Remus Lupin strode down the busy street, dodging around the early morning commuters on their way to work and ignoring the stares he received when he bumped into people. He knew he looked a mess, with his hair unbrushed, his clothes rumpled, and his face pale and drawn. And for once in his life, he really didn't care.
He was on the warpath.
He'd been staying at one of the Order's safehouses - no point going back to his flat very often any more, it made it too easy to find and target - when an almighty uproar had woken him in the early hours of the morning. Panicked, thinking they were under some mass invasion from the Death Eaters, he'd sprinted downstairs to find a handful of his fellow Order members in a state of near-hysteria. It had taken a long time and careful questioning for him to get the gist of what had happened, but when he finally comprehended it he had collapsed into the nearest seat, feeling like he'd been punched in the stomach.
Voldemort was gone... and Lily and James were dead.
They were dead. He'd found them, despite all their hiding, despite every attempt they'd made to protect their baby boy...
Despite the Fidelius Charm.
Unnoticed, in the corner, Remus buried his head in his hands with a sick groan of horror as the enormity of it all crashed down on him. The Secret-Keeper had betrayed them. The Secret-Keeper was the spy. He let out a shaky sob, but the tears wouldn't come. This was too much to handle.
How many people realised, yet, what had happened? Probably none. It was just down to him.
He pushed himself to his feet, staggering slightly, and made his way out of the house, ignoring the concerned voices of the others telling him to stay, come back, wait for more news.
He didn't care. He knew what he needed to know.
Sirius Black was going to pay.
The streets were getting busier now, and he wanted to tear his hair out with frustration. He knew where his old friend was likely to go when he was in trouble, but in this mess they could walk right past each other and not notice. And that was just if the coward hadn't run off completely.
A flicker of black hair and black leather from across the road caught his eye, and he stopped sharply, ignoring the complaint from the man behind him as he strained to see over the heads of the crowd. Yes - there it was again, unmistakable; he could have spotted that cocky-looking walk anywhere, even as its owner hurried off in the other direction.
"Black!" he bellowed, beginning to elbow his way towards the figure, and saw a pale face glance his way before Sirius took off like a rocket. You're not getting away that easily! Ducking and weaving past the Muggles, one hand clasped firmly around the wand in his coat pocket, Remus tore after the fugitive, determined not to let him escape.
They pounded down several side-streets, getting further and further away from the busy areas, and Remus knew he was closing the distance between them. Just a bit further... just let us get out of sight...
As he raced into an abandoned industrial estate car park, he thought for a horrible moment that he'd lost track of his quarry - but a flicker of movement caught his eye, and he saw Sirius fleeing towards the only other way out, a small gate set into the opposite wall.
The jinx missed its target, but smashed into the gate, causing it and the wall around it to collapse. Trapped, Sirius skidded to a halt and whipped round, white with terror and holding his hands out in a pacifying gesture, his wand gripped tightly in one of them.
"Moony - Remus - listen to me, just listen, please -"
"Shut up!" Hatred like he'd never felt before was pounding through Remus's veins as he closed in. The lump in his throat was suppressed only by rage. "You son of a bitch, you piece of filth - they trusted you!"
"I know, but please, it isn't what you think -" Sirius was shaking like a leaf, not even trying to fight, but Remus didn't care; all he knew was that Lily and James' murderer was right here in front of him and he had to pay.
"How could you do that to them?" Remus roared, and his voice broke, the tears escaping at last as sobs wracked his body. He forced himself to keep his wand steady, aimed at Sirius's throat not ten feet away, but the sheer raw grief and rage and pain was close to breaking him. "James trusted you! He trusted you for ten years, he gave you a home, and you betrayed him!"
"I didn't..." Sirius choked through his tears. "Please, Moony, listen to me -"
"Don't call me that! You don't have the right!" Several sparks shot out of his wand, and Sirius fell silent, wide-eyed with fright. Remus took a few moments to steady himself before he spoke again, more quietly but in a bitter tone with a deadly edge. "You were their Secret-Keeper. Dumbledore knew it, I knew it, everyone who needed to know knew you were protecting them. But we all knew there was a spy somewhere in the Order, didn't we? Someone was telling Voldemort everything they could about Lily and James. And you - you pointed the finger at me. Trying to deflect the blame from yourself, right?" His voice was rising again. "Trying to deflect attention? Oh, no, it can't possibly be Sirius, James trusts Sirius, why don't we blame Remus, everyone knows you can't trust a werewolf!"
"That wasn't what I meant..." Sirius managed brokenly at last, trying without success to wipe his tears away. "Please - Remus, just listen for one moment, please, I can explain, it wasn't me!"
This was too much. Remus lunged and seized Sirius by the collar, shoving him up against the wall with the wand pressed to his neck, ignoring the look of absolute fear etched on the smaller man's face. "You were their Secret-Keeper! Who else could it have been? You sold them out to Voldemort! Was it worth it, Sirius? Were your precious Dark Lord's promises worth murdering James for?"
"I didn't! Please, Remus, please just let me explain!" Sirius was gripping Remus's wrist, feebly trying to pull it away, crying nearly too hard to speak again. "Please, I can tell you what happened, I swear it wasn't me..."
Remus felt his stomach churning as his certainty slipped, just a little. He had only ever seen Sirius in this state of complete breakdown once before - the day he'd confessed to having told Snape about the Shrieking Shack, the day he'd been accused of betraying a friend. He didn't know what to do. Maybe it was real, maybe Sirius meant it, maybe there was some rationalisation for the fact Voldemort had found Lily and James... but equally, it could just be a masterful ploy to make him drop his guard. If he did, and Sirius was just that little bit faster...
"Give me your wand," he said finally.
Sirius stared at him. "...What?"
"Give me your wand," Remus repeated slowly, "and I'll listen. That's the deal. Right now I don't even trust you as far as I could throw you."
Sirius closed his eyes, clearly stung, and swallowed hard against the tip of the wand still digging into his throat. "...Here," he breathed, holding out his wand handle first.
Remus snatched it and leapt back, well out of arm's reach. He kept his own wand trained on the unarmed man in front of him, but he was no longer poised to strike instantly. "Fine," he said slowly, "explain. Explain to me how Voldemort found Lily and James and Harry without you selling them out to him."
Rubbing at the mark on his neck, Sirius looked up, his gaze flicking nervously from his own wand to Remus's to his friend's cold eyes, and drew a shuddering breath. "I - I did agree to be their Secret-Keeper first," he said slowly. "James wanted me to. I'd have done it. But then I figured - I was the obvious choice. Voldemort'd come after me in an instant. I wasn't afraid of that," he added sharply. "I just thought... why not put him off the scent? Pick someone we could trust who wouldn't be suspected, someone nobody ever seems to think knows anything, and that way even if he did come after me there was no risk. Even if I died, even if somehow he managed to - to break me, I wouldn't be able to give him something I didn't have."
Remus's lips thinned. "So. You're saying you picked someone else you thought you could trust to keep Lily and James safe."
Sirius nodded, battling a lump in his throat for several long moments. "I'm so sorry," he choked finally. "I - I persuaded them to use Peter instead of me."
It felt as though a lump of ice had dropped into Remus's stomach. The reasoning behind the plan made enough sense not to be dismissed out of hand... but again, how could he be sure this wasn't more of an elaborate excuse? "So you swapped places with Peter and didn't tell anyone?" he asked, with an insistent little gesture indicating Sirius had better keep talking.
"Yeah." Sirius's voice was bitter. "You know what people think, nobody would ever think to go after him for something that important. I thought he'd be the perfect person to do it. So we did it, James and Lily agreed, and we said we'd pretend it was still me to keep things off Peter. And then I went to see him last night to check he was okay and he wasn't there, it was all too quiet, so I went to Godric's Hollow just to make sure and - and -" He sank to the floor, head in his hands, nearly incoherent through his renewed tears. "I - I saw the house - blown out - and I knew what'd happened - I saw Hagrid t-taking Harry away - he wouldn't let me take care of him - and then I saw - oh, Merlin, I saw James just - just left there in the hall - and Lily - and I should've been there, I should've trusted you, not Peter, I'm so sorry, Moony, please, I was so stupid to ever think it could've been you, I was stupid and I didn't think and it's all my fault..." He trailed off, his broken sobs coming more quietly now.
Remus watched him, feeling sick and uncertain. Whether Sirius was telling the truth or not - and on the balance of what he'd seen and heard so far Remus was starting to believe him - one of his closest friends was a traitor. One of the boys he'd grown up with, come to love like brothers, trusted with everything, had turned on them, and he could feel the foundations of his world crumbling beneath his feet.
"Why did you -" He stopped, gulped, and tried to clear his throat. "If you're not the one who betrayed them, why did you run when I saw you? Why not stop and explain?"
"I thought you were from the Ministry," Sirius said weakly, wiping at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "I didn't see you properly, and I thought you were c-coming to arrest me. I panicked. I can't go to the Ministry, not yet."
"What do you mean yet?"
Sirius's hands closed into fists, the knuckles turning white, and despite the tearstains on his face he looked suddenly savage as he met Remus's gaze. "I need to find Peter. I need to make him pay. Once I've done that the Ministry can do what they like."
"If he's the one who sold them out then you didn't do anything worth punishing, and the Ministry should be the ones who deal with him," Remus said sharply. "Not you."
"They'll never bloody find him!" Sirius snarled. "I was looking for him, I can find him, that son of a -"
"We'll find him."
“W-what?” Sirius looked up, frowning. “You can’t think -”
“I’m coming with you. If you’re telling the truth then it’ll be easier to take him down, and if you’re lying I can make sure you don’t try to modify his memory. Either way we find the right person, and then whoever it is gets handed over to the Aurors.” Cold logic was taking over now; it was easier to think about plans and calculate risks than it was to dwell on the raw grief gnawing at his heart. “He thinks you’re the only person who knows it was him, right? He won’t know you’ve told me?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.” Sirius seemed almost relieved that someone else was thinking this through; he was looking slightly dazed by it all.
“Then we find him, I’ll talk to him, and you hit him from behind. Without drawing the attention of half the street. It’s another Order mission, understand? Quick and quiet.”
“Order mission. Right.” Sirius nodded slightly, still looking slightly vague.
Remus sighed and held out his hand. “Come on. Get up.” Pulling Sirius to his feet, he looked him over with a little frown and gave him a shake. “Pay attention. We need to find Peter. You’ll need this.” He held out the elaborately carved wand, and after a moment’s hesitation Sirius took it, stowing it in his jacket. It seemed to wake him up a bit. “You think you know where he’ll be?”
“I have a hunch.” Sirius’s expression was more focused again; back on the trail, alert, and eager, with a grim set to his jaw. “I’m sure I was close when you saw me.”
“Then lead the way.” Remus wasn’t going to let Sirius get behind him just yet.
They had been searching for over an hour, and he was beginning to feel like this was searching for a needle in a haystack, when Sirius stopped short and ducked into an alley. Remus followed quickly, hand diving inside his coat, and hissed, “Did you see him?”
“Yes, but he didn’t see me. He was looking the other way.”
“You’re sure? If there’s a chance he -”
“I’m sure. Can we just get him, before he crawls back into his hidey-hole?”
Remus sighed and glanced back out. Peter was clearly visible, but walking away from them, and seemingly in a hurry. “I’ll get ahead of him and start talking. You follow up and be ready to Stun him the second you get a chance.”
Without leaving any time for arguments, he Apparated down to the next alley over, and stepped out, making his way back up the street. In the distance he saw the flicker of black that he knew was Sirius, coming down towards him, and between them, unaware that he was being hunted, was Peter.
His heart pounded; Peter looked worried, but so blissfully innocent of any wrongdoing that Remus’s nerve almost began to falter. It couldn’t really be quiet little Peter who’d turned coat… but then, he reminded himself forcefully, suspicion was landing everywhere it shouldn’t these days, even on him. No, he’d carry out the plan and make an informed decision.
A few moments later, he was running up to his old friend, doing his best to look panicked and afraid. “Peter - thank Merlin, I found you!”
The flash of fright that crossed Peter’s face was like a punch to the gut; there was no need, no need at all, for him to be so afraid of Remus, not if he was innocent. “Peter - Peter, it’s fine, it’s just me!” he said hastily, raising his hand pacifyingly. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere - the news - I just heard - has anyone told you yet?”
Peter frowned. “What news? Is something wrong?” He peered closer. “Remus, have - have you been crying?”
The lump rose back into his throat at the question, but he fought it. He couldn’t break down on a busy street, not in the middle of this… “Nobody’s even bothered to let you know, have they?” he said hoarsely. “About - about Lily and James.”
There was no mistaking it that time; guilt flickered in Peter’s eyes, and he looked away. “N-no… what about them?”
Sirius was just a few feet away now, but Remus deliberately kept his gaze on Peter, on the one he was suddenly sure was the real threat. Choked up, blinking rapidly, he reached out to grasp his friend’s shoulder. “He found them, Peter... Voldemort. He found them.”
There was silence for a split second, and then the smaller man dropped to the ground. As a couple of passers-by gasped and pointed, Remus dropped to his knees beside Peter, all concern. He glanced up at Sirius, who was sliding his wand back up his sleeve, and frowned. Sirius just shook his head slightly and crouched beside him. “Stunned, that’s all, I swear.”
“Help me get him back to my place,” Remus said quietly, giving the Muggle passers-by a reassuring nod. “It’s fine, he’s a friend of ours, just had some bad news. We’ll take care of him.” Between them the two young men heaved Peter up, slung his arms around their shoulders, and stumbled away towards the nearest alley to Apparate.
A few minutes later, Peter was sprawled on Remus’s tattered old sofa, still out cold, and Sirius was hovering uncertainly by the living room door. “How are you going to - to tell if he…”
“I’ll know.” Remus had already taken Peter’s wand, and was watching him closely for any signs of waking. “As soon as he sees you, I’ll know.” Biting his lip, he turned an Anti-Disapparation Jinx on the unconscious man and stepped back. “Just be ready. If it is him and he tries to run it’s going to take both of us.”
Sirius was still unusually subdued; whether it was from grief, fear of losing his one chance to clear his name, or just worrying about setting Remus off again was unclear, but he nodded quietly and raised his wand towards Peter. With a quiet sigh, Remus took aim and murmured, “Rennervate.”
A quiet groan broke the silence. Peter stirred feebly, then struggled against the coils of the Anti-Disapparation Jinx as he came quickly to full consciousness. His eyes flicked from Remus to Sirius, and he shrank back, a look of absolute terror and guilt plastered across his face. “S-Sirius - please - don’t -”
“I ought to rip you limb from fucking limb,” Sirius snarled quietly. Remus placed his free hand on Sirius’s wand arm and pushed it down slightly.
“Let me deal with this,” he said, calmly, coolly. “Peter? I think you need to explain a few things.”
“What has he told you?” Peter spluttered. “Don’t believe him, Remus, you can’t -”
“Then you give me a better explanation as to why Lily and James are lying dead in the remains of their own home.” Despite not raising his voice, Remus knew he sounded far more dangerous than he had when screaming at Sirius.
At every word Peter flinched, and finally he broke down, crying pathetically. “You - you don’t understand, the things he d-did, Remus, what he threatened -”
“What who threatened, Peter? I thought you just said not to believe anything Sirius told me.”
“He made me, I couldn’t stand up to him, I’m not as strong as you -”
“Tell me!” Remus snapped.
But Peter was beyond anything more than blubbering and begging them to understand. With tears burning his eyes, Remus shook his head and glanced at Sirius. He was too drained to start shouting again; a kind of bitter, miserable weariness had settled over his shoulders as the truth sank in at last. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I shouldn’t ever have doubted you.”
“Makes two of us. Forget about it, Moony.” Sirius managed a very faint smile before turning back to Peter. A moment later, thin cords had wrapped themselves around the traitor, leaving him completely helpless. “I guess we need to figure out what to do with this.”
“Well, we can’t go marching into the Ministry with him ourselves, if they think you’re the one they might be looking for.” Remus raked a hand through his hair. “I guess we’ll have to call Dumbledore. At least we can be fairly sure he’ll hear you out, and even if he’s run ragged today this is too important for him not to deal with.”
“Sounds good. Hope he doesn’t take too long.” Sirius nodded slightly and the corner of his mouth twitched; he was clearly trying to put up a brave front, despite his red-rimmed eyes, his tearstained face, and his wand trembling as he kept it levelled at Peter. “Will you call him, then? Please?”
“‘Course.” With a little squeeze to Sirius’s shoulder, Remus turned away and began trying to send out a message. It was the most difficult Patronus he had ever attempted to make; any memory happy enough to power it slipped away whenever he tried to formulate the message.
It was almost a full quarter of an hour before the silvery wolf finally soared away, and he came back to join Sirius in guarding Peter.
Luckily for their nerves, it wasn’t more than about half an hour later when a polite knock sounded on the door. Sirius, who had been getting more and more twitchy, nearly jumped out of his skin at the noise, and Peter actually whimpered in fright. Keeping a firm grip on his own nerves, Remus went to answer, and let out a weak sigh of relief on seeing the familiar silver-bearded figure. “Sir,” he murmured respectfully, stepping back to let Dumbledore in and closing the door hastily behind him.
“Remus,” Dumbledore replied, inclining his head as he paused in the hallway. Keeping his voice hushed, he added, “You’re quite sure about this? It is a most grave matter…”
“Sirius has me convinced,” Remus said firmly, “and Peter’s reactions to being confronted with it told me he’s guilty. You know the last thing I’d ever want to do is point the finger at either of them, Professor, but I do sincerely believe it.”
Dumbledore regarded him in silence for a few seconds, apparently mulling this over, and then nodded. “Very well. I respect your opinions on this, though I feel I must judge for myself as well.”
“By all means. They’re just through there.”
Peter actually shrieked on seeing the Headmaster of Hogwarts appear in the doorway and struggled desperately to escape, staring at him in terror. Dumbledore held his gaze, unmoving, for several long moments; slowly, the twinkle faded from those old, keen blue eyes, as Peter tried unsuccessfully to look away, sobbing. Finally Dumblefore shook his head, silenced Peter’s whimpering with a flick of his wand and turned to Sirius. “Remus has already advised me of what you told him,” he said. “But I would like to hear it from you.”
Sirius sank into a chair heavily, like a puppet with all its strings suddenly cut, and nodded. Staring at his hands, he began to speak, his voice growing thick as he outlined the plan he’d cooked up in his efforts to protect the Potters. Remus waited beside him, one hand resting on his friend’s shoulder in an attempt to share some sympathy - it couldn’t be any easier telling the tale again. Dumbledore, settled in another chair, listened in silence for the most part, only speaking occasionally to ask for further details or clarification.
When at last Sirius had described Peter’s capture and fallen silent with a shuddering breath, his head bowed as though under a heavy weight of guilt, Dumbledore continued to watch him intently for a few moments before saying anything more himself. “I find myself more than willing to accept your tale, Sirius,” he said gently. “I will take Mr. Pettigrew to the Ministry myself and explain the matter. You need not fear that they will come after you. There will have to be a trial, of course, to officially determine what will happen, but that will take a little time at least.”
“That’s fine. As long as he stays out of my sight.” Sirius darted a glance full of loathing at Peter, who had long since given up struggling. “If I see him loose again I’ll kill him and to hell with the Ministry.”
“That goes for both of us,” Remus cut in, his fingers digging into Sirius’s shoulder slightly; he could feel his own stomach coil with loathing every time he looked at Peter.
“An understandable reaction, given the circumstances,” Dumbledore agreed, getting to his feet. “However, I can assure you it won’t be necessary. I’ll take him there at once.” He grasped Peter’s shoulder and, with surprising strength, hauled him to his feet.
Sirius shifted in his seat, and after a moment burst out, “Wait. I have to know - what’s going to happen to Harry now? Hagrid didn’t say much other than you’d decided where he was going. Why can’t he stay with me?”
Dumbledore sighed. “This is not the moment to discuss it.”
“He’s my godson!” Sirius pushed himself to his feet, and Remus was hard put to it to hold him back; the last thing they needed was for him to hit Dumbledore, regardless of how upset he was. “I promised them if anything happened it’d be me who took care of him! What makes your decision better than theirs?”
“Sirius. Please.” The old man held up his free hand, and grudgingly Sirius fell silent. Privately, Remus couldn’t help but agree with his friend; surely Lily and James’ wishes were more important. “I cannot go into my reasoning at this moment, but I can assure you that my decisions have only Harry’s safety in mind. I will give you as full an explanation as I can the next time we meet.”
“And when’s that going to be?” Sirius challenged him. “A week? A month? I need to know what makes you so sure he’ll be all right. You can’t just leave me waiting!”
There was a moment’s silence as Dumbledore considered this. “Give me two days. That will ensure ample time to complete what I have to do, and then, Sirius, you have my word you will know.”
“And then I’ll get to see him?”
The silence was distinctly more uncertain this time. “...We will discuss that as well. I do not wish to talk any further about the matter at this precise moment.” He managed to indicate Peter, who was clearly listening avidly, and Sirius’s lip curled.
“Fine. Two days.”
“Very good. Now, if you will excuse me…”
Remus shifted away from the door in silence. He wanted to know about Harry as well, but there really wasn’t any point trying to argue right now. Dumbledore nodded to them, but there were no more words spoken until he had left the flat and Disapparated with his thoroughly reluctant passenger in tow.
The second they were alone again, Sirius swore, yanked away from Remus’s grip and kicked the nearest wall, leaving an impressive dent in the plaster. “Two days! Two sodding days! He had better have a really good bloody explanation to come back with!”
“He wouldn’t risk Harry any further, not with Death Eaters still running wild,” Remus pointed out quietly. Somehow it was easier to keep being the quiet rational one when faced with Sirius in a temper; it always had been, because Peter never dared say a word and James tended to fumble and get emotional and make things worse. “I know this isn’t what you want right now - believe me, I’d rather he was here with us - but please, try to accept that Dumbledore’s got a good plan. He took care of looking after Harry while we were running around searching for each other and Peter, I think he has his priorities straight.”
“...Yeah, that’s true.” Sirius’s voice was sullen, but he was no longer on the verge of hitting the nearest solid object. He flung himself down on the sofa instead, running a hand through his hair in frustration. “I know he’s right, I just… fuck, why does this all have to be such a goblin-damned mess?”
“Because if it was easy, we wouldn’t be dealing with it.” Remus took the empty space on the sofa, leaning his head on his hand. “We’ll figure it out, Padfoot. I don’t know how, but somehow, we’ll figure this out.”
The courtroom was crowded to absolute capacity, but almost entirely silent. The air was thick with tension; very few people knew the full reason behind this particular hearing, and the pre-trial report had only stirred public interest up.
Two of the people who knew the truth were sitting in the very front row of the public gallery, ignoring everything that was going on behind them in favour of watching the empty chair in the middle of the room.
“We don’t have to stay and watch this, you know,” Remus said quietly. This was going to hurt them both, he knew it, and he didn’t think he could stand to see Sirius break down in front of everyone. “We can wait outside and -”
“No.” Sirius’s voice was flat. “I need to see this. I want to watch him get what he deserves. At least that’s one thing I can do.”
Remus sighed and gave up. He knew Sirius was still seething over the talk they’d had with Dumbledore as promised; no matter how reasonable it was that some ancient magic was warding Harry as long as he was with Lily’s sister, the fact remained that Sirius felt it was wrong to leave his best friend’s son with a woman who thoroughly disliked him. The only ray of hope in it all was that Dumbledore had agreed to negotiate regular visits for them with Petunia; Sirius had made it extremely clear that one way or another he would be checking up on Harry, and Remus, having crossed paths with the Dursleys once (and once had been enough), had backed him up strenuously.
The faint murmurs that had been drifting around the room stopped immediately as Bartemius Crouch gestured for silence. His face was grim, and he looked rather worn - as well he might, Remus thought, given he’d been dealing with trials for days now - but alert and confident.
“Bring him in,” he said, and the door opened. There was a susurration of movement as people craned their heads to see, and a few stifled gasps as Peter was escorted into the room between a pair of Dementors, white as a sheet and looking more sick and terrified than Remus had ever seen him before. Oddly enough, he felt only the faintest twinge of pity. The knowledge of what Peter had done only made him seem more like a snivelling worm, and Remus kept wondering how he couldn’t have seen it before.
Moments later, with Peter securely bound to the chair, Crouch broke the silence once more with a brief summation of the court formalities. “Peter Pettigrew,” he continued, “you have been charged with the crime of providing vital information to He Who Must Not Be Named, which enabled him to locate and murder Lily and James Potter, of Godric’s Hollow, and to make an attempt on the life of their son Harry.” Gasps of disbelief went up from the gallery, but Crouch forged on, undeterred. “You are also charged with providing information to your fellow Death Eaters -” Another, more widespread gasp nearly drowned him out. “- that led to the torture and murder of a number of witches and wizards over this past year, most notably the McKinnon family...”
Remus felt as though he was about to be sick. A year? An entire year and nobody had suspected a thing? As for the McKinnons… he’d seen Marlene there, sprawled among the debris with her family, eyes blank and unseeing, when just a few days earlier she’d been alive and laughing and ready to fight for the Order in any way she could. And Peter had done that… Peter had sold her out too…
“..and finally, the attempted murder of a number of Aurors whilst trying to escape from the Ministry,” Crouch concluded, breaking Remus’s train of thought and bringing him back to the present. “You have confessed to each of these crimes in the presence of numerous witnesses. I ask my colleagues to raise their hands if they believe that this merits a life sentence in Azkaban.”
Remus’s knuckles whitened as he gripped the arms of his seat. Beside him, Sirius had just gone as tense as a bowstring. Convict him, send him there, never let him out...
Though clearly shaken by the list of crimes, the Wizengamot raised their hands almost in unison. Peter shrieked, writhing against his chains. “No! No! I didn’t mean to! He made me, he made me! I had no choice! Please!”
Looking around desperately, he spotted two familiar figures at the forefront of the silent gallery. “Sirius! Remus! Please! I’m your friend, you know me, I never meant to do it! Don’t let them!”
“Take him to Azkaban!” Crouch thundered. The door opened again, and the Dementors entered, filling the room with their bitter chill once more. Peter struggled desperately, screaming, begging and pleading, and the crowd, stirred at last, began to hurl abuse at him as he was lifted from the seat, but through it all Sirius and Remus remained unmoving, stony-faced, all but numb to the the tumult around them.
If this was what getting justice felt like, Remus thought, then it felt as hollow as the place in his heart that James and Lily had so recently filled. Locking Peter up, no matter how he’d fought to see it happen, wouldn’t bring them back.
As Peter was dragged helplessly through the courtroom door and it slammed shut behind him, Sirius pushed himself sharply to his feet. “I need to get out of here,” he said shortly. “Coming?”
“By all means.” Remus got up and followed him out of the room, edging past the raging crowd, and they made their way out of the Ministry without a word. It wasn’t until they were out on the street again, in the shadows of a murky November evening in London, that Sirius spoke again.
“I guess that’s it, then,” he said quietly, gazing down the little alley at nothing much. “It’s done with.”
“Peter’s where he should be,” Remus agreed. “And now we can start trying to rebuild what he broke.”
“Trying, yeah.” There was silence for a few more moments before Sirius let out a little noise that was half-sigh, half-sob. “What can we do, Moony? Everything I was doing with my life was… well…”
“Fighting a war with James alongside us,” Remus supplied quietly. “I know. We never really thought about what would happen afterwards.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Sirius whispered, looking more lost and desperate and childlike than ever before. A lump rising into his throat, Remus took two quick steps and pulled him into a fierce hug.
“We’ll work it out,” he said hoarsely. “We’ll take time and get through this and we’ll work something out. For Harry.”
This seemed to stiffen Sirius’s resolve, and he hugged back tightly. “...Yeah. For Harry.” He clung to Remus for a few seconds longer before letting go, almost reluctantly. “Thanks. For still being here.”
“Somebody needs to keep an eye on you.” Remus managed to smile slightly. “I may as well make it into a full-time career.”
Sirius actually let out a bark of laughter, weak and subdued though it was, and wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand. “Fine by me. Merlin knows I probably need someone.”
“There is no probably about it, Padfoot.” It felt easier, now, to joke a bit, to act as though things were possibly going to be all right again, some day. “Come on. Let’s go back to your place and get some sleep.” Slinging their arms around each other’s shoulders, the pair made their way back out into the busy streets.
Nothing was ever going to be the way it had been before. Too many terrible things had happened for normality to ever be truly… well, normal again. But maybe, just maybe, they could make something worth living for.