Harry Potter and the ? (Prisoner of Azkaban)

The Servant of Lord Voldemort

James really does get the worst chapters dosen’t he? I swear I don’t do it on purpose...

Warning for the longest emotional break during this where James finally has his melt down coupled in with a few other things that needed to be addressed, I don’t know why I’m warning you since their reactions are the reason you’re reading this, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you either, this one just got long.


THE SERVANT OF LORD VOLDEMORT

The last thing in the world James wanted to do was pick up that book and keep going. He’d never felt so confused in his life. It just couldn’t be real that Peter had been the one to do this to him, to his wife and son. Not that same boy who they’d grown up with and had more adventures and stories with then his own parents. Not that same friend who egged them along on the worst of their pranking stunts and was always willing to take the fall for them when they’d hit their quota of ‘get another detention and you’re going to be expelled for the month!’ Not his brother who’d joined in their escapade of making sure Remus never showed up in the Hospital Wing again a breath away from death, looking so scarred and bloody that they all went out and did something illegal!

He’d been insistent, swearing up and down he’d demolish anyone who said this nonsense about Sirius, and when he was proven right about Peter he’d knock his two friends together until they couldn’t see straight for even nursing the notion about his other friend. James was still adamantly refusing to acknowledge the other little details, about how if Scabbers was Peter then why would he be in hiding this long? Why wouldn’t he have gone to Remus? Why the farce of being dead if he hadn’t done something wrong? He really couldn’t work out in his mind how Remus and Sirius could both be so wrong about seeing Peter on the map!

“Err, I’ve got a question” Harry asked hesitantly when it was clear his dad seemed to have been struck dumb and wasn’t moving. “How ah, how did Remus even see Pettigrew on that map?” He felt horribly timid like he never had before about asking any such question, they all looked so many things, namely violent, when he said that name but he risked it anyways just to try and get his dad’s attention. “Sure Hagrid’s hut isn’t on the map, so I suppose I wouldn’t have ever seen him if he’d been there the whole time, but Fred and George didn’t ever see a guy named Peter hanging around Ron either, at least they never said anything about it.“*

Harry’s question only seemed to have the opposite effect as his dad’s lip began quivering, the ability to explain escaping him, so Remus answered “that was a terribly tricky charm that I worked out. We put an extra layer on the map so that animagus’ wouldn’t be seen on the map unless you added an extra command, and I’m fairly confident the twins never figured that out. We didn’t want anyone to see them in animal form obviously as they are still illegal. I of course got left out because I’m not an animagus. I most likely would have turned it on when I took it from you though, and since Hagrid’s hut isn’t on the map I wouldn’t have noticed anything until this night.”

James at least looked like he was paying a bit more attention now, but still didn’t look up to wanting to use an actual language as he gazed down at the book. Sirius had decided to take pity on him and reached for the book when James smacked his hand away and said “don’t be stupid, it’s my turn.” He still hadn’t worked out in his mind how this was going to be okay this time, but he wouldn’t let himself cave now.

Hermione screamed.

“She’s not the first girl to scream at the sight of him” Sirius nodded.

Black leapt to his feet. Harry felt as though he’d received a huge electric shock.

“I found this at the base of the Whomping Willow,” said Snape,

‘It would be that to spark life back into him’ Lily thought fondly, watching James go from confused to outraged in seconds as his mind swiveled back to realizing that it hadn’t ever mentioned Harry picking the cloak back up, he’d darted down after Ron strait away! Snape had used his cloak!

“I don’t think I can ever touch that thing again” Sirius moaned, rubbing his hands on his knees like there was bile all over them.

“Why would he even bother though” Remus demanded “sneaking in there like that, what’s his reason?”

Harry remained silent, still getting a rather bad feeling for this, and it somehow circled back to Remus.

throwing the cloak aside, careful to keep this wand pointing directly at Lupin’s chest. “Very useful, Potter, I thank you...”

“You are not welcome” Harry muttered.

Snape was slightly breathless, but his face was full of suppressed triumph. “You’re wondering, perhaps, how I knew you were here?”

“Oh Merlin, is he going to monologue and gloat?” Sirius demanded. “I’d rather he just curse me.”

James gave him an absent nudge, knowing all too well that was a real possibility and truly thinking he’d keel over now if that did happen.

he said, his eyes glittering. “I’ve just been to your office, Lupin. You forgot to take your potion tonight,

“Dammit” they all muttered, their minds swiveling back to Remus and realizing their original assumption had actually been right. That meant that Remus was going to transform, that they were now on a clock until those kids had to get out of there! Surely everything was going to work out though, right? All the kids would have to do was keep a hold on the rat until morning, or Merlin just run straight up to the castle now and go to Dumbledore and turn him in then. This didn’t need to be a problem if they handled it right...

so I took a goblet full along. And very lucky I did... lucky for me, I mean. Lying on your desk was a certain map. One glance at it told me all I needed to know. I saw you running along this passageway and out of sight.”

“So what?” Sirius growled. “Maybe he just wanted to transform in there tonight, something could have happened he just didn’t feel like telling Snape every little detail about, why did he automatically suspect that something bad was going on?”

“Did you really just ask why he followed me?” Remus asked in shock. “You never got an answer for that in school, why would he be any different now?”

Sirius huffed and grumbled something, still outraged he showed up at all, tonight of all nights and ruining this! He didn’t care what Lily said, if Pettigrew somehow got away with this because of Snape interfering, he’d murder her old friend as surely as his own. Judging by the closed off look on her face, he felt like he wouldn’t receive to much protest.

“Severus -” Lupin began, but Snape overrode him.

“I’ve told the headmaster again and again that you’re helping your old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here’s the proof. Not even I dreamed you would have the nerve to use this old place as your hideout -”

“Jokes on him because neither of them were” Lily muttered to herself, having noted back when Harry and Hermione had first entered and noticed dust everywhere, surely that meant even Sirius hadn’t, though where he had been sleeping she wasn’t sure.

“Severus, you’re making a mistake,” said Lupin urgently. “You haven’t heard everything - I can explain - Sirius is not here to kill Harry -”

“Two more for Azkaban tonight,” said Snape, his eyes now gleaming fanatically.

“Why am I not surprised he’s not listening to a bleeding word” Remus grumbled, thinking Snape could keep his wand pointed on him all night if he wished so long as Sirius got what he deserved.

“I shall be interested to see how Dumbledore takes this... He was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin... a tame werewolf -”

James released a terrible growling noise remarkably close to how Sirius sounded. That was the lowest of blows, making a crack at him like that! He didn’t care how angry he was at Remus himself, those reasons still wouldn’t let him ever condone anyone saying a thing like that!

It was a testament to how peeved off Remus was he didn’t even flinch at the insult, his face remained black with fury that something could go wrong and that rat would get away while Snape sat around pointlessly accusing them of anything and everything he wanted to.

“You fool,” said Lupin softly.

“Genuinely stunned he’s not screaming his head off by this point” Lily muttered, as he looked really close to doing now.

“Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?”

BANG! Thin, snakelike cords burst from the end of Snape’s wand and twisted themselves around Lupin’s mouth, wrists, and ankles;

“That’s it, he’s dead” Sirius said with the utmost sincerity actually getting up but simply pacing around the room in agitation now. James was watching him like he wanted to get up and join, along with a couple of choice words about strangling the life out of Snape for doing that, but forced himself to remain where he was and focus on that feeling instead, he knew he’d need it later.

Lily watched him warily, not because she wanted to stop him, but because she was starting to get worried for Sirius’ health. He kept flashing about on so many things that he may collapse soon from overload.

Remus just looked shocked, unable to grasp how Snape could be so foolish that he really hated in that moment Remus more then Sirius, the man who had supposedly gotten Lily killed. In his opinion this only proved Snape cared more about himself in this moment then anyone else, Snape was finally getting what he considered revenge for himself and be damned anyone else.

he overbalanced and fell to the floor, unable to move. With a roar of rage, Black started toward Snape,

James nodded like that made all the sense in the world, that was the natural reaction after all, something he knew without question he’d do himself if he’d been there as well.

but Snape pointed his wand straight between Black’s eyes.

Which made James’ mouth go cotton dry in shock and fear. It was a miracle Snape hadn’t just killed the two of them already, but with Sirius’ temper in these particular circumstances he wouldn’t put it past him to do something stupid and elicit a real deadly curse from Snape.

“Give me a reason,” he whispered. “Give me a reason to do it, and I swear I will.”

Black stopped dead. It would have been impossible to say which face showed more hatred.

“I like to think I’d win in that moment” Sirius hissed, mirroring the expression now Harry realized. “I’ve ten times the reasons over him.”

“Well congratulations” Remus muttered, squirming around in agitation that he’d been put down so easily, that he couldn’t help Sirius anymore.

Harry stood there, paralyzed, not knowing what to do or whom to believe.

Which made Remus and Sirius flinch all over again in shock and fear. They hadn’t gotten around to telling Harry almost anything, if they really did have to wait any longer for Harry to hear this conversation they were sure they’d both never forgive themselves, it had been twelve years to long already.

He glanced around at Ron and Hermione. Ron looked just as confused as he did, still fighting to keep hold on the struggling Scabbers.

That at least gave them a chance to breath, one of their fears being put on hold, at least he hadn’t slipped away yet. Even James looked relieved, though he then realized he’d rather spend the rest of his life hearing about a fight between his friends and Snape then put the attention back on the rat in fear of whatever answers might come out of it.

Hermione, however, took an uncertain step toward Snape and said, in a very breathless voice, “Professor Snape - it it wouldn’t hurt to hear what they’ve got to say, w - would it?”

“Bless Hermione” Sirius breathed, thanking whatever they had said or done to make her give them a chance. “I take back every bad thing I’ve said about her this year.” He only acknowledge the slight irony she’d been terrified of him all year and it was now her more then Harry trying to give him the chance, but didn’t linger on it long as he was to anxious to hear out the rest.

“Miss Granger, you are already facing suspension from this school,” Snape spat. “You, Potter, and Weasley are out-of-bounds, in the company of a convicted murderer and a werewolf.

“If he calls you that one more time” James snarled, knowing that Snape meant it in the worst way possible.

“I’ll hold him down” Remus promised lightly.

For once in your life, hold your tongue.”

“But if - if there was a mistake -”

“KEEP QUIET, YOU STUPID GIRL!” Snape shouted, looking suddenly quite deranged.

“Finally a spot of insanity I don’t mind hearing about” Sirius huffed.

Lily had let go of her restraints in defending her old friend only yesterday, but she felt it was several years too late. What Severus was doing now was beyond reproach, turning on yet another child for his own vindictive means. Even if she hadn’t known what she did, she could never fathom screaming at Hermione the way he was.

“DON’T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” A few sparks shot out of the end of his wand, which was still pointed at Black’s face.

Sirius rubbed his forehead absently like that really had just happened to him, his expression still vividly saying that if he had his own wand things would be going a lot smoother for him.

Hermione fell silent.

“Vengeance is very sweet,” Snape breathed at Black. “How I hoped I would be the one to catch you...”

“The joke’s on you again, Severus,” Black snarled. “As long as this boy brings his rat up to the castle” - he jerked his head at Ron - “I’ll come quietly...”

“No, no you shouldn’t” James ground out “I don’t want you anywhere near anybody until this is sorted out.”

Sirius just shrugged, absolutely amazed at himself for even offering that instead of trying to tackle Snape to the ground and kill him like he wanted to, guess he did still have some brains in his head.

“Up to the castle?” said Snape silkily. “I don’t think we need to go that far. All I have to do is call the dementors once we get out of the Willow.

They all made a choking, rasping noise of distress and fear at that declaration. They’d spent this whole book in fear of Sirius returning there, now with the fate of his soul lingering over his head they knew they truly couldn’t stand it if they found out Sirius did succumb to that when they were so close to getting what should have happend those twelve years ago.

They’ll be very pleased to see you, Black... pleased enough to give you a little kiss, I daresay... I -”

What little color there was in Blacks face left it.

“You -you’ve got to hear me out,” he croaked. “The rat - look at the rat -”

“As if he’s ever listened to you a day in his life” Remus groaned, starting to shake all over, unable to get that horrid mental image out of his mind of what could be fixing to happen to Sirius.

But there was a mad glint in Snape’s eyes that Harry had never seen before. He seemed beyond reason.

“Come on, all of you,” he said. He clicked his fingers, and the ends of the cords that bound Lupin flew to his hands. “I’ll drag the werewolf.

Sirius puffed up like he was going to give out a string of curses for that all over again, genuinely sick of hearing his friend be deferred to like some animal, but James hadn’t paused so Sirius nearly missed hearing,

Perhaps the dementors will have a kiss for him too -”

which made Sirius’ knees buckle as he collapsed back down on the couch in shock and fear. He’d barely come to terms grasping that this was something to happen to himself, but Remus! He hadn’t even done anything, he was completely innocent in every way possible...and yet everyone in the world would believe Snape over them and, and Remus could really- his attention was caught off guard as the mirror over the fireplace shattered, not that Lily seemed to notice she was screaming so loud.

He tuned back in to see that while James looked nearly as close to tears as when he’d heard his wife’s last moments, he had after all nearly vomited all over again at realizing that now both of his brothers may well be losing their souls in one go, he was now a little busy putting out a fire that had erupted on the carpet while Lily was screaming “-going to kill him! What right, why the bloody hell, you haven’t done an effing thing to him!”

“He dosen’t know that” Remus reminded, looking remarkably calm considering his reaction to hearing the same thing to Sirius that first time, but as far as Remus was concerned he’d worked out in his head he’d take any punishment in the world, including that, if Sirius would get off this night, he more then deserved it. For now he was pacifying the couple who looked about ready to blow up the rest of the living room they were so angry at his behaviour. “As far as he’s concerned, not only have I been helping Sirius all year, but I deserved it back when I was fifteen and nearly killed him.”

“That dosen’t make this right” Harry countered back, looking as frustrated as his parents at this. “That shouldn’t be his call to make.”

Remus sighed, he wasn’t going to argue the point with Harry, and while James and Lily still looked like they were going to back him up and keep at it anyways he insisted “well I’d still like to keep going” he gestured to the discarded book “as I’m far more concerned with other things going on then Snape’s attitude.”

That jolted Sirius into looking as murderous as the other two now at that reminder. Lily still grumbled a few foul things as she waved her wand and the mirror repaired itself while James stomped over and decided he at least couldn’t argue with that. His heart just wasn’t in it though, as he still knew without a doubt what he’d thought before still stood, he’d rather sit and continue hearing about the rivalry between his friends and Snape then get back on topic to his friends.

Before he knew what he was doing, Harry had crossed the room in three strides and blocked the door.

Sirius and Remus brightened like little kids, beaming at Harry as they realized that even though he didn’t know them and certainly didn’t trust them right then, he’d still taken their side over Snape’s.

“Get out of the way, Potter, you’re in enough trouble already,” snarled Snape. “If I hadn’t been here to save your skin -”

“Professor Lupin could have killed me about a hundred times this year,” Harry said. “I’ve been alone with him loads of times, having defense lessons against the dementors. If he was helping Black, why didn’t he just finish me off then?”

“Don’t ask me to fathom the way a werewolf’s mind works,” hissed Snape.

Now even Remus was beginning to look offended, there was only so many times he could hear how animal like he was without letting it get to him considering how much he’d thought that of himself in his youth, but then he flashed back to the scene his family had just caused in his defense and the numerous times James and Sirius had given him the riot act for voicing such a thing and instead played peace maker as his two friends continued growling at such a thing being said.

“Get out of the way, Potter.”

“YOU’RE PATHETIC!” Harry yelled. “JUST BECAUSE THEY MADE A FOOL OF YOU AT SCHOOL YOU WON’T EVEN LISTEN -”

“SILENCE! I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!”

“Oh yes you will” Lily snarled right back. “Talk to my son like that you’ll get a hell of a lot worse coming to you!” Paternal instinct was rearing it’s head from both parents now, as they realized if Harry kept defending them he may likely end up as worse as them. As proud as they were of their boy, who was reacting like this with every reason in the world not to, Harry would resemble James so much in that moment that the two of them were genuinely afraid of what he could do next.

Snape shrieked, looking madder than ever. “Like father, like son, Potter! I have just saved your neck; you should be thanking me on bended knee! You would have been well served if he’d killed you! You’d have died like your father, too arrogant to believe you might be mistaken in Black -

Sirius had spent more hours of his life thinking that about himself then he ever wanted to this past day, lost a whole night of sleep and had utterly lost faith in himself for thinking this exact same thing, and now that he realized how wrong he was, who really was to blame, and to have Snape throw that in his face, well let’s just say that murder was starting to sound kind for what he now owed old Snivellus.

now get out of the way, or I will make you. GET OUT OF THE WAY, POTTER!”

Harry made up his mind in a split second. Before Snape could take even one step toward him, he had raised his wand.

“Oh boy” all four adults muttered, though with two wildly different indications. The two parents were now visualizing that Harry was about to be attacked three years in a row by a teacher, and Snape (despite their hate and loathing for him) was more competent then the other two and could do their boy real harm when Snape realized what Harry was doing.

Remus and Sirius on the other hand were far more confident in Harry’s skill, hoping dearly Harry would use any number of spells and blast this prat out the window so they could get back to far more important things.

“Expelliarmus!” he yelled - except that his wasn’t the only voice that shouted.

That gave them a moment of shock, not having realized that Hermione would have reacted so fast for them either, but maybe it was more Snape yelling at Harry then for defense of the other two adults right then.

There was a blast that made the door rattle on its hinges; Snape was lifted off his feet and slammed into the wall, then slid down it to the floor, a trickle of blood oozing from under his hair. He had been knocked out.

Remus and Sirius gave a great whoop of joy, thinking finally something had gone right tonight, and in Lily’s opinion praising her son a little too much when it had been a joint effort but even she couldn’t find it in herself to be mad after the way he’d been behaving. She’d been so tempted to curse him herself that it took a lot of self restraint not to join in.

Harry looked around. Both Ron and Hermione

They all got a gleaming moment of surprise and pride for Ron having joined in as well, but then they reflected he’d probably been more with Hermione and defending Harry from a clearly delusional Snape then for Sirius and Remus’ defense, but hey they’d take whatever at this point.

had tried to disarm Snape at exactly the same moment. Snape’s wand soared in a high arc and landed on the bed next to Crookshanks.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” said Black, looking at Harry.

“That’s gratitude for ya” Harry muttered.

“He’s going to remember that later” Sirius reminded, still unable to wipe a smug smirk off his face “not that he can do anything to you, I was probably just jealous I hadn’t gotten the chance.”

Lily wasn’t taking quite an optimistic outlook, thinking that Harry had a few more years of being forced into Snape’s presence as a teacher and how horrid he was to her son already, this may not help, but with any luck now Remus and Sirius wouldn’t rest until they made sure that shouldn’t be as easy.

“You should have left him to me...”

Harry avoided Black’s eyes. He wasn’t sure, even now, that he’d done the right thing.

“Least I know it was now” Harry said with sincerity, causing Sirius to grin widely at him.

“We attacked a teacher... We attacked a teacher...” Hermione whimpered,

“And I think you” Remus snickered.

staring at the lifeless Snape with frightened eyes. “Oh, we’re going to be in so much trouble -”

Lupin was struggling against his bonds. Black bent down quickly and untied him. Lupin straightened up, rubbing his arms where the ropes had cut into them.

“Thank you, Harry,” he said.

“You always were the polite one” Sirius guffawed, considering the circumstances and wanting to laugh all the harder, but restraining himself and mellowing out in seconds as he realized his wish had been granted, Snape had been pushed out of the way, and they were about to get back to something infinitely more important.

“I’m still not saying I believe you,” he told Lupin.

“Then it’s time we offered you some proof,” said Lupin. “You, boy -

“Did you fall on your head when he knocked you over” Lily rolled her eyes.

“I had much greater things on my mind in that moment then going for specifics” Remus huffed, his eyes narrowing dangerously when he got right back on track with the main points of being in there, he most of all remembering those kids were on a time frame to hear what needed to be said.

give me Peter, please. Now.”

Ron clutched Scabbers closer to his chest.

“Come off it,” he said weakly. “Are you trying to say he broke out of Azkaban just to get his hands on Scabbers? I mean...” He looked up at Harry and Hermione for support, “Okay, say Pettigrew could turn into a rat - there are millions of rats - how’s he supposed to know which one he’s after if he was locked up in Azkaban?”

James had to swallow very hard when he got that out, wanting to nod along and agree Sirius could have been wrong, but then he remembered what Remus had said, and felt himself growing all the more fearful because he still didn’t have his answer for that.

“You know, Sirius, that’s a fair question,” said Lupin, turning to Black and frowning slightly. “How did you find out where he was?”

Black put one of his clawlike hands inside his robes and took out a crumpled piece of paper, which he smoothed flat and held out to show the others.

It was the photograph of Ron and his family that had appeared in the Daily Prophet the previous summer, and there, on Ron’s shoulder, was Scabbers.

Harry groaned and smacked his forehead, remembering vividly that very first chapter and how Sirius himself had made that joke he wanted to see this, and if only Harry had remembered this then he could have saved everyone a lot of trouble.

Lily wouldn’t stand for letting him stew too long, giving him a loving little tweak of his nose to get his attention and reminding “I will not sit here and let you blame yourself for a damned thing that has happend, if you’d remembered any earlier you only would have hurt yourself and we still wouldn’t have understood as well without the full story.”

Harry nodded and relaxed still looking as on edge as anyone else in the room because he did still blame himself for this situation occurring in the first place, but accepting that he couldn’t have done anything different for now and still working on some other way to make this better.

“How did you get this?” Lupin asked Black, thunderstruck.

“Fudge,” said Black. “When he came to inspect Azkaban last year, he gave me his paper.

Sirius couldn’t help a jittery, slightly deranged sound that could have been a laugh. He vividly remembered thinking about how he would have been sitting in Azkaban, hating his life and very existence, and to see that picture of little old Peter like that, oh the luck and circumstances that made this happen...it also gave him his first real glimpse into one thing that had been plaguing him. He was positive he’d still be hating himself just as much tweleve years ago as he was now for putting trust in Peter, still blaming himself for James death because he’d been right, he had screwed up and made a terrible mistake no matter how unintentionally. He’d been in Azkaban that whole time because he deserved every second of it, but seeing that picture would have finally sparked something in him he knew he couldn’t have felt otherwise. He’d escaped for revenge.

And there was Peter, on the front page on this boy’s shoulder... I knew him at once... how many times had I seen him transform? And the caption said the boy would be going back to Hogwarts... to where Harry was...”

“My God,” said Lupin softly, staring from Scabbers to the picture in the paper and back again.

“Not sure what to say about myself I didn’t see that” Remus grumbled to himself, still kicking himself with every opportunity he could he hadn’t worked this out, seen the same thing and put it together, anything then what he’d done which was nothing!

“Relax Remus” Sirius grumbled, his own voice filled with its own grating tone for different reasons. It didn’t yet occur to Sirius to be mad at Remus for this either, why would he pay special attention to the rat, why would he even if he had seen the picture?

“His front paw...”

“What about it?” said Ron defiantly.

“He’s got a toe missing,” said Black.

“Of course,” Lupin breathed. “So simple... so brilliant... he cut it off himself?”

James shuddered with renewed horror, mind boggling at how this could just be so simple and easy for them to work this out and discuss it, where as he was just caught on why Peter would do these things at all. He reflected that at least Sirius had twelve years to circle around every last second of this, and Remus had always been quick on the uptake, which just made James feel all the more foolish before he realized what he was thinking and wanted to kick himself now for realizing he was already thinking in past tense. Dammit Peter deserved the chance to say his part just like Sirius, and then everything would be just fine.

“Just before he transformed,” said Black. “When I cornered him, he yelled for the whole street to hear that I’d betrayed Lily and James. Then, before I could curse him, he blew apart the street with the wand behind his back, killed everyone within twenty feet of himself -

Lily had still been a little floored with her own shock of realizing what Pettigrew had done to them, she hadn’t yet come back to realize that the full blunt of Sirius’ supposed crime had actually been done by Peter. Had he really murdered twelve innocent people, voiced the blame on Sirius, mutilated himself, for what! She couldn’t work out in her mind what on earth could have changed in this year to cause someone she’d look to as a friend change so radically.

and sped down into the sewer with the other rats...”

“Didn’t you ever hear, Ron?” said Lupin. “The biggest bit of Peter they found was his finger.”

“Look, Scabbers probably had a fight with another rat or something! He’s been in my family for ages, right -”

“Twelve years, in fact,” said Lupin.

Lily moaned something into her hands, wishing that the age of the rat had come up at any other bleeding time, this all could have been made so much more clear to anyone who knew this was well past the normal life expectancy. All the love and care in the world shouldn’t have made Scabbers double in age of what he should be, had Arthur and Molly never really considered this? It was fair they might not even know such a thing, but how long could Peter have really played this without being found out? She only nursed the slightest of comforts she’d never have to hear the answer to this, as surely all of this put enough doubt in Ron’s mind that he’d hand over the rat and this could be done with.

“Didn’t you ever wonder why he was living so long?”

“We - we’ve been taking good care of him!” said Ron.

“Not looking too good at the moment, though, is he?” said Lupin. “I’d guess he’s been losing weight ever since he heard Sirius was on the loose again...”

“He’s been scared of that mad cat!” said Ron, nodding toward Crookshanks, who was still purring on the bed.

But that wasn’t right, Harry thought suddenly... Scabbers had been looking ill before he met Crookshanks... ever since Ron’s return from Egypt... since the time when Black had escaped...

Harry nodded, the exact same thing having come back to him now, wishing with everything in him despite his Mom keeping a protective eye on him to do otherwise that he had remembered this.

The others were kicking themselves, still looking back and counting up every instance of that rat being mentioned, but really how could they have guessed? Even with the answer right in front of them, they knew they never could have or would have until it was too late.

“This cat isn’t mad,” said Black hoarsely. He reached out a bony hand and stroked Crookshanks’ fluffy head. “He’s the most intelligent of his kind I’ve ever met. He recognized Peter for what he was right away. And when he met me, he knew I was no dog. It was a while before he trusted me... Finally, I managed to communicate to him what I was after,

“Err, can animagus’ talk to animals?” Harry asked, fairly confident that hadn’t come up in McGonagall’s lecture even if he had only been half paying attention.

Lily considered herself the last person who should explain, but as the boys really were otherwise occupied each looking the worst Lily had seen them her whole life she whispered an explanation “they keep their human mind and can understand us just fine when they transform, but it’s more like talking to your pet when they’re animals. A lot of body language and tone.” She wasn’t even sure on that fact, this really wasn’t her field of expertise, so she understood when Harry nodded in disappointment and still kept an eye on his dad hopefully.

and he’s been helping me. ..”

“What do you mean?” breathed Hermione.

“He tried to bring Peter to me, but couldn’t... so he stole the passwords into Gryffindor Tower for me... As I understand it, he took them from a boy’s bedside table...”

Sirius really, really wanted to laugh at this. Of all the students, it had to have been Neville who’d gotten enough flack in his life without Sirius unintentionally helping, but as it really wasn’t funny at all and he just wanted something other then murder to concentrate on as his best friend looked very near his breaking point, he held it in.

Harry’s brain seemed to be sagging under the weight of what he was hearing. It was absurd... and yet...

‘That’s what made Harry believe me, or at least the start of’ Sirius couldn’t help but think, not really regretting it as he’d take any reason his little pup could finally look at him then the way he was now.

“But Peter got wind of what was going on and ran for it,” croaked Black. “This cat - Crookshanks, did you call him? - told me Peter had left blood on the sheets...

“Told you” Harry repeated, looking for any kind of distraction right now and purposely directing that at his father this time to get any kind of normal reaction out of him.

“Animagus can sort of understand other animals” James shrugged, trying for all the world to act like this was no big deal at all to him. “Not like, a proper conversation like this” he gestured vaguely around the room “just, we can communicate I guess. It’s not even like a parselmouth really, where we can understand each other in words, it’s all a lot of body language and sensing each other’s feelings and interpreting from there.”

“I probably smelt blood on him or something, and pieced it together” Sirius muttered.

I supposed he bit himself... Well, faking his own death had worked once.”

These words jolted Harry to his senses.

“And why did he fake his death?” he said furiously. “Because he knew you were about to kill him like you killed my parents!”

“No,” said Lupin, “Harry-”

“And now you’ve come to finish him off!”

“Yes, I have,” said Black, with an evil look at Scabbers.

“Great choice of words there Pad’s, really put him at ease that did” Remus huffed, really wishing Sirius would quite being his usual idiotic self and use his real words rather then this constant farce of painting himself to be the bad guy in his agitation to get things done.

“Then I should’ve let Snape take you!” Harry shouted.

“Harry,” said Lupin hurriedly, “don’t you see? All this time we’ve thought Sirius betrayed your parents, and Peter tracked him down - but it was the other way around, don’t you see? Peter betrayed your mother and father - Sirius tracked Peter down -”

“THAT’S NOT TRUE!” Harry yelled. “HE WAS THEIR SECRET-KEEPER! HE SAID SO BEFORE YOU TURNED UP. HE SAID HE KILLED THEM!”

“Which is why Sirius is no longer allowed to explain anything anymore” Lily told him pleasantly.

He was pointing at Black, who shook his head slowly; the sunken eyes were suddenly over bright.

“Harry... I as good as killed them,” he croaked. “I persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as Secret-Keeper instead of me... I’m to blame, I know it... The night they died, I’d arranged to check on Peter, make sure he was still safe, but when I arrived at his hiding place, he’d gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn’t feel right. I was scared. I set out for your parents’ house straight away. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I realized what Peter must’ve done... what I’d done...”

James literally sounded like he was reading over a dead body. It was impossible, he literally couldn’t put this together in his head, no matter how many times Remus and Sirius kept throwing these things around he’d clutch with his fingertips to that hope that Peter must have a good reason for this, and be damned anyone who was giving him a pitiful look for thinking it.

His voice broke. He turned away.

“Enough of this,” said Lupin, and there was a steely note in his voice Harry had never heard before. “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?” 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 long last, he held out Scabbers and Lupin took him. Scabbers began to squeak without stopping, twisting and turning, his tiny black eyes bulging in his head. “Ready, Sirius?” said Lupin.

Black had already retrieved Snape’s wand from the bed.

Sirius’ face twisted in a whole new way, adoring every last drop of irony he was using that slimy gits wand to perform this, only hoping it didn’t leave a grease stain on his hand when he was done.

He approached Lupin and the struggling rat, and his wet eyes suddenly seemed to be burning in his face.

“Together?” he said quietly.

“I think so,” said Lupin, holding Scabbers tightly in one hand and his wand in the other. “On the count of three. One - two - THREE!”

Lily was rubbing her temple in agitation, thinking this was some time for her boys to be as dramatic as possible in counting down this spell. All Remus had to do was shoot the spell hours ago, when Snape had even first stepped into the room, and they could have been done with this. She’d understood the necessary reason for Harry to understand all this, but she really agreed that it could have been done with Pettigrew out in the open, well there was nothing for it now and she cocked her head to the side and listened with a forced neutral expression trying to prepare herself for the breakdown her husband was fixing to have that they were all still coping with.

A flash of blue-white light erupted from both wands; for a moment, Scabbers was frozen in midair, his small gray form twisting madly - Ron yelled - the rat fell and hit the floor. There was another blinding flash of light and then -

It was like watching a speeded-up film of a growing tree.

Harry remembered, back during Lockhart’s class of all places, and asking about that Homorphus Charm which his dad had said he’d use to transform transfigured objects back to original form, and remembering how he’d specifically used changing an animagus as an example. Remus and Sirius at the time hadn’t said the spell aloud, but Harry had no problems now working that out.

A head was shooting upward from the ground; limbs were sprouting; a moment later, a man was standing where Scabbers had been, cringing and wringing his hands. Crookshanks was spitting and snarling on the bed; the hair on his back was standing up.

He was a very short man, hardly taller than Harry and Hermione. His thin, colorless hair was unkempt and there was a large bald patch on top. He had the shrunken appearance of a plump man who has lost a lot of weight in a short time. His skin looked grubby, almost like Scabbers’ fur, and something of the rat lingered around his pointed nose and his very small, watery eyes.

James literally couldn’t picture it. He’d spent the whole of this book, any time his friends were mentioned looking any the worse for wear he could look at them now, as they really were, for comfort. Now all he had was a memory, one that was wobbling and being twisted until he couldn’t have recognized that any better, and oh he really was going to cry now wasn’t he?

He looked around at them all, his breathing fast and shallow. Harry saw his eyes dart to the door and back again.

That was it, something snapped. The book fell free and James pressed his hands against his ears and as he literally felt his world crashing down around him because that wasn’t the first thing he should have done! If Peter had been coerced, or tortured, or some accident had happened, he knew he would understand and forgive it, but this singular action meant Peter wanted to run! He’d done this terrible act and was now trying to hide away from the two people in the world who would understand! Peter should have begun saying at once what had happened and why he’d done it, not trying to run!

“James, oh James I-”

“Don’t touch me!” He screamed right back, shying away from whoever that was gripping his shoulder, Sirius his mind absently noted, but he was just too busy drowning. Someone was clearly ignoring him, that was Lily whispering in his ear and he kept trying to jerk away because he didn’t want to deal with anyone right now. He’d tried to the very last moment and he still hated his very being for believing and accepting this even when he had no other options. His breaths were coming out in sharp little pants and he really felt like he was going to pass out any second, almost welcomed it as oblivion would be far kinder to the monstrosity he was feeling right now.

“You know he didn’t mean it, he’s just coming to terms, Sirius please-” Remus looked like he was physically restraining himself from grabbing hold of Sirius to make sure he didn’t run for it again for a whole new reason. Sirius kept looking at his hand and away like it was some dementor skeleton, and Remus knew it was because Sirius had taken James response in all the wrong ways. Sirius was now curling himself into the corner, trying to convince himself that James hated him just as much now, but Remus had seen it. James was over there punishing himself, and nothing they could do could help right now, he had to come to terms with this himself. Tehir trying to convince him otherwise really would do more harm then good, as he had to decide for himself how much he still trusted Remus, so he let him be and focused on Sirius who he was not letting the same mistake happen twice, was not going to let Sirius pull away from him. “You have to know he doesn’t blame you” he whispered again and again.

“I’ll believe that when you do” Sirius hissed back, glaring up at him now.

Remus sat down next to him fully prepared to take whatever Sirius lashed out because he’d take anything at this point to get him to stop hating himself.

“You think I don’t know you’re blaming yourself over there, when you’re doing the exact same thing James has been doing. You can’t pull together how we’ve all been so wrong about him, well boo fucking hoo Remus. None of us saw this coming, and I’ll not have you thinking it’s your fault. It was my idea, and the rat’s fault. You’ve nothing to do with it!” Sirius hadn’t meant for that last part to come out so brutal, and he was long since past the point where screaming was making him feel better.

Remus hardly looked offended though, the opposite as he was watching Sirius curiously. “If you really think that then why are you acting like this? You know I don’t hate you now, why you don’t hate me I’ll still argue the point because nothing should have convinced me I was so wrong about you-”

“Because I don’t think it was your fault, not entirely anyways” Sirius sighed, his head curling into the crook of his elbow with his knees pinned to his chest, his eyes going vacant. Remus made to protest anyways, but Sirius kept going “I think Dumbledore may have had a bit of a hand.”

That struck Remus dumb as he watched him now with concern. “Think about it, this happend a year from now, but Dumbledore already suspects someone in the Order now, me. He’s been sending you out on missions alone by yourself a lot, would it really be too difficult for him to convince you when you’d come back from one of those what had happend.”

“He shouldn’t have been able to” Remus said back, but there was no force to his words. Dumbledore was the man he respected the most of anyone, the first person in the wizarding world outside of his own parents to see past the monster and give the boy a real chance at life. He’d do anything for Dumbledore...and for the first time he truly accepted how real that statement was. Was it really so absurd that what Sirius was painting had happend? He’d been coming and going so frequently that the little things would have turned into horrible big things and coaxed by Dumbledore Remus really could have swallowed the worst? Even now he was still trying to defend the man, as Dumbledore didn’t know better, he wasn’t all knowing and all powerful, he’d taken what had happend at face value just like everyone else at this switch up. It still didn’t feel right though, not the man who’d given Snape the Death Eater a chance to work with children at school. Had neither him or Dumbledore really not ever gone to Sirius personally, tried to get his side of the story? Dumbledore was in the Wizengamot, had he really not just looked at Sirius during the trial and realized something wasn’t right? It really was killing Remus inside the hurt that this was doomed to happen to Sirius, but looking at his friend now he solemnly vowed it wasn’t going to this time. He didn’t know what had happend, maybe Harry himself would never figure it out, but something had to change.

Harry stood, torn, looking at the four of them desperately and unable to do a thing. His dad had finally caved and now looked like he was passed out into Lily’s shoulder, only just allowing the barest bit of comfort and still shaking. Sirius and Remus were terrified to go near him and having a whispered conversation, Harry suspected because they were blaming themselves and thinking James just didn’t have faith in any of his friends anymore. Harry felt useless, and genuinely stumped as he had nothing to say to help any of them. Finally though he couldn’t stand it anymore and went to sink down on his dad’s other side, just trying to be there for him even if it was silently. The movement caused James to glance around at him, his glasses skewed and eyes red rimmed, but blinking sluggishly at his son caused him to glance around himself properly in confusion for the first time as he realized who was missing.

His eyes caught on the two in the corner, and they saw their James spark back in when he saw them. He kissed Lily gently, gave his son a quick ruff of his hair then stumbled over to them and sank down on the floor in front of them.

“I know dear” Lily whispered when she caught sight of her sons face. “I feel the same, but we can’t really do anything for him, he had to work that out for himself. He’s lucky really” she added, gazing over at the three boys talking to each other “that he’s still got such good friends. When Severus called me that, when our friendship broke apart that day, well I hadn’t really made any other best friends, he’d been the only one honestly. It had alienated me for so long that I didn’t really know what to do with myself for a time.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do” Harry insisted. “How did you get him to even...” he trailed off in confusion, even having watched the whole thing all he’d seen his mother do was insistently refuse to leave her husband’s side when he’d tried everything in the world to pull away.

“James is the most loyal person I’ve ever met” Lily said simply. “I reminded him that I wasn’t going anywhere, that Sirius and Remus, his real brothers, were doing everything in the world to right what had been done to him. It wasn’t a happy thing to be reminding him of, but it worked.”

Harry nodded, his eyes still flickering over to where the three were.

“I’m sorry.”

Sirius made a funky noise, like he wanted to release a snort of laughter but he was too busy watching James carefully as he whispered “that word’s been tossed around a lot lately, hasn’t it?”

James ignored that and watched the two of them very seriously as he continued “I shouldn’t have acted like that, said that, not to you two, it was unforgivable-”

“Think we should be the judge of that” Remus scoffed.

“We were all wrong” Sirius croaked, watching James lightly “and we can deal with it whenever we can” he finished with a fearsome look back at that door.

James sighed, even now he didn’t know what to feel towards Peter. Betrayal was the dominant emotion, still some delayed shock in there, but he had a very good idea once all that simmerd out he’d come to full term and realize that it was because of Peter his wife had died, his son had been handed over like that. Peter had turned on Sirius and pinned the whole mess on him causing him a fate worse then death. He knew he should and would come to grips and he’d be right where Sirius was, but for now he was still processing.

Silently, all three boys realized at the same time they couldn’t sit here forever. Harry and Lily were still trying to give them their space but were clearly wrestling with themselves about coming over to check on them as well. The book wasn’t over, Harry may have discovered the worst thing in the world, but the books weren’t over. Their sole reason for having even agreed to do this, to see Harry’s life at school wasn’t done. They’d push through and deal with this mess in due time, but for now they went back to their spots. Lily and Harry weren’t happy about the distance it caused for them to go back to the other couch, but still recognized it couldn’t be helped, they had to leave what was left of the Marauders to be so they could work this out amongst themselves.

James found his place, and never before had to try harder in his life to read.

“Well, hello, Peter,” said Lupin pleasantly, as though rats frequently erupted into old school friends around him.

“Because they do” Remus ground out, his eyes flashing dangerously.

“Long time, no see.

“S - Sirius... R - Remus...” Even Pettigrew’s voice was squeaky. Again, his eyes darted toward the door.

Lily was watching with genuine concern that James wasn’t exactly reading in an intelligible way, spitting words around more then reading them at this constant reminder, but she wasn’t going to argue the point either. Her husband wouldn’t hand that book over to anyone, most likely feeling he had a duty and a right to finish this out.

“My friends... my old friends...”

Sirius and Remus made such a terrible noise it would have given baby Harry nightmares, which made them all the more grateful he’d never been brought back into the room for this escapade.

Black’s wand arm rose, but Lupin seized him around the wrist, gave him a warning took,

Harry still noted that the last thing Remus wanted to do now was talk, but he then decided he wanted to get all of his facts straight before whatever happened next.

then turned again to Pettigrew, his voice light and casual.

“We’ve been having a little chat, Peter, about what happened the night Lily and James died. You might have missed the finer points while you were squeaking around down there on the bed -”

“Remus,” gasped Pettigrew, and Harry could see beads of sweat breaking out over his pasty face, “you don’t believe him, do you? He tried to kill me, Remus...”

“Tried being the operative word” Sirius muttered.

“WILL YOU STOP THAT!” James snapped, turning on him and startling Sirius so badly he nearly jumped over the back of the couch to get away on instinct before his eyes focused in on James. His breaths were coming out in pants, his eyes wild and to wet, his best friend had reached his breaking point and Sirius clipped his mouth shut to stop any retaliation. He knew James might have come to terms with this now, but Sirius’ picking words weren’t going to help any.

“So we’ve heard,” said Lupin, more coldly. “I’d like to clear up one or two little matters with you,

“Little matters” Remus hissed under his breath, not quite understanding how he could be so calm then when he was feeling as waspish as Sirius, but keeping himself held back for James benefit now, maybe that’s what he was doing for Sirius then?

Peter, if you’ll be so -”

“He’s come to try and kill me again!” Pettigrew squeaked suddenly, pointing at Black, and Harry saw that he used his middle finger, because his index was missing.

Lily made an odd little face, like that should have been funny in some other part of her life at watching Peter flip Sirius off, but she couldn’t find it now.

“He killed Lily and James

There was that anger James had been expecting, already feeling bad for having shot it at Sirius already, but his friend clearly wasn’t holding a grudge on this and James forced himself to keep going.

and now he’s going to kill me too... You’ve got to help me, Remus...”

Black’s face looked more skull-like than ever as he stared at Pettigrew with his fathomless eyes.

“No one’s going to try and kill you until we’ve sorted a few things out,” said Lupin.

“I don’t know what you were going for, but that wasn’t comforting him” Harry muttered to himself, realizing now what he was just beginning to think on then, Remus’ last priority was to make Peter feel better about anything.

“Sorted things out?” squealed Pettigrew, looking wildly about him once more, eyes taking in the boarded windows and, again’ the only door. “I knew he’d come after me! I knew he’d be back for me! I’ve been waiting for this for twelve years!”

“You knew Sirius was going to break out of Azkaban?” said Lupin, his brow furrowed. “When nobody has ever done it before?”

“He’s got dark powers the rest of us can only dream of!” Pettigrew shouted shrilly.

‘And he’s going to get to experience every last one of them’ Sirius vowed.

“How else did he get out of there? I suppose He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named taught him a few tricks!”

Well that was...odd was a kind way to put it. James still had way too many things buzzing in him at once, number one of which was that it was laughable at best that Sirius would get within ten feet of Voldemort and not kill him, and the surreal feeling James kept having over and over that it was Peter saying these things, but also the fact that Peter hadn’t called Voldemort by name. He’d always done it before, and this only served as yet another reminder he knew he’d be getting the rest of his life that Peter wasn’t who he thought he was anymore.

Black started to laugh, a horrible, mirthless laugh that filled the whole room.

“Voldemort, teach me tricks?” he said.

Pettigrew flinched as though Black had brandished a whip at him.

“What, scared to hear your old master’s name?” said Black. “I don’t blame you, Peter. His lot aren’t very happy with you, are they?”

“Don’t know what you mean, Sirius -” muttered Pettigrew, his breathing faster than ever. His whole face was shining with sweat now.

James was really starting to concern the lot of them, Harry noticed he was starting to sound as deranged as Sirius had that night. Of all the chapters his dad could have gotten, fate had dropped this one in his lap, and he wasn’t going to give it up until he was done just to prove to them he could keep going, but Harry feared the worst part hadn’t even really come yet.

“You haven’t been hiding from me for twelve years,” said Black. “You’ve been hiding from Voldemort’s old supporters. I heard things in Azkaban, Peter... They all think you’re dead, or you’d have to answer to them...

Lily felt a little shiver go up her spine in shock of what that meant, that the Death Eater’s knew. Did all of them? She doubted that, probably only the very high ranking ones. How long did they know, even now? Then her mind couldn’t help but flicker to one Death Eater in particular, one she never knew what to think about anymore, Severus. Did he know? That was being ridiculous she was sure, and giving him to much credit. So she’d heard the rumors he was a Death Eater, surely not that deep in. Well even if he did know then he’d still have thought the same as any other Death Eater, unless he knew about the Animagus part? Even then that was stretching it because Remus knew all about that and hadn’t suspected a thing. It really depended on how much Pettigrew had told Voldemort...and she really didn’t want to keep sitting around and thinking about this, it hurt to much to realize she was sitting around thinking about two separate people she’d once considered a friend.

I’ve heard them screaming all sorts of things in their sleep. Sounds like they think the double-crosser double-crossed them. Voldemort went to the Potters’ on your information... and Voldemort met his downfall there. And not all Voldemort’s supporters ended up in Azkaban, did they? There are still plenty out here, biding their time, pretending they’ve seen the error of their ways. If they ever got wind that you were still alive, Peter -”

“Don’t know... what you’re talking about...” said Pettigrew again, more shrilly than ever. He wiped his face on his sleeve and looked up at Lupin. “You don’t believe this - this madness, Remus -”

‘More now then I ever would have believed in my life’ Remus mentally hissed, but considering how James had reacted to Sirius saying such things he didn’t think he’d be recived any better.

“I must admit, Peter, I have difficulty in understanding why an innocent man would want to spend twelve years as a rat,” said Lupin evenly.

“Innocent, but scared!” squealed Pettigrew. “If Voldemort’s supporters were after me, it was because I put one of their best men in Azkaban - the spy, Sirius Black!”

James bleakley remembered how he’d wanted to hear Peter defend himself before he’d lost all faith, but even then he never would have accepted this, if anything it only would have made him realize it all the sooner. For Peter to be trying to pin and blame all of this on Sirius, it really wasn’t computing with the same boy he’d grown up knowing, James still didn’t recognize the two merging into what he was reading now.

Black’s face contorted.

“How dare you,” he growled, sounding suddenly like the bear sized dog he had been. “I, a spy for Voldemort? When did I ever sneak around people who were stronger and more powerful than myself? But you, Peter - I’ll never understand why I didn’t see you were the spy from the start. You always liked big friends who’d look after you, didn’t you? It used to be us... me and Remus... and James...”

Sirius had been growling nonstop for several minutes now, giving what James was reading an even more menacing tone though they hadn’t believed that was possible up till now. The three boys were beyond tired of hearing this, they didn’t want to hear anymore because the more they heard the more their life felt like it was slipping away in hearing about this waste of a being they’d use to claim endless defense for.

Pettigrew wiped his face again; he was almost panting for breath.

“Me, a spy... must be out of your mind... never... don’t know how you can say such a -”

“Lily and James only made you Secret-Keeper because I suggested it,” Black hissed, so venomously that Pettigrew took a step backward. “I thought it was the perfect plan... a bluff... Voldemort would be sure to come after me, would never dream they’d use a weak, talentless thing like you... It must have been the finest moment of your miserable life, telling Voldemort you could hand him the Potters.”

Lily still had enough residual feeling left in her to feel the echo of stunned at how much hatred was bleeding through James, like he was standing right there and saying it to Peter’s face now. He’d never sounded like this, not even when he heard about Snape’s worst moments, because that was Snape, a man he’d grown up hating. This was the opposite. She still couldn’t feel any pity, or remorse, nothing to indicate she would do anything to get in the way but would instead be guarding the door to make sure Peter heard every last word.

Pettigrew was muttering distractedly; Harry caught words like “far-fetched” and “lunacy,” but he couldn’t help paying more attention to the ashen color of Pettigrew’s face and the way his eyes continued to dart toward the windows and door.

James knew he could not keep hearing about that, the little rat still trying to run even now, much longer without something else inside of him breaking. That, that, he should spend the minimum amount of time as twelve years in Azkaban for starters!

“Professor Lupin?” said Hermione timidly. “Can - can I say something?”

“Certainly, Hermione,” said Lupin courteously.

Remus had almost forgotten that Harry was watching all of this, that he and his friends were struggling along to keep up. He wanted to kick himself all over again that this was the farthest thing away from what Harry deserved, Remus still didn’t think his own actions should be okay’ed and Harry should have heard something about this long ago.

“Well - Scabbers - I mean, this - this man - he’s been sleeping in Harry’s dormitory for three years.

Sirius made an almost comically horrified face as it first occurred to him that the rat had been sleeping in Ron’s bed! Scabbers had spent more time with Harry then everyone in this room combined! Where was the justice in that! This may not have reached the others yet, and Sirius was pretty stuck in his own mind to point it out.

If he’s working for You-Know-Who, how come he never tried to hurt Harry before now?”

“There!” said Pettigrew shrilly, pointing at Ron with his maimed hand. “Thank you! You see, Remus? I have never hurt a hair of Harry’s head! Why should I?”

“I’ll tell you why,” said Black. “Because you never did anything for anyone unless you could see what was in it for you. Voldemort’s been in hiding for fifteen years, they say he’s half dead. You weren’t about to commit murder right under Albus Dumbledore’s nose, for a wreck of a wizard who’d lost all of his power, were you? You’d want to be quite sure he was the biggest bully in the playground before you went back to him, wouldn’t you?

James sounded horrendous the longer he kept going, looking likely to burst into tears at any second the longer this carried on as he kept warring back and forth between the blackest of anger and realization kept striking him like lightning what he was reading. Still his first instinct was to scoff that any of his friends would hurt Harry, let alone what Sirius was saying, and then he’d flash all over again and left a mess upon realizing Sirius wasn’t wrong. He couldn’t even bring himself to scold Sirius, correct him and remind him of how many times Peter had taken the fall for them, done everything in the world for them like they’d done for him, only bringing up all over again that question of why? Why had Peter done this to them!?

Why else did you find a wizard family to take you in?

Which made Remus realize for the first time the bleeding odds of this. Peter would have chosen the Weasley’s long before they’d even known Harry’s name, and for one of their kids to become Harry’s friend! Ron of all of them! Even if Scabbers had fallen into the hands of say Ginny, or one of the twins, anyone but Ron he’d be a little less likely to balk at the odds of this, but he really was beginning to wonder if the world was really out to kill Harry and himself along the way!

Keeping an ear out for news, weren’t you, Peter? Just in case your old protector regained strength, and it was safe to rejoin him...”

Pettigrew opened his mouth and closed it several times. He seemed to have lost the ability to talk.

‘Hope he stays that way until I can convince Remus to make it permanent’ Sirius snarled.

“Er - Mr. Black - Sirius?” said Hermione.

Harry couldn’t help a startled little noise, like he wanted to laugh but the sound wasn’t going to happen any time soon. He couldn’t help it though, his dad reading that like he was wanting to scream the worst of curses and the remembered sound of how timid Hermione sounded coupled together gave him an honest moment of amusement.

Black jumped at being addressed like this and stared at Hermione as though he had never seen anything quite like her.

“The only time anyone called him that as when he was in trouble” Lily nodded to herself.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how - how did you get out of Azkaban, if you didn’t use Dark Magic?”

“Thank you!” gasped Pettigrew, nodding frantically at her. “Exactly! Precisely what I -”

But Lupin silenced him with a look.

James still couldn’t shake memories floating to the surface, of the number of times Peter had tried to butt into James and Sirius arguing about something and Remus silencing him with a look so they could work this out. The mockery of those moments being twisted into this decayed future still leaving him a mess.

Black was frowning slightly at Hermione, but not as though he were annoyed with her. He seemed to be pondering his answer.

“I don’t know how I did it,” he said slowly. “I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn’t a happy thought, so the dementors couldn’t suck it out of me... but it kept me sane and knowing who I am... helped me keep my powers... so when it all became ... too much... I could transform in my cell... become a dog.

James was circling into depression at hearing this now. He’d spent hours worrying himself sick about picturing Sirius in that place, even having realized already this was how he’d done it didn’t make the realization of what he’d gone through any easier to hear; and for Peter to have been the one to put him in there, well he really didn’t think he could stand going much longer...

Dementors can’t see, you know...” He swallowed. “They feel their way toward people by feeding off their emotions... They could tell that my feelings were less - less human, less complex when I was a dog... but they thought, of course, that I was losing my mind like everyone else in there, so it didn’t trouble them. But I was weak, very weak, and I had no hope of driving them away from me without a wand...

Remus and Lily were taking turns muttering obscenities under their breath, choosing to curse the world for the picture Sirius was painting because they didn’t know what else to do at this point.

For the first time since this had been mentioned, Sirius felt no fear for what his life was heading towards, instead the thought of what he now had to look forward to in taking revenge on Peter before he even had an inkling of an idea of what was coming for him kept his mind off of anything else.

But then I saw Peter in that picture... I realized he was at Hogwarts with Harry... perfectly positioned to act, if one hint reached his ears that the Dark Side was gathering strength again...”

Pettigrew was shaking his head, mouthing noiselessly, but staring all the while at Black as though hypnotized.

“... ready to strike at the moment he could be sure of allies... and to deliver the last Potter to them. If he gave them Harry, who’d dare say he’d betrayed Lord Voldemort? He’d be welcomed back with honors...”

“So you see, I had to do something. I was the only one who knew Peter was still alive...”

Remus still bleakly wished that Sirius would have broken out at any other time before this, maybe this all would have come out so much sooner, that Sirius wouldn’t have had to suffer for so long.

Harry remembered what Mr. Weasley had told Mrs. Wealsey. “The guards say he’s been talking in his sleep... always the same words... ‘He’s at Hogwarts.’”

You know it was bad when they all bleakly remembered back to that time and they’d felt better then than now. Then they’d just been afraid for Sirius, and all the following terrible things that had been implied he’d done, and now they knew the cause of it all was one of his best friends, and it just felt like every last one of them was being broken apart inside.

“It was as if someone had lit a fire in my head, and the dementors couldn’t destroy it... It wasn’t a happy feeling... it was an obsession... but it gave me strength, it cleared my mind. So, one night when they opened my door to bring food, I slipped past them as a dog... It’s so much harder for them to sense animal emotions that they were confused... I was thin, very thin... thin enough to slip through the bars... I swam as a dog back to the mainland...

Finally James began kindling something other then all consuming anything about him. Sirius had done it, despite being so close to death, having to fight through all of that half dead, and still he’d made it all the way to Harry’s side. He’d never loved his brother more then he did in his moment. He looked up to see Sirius actually smiling, an expression moments ago he’d been sure he’d never see again, but of course James was being a fool. Sirius would do everything to his last breath to protect Harry and he showed it every day. If there was one thing to get them back to a sound place, it was that boy.

I journeyed north and slipped into the Hogwarts grounds as a dog. I’ve been living in the forest ever since,

Lily desperately had to fight down the urge to get to her feet and shove every last drop of food she had at Sirius. He’d basically been starving to death, there could not actually be much to eat out in that forest, not to mention dodging around practically every creature out there that wanted to kill him and use him for a snack. Of course if anyone could do it, it was Sirius. He’d spent more time in that forest then he had in the castle. It just tormented her to hear everything he’d been going through and she still had no way to help.

except when I came to watch the Quidditch, of course. You fly as well as your father did, Harry...”

He looked at Harry, who did not look away.

Sirius perked up with some interest at that, analyzing everything Harry had just heard all over again and compiling that as the reason Harry had learned to trust him, or at least this was the beginning’s of it.

“Believe me,” croaked Black. “Believe me, Harry. I never betrayed James and Lily. I would have died before I betrayed them.”

And at long last, Harry believed him.

Sirius had to fight down the urge to get up and go hug Harry. The only thing stopping him was the urging need to hear this chapter be completed, to make sure that rat wasn’t going to ruin this moment for them. He’d never forgive himself if Harry finally did trust him, that they could finally start what should have been all those years ago, only for it to be torn away by him all over again.

Harry was smiling and squirming in place he looked so happy as he watched Sirius, that feeling of confusion and betrayal he’d been harboring for so long because of his thirteen year old mind set finally slipping away to be replaced by a near blissful insistence that in this one moment he’d just gotten everything he’d always wanted. Sirius was that connection to his dad he’d always craved his whole life! It was such a purely happy moment that he didn’t even acknowledge that small little part of him warning he’d better treasure this now.

The other three were so happy they were near tears themselves. They’d spent so long emotionally wrung out over the fate of Sirius, and were still in no way okay over what they’d learn of this betrayal, but realizing that one key moment where Harry put his trust in Sirius again was as close to making this whole thing okay as it would ever get.

Throat too tight to speak, he nodded.

“No!”

Pettigrew had fallen to his knees as though Harry’s nod had been his own death sentence.

“Because it may as well be” Sirius hissed, his happiness still lingering enough he didn’t look nearly as murderous as he wanted to.

He shuffled forward on his knees, groveling, his hands clasped in front of him as though praying.

James voice was now coming out in such a strained way he no longer sounded like himself, and that’s how he felt about what he was reading. This wasn’t the brave and stupid kid who had as a third year taken on two seventh years for revenge when they’d called James a couple of foul words for being so spoiled rotten.

“Sirius - it’s me... it’s Peter... your friend... you wouldn’t -”

Black kicked out and Pettigrew recoiled.

“There’s enough filth on my robes without you touching them,” said Black.

Sirius had his eyes screwed up tight, viciously beating away that time Peter had missed a trick step and nearly falling threw the floor and Sirius offering a hand to help him back up while laughing his arse off, and Sirius retaliating by pushing Sirius into the trick step instead and then laughing just as hard when he in turn had to pull Sirius back out.

“Remus!” Pettigrew squeaked, turning to Lupin instead, writhing imploringly in front of him. “You don’t believe this wouldn’t Sirius have told you they’d changed the plan?”

“Not if he thought I was the spy, Peter,” said Lupin. “I assume that’s why you didn’t tell me, Sirius?” he said casually over Pettigrews head.

Remus was having a very foul argument in his head, one memory being twisted beyond recognition of that time Sirius and Peter had tag teamed him and James, trying to get them back for messing with a dozen statues and receiving a detention from McGonagall because of it, and the end result being all four of them got a detention again anyways and laughing it all off the next weekend.

“Forgive me, Remus,” said Black.

“Not at all, Padfoot, old friend,” said Lupin, who was now rolling up his sleeves. “And will you, in turn, forgive me for believing you were the spy?”

“Of course,” said Black, and the ghost of a grin flitted across his gaunt face.

Lily’s mind flashed back a moment when her and Severus had been lounging under the shade of a tree comparing their latest Potion’s notes and they’d seen Remus and Sirius strolling along, having some whispered conversation long since forgotten, and the realization of how much had changed since that one small moment left her breathless. What on earth could change in the next year to make two brothers in every way but blood fall so far it took this to change them back?

He, too, began rolling up his sleeves. “Shall we kill him together?”

Harry felt something startle inside of himself, stunned his dad had read that in such an assured tone of voice, like this was the most obvious conclusion.

What none of them really saw was the struggle tearing James apart on the inside. He still could not knock away the pudgy little first year he met his first night in the dorm who’d given him such a shy smile no one would ever dream he’d turn into a ruthless Marauder intent on breaking every school rule in the world. Now he’d turned into, into this person who had betrayed every person James could care about that he found it the most reasonable thing in the world that of course he should die because of it!Though that really was being kind as far as he was concerned, as the rat should really be locked away in Azkaban like Sirius had been for his crimes! No he wasn’t trying to offer that up instead because of the thought of Peter dying still did something to him...of course Azkaban was a far worse punishment then death so in fact he shouldn’t feel anything, right?**

“Yes, I think so,” said Lupin grimly.

Lily was trembling all over she was so frustrated. She’d cried herself to sleep over Peter, realizing that not one of her friends had ever gotten a decent life after their death, the blunt reminder that Peter had died that day coming back to her at every hour last night and causing her to cry into her husbands shoulder all over again and now she couldn’t bat an eye how sincere James and she had no doubts that Remus was feeling at the time upon this.

“You wouldn’t... you won’t...,” gasped Pettigrew, and he scrambled around to Ron.

“Ron... haven’t I been a good friend... a good pet? You won’t let them kill me, Ron, will you... you’re on my side, aren’t you?”

Sirius pressed his hands to his ears, he didn’t want to keep hearing this because he felt like every memory he ever had couldn’t even be glimpsed at, this just wasn’t the same Peter he knew now who had cracked a joke just days ago about how they were lucky they had each other or they all would have gone mad with how depressing the news had been of late.

But Ron was staring at Pettigrew with the utmost revulsion.

“I let you sleep in my bed!” he said.

Remus hadn’t forgotten that little tidbit, but it only managed to remind him of the time he’d woken up in the Shrieking Shack and only Peter had been camped out on the end of his bed, looking like they always did after a sleepless night, but quickly reassuring a panicking Remus that James and Siirus were fine, they just had to head someone off who may have spotted them out the window last night. Peter had been so calm and reasuring in that moment Remus couldn’t help but relax back, feeling safe that his friends had his back.

“Kind boy... kind master...” Pettigrew crawled toward Ron “You won’t let them do it... I was your rat... I was a good pet...”

“If you made a better rat than a human, it’s not much to boast about, Peter,” said Black harshly. Ron, going still paler with pain, wrenched his broken leg out of Pettigrew’s reach. Pettigrew turned on his knees, staggered forward, and seized the hem of Hermione’s robes.

This was, pathetic. James really coudln’t find any other word to use anymore, watching Peter beg for his life in this manner, the uncomprehensible way he still to this very moment was refusing to live up to what he’d done, even apologize and beg forgviness rather then his life, it was litterally causing James more pain then he knew the Cruicates could ever do to him.

“Sweet girl... clever girl... you - you won’t let them... Help me...”

Hermione pulled her robes out of Pettigrew’s clutching hands and backed away against the wall, looking horrified.

Pettigrew knelt, trembling uncontrollably, and-turned his head slowly toward Harry.

Whatever they’d been feeling for themselves was torn away in that one moment, outraged dind’t cover how they felt when they realized who he was going to turn to next and how the thought of him being in the same room as their Harry sent them all ravenous for something far worse then being murder to happen to the rat. None of them had spoken in a whle now, to wrapped up in their own thoughts to even voice who agreed or disagreed what Remus and Sirius had declared they were going to do to Pettigrew, but Harry was confident in that moment he dind’t think any of them would be protesting soon, making him feel all the more wrong footed as he was assessing his own feelings of that time.

“Harry... Harry... you look just like your father... just like him...”

James could count the number of times he’d heard that now and each one had filled him with pride that his only son carried even his faintest resemblence because it meant Harry at least had something, so that he’d never have to really question who his parents were. Now, coming from one of the handful of people he had been sure could always make him smile, James wanted to rip his tounge out of the rats mouth for that.

“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HARRY?” roared Black. “HOW DARE YOU FACE HIM? HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT JAMES IN FRONT OF HIM?”

“My sentamints exactly” Sirius nodded like he’d never heard a truer thing spoken.

“Harry,” whispered Pettigrew, shuffling toward him, hands outstretched. “Harry, James wouldn’t have wanted me killed... James would have understood, Harry... he would have shown me mercy...”

“He clearly never actually knew you” Remus growled, not realizing that despite how much James wanted to agree with him, the words wouldn’t come out. What did that say about him, even realizing how far Peter had fallen, he still couldn’t bring himself to acutlaly say the words he wanted Wormtail dead. It was like a constant battle ranging in his head wanting to pummel this blight into death because of what he’d caust him a life with his family, wanting to protect one of his brothers to his last breath, they just weren’t merging in his head into one person and one solution.

Both Black and Lupin strode forward, seized Pettigrew’s shoulders, and threw him backward onto the floor. He sat there, twitching with terror, staring up at them.

“You sold Lily and James to Voldemort,” said Black, who was shaking too. “Do you deny it?”

Pettigrew burst into tears. It was horrible to watch, like an oversized, balding baby, cowering on the floor.

Remus started tugging restlessly on his sleeve, the only time he’d ever seen Peter cry had been when he’d received the news that his Grandparents had died, the dark mark hanging above their house in their seventh year, and looking back on it now he couldn’t help but wonder when was the moment Peter’s alliegance had changed.

“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 -”

James mind flickered back to when he’d been begging to hear Peter say this, and maybe if this had been the first thing he’d said he would have forever defended Peter, but as this was the very last line in a long string of things he’d done this night to explain away what he’d done, James had never felt more disgusted in his life at the explination.

“DON’T LIE!” bellowed Black. “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?”

The question of why, why on earth had he done this to them, would forever plague them the rest of their life. Had it really been something so basically human? Fear had been known to drive people to do crazy things to save themselves, but the three Marauders couldn’t fathom why Peter had fallen for this. Didn’t he know they would have done anything to protect him? Hadn’t he trusted that they could get through this together?

“What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed?” said Black, with a terrible fury in his face. “Only innocent lives, Peter!”

“You don’t understand!” whined Pettigrew. “He would have killed me, Sirius!”

Sirius felt the worst pain in the world tearing him apart inside, as his instant rebuttle wanted to be that they would have done anything to stop that from happening. Instead he forced himself on the much more important question of time, and when a Death Eater had approached the rat and when Peter had caved and thrown away his past life in favor of his own skin. He’d just screamed it had been happening at least a year before Halloween, it could possilby be happening right this second and he couldn’t do a thing about it.

“THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!” roared Black. “DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”

That was the last straw, James realized he couldn’t do this anymore when he’d screamed that right from his heart and realized how true it was to him, that he still meant it, and it clearly meant nothing to Peter. He threw the book as hard as he could and didn’t even register it smashing into the wall so badly the spine broke and pages scattered and he was just sitting there, shaking his head from side to side. Out of tears, out of emotion, he just sat there.

Remus and Sirius weren’t giving in this time, James looked sick as a corpse and still Sirius had hold of his elbow, whispering somehing in his ear, and Remus had his arm tossed aroud him and was now fiditing with his wand instead like he wanted to curse the whole world. They all looked compeltly at their end, but they weren’t moving away from each other.

Harry had plenty of practice from watching now, and had no problems pulling out his wand and reparing the book, watcing the pages seemelssly merge back together and then continuing on pure instinct and silently summoning it back to him. He ran his hand over the hard cover, leaning his full weight into his mother who was freely crying herslef now and looking at no one. He’d never felt more empty and helpless in his life, had nothing to compare the feeling to either because he’d never had such good friends before he could call them family, and even at his worst fights with Hermione and Ron they’d never done anything to each other like this. He sat there probing gently and came to the conclusion that he was still strong friends with both to this day. Harry knew that he needed to keep going though, that closur was the only thing that could begin to help them whatever this storys end.

Black and Lupin stood shoulder to shoulder, wands raised.

“You should have realized,” said Lupin quietly, “if Voldemort didn’t kill you, we would. Good-bye, Peter.”

All three boys closed their eyes and braced themselves, in far to much of a wreck to even analyze if this is what should have happend, if they could live with themselves knowing this is what they had every intention of doing. It had never even crossed their minds to posteruize this before, if one of their own betrayed them what would they do? James had made the joke he wanted nothing more to hear about his best friends murdering the person who had done this to them, and now he was, and it was to much to think on at one single time. They all missed the look that flashed over Harry’s face as he read that.

Hermione covered her face with her hands and turned to the wall.

“NO!” Harry yelled. He ran forward, placing himself in front Pettigrew, facing the wands. “You can’t kill him,” he said breathlessly. “You can’t.”

That was literally the most stunning, and last, thing any of them had been expecting. A chapter ago Harry had been fully intent on murdering Sirius for this very fact, then he turned around and did this? Then again, Harry hadn’t gone through with it. They’d praised that he’d lost his nerve at the fact, but now couldn’t help but wonder if it was something more.

Harry was a good person, despite everything he’d been through and that horrid upbringing trying to make him the opposite, all he’d ever shown were the qualites of kindness. So really, Harry’s act in this one moment shouldn’t have really surprised them, and yet they all felt like taking a breathless step back.

War was a time where you killed in the heat of the moment and a spark on the battlefield was something to be considered only later over a strong drink, what Peter had done to them was the definition of betrayl and their upbringing and mindset had taught them that what Remus and Sirius had planned on doing because of it was the natural reaction, but it took this second for them realize they’d never want the same thing to be on Harry. Not their innocent little baby, and not the man in front of them who was now eyeing his father, his face torn between horrified he’d made the wrong decision at his parents wishes, and yet set all the same in saying he’d make it again.

“Oh Harry,” Lily whispered, reaching over and planting a kiss on his temple in priase, running her nails through his hair and promising him he’d made the right decision.

James had to wriggle himself free of his friends, but then he went over and sat on the arm of the sofa, wrapping a sincere arm around his son as he vowed “I’d back any play you make son. You’re right of course,” he half turned and gave the two a wink before contuing “I think you ought to go over there and tear them a new one.”

Both boys tried to look offended, but it was so good to hear any form of comedy back in the room they couldn’t hold the expressions long. It didn’t change what they were really feeling, both silently agreeing they’d probably still like the chance to at least see that rat be Kissed, and while James and Lily may have agreed they all knew it was something that they didn’t want Harry near.

Harry was stunned that they were making the attempt, but then he refelcted back on every other bad situation he’d seen them in. They’d passed through the emotions until they hit their breaking point, then they cracekd a joke. It was probably something like their coping mechanism, their way of convincing themselves that the world would go on.

With his parents on either side of him, he felt no qualms whatseover to continue.

Black and Lupin both looked staggered.

“Harry, this piece of vermin is the reason you have no parents,” Black snarled. “This cringing bit of filth would have seen you die too, without turning a hair. You heard him. His own stinking skin meant more to him than your whole family.”

Harry may have shown mercy, but it didn’t make his tone any less chilling as he ground that out. He was well aware what he was defending, what he’d lost because of this man, but with his parents on either side of him right now he still held true it wasn’t right.

“I know,” Harry panted. “We’ll take him up to the castle. We’ll hand him over to the dementors... He can go to Azkaban... but don’t kill him.”

“Harry!” gasped Pettigrew, and he flung his arms around Harry’s knees. “You - thank you - it’s more than I deserve -

“First time he’s been honest this whole damn bit” Sirius grumbled to himself, wishing this part was over already, wanting to move past this and not go back until he could get a real solid answer here and now rather then hearing about his little pup having to go threw all this.

thank you -”

“Get off me,” Harry spat, throwing Pettigrew’s hands off him in disgust. “I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it because - I don’t reckon my dad would’ve wanted them to become killers - just for you.”

James couldn’t really meet his sons eyes right then, fairly angry at himself for not having realized sooner what Harry would think of this situation, putting his own feelings first and clearly needing more practice at this dad thing then just mildly teasing and giving his son random advice, plus it hurt all the more at the sharp reminder his son was techinqually the same age as him. Harry was right of course, he would never want Remus and Sirius to actually murder someone in his name, no matter the cause. He was clearly being to emotional and he needed to work on that, but his son was sitting at his side now, a proper man despite James never having a say in his life, so at least not everything had turned out for the worst.

No one moved or made a sound except Pettigrew, whose breath was coming in wheezes as he clutched his chest. Black and Lupin were looking at each other. Then, with one movement, they lowered their wands.

“You’re the only person who has the right to decide, Harry,” said Black. “But think... think what he did...”

Remus found Sirius’ insistance well called for, James and Lily may have paid the ultimate price for this but Sirius had been the one to take the fall, but now that he was the slightest bit calmer he did hope he wouldn’t argue with him to much, Harry had been victim as well and he now realized just how wrong his actions were and even if they had carried through on that threat they never should have done it in front of the children.

“He can go to Azkaban,” Harry repeated. “If anyone deserves that place, he does...”

Pettigrew was still wheezing behind him.

“Very well,” said Lupin. “Stand aside, Harry.”

Harry hesitated.

“I’m going to tie him up,” said Lupin. “That’s all, I swear.”

Harry frowned in confusion at that though, asking “why wouldn’t you just stun him? Or is there a way you could have forced him to turn back into a rat, easier to carry.”

“That Homorphus charm we used would still be in effect” Remus sighed with distaste. “No spell would effect him physically until that last one wore off, and no, there is no way to force an animagus to assume animal form.”

Harry nodded in understanding, but still couldn’t quite erase the frown on his face. He had a really bad feeling about leaving Pettigrew like this.

Harry stepped out of the way. Thin cords shot from Lupin’s wand this time, and next moment, Pettigrew was wriggling on the floor, bound and gagged.

“But if you transform, Peter,” growled Black, his own wand pointing at Pettigrew too, “we will kill you.

That wasn’t making his feeling any better, he was getting a mounting since of impending doom, like he was going to regret his decision before this night was over, but he kept kicking that out of the way, surely he was just doubting himself because of how angry he still was.

You agree, Harry?”

Harry looked down at the pitiful figure on the floor and nodded so that Pettigrew could see him.

Lily desperatly hoped with everyting she had that it wouldn’t come to that, that Peter would have just one moment left of the man she knew and let himself be turned in to at least right the wrong he’d done Sirius. If he escaped afterwords then be damned his soul and whatever punishment he suffered for it, but please just let this be done with Harry for now.

“Right,” said Lupin, suddenly businesslike. “Ron, I can’t mend bones nearly as well as Madam Pomfrey,

“And he’s not stupid enough to try” James added on.

so I think it’s best if we just strap your leg up until we can get you to the hospital wing.”

He hurried over to Ron, bent down, tapped Ron’s leg with his wand, and muttered, “Ferula.” Bandages spun up Ron’s leg, strapping it tightly to a splint. Lupin helped him to his feet; Ron put his weight gingerly on the leg and didn’t wince.

“That’s better,” he said. “Thanks.”

All five of them gave geuine smiles for that, happy that whatever inital problems Ron had with Remus seemed to be gone at least for the moment as he showed gratitdue without any more fear of being near him.

“What about Professor Snape?” said Hermione in a small voice, looking down at Snape’s prone figure.

“There’s nothing seriously wrong with him,” said Lupin,

“I disagree” Sirius grumbled “he’s touched in the head, and I probbaly did help.”

Remus rolled his eyes but it wasn’t the worst joke he’d heard from him so he let it slide this time.

bending over Snape and checking his pulse. “You were just a little - overenthusiastic. Still out cold. Err - perhaps it will be best if we don’t revive him until we’re safety back in the castle. We can take him like this...”

James couldn’t help but crack up giggling. He probably sounded slightly histerical, he knew it felt it after everyting he’d just felt in this past chapter, but the idea of what they’d done to Snape was pleasent and he’d cling to that for as long as he could.

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.

Harry couldn’t help a little grimace at that mental image he now rememebred all to well, he dind’t care how much he dislike Snape, that had just been creepy.

Lupin picked up the Invisibility Cloak and tucked it safely into his pocket.

“And two of us should be chained to this,” said Black, nudging Pettigrew with his toe. “Just to make sure.”

“I’ll do it,” said Lupin.

“What, no! Am I insane” Remus yelped, going ramrod strait and wild eyed in seconds. Sirius looked at him in concner, fixing to ask what the big deal was and worried that someone had finally lost it for good in this room when he kept going “How close to peak of the full moon was it? Snape was only there because I’m going to change, without any of that potion!”

And here they’d almost been getting back to a decent place in the room, now they all looked like they’d been petrifed when they realized what he meant. How long had they been in the Shriecking Shack? It had been sundown when they’d gone in, but between the constant stops and starts of their own reading they had no idea how long the kids had been in there. When the moon reached full Remus would transform and those kids would be in terrible danger.

Harry coudln’t help it, he tried to ignore it because for the first time he dind’t want that settling feeling back, but he couldn’t ignore it no matter how much he wanted to. Somehting in him was warning he should take Remus’ threat very seriosly, and desperatly wished Professor Lupin had thought of it then. They prayed that they were just being paranoid, that they’d all get back up to the school to Dumbledore and thigns would be properly sorted out, Merlin even if they had to make a sidestop to get that potion from Remus’ office before they did, they’d settle for anything at this point. When no one answered though, because none of them knew one little bit obviously, Harry decided he should just keep going.

“And me,” said Ron savagely, limping forward.

Black conjured heavy manacles from thin air; soon Pettigrew was upright again, left arm chained to Lupin’s right, right arm to Ron’s left. Ron’s face was set. He seemed to have taken Scabbers’ true identity as a personal insult.

“Can’t blame him one little bit” Sirius nodded with a set look in place.

Crookshanks leapt lightly off the bed and led the way out of the room, his bottlebrush tail held jauntily high.

Harry closed the book to show that this one was finally done, still eyeing each of his family with true worry that this had been to much for them. After evertying Harry had been through, they’d all gotten thorugh it because he was sitting right here healthy and alive, but this wasn’t just some he almost got killed moment. No, this was the most personal thing he could have ever discovered, and he was still trying to figure out how it was his fualt. He was so lost in thought that at first he didn’t notice Sirius lighting up like Chirstmas as he cheered “do you know what this means!”

He’d been so lost in thoguht, going over every bad possible thign that could happen all becasue of that foul little rat getting away for any number of things, but when he’d glanced up and seen how worried Harry looked he’d casted his mind around for something else and landed on the best thing possible. While the others glanced at him for his outburst and Sirius couldn’t hide the glee in his voice one little bit as he declared “Harry’s going to get away from those Dursleys, because I’m going to adopt him.”

Peter begging like that was literally the most degrading thing I’ve ever read in my life. I know this is the basis for a lot of people’s opinions on Peter, and while I detest it in the worst way possible as he should at least have the gall to admit to what he did and then run rather then that, I’d still like to point out that this is a Marauder. There is no way I can ever imagine any of the others putting up with such a sniveling little thing, Peter had to be a different person and fear changed him into what he was in that scene. I have seen JK say that James and Sirius only let Peter be friends wtih them in a cynical way, but that dosen’t make sense in a long standing point. Maybe it had even started that way, but theirs no way they would have gone out and done illegal Animagus stuff, including him in the making of their map, trusted him in the Order and with the Potters life if they’d really thought so little of him. Hope I didn’t earn too many flames for my opinion on this chapter.

*JK Rowling’s official response to that question is, that even if they had seen Peter Pettigrew on the map, why would they care? The story of Sirius’ friends wasn’t widely known to the public as Fudge had said, so why would they think anything of the name? The only problem with this though, and I never found another answer from her, is in the dorms. Surely they would have seen his name mashed in Ron’s at any stinking time and as I said, never once questioned Ron about it? He only hung out with two kids on a regular basis, and never once mentioned a Peter? I know they didn’t sit around and have in depth discussions with their brother about his friends, but I still find that really hard to swallow. Hope my answer wasn’t to out there.

**Since we know virtually nothing about James, what he would have canonically felt about this moment we will never know, so I based this on how I would have felt if I’d learned all of this. I’m sorry if you disagree, if you’d like to discuss it I’d be more then happy to hear some other opinions.

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