started. He concentrated, and Disapparated to Fiona's island. The winter weather hadn't allowed anything to grow back after the fire, and it was dismal and depressing. He could Conjure a boat to take him closer than he was, but he didn't dare try a more magical approach. He wouldn't even be able to maintain the Disillusioning spell as he got nearer to his destination--there were spells meant to break any magical disturbance.
The boat he Conjured was small and practical. As he pressed off the coast, it listed alarmingly, but righted itself in the waves.
Sirius didn't need a compass to find his way. The air became colder, and somehow thinner. He could feel the presence of the Dementors nearby, and as soon as he drew close enough for them to really begin acting on him, he transformed into Padfoot and jumped overboard. The waves pushed him away, but he swam against them until he reached the mysterious place where they started yearning for land, carrying him forward in huge leaps until he thought he'd be dashed on the rock that loomed above him. In the high turrets above, he caught a glimpse of the lone guards' tower, then a wave picked him up and threw him onto the thin, rocky beach.
He scrambled to his paws and ran for the shelter of a black rock.
There was no point trying to get to the high window of the cell block from which he'd escaped--Fiona would be on the other side of the prison, away from the more dangerous crowd. The approach would actually be easier physically, but it was also more exposed. He would have to be stealthy.
A Dementor floated by the nook in the rock. It didn't pause at the presence of a dog, but it reminded Sirius of exactly where he was.
He waited a moment, then followed the Dementor down the narrowing fringe of beach, to a set of narrow stone steps.
Carefully, Sirius jumped up the steps, keeping to the shadows. There was a flat, wide roof at the top, with a wall rising up to a second tier. These were the holding cells for people awaiting trial. The doors were locked, but Sirius could see a small balcony on the first floor, probably a spot for guards and judges to come out for air. He could make the jump, and perhaps, once there, the door to the interior would be open.
Sirius crouched back on his haunches, taking a deep breath, and prepared to break into Azkaban.