In the next few days leading up to January, Sirius managed to find out why he was still the head of the Black Family. Though there was nothing he could do with the money or the information he knew was there in the Family Vaults. Not until he got Pettigrew.
Near the end of January, he had a breakthrough in the Pettigrew front. As he was skulking around in his Animagus form just at the border near Hogwarts’s grounds, he overheard a conversation between two boys.
‘That portrait of Cadogan is a menace I tell you!’ the first boy said to his friend, as he kicked a rock aimlessly. Sirius could detect a hint of an Irish accent in his voice.
The other boy, a dark skinned lad, snorted, ‘Yeah, he keeps changing the bloody password twice every day! I’m having a hard enough time remembering what the password is half the bloody time. At least Black won’t be getting in now!’
‘Screw Black, we’ll be lucky to be able to get in.’ the first boy said humourlessly. Suddenly he spoke up, ‘Did you hear that Neville managed to get all the passwords of the week from Cadogan?’
‘Really?’ his friend asked. ‘Wow ... that is pretty smart of him.’ He sounded surprised. ‘Though, I doubt he’d remember them! It’s a miracle he can remember where his clothes are to begin with!’
‘Well, apparently he wrote them down to ensure that he didn’t forget them. At least that’s what I heard.’
Any further conversation was lost to the wind as the boys meandered back to the castle. But Sirius had all the information he needed. If that was the same Neville they were talking about, then it seemed that Frank and Alice’s boy was in Gryffindor with his godson. He wondered if the two were friends. It also seemed that Neville had inherited his mother’s absentmindedness. Sirius could recount quite a few stories off the top of his head about Alice’s memory problems. She had outgrown that by fifth year though.
Later that day, he sat against a tree in his human body with Ginger curled up on his lap. As he fed some scraps of his meal to the feline (who knew that kneazle-Persian hybrids liked deer?) he asked him some questions.
‘Do you know who Neville Longbottom is?’
The moggy purred at the question. From his previous conversations with the cat, Sirius knew that the answer was a ‘yes’.
‘He’s got all the passwords for the week written down in a scrap of parchment. Do you think you can get that?’
Ginger seemed to consider the question before purring again.
‘Great, will you be able to get it by tomorrow?’
‘No? Okay then, how about the day after?’
Sirius smiled as Ginger purred. ‘Now that’s a good boy,’ he said as he stroked the spot behind Ginger’s ear. ‘Here, have some more deer.’
The first few hours of the first Sunday of February saw the hump of a statue of a humpbacked witch slide open as the black form of a dog silently jumped out. Sirius Black silently stalked through the darkened corridors of Hogwarts approaching Gryffindor Tower. He estimated that the party that the Gryffindors had to celebrate their victory against Ravenclaw would have wound up by now. Old McGonagall at least would have ensured that if the students didn’t.
Stopping outside the portrait he observed the portrait of a short squat knight dozing against the belly of a snoring fat pony as his ears pricked forward, hoping to discern any noise from the common room within.
Taking a deep breath, he shifted back and, hoping for the best, extricated the scrap of parchment with the written passwords.
The portrait’s eyes opened as Sirius cleared his throat. Clanking loudly, the knight got up and declared, ‘I say, who goes there?’ Suddenly drawing a sword that was longer than he was tall, the man continued in a voice that Sirius felt was unnecessarily loud, ‘Declare yourself or face my wrath!’
Sirius was amused. He vaguely remembered this portrait. If he wasn’t mistaken, it was hung at the North Tower. They never did have the time to examine it though. A pity, really ... James would have found him amusing.
‘Sir Knight, I request entrance to yon chambers that you have been charged with guarding.’ Sirius said. The prospect of catching Pettigrew was so exhilarating that he found himself in good spirits.
‘Indeed, sir? Well, I only let those with the proper password enter the hallowed chambers within. Unless you have the password, I suggest you move along. Or you shall meet the end of my blade!’ at this the knight swung his sword violently, causing him to overbalance and fall over.
Sirius watched as the knight reached for his sword, no doubt to use it to stand up. Suddenly with his hand near the scabbard, the knight stopped and muttering, ‘Oh no, not this time,’ pushed himself from the ground.
Shaking his head, Sirius started from the top, ‘Right, Scurvy cur.’ He looked at the portrait enquiringly.
‘No that is not the password, though that is what you are.’ The portrait replied.
Rolling his eyes, Sirius read the next one, ‘Oddsbodikins.’
Grumbling, Sirius went down a few more words. ‘Seriously, you actually used these for passwords?’ he said incredulously as he looked at the list. ‘How has McGonagall not noticed?’ some of the words there were rather rude. If McGonagall had caught him saying any of the words in school, he was sure he would have had his mouth washed out. He doubted that the students were complaining though. The little buggers probably thought it was brilliant as they broke into fits of giggling when saying the passwords.
Complaining indistinctly to himself, he came upon what he thought would be the password, 'Piss-artist' he said, giving the portrait a disgusted look. As the portrait swung open, he shook his head and entered.
The common room was empty and clean. Sirius heaved a sigh of relief at that. He did not want to be seen by the house-elves.
Sneaking up, he went up the staircase to the boys’ dormitory. Opening the door marked third years he drew his wand and started peeking through the curtains. The first one had a sandy haired boy. His godson was in the second one, sprawled out and looking a lot like James did. Shaking himself out of the onslaught of memories, he moved onto the third bed. There, snoring loudly through an open mouth was Pettigrew’s “owner”
Grinning, Sirius ripped open the curtains, looking at the bedside table and searching intently for the rat. Not seeing it there, he looked at the bedclothes... Still no rat. Cursing he looked again, using the moonlight to see properly. His eyes slowly travelled up the bed, taking in every detail and hoping to spot the rat.
Here peteypeteypeteypetey he thought to himself, a hungry look on his face. Looking at the pillow intently, he suddenly saw a pair of blue eyes sleepily staring back at him...
Sirius was halfway to the door by the time he heard the first high pitched warbling screams coming from a voice that had not fully cracked. By the time the others had woken up, he was running full pelt down the corridor and to the statue, transforming midway.
Another failed attempt.
If security wasn’t bad before, it was definitely worse now. Sirius heard that the teachers had now doubled the patrol shifts, involving prefects and ghosts as well.
He also hadn’t found the rat. But he wasn’t disheartened. Peter was too cowardly to run off somewhere else. There were quite a few predators out there that would happily snack on a rat. Hogwarts and the ginger boy were his best hopes of staying alive and hidden as a rat. It would only be a matter of time...
He decided to wait till the end of the academic year at the school. If that failed, he could follow the boy to the Weasley homestead and then try his luck. Perhaps Pettigrew will have become complacent enough by then.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait that long. Fate finally seemed to favour him when he saw the same lanky boy struggling with something small. As the thing escaped and started running away followed by the owner, Sirius knew that it was Pettigrew. Ginger seemed to agree as he too started chasing Pettigrew. Sirius didn’t even think. Transforming, he rushed at the boy just as he caught hold of the rat.
A few moments later, after months of planning, and two failed attempts, he was now staring down at the man who had betrayed his friends and framed him clutched in the hands of one of Arthur Weasley’s many children as Lupin (he refused to think of him as Remus anymore) told the kids the whole story.
When the door had opened of its own accord, Sirius knew that somebody invisible had entered the room. He had seen James do it often enough. The fresh set of footprints on the otherwise dusty floor was further proof. Whoever it was, was an adult, judging by the size of the feet, and a complete novice in using Invisibility Cloaks. After all, standing on the dusty section of the floor like that was a very amateurish mistake.
Making sure to keep his hand on the wand he had pilfered from the warden, he shifted his gaze to the rat as he kept a watch on the floor using his peripheral vision. He wanted to be able to see the person hiding under the cloak before cursing him. He had a hunch as to who it was. Years of being in that twit’s company had sensitised him to the git’s presence. He wanted the pleasure of seeing the other man’s face before his hex hit him.
‘Snape?’ he said harshly, taking his eyes off the rat and looking up at Lupin while still keeping an eye on the spot where the invisible man was. ‘What’s Snape got to do with it?’ he asked derisively.
‘He’s here, Sirius,’ said Lupin heavily. ‘He’s teaching here as well.’
Sirius seethed silently at this bit of news as Lupin explained their history with Snape to the kids. So the slimy git not only got out from being chucked into Azkaban, but also got a nice comfy job offered by the old man himself no doubt. This was another strike against Dumbledore as far as he was concerned. The fact that Lupin here was also teaching wasn’t lost on Sirius. His mind started conjuring up images of the two of them being all palsy with each other. From watching the inhabitants of the castle for the past few months, and looking at the way his godson interacted with Lupin, he gathered that Harry did not know Lupin at all. So he wondered what the werewolf had been doing all this time instead of looking out for the son of his best friend like he should have. He had noted the hungry look in his godson’s green eyes (looking just like Lily’s) upon being told something about his father he should have been told a long time back.
‘It served him right,’ he sneered after Lupin bought up the events of their sixth year at Hogwarts. ‘Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to … hoping he could get us expelled. …’ Initially Sirius had been horrified at what he had done. But now ... his only regret was that James had bothered saving Snape.
When Snivellus finally revealed himself, Sirius inwardly rolled his eyes. The git was as greasy as ever. And he was just as childish and melodramatic as before too. Some things never change.
When the “good professor” (Sirius still could not believe that this idiot was teaching children) was distracted with shouting at Harry, predictably turning his back to Sirius and forgetting his immediate surroundings, the prison escapee made to remove his wand and curse the git in the back but was cut to the quick when his godson showed a surprising quickness and agility and cursed the git in his face! Sirius was never more proud of his godson than at that moment ... why the last time he felt this was when his godson had looked at him with those big green eyes and said “daddy” ... much to James’s shocked disbelief (of course, he never knew that Sirius had been spending two whole weeks teaching the sprog to say that the next time the kid saw him). Now he got to see the lad cast his first spell at Snivellus! It was a moment that needed to be cherished. The look on Snivellus’ face before the disarming charm hit him only served to double the sweetness of the moment. And the fact that the git got cursed not only by one, but three thirteen year olds when he himself was a professor made this moment so sweet that Sirius was sure that he would end up with that Muggle disease Lily said her parents had. Dia-something ... it was related to sweets.
Shaking out of his revere, he let go of the wand hidden in a sheath in his sleeve as he bent down to untie Remus. He had a feeling that he being seemingly disarmed was an edge that was going to be crucial here.
‘You should have let me handle him,’ he protested weakly to Harry, trying to keep the pride from showing in his voice.
Letting Lupin stand up, he hid the anger and bitterness he was feeling at his former friend when the other man had the gall to act as if nothing had happened. As if he had never sent that hate-filled letter to Sirius condemning him and breaking off their friendship. Lupin, like everybody else, would get what was coming to him. For now, he had to prove his innocence.
‘You know, Sirius, that’s a fair question,’ said Lupin, turning to him and frowning slightly. ‘How did you find out where he was?’
Hearing that, Sirius nearly lost his patience. For fuck’s sake, get on with it already! He screamed in his mind. Reining his emotions in with a supreme effort, he extricated the newspaper Fudge had given him so long back and told them the story of his discovery. This soon led to a discussion of the intelligent and helpful half kneazle Sirius had met and befriended in the forest and that again led to rehashing the events of the past year which finally culminated in reliving the events of that tragic night that had led to this entire mess. If Sirius wasn’t so wracked with the sorrow for what he had inadvertently caused and the results of his decisions, he would be pulling his hair out in frustration. While he did not hold himself directly responsible, he still felt guilty for failing his best friend and his family. What was more, he also held himself responsible for running off half-cocked to hunt Peter down instead of staying and caring for Harry like he should have done, and preventing the kid from ending up in the clutches of that manipulative old man.
‘Enough of this,’ he heard Lupin say with a steely note in his voice ‘There’s one certain way to prove what really happened. Ron, give me that rat.’
‘What are you going to do with him if I give him to you?’ The Weasley boy, Ron asked Lupin tensely.
‘Force him to show himself,’ said Lupin. ‘If he really is a rat, it won’t hurt him.’
Ron hesitated. Then at last ... at long last, he finally held out the rat to Lupin who took him. Sirius watched hungrily as Peter began to squeak without stopping, twisting and turning, his tiny black eyes bulging in his head.
‘Ready, Sirius?’ said Lupin.
‘Sure’ Sirius replied through gritted teeth. He had decided to take Snape’s wand for this operation. That way, if he were to, hypothetically, say, send a Killing Curse at the rat, the whole thing would be pinned on Snivellus. Also if the wand were to hypothetically snap into two, he would have a backup.
Everything was hypothetical at this moment.
Finally, seeing Peter being forced into his human form after all these years had Sirius feeling a sense of immense jubilation. The end of his N.E.W.T.s did not even begin to compare to this feeling.
‘Well, hello, Peter,’ said Lupin pleasantly, as though rats frequently erupted into old school friends around him. ‘Long time, no see.’
‘S — Sirius … R — Remus …’ said Pettigrew in that squeaky voice of his that so annoyed Sirius as his eyes darted toward the door. ‘My friends … my old friends …’
At this Sirius saw red. The nerve of that man! He raised his wand arm intending to teach the bastard some manners when he was halted by Lupin who gave him a warning look.
Seething, Sirius lowered the wand while sending the werewolf a filthy look that the other man did not notice. Sure, stick up for him. You were his friend first after all, he thought resentfully. He recalled that he and James weren’t too keen on befriending the pudgy boy in school. It was only due to Remus’ insistence that they had done so.
It took a bit of time, but eventually despite Peter’s vehement protests and efforts to keep the frame up, the truth finally came out, and Harry finally believed Sirius’s version of events. This caused a smile to break out on his face as the one person who he had done this for, the one person who he had hung onto his sanity for finally believed him and not the lies everybody else was feeding him.
Sirius watched dispassionately as Pettigrew started grovelling and begging for his life. He wasn’t about to kill the rat. After all, he wanted to be cleared first. But it was pretty funny watching the man beg for his life.
He kicked out as Pettigrew made to touch his robes.
‘There’s enough filth on my robes without you touching them,’ he sneered. His right hand curled into a fist as the rat then tried one last time to convince Lupin that Sirius was the spy.
‘Shall we kill him, Sirius?’ said Lupin nonchalantly as he rolled up his sleeves.
‘No,’ said Sirius coldly. Hearing that word, Lupin looked at him in surprise while Peter who was in the middle of grovelling for his life stopped mid-crawl halfway towards Ron, a surprised look on his face.
‘Th-thank you, Sirius,’ Pettigrew blubbered. Before he could say more, however, Sirius flicked his wand, lifting the rat up and flinging him against the far wall with a pained squeal. Sirius ignored the scream Harry’s female friend (Herwhiny, or something) let out at the sudden violence as he stepped up to the blubbering man.
‘I did not do this for you,’ he snarled as he sent a stinging hex at the pathetic man in front of him, eliciting fresh squeals. ‘I did it because I do not wish to lower myself to your level, Death Eater!’ he spat the last two words out making Pettigrew cringe.
Breathing hard, he looked at the man in front of him for a moment; the urge to kill the traitor was still there regardless of what he had said. ‘You sold Lily and James to Voldemort,’ Sirius finally said, his voice soft but deadly. ‘Do you deny it?’
Pettigrew burst into tears. It was horrible to watch, like an oversized, balding baby, cowering on the floor.
‘Sirius, Sirius, what could I have done? The Dark Lord … you have no idea … he has weapons you can’t imagine. … I was scared, Sirius, I was never brave like you and Remus and James. I never meant it to happen. … He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named forced me —‘
‘DON’T LIE!’ Sirius bellowed, his temper finally getting the best of him. ‘YOU’D BEEN PASSING INFORMATION TO HIM FOR A YEAR BEFORE LILY AND JAMES DIED! YOU WERE HIS SPY!’
‘He — he was taking over everywhere!’ gasped Pettigrew. ‘Wh — what was there to be gained by refusing him?’
‘What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed?’ Sirius replied, with a terrible fury in his face. ‘Only innocent lives, Peter!’
‘You don’t understand!’ whined Pettigrew. ‘He would have killed me, Sirius!’
‘THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!’ Sirius bellowed in response as he let a cutting curse loose on the coward in front of him. ‘DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!’
Pettigrew cried out in pain, clutching his leg as the curse opened up a gash from his shin to his knee.
Breathing deeply, Sirius continued in a calmer tone. ‘I would love to end your pathetic, miserable life right here on the spot, Peter.’ He spat his former friend’s name out in malice. ‘But frankly, you are currently more useful to me alive than dead.’ Saying this, he bound Peter’s hands together.
Reaching down, he frisked the rat, not bothering to hide the disgust he felt as he went through Pettigrew’s pockets. The shirt and trousers he was wearing were the same the rat had worn when he had framed Sirius. They hadn’t been washed since then and were filthy!
Finally, Sirius found two wands and what definitely was a Portkey. ‘Harry, come here, please,’ he said over his shoulder.
Wrapping the Portkey in a piece of cloth taken from Pettigrew’s trousers (Sirius may or may not have added another cut to Pettigrew’s leg in the process of cutting the cloth out) he turned to his godson who approached him, Sirius noted with approval how he kept one eye trained on the snivelling coward behind him.
‘Um, Sirius,’ Harry said hesitatingly. ‘Why are you wrapping up a rubber ducky?’
‘Because I have good reason to believe that this is a Portkey, I don’t know if it is reusable or active, so I’m wrapping it up to be safe.’ Sirius replied evenly. Seeing Harry’s confused look, he said hastily, ‘I’ll explain later, for now, just hold these for me will you? Make sure that you don't come in direct contact with the Portkey.’ saying that, he handed the two wands along with the Portkey.
When Harry took the wands, an odd look came on his face as he held the longer wand.
‘What is it?’ Sirius said noticing the look.
‘It’s nothing,’ Harry said as he looked at the longer wand. ‘It’s just that the wand feels ... familiar ... as if it is a friend that I have never met, yet not ... you know what I mean?’ Sirius looked at the wand in question. It was the strange wand he remembered Peter had with him. Now that he had the time to look at it, Sirius wondered how Peter managed to get his hands on such a fine specimen. The owner had covered the wand in intricate pictures made of gold leaf and had covered the hilt in leather made from the hide of a Welsh Green. Sirius had seen something similar on his parents’ wands, so had a feeling that Peter had probably stolen this from some wealthy pureblood. For all he knew, the rat had killed the wizard before taking the wand.
For a moment, Sirius thought that this was James’s wand. Then reason took over. He knew his friend well; firstly, James would not have done this to his wand as he wouldn’t have had the time and traditionally wizards added such decorations on their sixty-first birthday as it meant that the wand had been in their possession for half a century. Secondly, the colouring and length of the wood was all wrong. Sirius knew that James had a wand made of Mahogany. This wand was lighter in colour and was nearly two inches longer than the length of his friend’s wand.
Shrugging, Sirius said, ‘If the wand works, then I suggest that you keep it with you as a backup, just in case.’ Noticing the peculiar look Pettigrew was giving the wand in question, Sirius added, ‘And keep its existence a secret. Nobody is to know that you have two wands. And I mean nobody, am I clear?’ A quick glance told him that the other conscious occupants in the room were busy with the ginger’s leg.
Harry looked into Sirius’s eyes for a long moment before agreeing.
‘Good boy,’ Sirius whispered before standing up.
‘Right,’ Lupin said standing up. ‘We should probably start moving to Hogwarts.’ He helped Ron up who now had his leg bandaged. Sirius felt a slight pang of guilt at the part he had played in breaking the leg in the first place, but that feeling was dismissed. The situation called for it, and it was only a broken leg. It could easily be fixed with a bit of magic.
‘What about Professor Snape?’ said Hermione in a small voice, looking down at Snape’s prone figure. Sirius snorted at this, he never thought he would see the day that the words “Severus Snape” and “professor” would be used together.
‘There’s nothing seriously wrong with him,’ said Lupin, bending over Snape and checking his pulse. ‘You were just a little — overenthusiastic. Still out cold. Er — perhaps it will be best if we don’t revive him until we’re safely back in the castle. We can take him like this. …’
He muttered, ‘Mobilicorpus.’ As though invisible strings were tied to Snape’s wrists, neck, and knees, he was pulled into a standing position, head still lolling unpleasantly, like a grotesque puppet. He hung a few inches above the ground, his limp feet dangling. Lupin picked up the Invisibility Cloak and made to put it in his pocket when Sirius interrupted. ‘I think Harry should have that, it is his after all.’
‘Erm, alright,’ said Lupin slightly startled as he handed the cloak to the boy who took it with a muttered ‘thanks.’
‘I think two of us should be chained to this ... thing,’ Sirius said, kicking his prisoner as he said the last word. ‘Just in case,’ he looked down at Pettigrew with contempt.
‘I’ll do it,’ said Lupin. Ron immediately echoed Lupin.
‘Yeah ... no,’ said Black, drawing the first word out. ‘No offence kid,’ he said to Ron who bristled at that. ‘But you can barely walk on your own. You are not in any condition to escort a fully grown and able Death Eater. While your little display a little earlier about me having to go through you first to kill my godson was quite brave and touching, we have to be practical now. The time for pointless theatrics and heroism is over now.’
‘I guess you’re right,’ Ron said sulkily.
‘And do you really think that I can be trusted with floating the unconscious body of Severus Snape?’ he said to Lupin after a moment of thinking. For some reason he did not want Lupin to be shackled to the traitor. Not only did he no longer trust the werewolf, but his gut told him that it would be a terribly bad idea.
‘That’s a good point,’ said Lupin.
So in the end, Sirius and Harry ended up chained to Pettigrew
while Hermione decided to help Ron who, miraculously, seemed to have suddenly
lost his sulky expression.
Harry had never been part of a stranger group. Crookshanks led the way down the stairs; he, Pettigrew, and Sirius went next, looking like entrants in a six-legged race. Ron, who was supported by Hermione followed them, both of them had their wands pointed to Pettigrew’s back. Professor Snape, drifting creepily along, his toes hitting each stair as they descended, brought up the rear along with Professor Lupin who was guiding him along.
Getting back into the tunnel was difficult. He, Pettigrew and Sirius had to turn sideways to manage it. Sirius manhandled Pettigrew through the tunnel with quite an amount of violence that Harry suspected was rather deliberate. They finally managed to get through in an awkward single file, followed shortly by the rest of their party.
‘You know what this means?’ Sirius said abruptly to Harry as they made their slow progress along the tunnel. ‘Turning Pettigrew in?’
‘You’re free,’ said Harry.
‘Yes …’ said Sirius. ‘But I’m also — I don’t know if anyone ever told you — I’m your godfather.’ His mouth was suddenly dry.
‘Yeah, I knew that,’ said Harry in a tone that was unreadable to his godfather. Sirius, who was looking forwards, stopped and turned around to look at his godson.
‘Well … your parents appointed me your guardian,’ said Sirius stiffly. ‘If anything happened to them …’ Goddamit he thought, why was this so hard?
He looked at Harry. The boy seemed cautiously expectant. Well, in for a Knut...
‘I’ll understand, of course, if you want to stay with your aunt and uncle,’ he continued. ‘But … well … think about it. Once my name’s cleared … if you wanted a … a different home …’
Some sort of explosion took place in the pit of Harry’s stomach.
‘What — live with you?’ he said, accidentally cracking his head on a bit of rock protruding from the ceiling. ‘Leave the Dursleys?’
‘Of course, I thought you wouldn’t want to,’ Sirius said quickly. It was possible that Petunia had changed her ways. ‘I understand, I just thought I’d —‘
‘Are you insane?’ said Harry, his voice easily as croaky as Sirius’s. ‘Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can I move in?’
Sirius stopped again as he turned right around to look at his godson.
‘You want to?’ he said in slight incredulity. ‘You mean it?’
‘Yeah, I mean it!’ said Harry.
Sirius’s gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years younger were shining through the starved mask; for a moment, he was recognizable as the man who had laughed at Harry’s parents’ wedding.
Sirius on the other hand was disturbed at this. It was obvious that Petunia had not changed and had in fact carried her hatred and jealousy she harboured towards her sister onto her nephew. How else could it explain the fact that Harry was so ready to go live with Sirius, a relative stranger without asking any questions?
They did not speak again until they had reached the end of the tunnel. Crookshanks darted up first; he had evidently pressed his paw to the knot on the trunk, because Harry did not hear the sound of savaging branches as Sirius poked his head up.
Sirius roughly dragged his half of Pettigrew up through the hole, and then helped Harry up. The three of them made their way outside the Whomping Willow as fast as they could, they waited outside the reach of the tree for the rest of their party.
As Ron and Hermione joined them, Sirius looked around him. This was the night that he would be officially free. He breathed in the cool Scottish summer wind, bringing with it all the smells that he associated with summer. The Castle stood in the distance, lit up, shining like a beacon in the darkness. The moon’s borrowed sunlight would soon light up the grounds...
Sirius’s thoughts abruptly ground to a halt as a chill went down his spine. His eyes widening frantically, he looked up. He suddenly remembered how and why Snape had come down here. Tonight was a full moon night ... and a werewolf was going to be joining them...
Snapping his head to the base of the tree, he spied the greasy head of Severus Snape floating up. At first he thought to summon Snape towards him. His body, following the commands given by his brain, bought up his wand arm. Then he had another thought. Leaving Snape there would kill two birds with one stone so to speak. He would have his vengeance on both Lupin and Snape at the same time. Also the rampaging beast that Lupin would become would be distracted by a warm human body in front of him long enough for the five of them to make it to the castle in safety.
And so thinking this, Sirius sent off three spells in quick succession. The first spell, an enervate, hit Snape, waking the Potions master up long enough to see the second spell,a banisher, hit him square in the chest, sending him rocketing back into the passageway and right into Lupin. The third spell, a light stinging hex, hit the knot on the base of the Whomping Willow with precision, un-freezing the tree and making it impossible for the werewolf to escape.
Harry was puzzled when Sirius suddenly looked up and paled. ‘What was that about?’ he asked in confusion and a hint of awe. The way Sirius had sent off two spells in one sweeping motion of his hand was pretty cool.
‘Enervate and banisher,’ said Sirius succinctly with relief plain on his features. ‘The first one woke Snape up and the second one sent him crashing into Lupin.’ He did not mention the stinging hex he sent to the tree. He knew that it would not have been noticed as it was very faint and had been easily swallowed up by the night.
‘But why would you...’ Ron began in confusion. He was cut off by a gasp from Hermione as the grounds were bathed in moonlight as the cloud passed the full moon, revealing it in all its glory.
‘Ron, the moon! But that means ... You put Professor Snape in danger!’ she rounded on Sirius, an indignant and accusing look on her face.
‘It had to be done,’ Sirius said harshly. ‘I don’t like it either, but I had a choice; do I endanger all of us or just one person? If they had managed to make it out, all six of us would be in danger! Would you rather face a full grown rampaging werewolf, girl?’
The girl paled at the implication of having to face a full-grown werewolf. ‘But there must be something we can do?’ she said slightly desperately.
‘Unfortunately, no,’ Sirius rebuffed her curtly. ‘If we had, then your professor Lupin would have followed us out where he would have transformed. Werewolves are extremely agile. And when they see and smell human flesh, they become determined. He would have been on us in a trice. Trust me, I know.’
All three of the teenagers gulped at this bit of information. Sirius sighed as he saw the six pairs of glistening eyes and three trembling lower lips. They were just kids, and they weren’t exposed to the harshness that was reality. But they would eventually understand that sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils. ‘Look, I made sure to wake Snape up before I sent him inside. So he isn’t unconscious. As much as I loathe saying this, he is a capable wizard. He will be able to handle himself. Also, don’t forget, the moonlight is what causes the transformation. I reckon that if Lupin stays out of the moon, he won’t transform. After all, he hadn’t changed despite the moon being up for all this time.’
He knew that he had offered them false hope, but it was the best he could do for the moment. Fortunately the three of them, even the smart whiny one, seemed to accept the explanation.
‘Really, I cannot believe that he would be so irresponsible,’ Sirius added suddenly as they started walking as fast as possible towards the castle. ‘He has known for all his life how dangerous it is on full moon nights ... yet he came here anyway! Not to mention that he actually wanted to be with you, Pettigrew.’ He yanked the manacle binding him to the rat’s hand. ‘It’s almost as if he did the whole thing on purpose!’
‘He isn’t that bad,’ Harry said defensively. Professor Lupin was the best teacher they had so far in Defence. He had also taught Harry how to defend himself against dementors.
‘Maybe,’ said Sirius noncommittally. ‘I’ll just say that he always has been conscientious about when it is going to be a full moon night. I remember once he actually told me that the wolf in him could sense the full moon. You have to admit, it is kind of suspicious, isn’t it?’ he trialled off smiling internally when he saw an unsure look pass through the teen's face.
‘Merlin’s ... Peter, stop dragging your feet! Alright that’s it, we’re stopping here.’ Sirius said in frustration, bringing the party to a halt near the lake. ‘I know you are stalling on purpose. Why, hoping that the werewolf will come and save you? Well, I have a remedy for that!’ saying that, he swiftly waved his wand, causing the chains to vanish. Peter had only a scant second to register the disappearance of the manacles securing him to Sirius and Harry before he fell to the floor screaming in agony through his gag as Sirius broke both his legs.
‘There,’ Sirius grinned malevolently. ‘Now you won’t be able to run if you transform! I should have done this earlier, you know. It would have made things simpler!’ Turning to the shocked children, he said, ‘What? It is the only way to ensure he doesn’t transform and scurry away. It was standard Auror tactics in dealing with dangerous wizards: incapacitate them to prevent them from escaping or trying to kill you. Besides, bones can be mended easily. Now,’ he rubbed his hands together, ‘I’m going to teach you a fun new spell, you wave your wand like this, and say Levicorpus!’ he demonstrated on the crippled man at his feet. Pettigrew immediately was yanked up by his mangled legs causing him to fairly howl with agony through his gag as he was hung upside – down.
Harry knew he should be feeling shocked, but he couldn’t help but feel impressed by the spell Sirius showed him. It really would be useful when certain annoying blonde gits got in the way...
‘Right, now that I have a handle on this one, we’ll be able to make it to the castle quicker.’
No sooner had Sirius said this that Harry noticed a black mass moving from the far side of the lake. Dementors! And they were halfway here! Harry did not think twice. He immediately pointed his wand at Ron and repeated the incantation he heard Remus using on Snape. His desperation caused the magic to work properly, yanking Ron up into the air. Not bothering to appreciate his handiwork or the protestations of his best friend, Harry started running for the safety of the castle, his ginger friend trailing behind him, screaming at the top of his lungs in one long note. Hermione and Sirius followed with Pettigrew trailing upside-down behind Sirius.
It was a mad rush toward the castle. The dementors were gaining on them, swarming along the edges of the lake. Harry knew that they wouldn’t be able to make it in time. He could already feel the cold creeping on him. It would only be a matter of time before the screaming would start. Making a split decision, he shouted over his shoulder, ‘Hermione, take over!’ Without giving the girl to reply, he skidded to a stop. Ron who had been floating behind him flew by, his movement not stopping in the slightest. Harry jerked his wand, stopping Ron’s forward momentum and bringing him back with a snap right into Hermione.
Not bothering to see if she had caught him on time, Harry concentrated with all his might. He knew he should make this work. Failure here wasn’t an option. Thinking this, he summoned up a happy thought. Sirius is going to be free, and I’ll finally be free of the Dursleys. Thinking of the things he would be able to do away from those odious Muggles and the happiness he would be feeling, he brandished his wand and bellowed, ‘EXPECTO PATRONUM!’
Instead of a shapeless mist, a blinding, dazzling, silver animal the size of a horse shot out of his wand. Harry tried to make out what it was as the creature galloped soundlessly towards the dementors. Lowering its head, the Patronus charged, dispersing the swarming dementors. It then started galloping back and forth, forming a barrier. The dementors eventually gave up and retreated, finally disappearing into the night.
The Patronus turned around and cantered back soundlessly towards him. Seeing the antlers on its head, Harry realised that it was a giant stag, as bright as the moonlight. Its hooves made no mark on the ground. Nearing Harry, it looked at him with large eyes as it bowed its head.
‘Prongs?’ said Sirius in a trembling voice as Harry reached out a hand. The stag, however, disappeared before his hand came in contact with it.
‘Blimey,’ said Ron as Hermione said, ‘That was really advanced magic, Harry!’
Suddenly, they realised that they were on top of each other. With a yelp, Ron hurriedly rolled off Hermione, grunting as he jarred his leg. Hermione got to her feet quickly and helped Ron up.
The trip to the castle was tame after that. The first person they encountered was Professor McGonagall who was rushing towards the entrance. She had spotted the dementors approaching and after sending the Headmaster, and Professors Flitwick, Sprout and Snape a messenger Patronus, had readied her wand to meet the creatures.
‘Professor,’ said Sirius casually to his extremely shocked former teacher. ‘Let me reintroduce you to somebody. This here is Peter Pettigrew! Do you remember him? Short, pudgy, a bit of a baby ... dead? Yeah, as you can see, he is very much alive. Could you please call the current head of the De Em El Ee for me? I believe that the current head happens to be Amelia Bones, if I am not mistaken. We do have some issues to resolve. Perhaps it would be prudent to call the head of Aurors too along with one of his men and a phial of Veritaserum.’
Harry nearly burst out laughing at the look on McGonagall’s face. She certainly wasn’t expecting the most wanted man in all of wizarding Britain to calmly walk up into the castle with the boy he was suspected of targeting and a dead man he was supposed to have killed.
Just then Professors Sprout and Flitwick arrived. ‘Black!’ Sprout hissed while Flitwick gave a squeak and before anybody could even blink, the Charms Professor had his wand trained on Sirius, the tip glowing red.
‘Wait!’ said Harry as he stepped between his Professors and his godfather. ‘Professor, Sirius is innocent. He was framed by Pettigrew who faked his death.’
‘What?’ said Flitwick in confusion as he tried to piece together what the excited boy in front of him was babbling as Sprout said, ‘Pettigrew is alive?’
‘Yes,’ croaked Sirius as he indicated to his captive with his wand. With a jerk of his wand, the wizard in question fell down in a heap.
‘Sweet Merlin, it is Pettigrew!’ said Flitwick, nearly dropping his wand.
‘Minerva, what is the matter?’ said Dumbledore as he appeared in the Entrance Hall. He stopped when he spotted Sirius. His eyes narrowing slightly, he took in all the occupants in the room, shortly spotting Pettigrew.
‘I think we should continue this discussion in Minerva’s office. Minerva, please alert Cornelius. You will find him in-‘
‘No,’ Sirius’s hoarse voice cut Dumbledore off before he could complete his sentence.
‘I’m sorry?’ Dumbledore said politely.
‘The Minister of Magic has no reason to be in this situation. I believe that matters such as this are to be covered by the De Em El Ee and since there is a dangerous dark wizard involved, the Auror office. Ergo, I believe that the heads of both these departments are to be alerted first.’ Sirius said, looking coldly at Dumbledore.
If Dumbledore was taken aback at the tone Sirius used with him, he did not show it. Instead he just inclined his head and said, ‘Very well, Minerva, please alert Amelia and Rufus while I show Mr Black and his hostage to your office. Filius, could you please get Madame Pomfrey? Tell her she has a few broken legs to mend. Pomona, could you call Severus? Have him bring the strongest batch of Truth Serum with him.’
‘There is no need for that, Dumbledore,’ said Sirius harshly. ‘I am sure Amelia or this Rufus would be willing to get a Ministry trained Potions Master with them with a phial of Veritaserum. Why use a school teacher when the Ministry has specifically trained people for the job? No offence,’ he added to the teachers standing there with their eyebrows raised. ‘I know how brilliant some of you are, but it would not be fair on the school to use its resources on a non-school related issue.’
Mollified, the teachers agreed with Sirius’s statement, prompting Dumbledore to ask Minerva to ask Amelia to bring in their resident Potions expert.
Dumbledore then asked Professor Flitwick to call Madame Pomfrey and directed Professor Sprout to look for Professor Snape. He then led the group up to Professor McGonagall’s office where he conjured additional chairs for all the occupants. Sirius took one of the two wooden seats in front of the desk, unceremoniously dropping Peter on the other one and tying him up with enough manacles and ropes to risk redundancy. Harry took one of the conjured armchairs next to Sirius while Ron and Hermione sat on the other two armchairs next to him. Ron stretched his broken leg out on the ottoman that Dumbledore conjured for him. Sirius then placed Snape’s wand on the table. He then, under Dumbledore’s watchful eyes, slowly reached into his left sleeve and placed another wand that Harry did not know he had on the table. Turning to Harry, Sirius said with a neutral face and voice, ‘Harry could you please put Pettigrew’s wand and the suspected Portkey on the table?’
Harry caught the meaning of his words, and extricated Pettigrew’s wand and the wrapped up ducky from his pockets, leaving the other wand in his pocket. He had no idea why Sirius insisted he keep it, but wasn’t about to complain. He did like the wand well enough. It did not feel as good as the wand that he owned, though.
No sooner had they settled down did Madame Pomfrey enter. ‘Albus,’ she said, ‘Filius told me that some people needed tending to...’ catching sight of Sirius, she fairly shrieked, ‘Sirius Black!’
‘In the flesh ... what little of it remains,’ Sirius said waving a thin arm.
‘Calm down Poppy, there is no need to panic,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Messrs Pettigrew and Weasley do require your services, however.’
‘Pettigrew, as in Peter Pettigrew?’ the matron said in disbelief. Looking at the bound man, she gasped as she recognised him. It had been years later since she last saw a picture of him in the newspaper, but there was no mistaking the snivelling balding man trussed up in a bevy of chains and ropes in front of her.
Quickly slipping on her professional face, she bent down over Ron’s leg. ‘A clean break,’ she muttered to herself. ‘It can be easily fixed.’ With that she waved her wand and muttered an incantation as she tapped her wand directly on the break. Ron winced in momentary pain as the bones rearranged and repaired themselves.
As Pomfrey was turning towards Pettigrew, Sirius stopped her saying, ‘No, not yet. I want an anti-transforming spell placed on him. He is an Animagus and can turn into a rat. I will not have him escaping now.’
‘And why would he want to do that, Black?’ asked McGonagall as she entered, a severe expression on her face. Just behind her was another woman with short grey hair, a monocle and an expression eerily mirroring McGonagall’s, a tall man who looked like an old lion, a dark skinned bald man and finally, most intimidating of all, an old grizzled man who had more spare parts and scars than what was normal.
‘Black!’ grunted the grizzled old man, looking at Sirius with a dangerous glint in his original beady black eye. The electric blue eye which had Harry transfixed swivelled around the office before it came to rest on Pettigrew. ‘Pettigrew?’ the man said in shock, after looking at the man closer. Soon both mismatched eyes were focusing intently on the downed man.
‘Alastor,’ Sirius said neutrally. ‘I see you have ... changed. Frankly I am surprised that you are still working as an Auror. Isn’t it past your retirement, old man?’
Alastor grunted humourlessly, ‘I retired a year back. The only reason I’m here is because I was with Rufus here asking to be let in on the
hunt for you when Minerva here came calling with quite a wild story. Naturally
I elected to come along. And I’m not so old that I cannot wipe the floor with
you yet, Black, so watch that gob of yours!’ he speared Sirius with a menacing
glare with his normal eye while the fake one stayed glued to Pettigrew. Just then
Harry noticed the wand the grizzled old man had trained on Sirius the whole
time. Privately he tried to imagine seeing things in the perspective of the Auror but gave up shortly because it hurt his head.
‘Gentlemen, how about we get down to business?’ said the monocle wearing witch in a booming voice, effectively cutting off any further conversation. ‘You said that this is Pettigrew, Minerva?’ getting a nod from Professor McGonagall, she continued, ‘What about you, Professors Dumbledore, Sprout and Flitwick?’ getting an affirmative nod from the people in question she said dryly ‘Obviously Alastor concurs,’ she ignored the snort coming from Alastor as she spoke to the room at large. ‘Well, I have to wonder then what a dead man is doing very much alive.’
‘That is the same thing we were wondering too, Amelia,’ said Dumbledore. ‘And for that, I think we would need to get some Veritaserum to get to the whole truth. If my suspicions are correct, then we may have committed a serious error.’ The twinkle in his eye died at that point. Harry had never seen the headmaster look so old and careworn before.
The witch, Amelia, then seemed to notice Harry, Ron and Hermione sitting there. ‘And what are these children doing here?’ she asked Dumbledore.
‘We saw the whole thing,’ Ron piped up immediately. Amelia then gave him a piercing look, shutting him up, as his ears turned red.
‘Indeed,’ boomed Amelia. ‘So we have totally eight witnesses; five adults and three minors, all identifying this man as Pettigrew. I think it would be prudent to listen to the full story first before taking any further action, wouldn’t you agree, Rufus?’
The leonine man nodded. Looking at the bald man he said, ‘Auror Shacklebolt, if you please.’
In response, the tall black man brought out an electric blue quill and some parchment. Setting the parchment down, he placed the quill, tip down, on it and let go. The quill stood on its own, quivering in anticipation.
‘Testing... this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, Auror, present for the interrogation of Sirius Black.’ The man said in a deep and calm voice. Harry noticed that the quill started skating across the parchment, writing the same words spoken. Satisfied, Shacklebolt ripped the page out before stepping back and standing guard with Alastor at the entrance.
The severe woman with the monocle then waved her wand, expanding Professor McGonagall’s desk. She then sat down on the chair behind it with Dumbledore and the tawny haired man sitting on either side of her in conjured chairs.
Taking this as her cue, Madame Pomfrey left the office along with Professor Flitwick. Professor McGonagall then stood behind her students as Amelia started speaking.
‘Preliminary interrogation on the sixth of June Nineteen Ninety – Four into offences committed by escaped convict-‘
‘-Actually, that isn’t right. I was never given a trial, thus I have never been convicted to be called a convict, let alone an escaped one.’ Sirius interrupted, his voice taking a bitter tone to it.
Amelia raised an eyebrow at this. Turning towards her right, she silently asked Dumbledore if this was correct. When the grand sorcerer did not endeavour to correct Black, she snapped ‘Pause!’ at the quill which stopped moving.
Looking at Dumbledore, she said incredulously, ‘Are you telling me that this man,’ she pointed at Sirius. ‘Did not get a trial?’ Dumbledore took a moment before nodding slowly, looking grave. This caused a collective intake of breath from the other occupants in the room.
Amelia looked fit to be tied, the expression on her face matching McGonagall in severity. Harry privately thought that the monocle the witch was wearing greatly enhanced the glare on her face. With a supreme effort the witch got her emotions in control. After spending a moment looking at the desk in contemplation she took a deep breath and then, seeming to come to a decision, looked up.
‘This is highly irregular,’ she boomed, ‘A person, that too a member of an ancient and noble house, being denied a trial.’ Taking a deep breath, she continued. ‘Due to the amount of time you, Sirius Black, have spent in Azkaban without a formal sentence, I do believe that the government has no choice but to drop the charges initially placed against you and set you free. That is if an arrest warrant was issued in the first place, which I highly doubt. However, this situation does require resolving. Therefore an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot shall take place where the truth of the matter shall be determined. In the mean time, Black, I would advise you to stay in the country until notification of the trial date is given. I further recommend that you stay with Alastor Moody until you are tried. The kiss – on – sight orders against you shall be rescinded effective immediately. Finally,’ she turned to Peter Pettigrew. ‘You, and for the moment we shall call you Peter Pettigrew, are hereby under arrest for impersonating a dead man or misleading the Ministry into declaring you deceased. Furthermore, you are also under suspicion of conspiring with a Dark Lord and treason. Auror Shacklebolt, please do the honours.’
Shacklebolt flicked his wand at Pettigrew causing the many chains and ropes to disappear, leaving the still snivelling man in a set of heavy manacles.
‘You might want to ensure that he does not transform,’ Sirius said helpfully. ‘The tricky blighter is a rat Animagus, and has been hiding as this boy’s pet,’ he nodded to Ron. ‘For the past twelve years. Here’s his wand, along with what I think may be an escape Portkey.’ He indicated to the items on the desk. ‘Oh, and I think Warden Lightfoot would like his wand back,’ he tapped the wand in question.
A blue light shot off Dumbledore’s wand at that, hitting Peter, making him glow for a moment before receding as Shacklebolt retrieved the items in question.
Sirius nodded to the three kids, saying, ‘I’ll see you lot later,’ and looking at Harry specifically, he said ‘Especially you.’ Then, without so much of a glance at the rest of the room, he exited the room, followed by Moody.