NOTES and DISCLAIMERS: Harry Potter, etc is the intellectual property of JK Rowling. I'm making no money here and have no intentions to do so ever. For Vic P's lyric challenge (mine were This name is the hair shirt I wear,/and this hair shirt is woven from your brown hair from Barenaked Ladies) and to pay her back for much great library work. Title and inspiration from David Gray's The Other Side. Thanks to mare, Younger, kel and Missy.



A RAVEN WHEN IT FLIES




Two months after Sirius fell through the Veil, Remus decided to leave. He could no longer make sense of fighting the good fight when he didn't know what good meant anymore. All he knew was that he was tired of loss and grief and anger and fear.

He'd spent so many years paying back schoolboy kindness, so much for his only friends. He didn't think that was being good, that he'd acted in his heart thinking of justice. The last two years he'd done everything for Sirius, because of what he and Sirius had once been and were again, but now Sirius, too, was gone. Perhaps Dumbledore would argue that fighting for love was fighting for good, but at this point, Remus found the idea unconvincing.

He told Dumbledore he had a notion to go to Hong Kong. Remus's father had lived in Hong Kong until he was twenty and Remus had Muggle relatives there still. He knew wizards and witches who lived there as well, some who'd fled from Grindewald, some who'd fled from Voldemort. "I could, perhaps, persuade some to return now," he said.

Dumbledore nodded. "Every good hand would be helpful."

Remus was lying, of course, about his intentions to return. But he'd lied to Dumbledore before and escaped detection. And it wasn't as though Dumbledore had never deceived him, so Remus hardly felt guilty.

Before he left, he went to say goodbye to Harry. He walked in Little Whinging until he saw him, sitting idly on children's swings. Harry looked like Harry, nothing like Remus's old friend. James, at fifteen or sixteen or even nineteen, hadn't had that tired set to his shoulders, the thin wrists and stretched look of an underfed child. Harry didn't look like James at all anymore.

Remus stood far away and mouthed, "Sorry." Sorry that Remus could no longer do this, no longer endure the loss and wear just because James and Sirius and Peter had been kind to him. Harry looked up though he couldn't have heard anything. Remus walked fifty yards before he Apparated, so Harry wouldn't hear the crack.

He took the train. He boarded in Paris and felt every kilometer as weight leaving his shoulders. He had all the time in the world. If he hadn't been running away, he would have flown. Because he was, he used charms to confuse the ticket takers and paid for nothing. He had Sirius's money, galleons in his vault suddenly arranged by Dumbledore, but he wouldn't use that for something like this.

Sirius would never have approved.

Remus stopped in Bulgaria because of the moon. He rented a bland room in a run-down hotel. He'd stayed there before, after Sirius and before Sirius, his lost years. Remus was surprised the hotel was still there. Perhaps its clientele had never stopped coming, had never stopped wanting a place to just sleep for one night and then leave, no sight seeing and no business to do. The view from the window was different, but Remus couldn't say how.

He took train after train until he had to take the ferry from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. He'd never been before. It was loud and sky-blocked by tall buildings in every direction and crowded with people. Remus felt alien with every step and he smiled. He wanted to be lost.

His great-aunt had lived in the same apartment for fifty years, something she mentioned the moment she greeted Remus. She fixed perfect afternoon tea in delicate white cups with tiny pink flowers painted on. "We're going to have to move, it's a pity. I feel betrayed. Betrayed, Remus, by the Queen and country. I will not live under Communists." She sighed and Remus nodded. "So, will you be staying here long?"

"A week, maybe a fortnight. No more than that." He wouldn't hide where the Ministry still had sway, even if it was only for one more year. And he couldn't be there for the full moon, even in his quieter state, because his great-aunt would be appalled at even a tiny tear in the coverlet.

"You were working, I recall your mother said, that you were working at a school."

"Only a year." Remus sipped his green tea. "I've been working in, er, security since then."

"Security?" She put down her cup. "You're not some sort of thug?"

Remus smiled. "No, no, of course not. My job is mostly co-ordination."

She let him stay in her miniscule guest room where every surface was covered in lace and smelled of ginger. Remus wondered why it was the only room with that smell when everywhere else in the apartment reeked of lavender. Perhaps his great-aunt carried the lavender with her and never came into this room.

He went to tiny secret wizards-only pubs and spacious lobbies in the western hotels, flats, mansions. He was convinced after his first week he'd met every wizard and witch in all of Hong Kong. He hadn't, of course, but he had persuaded four people to go back to London and meet with Dumbledore. Remus thought of them as his four replacements. He hadn't quite decided what number sent back would be enough before he could disappear without guilt.

He stopped on a side street at a restaurant. Restaurant was an exaggeration; it was a room with an oven and a bored teenager dishing out noodles. Remus was developing an addiction to these noodle places. He liked trying a different one for lunch and dinner each day, when he wasn't eating with wizards.

As he leaned over to point at the larger bowl, he heard, quite clearly, Sirius saying urgently, "Chocolate."

Remus stumbled and looked behind him. No one. The teenager stared at him and said something in Cantonese. Remus stared and shook his head. He pointed at the larger bowl, paid, and sat outside on a plastic chair.

He shivered. He was addled with grief, that was the explanation. He was hearing voices now, hearing Sirius. He wished briefly that his grief had manifested with something more than "chocolate."

The next day he walked by a shop which sold chocolate from all over the world. He thought of Sirius's voice again. He went in and spent more than he should have on dark chocolate from Switzerland. He unwrapped the golden foil and ate very slowly. It was delicious.

He bid good-bye to his great-aunt and left her a box of sweeter chocolates than the dark bitter bars he'd bought for himself.

*

In Shanghai he was free of any worry about the Ministry. There wasn't a Chinese equivalent of the ministry or enforcement of laws on the wizarding community as most had fled or gone underground after the Communists had taken power in 1949. They were all aware of what had happened to the wizarding community in Russia in 1919.

So Remus simply cast a few charms to confuse the clerk at the reception desk at one of the newer hotels slightly outside the center of town. The hotel was busy so Remus barely had to work at all to get his room in the corner on the 4th floor. He didn't plan to pay a Knut for the room or any damage that might happen from the night he was there during the full moon. It wasn't the right thing to do, but Remus didn't particularly care. The hotel was quite large and one room put out of use wouldn't hurt anyone.

Remus made himself tea and used his mirror from the Order to contact whoever answered. This time it was Arthur, looking tired, of course, but calm. Remus asked about Harry. Arthur smiled and said, "He's fine. Good."

Remus sipped his tea and tried to think if it made sense to even mention hearing Sirius. But he looked down at the tea and said, "Have you heard anything, er, has Dumbledore said --"

Arthur shook his head. He seemed to know somehow what Remus had meant, if his suddenly sympathetic face were any indication. "No, no. Harry asked, too." Then Arthur said his goodbyes.

It was a fool's hope.

He emptied his pockets on the side table, counting out his change and throwing away his marked train ticket. He ran his finger over his old, thick key to 12 Grimmauld Place. Sirius had given it to him when they were fifteen. He'd passed the key to Remus during Charms, muttering, "You could use it over the holiday, if you wanted to come around. It works on the back door, so you'd go straight up those stairs to my room, wouldn't have to meet anyone."

Remus had meant to ask how the key worked - it didn't look like any key Remus had but then class had started in earnest.

He'd used it only once before Sirius moved out. He'd spent ten minutes holding the key against different parts of the door before he'd found the place in the doorframe where it fit. When he got upstairs, Sirius told him those types of keys were very old, only used in "decrepit inbred wizarding families with ancient cursed houses."

And then, and then. It was rather pointless to dwell on now.

Remus had been carrying the key with him since then, even while Sirius was in Azkaban. He'd never thought about why.

Shanghai was harder than Hong Kong. He had to talk to more people to find the right bars and restaurants and lobbies. When he found wizards, they said, "Here is liberal. Here is free. No ministry, no extra taxes." He met a few who were interested. After a week, he'd convinced three to return to London.

Shanghai was also more chaotic than Hong Kong. Wherever Remus looked, skyscrapers were rising, covered in green tarp. People were everywhere on their bicycles and once in a while, Remus saw ones that had been jury-rigged into motorcycles. Those flew through the crowds, weaving and beeping and getting there first. He liked those best, and thought about buying one of his own, later, when he settled down.

He was walking back to his hotel from a late dinner when he heard Sirius again, saying, "Think." Sirius's voice was thick with urgency again.

Remus saw a couple walking by him turn their heads. He said, "Did you hear that?"

They both stared at him and then smiled absently, quickly walking away.

He went back to his hotel and tried to sleep. He got up after two hours of tossing and turning and checked that the spells he'd cast to keep the maids from noticing that the room was occupied were still working. The spells were working just fine. He could stay here for months. Then he could move to another hotel and another after that and keep this up for years.

He'd spoken to a wizard this morning in the lobby of the Marriott who'd turned down his offer saying, "Well, even if You-Know-Who wins, it will certainly take a few more years to take all of England and then onto Europe. Those French wizards are stronger than you might think, and then there's America. I'll take my fifteen years of comfort here over dying for Dumbledore and some Muggles. I like this place."

Remus had been infuriated at the time, but polite if cutting in his goodbyes. Sitting on the edge of his hotel bed in the half-light from the window, he thought it wasn't such a horrible argument. He'd already lost two of his dearest friends to Voldemort, so many people he'd known and liked and now Sirius.

Sirius said to think. Remus sighed. He turned on the light and stared at himself in the mirror. He looked old and exhausted. How very accurate, he thought.

He should go home. He should book a flight home and get ready for the fight. It was more than Dumbledore and a few Muggles. He knew that in his heart. But all he could think of was Harry and his sad eyes on a swing set in Lower Whinging. Remus had had Cedric Diggory in his sixth year class when he taught at Hogwarts. He remembered a fine young man.

Remus made tea he'd bought at the Jade Temple where the girl had sworn that it helped with sleep. It seemed to work.

He woke in the morning and thought of Sirius's voice saying, "think," again and wondered what he should be thinking about. He was seized with the thought that Sirius was somewhere trying to tell Remus that he wanted chocolate, that Remus needed to think and help. It left him chilled.

He decided it was ridiculous, repeated again it was a fool's hope. Remus didn't want to be a fool.

*

The train to Hangzhou only took three hours. It was a little more running, he thought, and rubbed the key in his pocket savagely against his hand.

No more dying, he thought. No more watching, hearing, seeing it all happen. He'd served his time and paid all his debts in blood and grief.

The Baochu pagoda was closed to the public with only the bottom floor open for viewing through open doors and a railing to prevent entry. Remus joined a group of American and British tourists walking past the open doors and taking pictures. He was shoved a few times when a group of Chinese tourists arrived, but he knew it wasn't rude. He moved aside slightly but didn't leave his place leaning on the railing. Remus moved his wand to the palm of his hand and muttered the spell to signal that he'd arrived. He waited until the bird in the painting on the eaves of the roof winked at him and waved its faded blue wing towards the right to step away.

He walked along the right side until he saw a slim Chinese girl dressed in a long red dress waving at him. She said, "Nee how," and Remus thought, hello, she's saying hello. He smiled and she pushed him through a red panel with peeling paint.

He felt a slight pop and then found himself in a dimly lit living room. It was as large as the hotel lobby and decorated with blue and white vases and hanging red lanterns, ornately carved dark wood furniture and simple red throw rugs. An old Englishman stepped forward and said, "Lupin, I presume?"

Remus smiled and held out his hand. The man shook it and Remus felt the ring on the man's third finger buzz against his palm. The man said, "Ah, you are who you say are. I am Wilfred Hernibun. This is my wife, Rose; our son, William; and our daughter, May Lynn." Rose was as old as her husband, dressed in traditional witch's robes embroidered with Chinese characters along the hem. William wore jeans and trainers. May Lynn was the girl who had waved Remus in.

Rose said, "We'll make some tea and let you sit down. Welcome to our little home in Baochu pagoda." She smiled and waved her wand as the ornate red and white tea set on the largest table began moving around and brewing.

He looked around and said, "This is quite spacious."

Wilfred shrugged. "It's large enough. I know five families living in the Forbidden City, right in one of the old emperor's palaces. We visit whenever we're in Beijing. As more tourists come in, they've had to pull back a bit, but they have as much space as a ballroom on two separate floors."

Remus said, "Are there many families living in these monuments?"

Rose smiled. "Not many, but certainly a few. They're wonderful homes - the Muggle Chinese keep the outside clean for us but won't open the insides, we make our place with a little magic. A wee bit," she said, laughing. She had lovely blue eyes.

Remus was reminded of his great-aunt and her conversations. He followed the same tactic now, nodding in the right places and urging Wilfred and Rose on to talk about their adopted country. They were, he thought, both very fond of their home and China and were unlikely to leave. William, though, he seemed to be itching to live among more wizards than his own family and see the world. May Lynn as well, perhaps. Rose and Wilfred explained that they had found May Lynn abandoned as a newborn on the grounds of the pagoda. They had taken her in, assuming she was a Muggle and had been surprised to discover as she grew that she was a witch. Neither of the children had been sent to Hogwarts or any other wizard school, they had been taught at home. Both were interested in learning more.

Remus started to discuss Voldemort and the situation back in England but Rose raised her hand and said, "No, no, first we have dinner. Mr. Lupin, we are enjoying your conversation too much to get to the meat of things so quickly." She stood and walked into one of the other rooms.

Dinner was delicious, kung pao chicken heavy with ginger and peanuts and a fish dish Remus had never had before, followed by fried bananas coated with caramel. They ate with hand-painted bamboo chopsticks and talked about Voldemort and the latest tales from England.

May Lynn said, "We could return with you." William nodded in agreement.

Remus said, "I have a few more places to go before I return."

He followed Rose into the kitchen to wash his hands. As he took his hand out of his pocket, Sirius's key fell and clattered on the floor. Rose bent and picked it up, smiling again, as she looked at it. "Ah," she said, "An eternal bond key."

"Is that what it's called?"

"Hmm, yes. Your sweetheart is clearly from a very old family. These went out of fashion, oh, four hundred years ago." She handed it back to him. "A special key made for the door to the home and the door to the heart. Or so my grandmother said. There's an old spell you have to cast to set it for just that person and it will only work for that one person until one of you dies." She laughed. "Which is why they went out of fashion for keys."

Remus held his key tight in his hand. "Ah." He couldn't think of anything else to say.

She looked at him for a moment, her eyes soft and then changed the subject.

He arranged for May Lynn and William to get back to London and sent a message through his mirror for Arthur to expect them.

He should have left Hangzhou. There weren't any other wizards living in the city that the Hernibuns knew. He had names in Guangzhou, Beijing and Xian. Those names would lead to more names. He could do this for years. The wizard in Shanghai thought it would be fifteen years before Voldemort came to China. Maybe it would be even more.

Remus went back to his hotel and slept in the next morning. When he woke up, he went to West Lake and paid for the ferry again. He fell asleep as they were taken to the island with the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon but a young Chinese woman nudged him and smiled at him when he woke. He spent the day walking around the island and one of the others, sleeping in gazebos and on benches. No one stole his wallet or even woke him up. He thought he must look sickly again, because he woke twice to find little plastic wrapped candies placed carefully in his lap.

He was walking around the lake back to his hotel, his hand in his pocket holding his key when he heard Sirius again. Sirius's voice said, "Stop," with a tired, exasperated edge. Remus knew that tone, he'd heard it enough times before. This time three people turned to look at him and Remus thought it must be real. Other people were hearing Sirius's voice.

He sat down at a bench and looked at the West Lake as the sun set. It was red and orange over the flat lake. Beautiful, he thought. Peaceful. He wished he felt it. Sirius wanted chocolate and for Remus to think and for Remus to stop.

He took out his key and held it loosely in his hands. Maybe, he thought, Sirius didn't want those things for himself. He wanted Remus to have chocolate, he wanted Remus to think and now to stop. "Stop what?" he said quietly. No one looked at him this time.

Stop running, he supposed. Sirius would see through Remus's attempts. A haunting of sorts. Remus covered his eyes, chilled again.

He couldn't think of anything to do and his thoughts were running in circles so Remus stood up and went back to his hotel. Without thinking about it, he took out his mirror and contacted Arthur. Arthur said, "Are you feeling well?"

"I, I am. Arthur, I wondered if Dumbledore had said anything about -"

Arthur shook his head. "Between you and Harry, I think I have been asked this nearly twenty times this summer," he sighed. "I'm very sorry."

Remus said goodbye quickly and then thought, Harry. Harry had been asking as well, maybe Sirius had been trying to talk to him as well. Had been talking to him. Remus looked at the key again. If there had been a spell, maybe it had created a link. Perhaps Sirius had given Harry something that linked them as well.

He needed to go home. He could tell Dumbledore and they could speak to Harry and maybe there was something they could do for Sirius.

It seemed silly to go back for Sirius, the hope of Sirius, though, when he'd decided not to because of Sirius in the first place. His debts were paid and how much did he have to offer in a fight he was already losing. If this was a fight between good and evil, Remus wasn't fighting for either, he wanted Sirius. He felt Sirius was someone he was owed. They'd both paid enough. It wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair, like a child whining. Like life was ever fair and it actually made sense to weigh debts and loss like it would ever come close to being repaid.

It was time to go home. Do right, he thought, and laughed out loud. He was going to do the right thing. Most likely, no one would even realize he had planned otherwise.

He bought the plane ticket this time, using Sirius's money. They would find a way, they would bring Sirius back for there was a Sirius to bring back, Remus was now convinced. And they would both survive to the end of Voldemort and beyond. It was simple.



The trick ain't worth the time it buys
I'm sick of hearing my own lies
Love's a raven when it flies
- David Gray

THE END.

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