Air feeds Fire; Fire transforms Air
(a Harry Potter fanfiction by
beginning immediately after the events of The Prisoner of
Azkaban, and continues through and after The Goblet of Fire
Author's Note: I started wondering, during a
rereading of Goblet of Fire, exactly what was Sirius doing in all that
time between letters... and then added in his 'going south' to escape and came
up with this. Alexandra MacMillan's hair is based heavily on a real person's.
Some sections of this story quote heavily from Harry Potter and the Goblet
of Fire in order to remain as true as possible to the incidents in the book.
All characters, names and situations from the Harry
Potter novels belong to J.K. Rowling, her publishers and filmmakers.
No infringement of any copyrights is intended, no profit will ever be made
on this story, and all rights are reserved to their legal owners.
Alex MacMillan and her dogs (Canis familiaris, not
Canis sapiens) are mine, however. You can
have Miami, I don't particularly want it.
'I'm pretending to be a lovable
'Harry had received two letters from Sirius since he had
been back at Privet Drive. Both had been delivered not
by owls, as was usual for wizards, but by large, brightly-coloured
tropical birds.... They put him in mind of palm trees,
and white sand, and he hoped that wherever Sirius was...
he was enjoying himself. ...Sirius had gone south.'
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 2
Sirius and Buckbeak flew as far as their stamina -- mostly
Buckbeak's, of course -- could take them in one night.
They flew north, toward John O'Groats. Aside from
the fact that this was an unexpected direction, Sirius planned
using the Orkneys, Shetlands and Faroes as stepping-stones for
Buckbeak's crossing the Atlantic. The Americans wouldn't
be anywhere near as concerned about finding him as British
wizarding society. Of course, he could Apparate (with
immense difficulty without a wand, and a great risk of detection
by the Ministry of Magic), but he couldn't take Buckbeak with
him that way.
Following what Muggle pilots know as the Great Circle Route,
with a couple days' rest at each landfall, the two fugitives
crossed the great Nordic expanse. Some legs of the journey,
Buckbeak had to fly for hours and hours without any hint of
land in any direction; he trusted Sirius to keep them going
in the right direction. The wizard's magic was limited
without a wand, but he managed to conjure a sort of compass
that eventually landed them safely on mainland Newfoundland.
Once on Canadian soil, the journey became much less
strenuous strictly in terms of physical effort, but much
harder in terms of hiding from both Muggles and the random witch or
wizard. Buckbeak, after all, was a large creature.
A large, hungry creature.
They flew at night, rested or walked during the day, and
hunted in the forests from Newfoundland all the way down
through the Carolinas. Sirius found being Padfoot far
more convenient when he had to deal with fresh road-killed
deer for supper; after all, who had ever seen a large dog be a
He had plenty of time, without the constant soul-sucking
vacuum of the Dementors, to ponder the mysteries of being
an Animagus. As a dog, the Azkaban guards weren't as
able to feed off him; his emotions were simpler, but he always
remained... himself. Self-aware, remembering as a human
but perceiving as a dog. He was able to understand other
animals much better in canine form as well. Must be
a gift of the spell, to understand the language instinctively
and instantly without trying to learn all the right sounds,
and smells, and body language. That's why Crookshanks
trusted me so quickly.
Eventually, the two of them crossed into Florida. Sirius
had always wanted to see the famous beaches that most Muggle
Britons yearn to visit; he had just never got around to taking
a holiday that far off. After all, it wasn't really on the
Floo Network -- no fireplaces. He also calculated the hunting
might be better year-round for the hippogriff -- in fact, hiding
in the nature preserve around Cape Canaveral, Buckbeak stuffed
himself so thoroughly on wild pig that he couldn't fly for a whole
day. And lastly, Sirius was tired of being cold.
Azkaban had a minimal heating bill, as the Ministry of Magic had
very little interest in keeping the prisoners comfortable while
they went mad.
Sirius and Buckbeak settled in to hide in South Florida, as so
many do. The hippogriff flew deep into the great marsh of
the Everglades, and Sirius -- Padfoot, actually -- started
prowling around parks, vacant lots, golf courses, other spaces
where a very large dog could shelter without alerting Animal
Control. He had explored the Muggle part of London while
still attending Hogwarts, and saw how the authorities could treat
human vagrants. A dog had a much better chance. He
didn't join Buckbeak out in the Everglades because he wanted to
maintain contact with Harry, of course, and keep aware of the
news. One could usually find a discarded Daily Prophet
in a city without much effort.
Still, feeding himself became every day's all-day effort.
Thin to the point of emaciation from prison, the long trip
and scarcity of scraps put no weight on his frame. Even
using human intelligence to hunt for food didn't make much difference
in his meals. The ripple of ribs showed clearly through
Padfoot's thick black double-coat. He was going to have to
come up with a different plan to survive. He was going to
have to get himself... adopted.
Phase One of Padfoot's plan involved careful surveillance.
First, he had to find a reasonably nice neighborhood, to
ensure finding someone who could afford feeding a good-sized...
pet. (He was going to be a pet. A pet.
It's for Harry, it's for Harry, it's for Harry....)
Then he had to find where the Muggles exercised their
dogs, so he could pick a good... owner. He ended up in
Miami Springs, which had a substantial and attractive golf course,
with many clusters of trees providing shade and concealment,
especially around the ruined mansion on the far eastern edge of
the property. After about a week of observation, and begging
for Chinese food from a nearby restaurant, Padfoot started to
notice patterns. A woman jogged early in the morning with
her Dalmatian (too busy); a man walked his three somewhat elderly
dogs in the early evening (too many dogs really); some people who
had houses right next to the golf course had small dogs who only
got tied up in the front gardens for air (won't want another as
big as a pony).
But then there was the woman with the white boxer. He
saw her frequently, although she rarely walked as far as the ruin.
She seemed to always be in a rush during the day, either
towing or being towed by a miniature schnauzer while the boxer ran
and bounced around the two of them. At night, however, their
walks wandered over much more of the course at a much more relaxed
pace. He could tell from the boxer's general air how happy he
was, playing with his human, running after sprinklers and nighthawks,
but always keeping an eye out for how far away she walked from
One night, he decided to risk it. His stomach couldn't
even growl from emptiness at this point, and he noticed the
beginnings of a general -- and ominous -- weakness. He
needed real shelter, at least long enough to recover. He
could play the good house-pet that long, and move on. Maybe
get a Muggle job, or find one of the rare magical blind spots
where he could use his powers a little more openly to feed himself.
It was that, or share Buckbeak's meals. Padfoot
curled his lips at the thought of the carnage considered hippogriff
cuisine. And eating rats provided a certain emotional
satisfaction, but little nourishment.
The boxer ran free again, and made long looping orbits around
the woman, who had seated herself on one of the little landscaped
hillocks to stare up into the night sky. Padfoot trotted
toward the other dog, his black coat making him almost invisible
in the scanty cityglow illuminating the field. The boxer
eventually spotted him, coming to an abrupt halt, every line of
his body expressing Alert! Padfoot slowed his trot; body
language was going to be crucial to pull off the friendly-dog
routine for both the canine and the human. He still wasn't
sure about the schnauzer, but comparative size made her
He ambled closer, tail lofty and swishing. Although he
focussed on the boxer, out of the corner of his eye he noticed
the woman had turned her head to stare intently at her dog.
His posture had alerted her. The white dog bounded
forward a few meters, and plunged into his Alert! position again.
Padfoot continued wagging, and stopped walking.
The human got to her feet hastily, and started to hurry
toward her boxer, looping the schnauzer's leash onto a tree
branch. Ah, she was keeping the noncombatant out of the way,
getting both hands free. Sensible. Good thing he
didn't want to pick a fight. The bigger dog did his sproingy
thing again, and this time bounded right up within sniffing range
of Padfoot. Canine vision allowed him to see the alarmed
expression on the boxer's human as she hurried closer. Polite
sniffing took place, which told Padfoot that his new acquaintance
ate well, kept clean, slept comfortably and had a tendency toward
almost aggressive friendliness. They started playing, and
to keep the human as relaxed as she had become on seeing no hostility
between the two dogs, Padfoot courteously kept the bounding in a
fairly tight radius with the woman as the centre.
The big black dog tired quickly due to his hunger, and he
finally stopped, panting hard. He allowed the woman to
stroke his head. She had to reach up to pat him;
standing level with her, Padfoot's eyeline met her throat.
She had a pleasant voice and a gentle touch, although
rather a bit more... oh, let's be kind, well-rounded than any
of the women Sirius had ever dated. He snorted at himself
mentally for thinking along those lines under these circumstances.
Women were the least of his concerns at the moment,
although he realized, startled, that he hadn't thought along
romantic -- or more earthy -- lines in... yeah, twelve years.
Snapping himself out of his deep thoughts, he found the
woman moving away from him, the boxer reluctantly following.
As she collected the schnauzer from the tree, he started
trotting after them. She noticed, and stopped.
'No, boy, go home. You can't come with us, I'm sure
somebody's looking for you. Go on.' This proved no
deterrence at all. Seizing the opportunity to show off,
Padfoot trotted right up to the woman and flopped over onto his
back right at her feet. She laughed in response, and
swatted her boxer away while she rubbed his chest, clucking
over the mats and weeds tangled in the thick hair. 'I'm
sorry, dog, but we can't stay and play now. I've got stuff
to do.' She got up and kept walking. Padfoot kept
following. She kept trying to discourage him, but he knew,
he was certain his plan had just succeeded.
He followed the three up to a small house, like one of the ones
where he had noticed small dogs living. The woman shook her
head when she noticed Padfoot right on their heels, and carefully
shepherded her two inside the house as two other dogs, unseen
behind a neighbor's fence, barked watchfully. The wizardly
dog settled himself neatly on the small porch. A pleasant
light breeze blew -- what a nice night. The weather remained
beastly during the summer days, but cooled off sufficiently for
him after sunset.
He only had to wait about twenty minutes by his guess, from
watching the stars overhead. The woman bustled out with
a large waterbowl, and kibble in an aluminium pan, admonishing
Padfoot for hanging around and warning him she wasn't going to
be able to do this for long.
By the next night, he had been shampooed, towelled, brushed
roughly, fed thoroughly and allowed to curl up on the sofa while
the other two dogs slept in the woman's bedroom with the door shut
-- to avoid trouble, she informed him.
By the next Sunday, he had a license -- he hated the shots, as
wizards always used potions and spells to ward off illness -- a
collar, a new nickname and his own food dish. The other
customers at PetsMart were informed he was a 'rescued Newfie...
or something,' whatever that meant, and he found himself greatly
admired. That night, after some wary observation by his new
'owner,' he got to share the trundle bed with the boxer, NEO
(not, as some thought, named after the Matrix character,
but short for 'Near Earth Object'), and the schnauzer, Mouse.
Phase Two had been overwhelmingly successful. Padfoot had been adopted,
Her name was Alex.
...Alex and Padfoot.
Alex had been wary of adopting a third dog -- especially with how
this one was, her Iams costs were going to go through her inadequately
insulated roof. And she had concerns about conflicts. NEO's
only problems with other dogs involved his size and energy levels --
dogs could get severely stepped on too easily, and all by accident, but
Keedee could pin the bouncy boxer with one huge black paw. Mouse,
on the other hand, swung between being a quivering terrified lump of
hair and Mouse Anfa Schnauzer, Warrior Queen of the golf course.
since she seemed to flirt with any male dog she came across,
the only concern there would be Keedee deciding to eat her in one
However, the big black dog showed no more aggressive tendencies than
and acted much calmer on the whole. Thank Goddess. Alex
the concept of having two Tiggerish dogs at the same time and
At the same time, she felt glad she'd taken him in. Animal
probably wouldn't have placed him; Broward County's Humane Society might
had trouble placing him, considering his size and condition. For a
his height and build, Keedee was horribly thin. His ribs and hips
painfully through his thick double coat; according to Dr Marmesh's
weighed about 140 pounds -- probably a good 20-30 pounds underweight.
Despite his low weight and the obvious signs of long travel, the
pronounced him in reasonably good shape, especially his teeth and
Alex picked up a bottle of veterinary vitamins, and schlepped off to
PetsMart for other supplies the same day Keedee got his shots. She
got frivolous with her choices of a collar and bowl, and more serious
several more cases of canned food, and a fresh bag of kibble.
plan commenced that evening -- two cans of food and a couple cups of
and the same the next morning before Alex left for work, topped with two
vitamins each meal. The other two dogs got their usual snacks
Until she could do some cautious testing for behaviour, Keedee had
run of the house except for the bedroom, where NEO got stuck in his
and Mouse kept him company behind the closed door. No use risking
chance that Keedee would be possessive over his food bowl. At
Alex rushed back to the house as usual for pre-Keedee time, walked all
dogs, and ran back to work after dispensing more snacks, and dumping
kibble in Keedee's bowl. She was gratified to notice the bowl
sparkled clean every time she picked it up to refill it. With an
appetite like this, her adoptee would put his proper weight back on in
Alex wondered, while she worked, what the dogs might be up to.
She'd threatened to rig up her video camera to watch NEO more
once, and felt tempted to do so again. If she had but known, she
would have realised it would be wasted tape. While left alone,
-- or, as she couldn't possibly know, Padfoot -- slept almost all the
he wasn't eating. His recovery from near starvation, and what came
close to the medical definition of exhaustion, called for great periods
unconsciousness as his canine body knit all those lovely new calories
proteins back into muscle and skin and nails and reserves. Alex,
knowing what his 'normal' behaviour was like, had no way of knowing his
panting after bouts of playing with NEO were caused by his from his
body's unreadiness to
recover quickly yet. Padfoot longingly remembered the nights of
following Moony and Prongs for effortless hours through the Forbidden
outside of Hogwarts at those times, when he had to flop on the grass,
after just a quick sprint down the fairway.
Occasionally, during daylight hours, just to remind himself he could
actually do it, Padfoot shifted back to being Sirius. The first
he did this, NEO barked at him for a half-hour straight, until the boxer
realised the dog and the man were actually the same person -- see?
Sniff. Sirius didn't dare leave any signs of non-canine presence
the house, despite a longing for something to eat that wasn't lamb-and-rice dogfood. He also longed for a laundry, a shave and a haircut, but
Alex had to do laundry elsewhere, and he couldn't be sure of disposing
the huge mass of black hair that couldn't pass for doghair. The
on his head was too matted to trust to being flushed safely away, for
instance -- he couldn't risk overflowing toilets. He restricted
to stretching, and reading part of Alex's plentiful library, but only
there was daylight enough. Can't turn on lights that weren't on
she left, after all....
Eventually, Alex became satisfied that nobody would kill anybody else
she wasn't there to alpha the whole situation. In fact, when she
noticed that NEO had stopped eating the house and disassembling the
when left loose with Keedee, she couldn't have been more delighted.
'No' can be said quite effectively in both dog and human, and
Padfoot gladly took charge to keep the peace.
She also found herself getting used to the black dog's affectionate
welcome whenever she came home. After uncurling himself from his
cued by the sound of her car, he'd meet her at the door, jumping up to
paws on shoulders -- and with his size, he could look her straight in
eye. He gave 'his human' one big schlurp on the cheek before
out of NEO's way, so the boxer could jump up on Alex several times and
around and be otherwise happily silly. Mouse just tried to keep
getting stepped on before she could get patted as well.
Padfoot had started greeting her that way, not just because he was
genuinely glad to see her when she came home. His human feelings,
buried under a few layers of mental fur, stirred with honest gratitude
relief, as well as an irresistible craving for affection -- as if he
to make up, in the shortest possible time, for the twelve years
keep within canine character, Padfoot kept as close to Alex as he
manage -- lying at, or actually on her feet when she sat to read or
TV; curling up on the end of her bed or even stretching out next to her
night. She started calling him a 'huggy puppy' when he'd snuggle
to her, although having a dog the same size as a human being in
with her made her feel a bit odd every now and then.
Alex delighted in her new dog (even if he wasn't a Cardigan corgi)
their settling-in period finished, enjoying his calming company for
six weeks or so.
And then Padfoot made a mistake.
A little over two months after Alex had adopted the
surprisingly friendly black dog from the golf course, she
awoke to a nasty shock. The extra Diet Pepsi before bed
prodded her back to resentful consciousness, but something
was... odd. Keedee, who had been putting weight back on
nicely, had been stretched out between her and the wall
(taking up an annoying amount of bed) as she fell asleep.
There was still a warm body there, but... it had arms,
one was snugged around her waist, the other tucked under her
head, the hand flung out limply.
For a count of three, the situation sunk in as her eyes
widened hugely. Then she plunged her hand under the
pillow, dragging out her dagger, and lunged away from the
head of the bed as if she'd been jabbed with a cattle
prod. 'Who the HELL are you, and how did you get in
here?!' she screeched, flinging the scabbard across the room
and pointing the dagger at a very useful place to threaten.
The dark-haired man held very still, not offering any reason
for piercing overreaction. Only his face moved, sagging in
disappointment and resignation. Quietly, he replied, 'My
name is Sirius, and I'm here because you invited me to live with
you and your dogs a month ago.' He expected the look
of complete disbelief crossing Alex's face, and continued, 'Let
me show you.' He flinched as the sharp dagger point dented
the bedlinens further. 'I'll need you to move that back a
little, or you might hurt me before you really intend to.
This will startle you, but explain half of it.'
Alex relented by about four inches. Sirius breathed
deeply once, then his form... shimmered, was the only word
Alex could think of, reforming into the Newfie/wolfhound-like
beast she'd nicknamed 'Black Dog' in Welsh. He shifted
back to human form after several seconds. There wasn't
enough light bleeding through the curtains from streetlights to
see his eyes, but he seemed weary from the revelation.
Alex found the sudden fracture in reality surprisingly easy to
deal with, but then she started dropping puzzle pieces into
place. 'Soo... this is why NEO started behaving during the
day, and...' her voice trailed off as more mental clicks occurred
'...oh...my...GOD. You've seen me naked. You've
seen me....' Her face convulsed with completely mortified
horror as she realized what else dogs might see single owners
doing. Sirius closed his eyes in pain. 'I'm going to
throw up,' she muttered, scrambling off her precarious perch on
the bottom corner of the narrow bed, snatching up her bathrobe
and fleeing all the way out of the house.
Sirius sighed loudly, the sigh fading into a groan. He
had been careless. He hadn't meant to fall asleep until
he'd changed back. He sat up, swung his legs around and
stood up, tugging his loose shirt back into place.
Thank God for small favours -- at least my clothes change
with the spell. I'd probably be bleeding nastily right now
if I'd woken up nude. He picked up the forgotten knife
and set it on top of the TV, safely out of stepping-on range.
When he reached the living room, he found NEO standing
facing the closed door, quite puzzled at his 'mother's'
precipitous departure. Sirius stroked the boxer's head,
nudged him out of the way, and walked outside, closing the door
once again securely behind him. He felt pretty sure
he knew where Alex had gone.
The grass of the golf course soaked his trouser cuffs with dew
as he padded on bare feet across the rough and the fairway.
Past the hurst of pines, there was a small mound
positioned between two more holes. Alex referred to it
as her 'omphalos,' as it provided a nice central feeling to
the park-like space. She straightened from a huddle as
he approached quietly, her back to him, not apparently hearing
Sirius paused at the bottom of the mound. 'Alex,' he called
quietly. She whipped around, her hands still clutching
her robe tight around her almost convulsively -- it was chilly
out here at 3 A.M., and damp. He slowly walked up to face
her, trying to seem as un-threatening as possible. Her
expression, easily seen in the nearby parking-lot and street
lights and limned by the low-hanging moon, was wretched.
'There's your star,' she said abruptly, freeing her left hand
from its clutch on terrycloth and flinging her arm up toward the
southern sky. Sirius turned his head, looking over his
right shoulder to the brilliant blue-white star that rode high
in the sky this far south. It was almost to its zenith,
and the sky was very clear.
'Yes,' he agreed, turning back to the woman before him.
He had to look up at her a little, with their relative positions
on the hillside. She stared back at him, almost deadpan,
her face tightly controlled. 'I can't begin to express how
sorry I am for violating your privacy. I did what I could,
without seeming un-dog-like, to minimize my intrusion -- left the
room when I could.' He paused, choosing words carefully.
'I'm a fugitive from a crime I was framed for; if I'm caught,
they will strip my soul from my body.' The scorn that had
started to show in Alex's face faded again as Sirius continued,
'I have to stay alive for my godson -- he's my only family.
His parents were my best friends, since we were Harry's
age. They were murdered, and I was blamed.'
He approached one step, his body language straining to capture
Alex's belief, his eyes capturing hers. 'I could have
shifted and run, you know, once you discovered who I was. But
I owe you more than that. You made room in your home and
heart for me, and...' Sirius looked down quickly, awkwardly, 'I
don't want to leave you. Part of the reason I was leaving
your bedroom was because,' he fidgeted, embarrassed, 'dogs can't
exactly take cold showers.' Alex's face was a mosaic of
reactions, but she still did not speak.
Still, her silence did not feel like spurning, and Sirius
rushed to fill the space. He fought down his sudden
fear of her rejection. 'I didn't mean for you to find
me in my normal shape. I was going to just hold you for
a little while, and change back before I fell asleep.'
He met her eyes again, 'I haven't been able to hold
someone, just hold someone, in even simple affection
for over twelve years. Not even when my godson proved
my innocence did I get to hug him as a godfather should be
able to. Where I had been imprisoned, loneliness was
part of the punishment.'
Sirius watched Alex swallow hard, and she cleared her
throat. 'Okay,' she rasped, 'okay.' She took a
deep breath, and started again. 'Since I talk to dogs,
and you've seen me about as naked as a human can get, I might
as well discard my last shreds of dignity right now.'
Sirius shook his head at this, but Alex kept going.
'I'm feeling such a conflict of... of reactions right
now, I don't know what to do. First, I want to absolutely
kill you for what you've done to me.' She stared at him
as if to impress him with the seriousness of her homicidal urge.
'Second... despite my current stomach-turning humiliation,
there's part of my head that's thinking, "Here's a guy who's
ectomorphic, long-haired, Celt-looking, British, gods
help me, who knows from dogs, and he wants to stick around me.
I think. I mean, you're not grossed out by the way
I look, or what I've been doing, or how I smell, or my habits.
'Third -- and this is embarrassing because I'm just not
"this way" around men, never have been,' Alex stared
over Sirius's head at his eponymous star instead of at her feet
'-- I want to throw myself at you as much as anything else.'
Sirius dared to quip, 'Can't decide whether to kiss me or kill
Alex took a deep breath, and finally lowered her gaze.
Sirius could see her eyes were shinier than normal, and she
seemed to be trembling. 'Yeah,' she said, her voice
strained with the intensity of her mixed emotions. As
she stepped a little closer to him, she visibly steeled herself
before she spoke again, her voice shaking. 'And considering
that I think we're probably equally starved for affection, I
think it'd be much more productive to kiss you.'
Sirius stared back at her with a growing delight which felt
like warm butterbeer in the pit of his stomach. Alex
moved closer yet, down-slope, which put her eyeline about level
with his throat. 'How tall are you?' she asked, looking up.
'Ah... about 6'2",' he answered.
'Good,' she returned, put both arms around his neck, slid the
fingers of her right hand up through his tangle of hair to cup
the back of his head, and with a little unpracticed awkwardness,
pulled his face down to meet her lips.
Sirius wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly to
him, lifting her clear of the ground. Their shared energy
swirled through him like a shock spell. He had forgotten
how good this could feel, he really had. Azkaban had taken
more out of him than he'd realized. Alex was trembling, to
the point where her teeth were almost chattering when they pulled
back from their first kiss. He raised his eyebrows at her
'What?' she asked, breathlessly.
'You must be freezing, you're shaking so,' he said.
'That's not cold I'm shaking with. Let's go back to the
house.' Alex had thrown all caution and concerns to the
proverbial winds. She was sure that either Reality or she
had finally snapped. One way or another, she was free --
she could be someone who could throw herself recklessly and joyously
into a not-so-stranger's embrace.
Sirius turned, tugging Alex tight against his side with his
arm snugged around her shoulders; her arm correspondingly
looped around his waist. Walking was a little awkward,
but neither of them wanted to slacken their embrace for the
They spent the rest of the night in each other's arms,
but too uncertain of themselves for their caresses to be more
than wildly tentative. Sirius dared use a wandless
little spell to turn Alex's bedroom into the illusion of a
grotto, and lay down with her on warm moss-covered rocks
underneath a fantastically starry sky. It quite
delighted her, not that their mutual delight stopped there.
They eventually fell asleep entwined, as close to
each other as they could make themselves.