The Sugar Quill
Author: Lady Narcissa (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Water  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

'Hablas Inglés

Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters are only borrowed, not stolen.

This story ©2004 by Lady Narcissa. Thanks to everyone who took an advance look at this for me.


water

'Hablas Inglés?'

'No, Español solamente, señor.'

The tall tired man with the unkempt waist-length black hair closed his eyes for a moment; his jaw clenched. Resigned. 'Okay. Necesito una sala... con...' He struggled coming up with the words. 'Una sala con... como se dice... ah... aguacero, y con...' He paused again. 'Con chimenea. Hogar. Comprendes?'

'Sí, señor.' The boy behind the desk looked up at the foreigner but didn't ask questions. They never asked questions of the guests here. He held forward a key which he exchanged for a handful of coins, and led the man to the back of the property. The guest-house, built many years ago, was small but had both the shower and the requested fireplace. It was not up to the boy to ask what anyone who stayed here might want with either, although the shower part was evident enough.

The foreigner clutched a paper-wrapped package tightly under his arm; his grubby clothes were worn and threadbare, his feet unshod, his hair a mass of tangles. He unlocked the door, hands shaking, and walked inside. That no one had stayed in this room for months didn't seem to bother him, nor did the fact that a fine layer of dust shrouded the place. He turned and pressed another handful of coins into the boy's hand. 'Gracias.'

'De nada.' The boy looked up at the man one last time; this was an obscene amount for a tip. For a moment he wondered if he were supposed to linger for all this gold--it wouldn't be the first time--but the stranger walked into the room and closed the door behind him. The boy heard the sound of the lock sliding into place. He pocketed the coins and returned to the front house, smiling. It was certainly his lucky day.

-----


Water. Agua dulce. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had the luxury of a shower. The old pipes creaked and spluttered and what looked like mud fell from the showerhead for the longest time, until it began to run clear.

He turned it hot, stripping out of the clothes he'd worn since who knew when. Since he'd stolen them from a Muggle laundromat, not too long after his escape. He'd waited, and waited, and waited until the all-night laundry's last denizen--a night-clubber with a sense of purpose, perhaps, almost his height--had put his things into the dryer and stepped outside for a smoke. And got caught up in conversation wtih a girl; that was his chance. On four paws he crept in and in the darkness transformed just long enough to open the machine and pull out what he needed, then get the hell out of there before anyone noticed.

He'd been wearing the same trousers and shirt ever since, but not today. He opened the parcel and laid out the new, fresh clothes. Things were inexpensive in this part of the country; his pickpocketing skills had come in handy. Just a little here and a little there; he didn't want to ruin anyone's life. Just take enough money to get what he needed: a pair of blue jeans, fresh underpants, a t-shirt... and trainers. Blessed new ones; he wasn't sure his feet remembered how to wear shoes any more.

And a small bottle of shampoo, a bar of soap, a pair of scissors, and a hairbrush.

The water was finally clear enough. He was covered with grime, but that wasn't all he needed to wash away. He stepped under the water; too hot, it stung.

He didn't adjust the temperature. Beneath the dirt, beneath the caked-on grime, his skin protested by turning an angry red. He didn't care.
How long has it been? I don't know. He let the water cascade over his body for a long time before he reached for the bar of soap and began a very intense, very systematic scrubbing.

Get. Off. Of. Me.

Chunks of dirt fell off; mesmerized, he watched them circle the drain before disappearing. Something suspiciously bug-like fell out of his matted hair and rode the angry swirl to oblivion. He scrubbed and scraped and let the water cleanse him for as long as he could stand it. Until the entire bar of soap was gone. Only then was he satisfied.

And then he took the shampoo and poured it into his palm; he knew it was a futile effort. His hands couldn't get through the matted snarl and so, impatiently, he reached for the scissors.

Snip, snip, snip. The only question was whether or not their blades would be able to penetrate the mess that thirteen years had built up.

He cut his hair level to his biceps and tried again. No good; he cut up to his shoulders. No good; still too many damn snarls and tangles and who knew what else.

Snip, snip, snip. He didn't care what it looked like when he was done; it only mattered that twelve years of Azkaban and another year of hiding and running were finally gone, that he wasn't carrying them with him any more. At least not so other people could see. By the time he was done, his hair was as short as it had been as a student. He ran his fingers through it and nodded in grim satisfaction. No more clumps, no more knots. Again he took the shampoo and washed, and washed, and washed. His head felt lighter than he could recall.

And finally the water grew cold. He turned it off and stepped out, the wetness evaporating quickly in the arid late-afternoon heat. So his skin really
was still white underneath it all, he noted with amusement. Right now reddened from the heat and the scrubbing, but clean. Clean, for the first time in years.

With great reverence he pulled on the fresh new clothes; they were soft and pleasant. They covered him nicely, hiding a multitude of scars, tattoos, memories, sins. He felt different. Tired. Cleansed, in more ways than one.

Different.

He wrapped his old clothes in paper and set them into the fireplace; he took the cuttings of his hair and laid them on top. He lit the whole affair with one flick of the wand he'd stolen oh, months ago now, and watched in satisfaction as the remnants of Azkaban burned into cinders in the chimenea of this Andalusian guest cottage.

Sirius sank to the floor. He covered his eyes with his hands and waited for darkness, when he would make his exit from this place, take Buckbeak from his hidden location, and fly further south. He had so far yet to go.

 

//
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