Innocence Will Out
Harrison walked into the Great Hall and barely noticed the thousands of live bats that were flying around the ceiling, nor did he spare the floating pumpkins a glance as he took his usual seat at the Slytherin table. Ever since Luna had barged into his dorm room several nights before to show him the handprint burned into her arm he hadn't been able to think of much else. As seers were rare, Harrison didn't know if waking up with injuries after a vision was a common occurrence. His father had surprisingly been unhelpful, as he had never heard of it happening before either. Tom said he would look into it, but Harrison wasn't willing to hold his breath. Seers were too rare, and usually too closed off, for there to be any information on the matter.
What worried Harrison about the situation was that the handprint had barely faded, even after Severus brewed an extremely potent healing balm. He hoped that even if his father doesn't find any information that he can think of some way to help Luna. The next vivid vision may cause her more harm, and Harrison had grown to care for Luna too much for him to want that to happen. The vision itself confused Harrison, as Luna said she couldn't make out the people's faces. He decided not to dwell too much on it until they knew more.
"Hem, hem." Harrison forced himself from his thoughts to look up at Umbridge. As usual, the woman wore a garish pink dress with an even pinker shawl that resembled old curtains. She wore a smile on her face that was split between condescending and predatory "As I know you are all aware, today is not only Halloween, but also a day where those of you with permission would normally find yourselves in the charming village of Hogsmeade." Harrison noticed her choice of words and realized that few did, as most of the students still appeared to still be off in their own worlds. "However, due to the recent sighting of Sirius Black, it has been deemed unsafe to allow students to venture off of Hogwarts grounds."
As one the entire school looked at Umbridge in varying forms of outrage. "That's rubbish," someone kept yelling over and over again from the Gryffindor table. Even at the Slytherin table harsh words were being doled out, albeit in hushed tones, for Slytherin ears only. The only ones who didn't appear shocked were Harrison's closest friends. Harrison had known for a few days that Lucius was working to have Hogsmeade privileges revoked. Just not for the reason he was telling Minister Fudge. Harrison wasn't pleased about it, but he understood why his father wanted them to be canceled for the time being.
"Hem, hem," Umbridge attempted to gain the students' attention. "Hem, hem." The harsh sound silenced the fuming Great Hall. "While this may seem uncalled for, this decision was made with your best interests in mind." Umbridge smiled in a way that Harrison was sure she meant to be reassuring, but came out disturbingly creepy. "When Sirius Black is finally apprehended, and you can be sure that he will be, then Hogsmeade visits will resume. Until then, no one is allowed to leave the Hogwarts grounds for any reason." Umbridge sat down, and the students resumed their complaining.
"Their reactions were as amusing as I thought they'd be," Leo smirked.
Harrison followed Leo's line of sight and saw a cherry red Ron in a heated discussion with Dean and Seamus. He stole a glance at the Weasley twins and saw that they were speaking animatedly to Lee Jordan. Harrison knew theirs was an act, as he had informed them of the development a few days prior. He made a mental note to commend the twins on their excellent acting skills.
There was a chill in the air, causing Auror Alexander Abbott to cast a warming charm on his red cloak. A crunching sound echoed in his ears as he stepped on fallen leaves. He watched as a red bird landed on a hanging branch above a bench where an older couple sat entertaining a small giggling child. They were some of the few people to be found in the usually bustling village of Hogsmeade.
"Tell me again why we have to patrol here," Alexander said.
"You know why, Sirius Black was sighted here recently," Auror James Sanders replied. "Besides, there are worse assignments, Auror Abbott. We could've been assigned to Azkaban."
"You're right," Alex acquiesced with a grimace. The thought of going near Azkaban made Alexander's stomach churn. "I just thought that when I joined the auror department I'd be doing something exciting. Not walking around a village that looks like it belongs on the back of a postcard."
"The back of a what?" James asked frowning.
"It's a muggle thing," Alexander said. "It doesn't matter."
"Well, just be glad the Hogwarts students aren't here," James said. "They're a right pain. The kids run around like maniacs from all the sugar." He gave Alexander a thoughtful look. "You have a sibling at Hogwarts, don't you?"
"Yeah," Alexander smiled. "Hannah, she's a third year Hufflepuff."
James' eyes glazed over wistfully. "To b—"
A blood curdling scream cut off James' words. The two aurors looked towards the scream in time to see Wally's Pet Emporium explode. Glass went flying everywhere, falling to the ground like deadly snowflakes. Alexander jumped into action, his wand falling into his hand. Alexander and James ran towards the now burning building as pops filled the air, and men and women in black robes appeared. Alexander momentarily froze when he saw the bone white masks of the Death Eaters.
"You asked for action," James said with a stony expression. A spell flew from James' wand, but was stopped mere inches from a Death Eater by an invisible shield.
James' words pulled Alexander from his shock just in time for him to dodge a bright purple spell that he didn't recognize. More screams filled the autumn air as civilians came running out of various shops. Windows shattered and doors were blown off their hinges. Alexander could see his fellow aurors trying to stop the Death Eaters from sending their curses at the innocent people who unfortunately had to leave the shops to apparate. Not for the first time, Alexander thought that the anti-apparition spells on the shops were more detrimental than helpful.
Alexander threw spell after spell at the Death Eaters, but they were outnumbered two-to-one. The sound of spells clashing, people screaming, and someone in the distance crying assaulted his ears. He tried to block out the sounds as he focused on a Death Eater who was walking towards Honeyduke's. Alexander slashed his wand down and thought for sure he would hit the Death Eater unaware until he turned around and cast a shield. The Death Eater moved his wand so fast that Alexander barely had time to dodge. Fast and furiously the Death Eater slashed his wand, and Alexander could barely keep up with the assault.
"Protego," Alexander yelled as a black light barely missed him. One after the other spells came flying towards him and his shield crumbled. Before he could cast another shield he was flung backwards. The air rushed out of his lungs, and he let out a cry of pain when he tried to breathe. He could feel that he broke several ribs, and the way his leg was crooked behind him, that was broken too. Alexander tried to sit up, but he could barely breathe let alone move. He reached for his wand but couldn't see it anywhere.
White dots swam in front of Alexander's eyes as his body grew heavy. He could barely make out what was in front of him, but he could see a silhouette walking towards him — the Death Eater who had injured him. He couldn't see beneath the bone white mask, but he knew that whoever it was underneath the mask was smiling. He could feel it.
"Avada Kedavra," a cold voice said. A voice Alexander recognized, but he could barely keep his head up, let alone rack his brain to place it.
Alexander knew he couldn't move out of the way. He was going to die, and he knew it. He didn't want to go out scared with his eyes closed, so he did his best to glare at the figure. In his state, the Death Eater appeared larger than life in his black robes that flowed unnaturally, as if they were made of ink that swirled around and around. The mask appeared too white; it was almost blinding to look at.
Time seemed to move in slow motion as twenty years of memories flooded into his mind. He didn't want to die. He had a family and his entire life ahead of him. He knew that becoming an auror was dangerous, and he had accepted that he could die, but he had never thought he'd die lying down. A foot from his face the emerald green light smashed into a stone gargoyle that had appeared in front of him. The stone statue shattered and Alexander instinctively threw his arm in front of his face to block the shards from hitting his face. He hissed in pain as stone shards dug into his arm. He dropped his arm and looked in shock as he saw a man in a gray cloak standing in front of him. The man had appeared out of nowhere. He wanted to say thank you, but he fell backwards. He felt his body going into shock as he stared up at the sky. Ten minutes prior it had been a beautiful blue, but it was now a dull smoky gray.
In the distance he heard someone yell, "Morsmordre!" He didn't have to move his head to see the giant skull appear in the sky, a large snake slithering out of its mouth. For the rest of his life Alexander would swear that the snake looked into his soul.
The village fell deathly silent. For a moment Alexander wondered if the past ten minutes had been a dream, and he was in the groggy state between sleep and consciousness. Then loud voices filled the air, some panicked, and others authoritative. The last thing he saw before his eyes fluttered shut was a face that he never believed he'd see.
Sirius Black knew he shouldn't be in Hogsmeade. It was beyond asinine, even for him. Yet, he couldn't help but come to the place that held so many good memories for him. As he walked past Zonko's Joke Shop, he could hear James Potter's laughter, and for a moment he was sixteen again. He could see himself running backwards passed Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop in an attempt to impress the cute girl who sat behind him in Potions. For just a moment, he felt like the person he was before he had spent twelve years in Azkaban.
An older couple with an infant walked passed him and he pulled his cloak around his face. His stomach rumbled, and he did his best to ignore the hunger cramps that got worse when the smell of warm bread filled the autumn air. He felt in his pocket for the galleon he had found on the ground earlier and began an internal debate on whether or not he could get away with buying a slice of bread without being recognized.
"Be smart old dog," he muttered as he flipped the galleon around with his thin fingers.
A loud yell pierced his ears, and he swore. He thought he had been recognized before dozens of pops sounded. Death Eaters appeared and Sirius ducked behind a bench as he fumbled for his wand.
"Fuck," he muttered, as he cast a shield and stood up.
"Bombarda!" Sirius yelled. The Death Eater he had been aiming for flicked it aside as if it were a mere flee.
Sirius hadn't cast any substantial spells in twelve years, so his spells weren't nearly as powerful as before, but he attempted to get the Death Eaters to move back. He saw civilians run out of shops, as glass rained down on them, before disapparating. He ignored the stench of blood as he jumped over the crumpled body of a man he knew was an auror because of his red robes. He stumbled as a powerful curse obliterated his shield before managing to move out of the way of a killing curse. Sirius knew that he would've been dead, but thankfully he used to have amazing reflexes, and even though Azkaban had slowed them down he wasn't too slow.
His brain was telling him to flee before more aurors came and he was recognized, but the part of him that had been both an auror and a member of the Order of the Phoenix wouldn't let him. He ran towards Honeyduke's after a small group of Death Eaters. Two went into Honeyduke's while the third stayed out front. He saw a young looking auror approach him. He ignored his aching muscles, that were screaming at him for overtaxing himself, as he moved slowly forward.
Sirius saw the auror fly through the air, and watched as the Death Eater tilted his head to the side while spinning his wand between his fingers. Sirius' eyes narrowed. He recognized those unconscious movements — Rabastan. Sirius saw Rabastan raise his wand and Sirius summoned a nearby stone gargoyle.
"Avada Kedavra!" Rabastan yelled.
The stone gargoyle flew in front of the fallen auror just in time to stop the killing curse. Sirius ran towards the young man as stone shards went flying in every direction. As he ran towards the young auror, someone yelled "Morsmordre," and Rabastan disapparated, along with the other Death Eaters.
Sirius ran towards the fallen auror, and reached him just as his eyes fluttered shut.
"Are you ok?" A gruff voiced asked.
Alexander's eyes shot open and he looked into the face of Sirius Black. He felt himself stiffen as the haggard man stared worriedly at him. The look of confusion, instead of homicidal rage that he would've expected to see in the face of Sirius Black confused him.
"Are you ok?" Sirius repeated.
Alexander swallowed thickly, he could taste blood. "Y-yes." His eyes took in the man's appearance, and he froze upon seeing the grey raggedy cloak that he was wearing. "You s-saved me." Alexander could barely form the words.
Sirius gave him an indecipherable look. It was odd, Alexander thought that he would see nothing in his dark eyes, but there was intelligence and something that looked like a mix of sadness and hope. How there could be anything in Sirius' eyes after twelve years surrounded by dementors he didn't know.
"Over here!" James yelled.
Sirius' head shot up, as James and half a dozen other aurors appeared. Two of the aurors stopped dead upon seeing Sirius, and James' pale face turned ghostly white, his color looking eerily similar to the masks of the Death Eaters.
"Damn it," Sirius muttered, as he shot to his feet.
Alexander didn't know how it happened, all he saw was Sirius shoot to his feet and then crumple to the ground. He looked towards his fellow aurors and saw Kingsley Shacklebolt standing with his wand pointing towards where Sirius had stood. A look of angry calm was on the aurors face. Kingsley walked towards Sirius, and Alexander didn't know why but he felt panic. Sirius didn't seem at all like the psychopathic mass murderer he thought he would be.
James ran over to Alexander and yelled, "We need a healer over here, now!"
"Wait," Alexander said. He coughed up blood as he tried to sit up. "He s-saved me. Sirius Black saved m-me."
"What are you talking about?" James asked incredulously. Blood was slowly dripping down the side of James' head, and sweat had caked his blood hair to his forehead. "You must have hit your head. A healer will be here soon, we don't want to move you in case your back was injured."
"N-no," Alexander said more forcefully. "He saved me."
Kingsley held up a hand when James attempted to protest. "Sirius Black is a fugitive. I will personally escort him to the Ministry of Magic. There he will be questioned, and we will see exactly what he did here today."
"Auror Shacklebolt," James said. "Surely, he should be immediately sent back to Azkaban."
Kingsley's face hardened, and in that moment he appeared to have been carved out of onyx. "I am to take him to the Ministry of Magic. This order came from Amelia Bones herself. Unless you think you have more authority than the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?"
"Of course not, sir," James said quickly.
Alexander watched as his partners cheeks burned red, while Kingsley disappeared with the most wanted man in the wizarding world. He couldn't help but wonder why Sirius Black had saved him. The man was a mass murderer, so why would he care about saving the life of a man he didn't know?
Sirius' eyes snapped open. More than one hundred pairs of eyes were staring at him, a large majority of them terrified. Some, he noticed, appeared to have been crying recently. He could hear their hushed voices, and he didn't like what he heard. He was guilty to all of them, and the ones that knew he wasn't guilty would never try to help him. He tried to move his arms, but they were chained to a large black chair. His body ached, and his mouth felt as if he had swallowed a desert. Sirius opened his mouth, he wanted to yell that he was innocent, but no words came out. No matter what he did, no sound would come out of his mouth.
Sirius began to panic. He knew he shouldn't have stayed to check on the auror, but he was so young. The auror had black hair, and he reminded Sirius of his best friend. Sirius didn't want to leave him until he ensured that the auror was ok. Now, because of his foolishness, he found himself captured. A part of him was glad, if he was in the Wizengamot they would question him, and he could clear his name, but if they chose not to question him then he'd find himself back in Azkaban. Or worse, he'd receive the kiss. A part of him wondering how the Wizengamot had been called together so soon, but he heard a familiar voice that tore him from his concentration. Sirius looked towards the voice and paled when he saw Lucius Malfoy. Lucius smiled cruelly at Sirius, and Sirius tugged at the chains that bound his wrists. He looked away in an effort to calm himself down. If Lucius Malfoy had any say, Sirius would receive the dementor's kiss by the days end. He took a deep breath and looked at the other members, many of whom were trying and failing to take covert glances towards him. He recognized several high ranking Death Eaters, which did nothing to quell his panic, and began to make his blood boil.
A loud banging echoed around the hall, as a woman who he once called a friend banged a gavel. She looked furious, but Sirius had the feeling that anger wasn't directed towards him. In fact, when she looked at him, Sirius would've sworn that her eyes softened.
"Order in the Wizengamot," Amelia Bone's voiced boomed. "I have called this emergency session of the Wizengamot to—"
Amelia's next words were cut off as the large oak doors that led into the chamber were flung open. Cornelius Fudge walked in, a green bowler perched atop his large head. Sirius didn't recognized the large woman wearing a lurid pink dress that followed closely behind him.
"Madam Bones," Fudge said angrily. "What is the meaning of this?" He stopped abruptly when his eyes landed on Sirius. "This man should be in Azkaban receiving the kiss!" Murmurs of agreement rang out around the hall. Sirius snarled when he saw a smirk appear on the smug face of Lucius Malfoy.
"Minister Fudge," Amelia said stiffly. "Several days ago, it was brought to my attention that Sirius Black was never given a trial twelve years ago. An auror also admitted to being saved by Sirius Black today during the Hogsmeade attack." Fudge's face was crimson. "As this information was brought to my attention, I am required to enter it into my report. As Minister of Magic, you know that reports are public record. Do I need to explain to you how it will make your government look if someone finds out that Sirius Black was denied a trial and when it was brought to our attention he didn't receive one? Because of this, I thought it was pertinent for him to receive a trial. After this mornings attack, the people of wizarding Britain will feel safer knowing that their government is being proactive. And as you were not Minister of Magic when he was sentenced to Azkaban, none of the blame will fall onto you."
Fudge opened his mouth, before his eyes landed on a blonde sitting in the visitors gallery. Sirius recognized the woman as a girl he had gone to school with, Rita Skeeter. Why her appearance made Fudge go pale and snap his mouth shut though he didn't know.
Sirius' mind was spinning. Someone knew that he didn't get a trial and brought it to Amelia's attention? Who would've done such a thing? If it had been Dumbledore, the man would already be here. Sirius knew now why Amelia looked furious. There was nothing Amelia hated more than those who broke the law, or people being falsely accused. Amelia must have looked into what happened twelve years ago and not liked what she saw.
"Why was I not informed of this?" Fudge demanded as he puffed his chest out. "Information of this caliber should had been relayed to me immediately!"
"I didn't want to waste your time on unfounded information," Amelia said placatingly. "I was preparing to inform you this morning when I received word that Hogsmeade had been attacked." Sirius had known Amelia when he was an auror, and he could tell that she was lying, but Fudge didn't seem to notice. "If Sirius is found guilty than the order for him to be kissed will be executed. If not —"
"Sirius Black is not innocent," the women in pink simpered.
"That is for the Wizengamot to decide, Madam Umbridge," Amelia declared.
Umbridge's eyes narrowed. Amelia didn't spare the minister a glance before banging her gavel once more.
"I have called this emergency session of the Wizengamot to ascertain the guilt or innocence of Sirius Orion Black, in regard to the murder of twelve muggles on 31 October, 1991," Amelia said. "Sirius Black, do you consent to the use of veritaserum?" Amelia waved her wand, and Sirius knew she was removing the silencing charms that had surrounded him.
"Yes," Sirius said immediately.
Kingsley walked forward and Sirius opened his mouth. Three drops of veritaserum fell into his mouth, and his throat tingled. He felt his body go stiff, and his eyes glazed over.
"We will begin with test questions," Amelia said. "Is your name Sirius Orion Black?"
"Yes," he answered. His voice sounded dreamy and far away to his own ears.
"Is 1 October 1959 your birthday?" Amelia asked.
"Yes," he replied.
"The drug is working," Amelia said. A tiny woman nodded her head, as she scribbled away on a piece of parchment. "Sirius Black, on 31 October, 1991 did you commit any crimes?"
"No," Sirius said.
There were several gasps around the chamber, and Amelia banged her gavel. The thought that Sirius could truly be innocent wasn't one they had considered.
"Silence," Amelia ordered.
"On 31 October, 1991, did you murder any muggles?" Amelia asked.
"On 31 October, 1991, did you betray James and Lily Potter to the Dark Lord Voldemort?"
Several witches clutched at their throats at the mention of Voldemort's name. There were gasps, and Fudge went deathly pale. Amelia banged her gavel twice.
"Are you a Death Eater?"
"Not possible," Fudge said faintly. "Crouch sentenced him to Azkaban. There were witnesses. How? Who?"
The members of the Wizengamot began talking amongst themselves. The shock was palpable as looks of horror and disbelief were sent towards the man who had spent twelve years in Azkaban as an innocent man.
"Twelve years as an innocent man in Azkaban? The poor dear."
"How could Crouch sentence him without a trial?"
"Silence," Amelia banged her gavel. "Silence. As Veritaserum cannot make a person answer more than yes or no questions, we cannot question Sirius Black further under the potion. Kingsley, administer the antidote." She looked at a pale Fudge. "Minister, it seems that Mister Black is innocent of the charges that had been placed against him."
"Be that as it may," Umbridge said, "he escaped from Azkaban. That in itself is against the law."
Amelia's eyes narrowed. "Madam Umbridge, no such law exists, as there was never any thought that one could possibly break out of Azkaban. Even if there were, Mister Black's time served would more than make up for it."
Umbridge opened her mouth to speak when she was interrupted.
"Not now, Dolores," Fudge hissed.
"Sirius Black," Amelia said. "I hereby declare you innocent of all charges. You will be taken to St. Mungo's to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and then you will be free to go. I know that nothing I, nor anyone, can say will make up for what must have been twelve horrendously difficult years in Azkaban. However, you can be sure that I will look deeply into your case, and you will be compensated for your pain and suffering." Amelia cleared her throat. "While you did not kill those muggles twelve years ago or betray the Potter's someone did." Sirius' eyes snapped to Amelia's. "I have many questions, all of which can be asked after your evaluation."
"Thank you," Sirius said faintly.
"I now declare this session of the Wizengamot over," Amelia banged her gavel.
Sirius was numb. He was out of Azkaban. He was declared an innocent man. He was going to get to see Remus again. He felt the chains around his wrists loosen, and barely registered when someone helped him to stand. Amelia was going to question him about the rat, he wanted to yell his name out loud now, so that they could go and arrest him, but something was holding him back. There were Death Eaters in the room. He needed to play this smart. He could barely think straight at the moment. He needed sleep and food before he could decide the best course of action. Rash thinking is what got him into this predicament in the first place. He wouldn't make that mistake again.
He was being led from the room when it fell silent. He looked up and stared straight into the eyes of Albus Dumbledore.
As I know you have already been informed, the trial of Sirius Black went as you planned. During the trial it was not revealed who tipped off Amelia Bones, and I am confident that my identity will remain secret. As you requested, I spun the article to make Dumbledore look the part of the fool. I have enclosed a copy of what will be on the front page of the Daily Prophet tomorrow morning. Any amendments you would like to have included will, of course, be added.
Your most humble servant,
Tom tossed the letter aside, and smiled as he looked down at the headline that tomorrow would be seen by everyone in wizarding Britain, and if all went according to plan, soon the entire wizarding world.
Sirius Black Declared Innocent of All Charges: Dumbledore guilty?