Sirius Black had a new hideout.
He'd wanted somewhere isolated. Somewhere away from large pockets of wizards. And most importantly, he'd wanted somewhere warm
. Warm and sunny, that was the ticket. He'd been in the dark and cold too long.
He'd found the perfect spot, too. There was hardly anyone around, and those who were around were not inclined to bother him or ask questions. And it was very warm.
He stretched out on the narrow beach and stared up at the blue sky overhead. Buckbeak was hiding in the foliage behind the sand, unaccustomed to the strange surroundings, and Sirius smiled blissfully into the sun that warmed his face. He'd been cold so long.
It was always cold in Azkaban. Even in the height of summer, the number of dementors in the island fortress made the prison as cold as winter. It seeped into one's bones along with the despair and hopelessness that the dementors emanated, sucking all warmth and life from the insular prison world.
But here in Kalaupapa, there were no dementors, and there was no cold.
He wasn't in the colony itself, of course. The American Muggles had made it a national park now, though certainly not a busy one. The small peninsula of Moloka'i had been chosen for its inaccessibility, the cliffs forming a natural barrier between the contagion of the small colony and the rest of the island. There were only a handful of elderly patients still living there, a small population of full-time residents, and visitors were relatively rare thanks to the difficulty in reaching the peninsula and the Muggles' regulations for visiting.
It had been a prison of sorts at one time. Banished to the Makanalua Peninsula for contracting the disease, the sufferers were trapped there, and it was only a little over twenty years ago that the law keeping them there had been repealed, though that was twenty years after the Muggles had finally found a cure. Most of the surviving exiles of Kalaupapa had chosen to stay, so disfigured were they by the ravages of leprosy that they could no longer rejoin the outside world.
Sirius had a lot of empathy for them. He didn't think he'd ever be able to rejoin the wizard world after his extended stay in Azkaban. It had changed him too, both his mind and his body. Twelve years in Azkaban had destroyed most of the handsomeness he'd never fully appreciated, and left him haunted and dissipated.
He'd traded one prison for another, but this one had no walls to confine him, no dementors to destroy all hope and happiness, and no cold emptiness to suck the life from him. No, this prison had palm trees, and beaches, and no one around for miles. No one to jar him from his moment of solace.
It was Christmas. It didn't seem it, in the bright sunlight, the warm air, and the solid walls of green vegetation that surrounded him. It was as if the island was alive, breathing the life back into him that had been stolen by Azkaban. He thought he wouldn't mind staying here forever, right on this beach, all heartaches and tragedies of his past and all the unfairness of life forgotten for the moment, with the slack-key guitar melody from the village echoing in his head.
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Buckbeak didn't like it here, and soon Sirius would have to go back to England, to his godson, who looked so much like James. Back to war, and cold, and hiding from his own people, his own kind. Back to yet another sort of prison.
But for now, he was content, sitting on the beach with a wand and a hippogriff his only companions. No guards. No walls. Only a prison in his mind, but that was something he was used to. The prison that had held him, had changed him, over those twelve long years had built its walls up in his head, keeping him inside even now that he was out. He could feel those walls eroding in the sunlight, in the crashing of the waves against the shore.
It felt so good to be warm again.
(A/N: This doesn't fit anywhere in the canon timeline, I'm afraid, but the image of poor Sirius on a beach in my home state for Christmas came to me while listening to songs for this challenge, and it was so strong that I had to write it. Like Harry, I hope Sirius went somewhere warm when he went into hiding, and I think the old leper colony of Moloka'i had a poetic justice for him. I imagine this taking place his first Christmas out of Azkaban, which would have been during Goblet of Fire, so as you see, it doesn't fit canon... But I like it.
The version of Mele Kalikimaka I have in mind is not the Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters one, but the one by Cyril Pahinui, son of the brilliant musician Gabby Pahinui, all of whose sons are talented musicians in their own right. Cyril gives the melody an almost meditative air that feels very soothing. It's a beautiful song.)