Author's Note: AU ... this fic came to me in my dreams, like so many of my stories do.

Disclaimer: I don't own it, nobody said I own it, you can't prove I own it.

* * *

Life Debts

I still fear the full moon,
when I see it in the sky.
You saved me from the beast,
And I still don't know why.
But when you needed saving,
from the darker beast's wrath.
What if I'd helped you?
Taken the less chosen path?
~ by Sarah

* * * Hallowe'en 1981 * * *

"I now know where to find them." the Dark Lord announced, as he entered the room, and approached the gathered Death Eaters. None of the masked men were brave enough to ask what their master meant, so he continued, regardless of their fearful silence, "The Potters' Secret Keeper has told me where to find them." Now this made some more sence to the Death Eaters, and some excited whispers spread through the circle. They were silenced quickly, when the Dark Lord spoke again, "I will be dealing with them, personally. I will go to Godric's Hollow tonight. However, I will require a distraction - Severus, Lucius - you will ensure that Dumbledore and the Ministry do not discover what is happening until it is too late." the two Death Eaters whose names had been called nodded obediently - it was more than obvious to them that the Dark Lord had implied that Severus was to distract Albus Dumbledore, and Lucius was to distract the Ministry. "Good." the Dark Lord said, on seeing his followers' subservient reactions, "The attack will be in one hour - all I ask is that you maintain the distraction until then." With that, the Dark Lord turned, and swept imperiously out of the room.

Severus Snape bit his lip, nervously, under his mask ... the Potters were going to get it, now. This thought should have made him feel better than it did - he had always hated James Potter, but ... he still couldn't deny that he owed his life to James. As he followed Lucius out of the secret underground complex that the Dark Lord had made his command-center, Severus concidered his options. If he told Albus what was going on, he would be sure to be found out as a double-agent ... he didn't really know what to do. He removed his Death Eater mask, and Apparated. He wasn't quite sure why he didn't go straight to Hogsmeade, but he did know what he was doing when he got where he was going.

* * *

The young man watched from the doorway of the nursery, as the beautiful red-haired young woman sat next to the crib, watching her son. Her dazzling green eyes were alight with happiness, just at the sight of the now-sleeping child - she hadn't noticed the boy's father was watching her. The child was an exact-replica of a younger version of his father - at least when he was asleep, he was - his eyes were just as startling as his mother's. The black-haired baby made a strange noise that was a cross between a gurgle and a giggle, before rolling over onto his side. His mother smiled, and stood up, to walk over to the man who was standing in the doorway.

"Sleeping at last?" James asked.

"Finally ... I don't know why he's so irritable tonight." Lily responded.

"It's probably the weather ... it feels like a storm's coming." James said - he was always able to sense bad weather, maybe Harry could too.

Lily nodded, taking one last glance back at the sleeping child, before they both returned to the living room. She double-checked the baby-monitor-charms that she had set up over a year ago ... they were all in working order, as usual, but she always felt she had to check. James settled down on the sofa, and was soon joined by his wife. Just at that exact moment, the doorbell rang. Lily looked up, startled, "Who could that be?" she asked.

"I don't know ... the Charm should only let Peter visit - he's the only one who knows where to find us." James said, uncertainly, "And Peter said he couldn't visit tonight." he added, his voice now taking on an air of caution, and mild fear. Not even the tirck-or-treaters, who had shown up on their doorstep last Hallowe'en, would be able to make an appearance here - the Fidleus Charm made them believe this house was deserted.

"It's hardly likely to be Voldemort - he wouldn't ring the bell." Lily joked ... James didn't laugh - it really wasn't funny.

James stood up, walked out into the hall, and glanced out through the window in the door - a hooded figure, about James' height, who's face he couldn't see, was standing outside. James frowned - Peter was signifigantly shorter than him - Voldemort was definitely a lot taller - James couldn't think who this might be. He opened the door, a crack, and said, "Yes?"

"Potter ... you need to leave here, now." the familiar cold voice of Severus Snape said, smoothly.

"And why is that?" James asked, trying to sound superior, speaking to his one-time rival (who he knew perfectly well was a Death Eater).

"How do you think I found you?" Severus asked.

James raised an eyebrow, "You tell me." he said.

"Your Secret Keeper obviously wasn't up to the task." Severus said, coldly (he, like everyone else, assumed that the Secret Keeper was Sirius), "Voldemort will be here in about half an hour, and I am supposed to be at Hogwarts ensuring that Dumbledore doesn't find out that you are going to be gruesomely murdered in half an hour's time."

"Delightful." James muttered, "So why are you here?" he asked.

"I owe you. You saved my life ... now I'm returning the favour." Severus said, simply.

James frowned. The only way Severus could have found out where they were would be if Peter had told someone. James wasn't sure if Severus was telling the truth, or not ... but even if he wasn't, there was still a danger, now that their secret was out. "All right. I believe you." James said, even though it wasn't exactly true, "We'll leave."

Severus nodded, and immediately Disapparated. James noted that he hadn't even seen Severus' face - not that you could mistake that voice - but he really must have been afraid of getting caught here.

* * *

When James returned to the living room, his face was noticably paler than usual. "James, what's wrong? Who was that?" Lily asked, in a frightened tone.

"We're leaving, now." James said. He then turned to face his wife, who now looked confused, as well as frightened, "The Secret Keeper was the traitor." James told her, "That was Severus Snape - he came to warn us that Voldemort will be here tonight - I don't know if I believe him, but if he could find us, then we're no longer safe here." with that, James ran up the stairs, two-at-a-time, and into their bedroom, to gather as many of their belongings as he could carry (which, accounting for shrinking charms and feather-weight charms, is a Hell of a lot). Lily immediately ran into the nursery, and packed a bag of Harry's things, before shrinking it into her pocket, and picking up the child, who squirmed, and then looked straight at her with an expression that seemed to say, 'So you've figured out what's going on, now? Took you long enough'. Lily frowned - maybe that was why Harry had been so upset earlier.

Lily emerged from the nursery, at the exact moment that James appeared, carrying a small duffle-bag (which happened to contain most of their furniture, clothes, and valuables). "Where do we go?" Lily asked, nervously. James brushed past her, shrunk the crib, and added it to his bag, before turning to face Lily, "Hogwarts?" she suggested.

"I don't know ... I think that's too obvious." James said, frowning, as if in deep thought.

"Sirius'?" Lily asked.

Harry turned round, in her arms, to face his father, and shouted, "Pafoo!"

James looked at his son, with an odd expression - the boy seemed to like Sirius as much as, if not more than his own father, "That might be alright." James said, smiling nervously, at his son.

Lily was looking around their house - it was no longer a home, for all the things that made it a home were packed in James' bag. "But what'll happen when Voldemort finds that we're not here?" she asked.

"He'll either think we're hiding somewhere, and blow up the whole house ... or he'll punish Peter. I'm kind of hoping for the latter." James said, his face set in a scowl.

Lily hugged Harry closer to her, and asked, "How long?"

"Snape said it would be half an hour ... that was twenty-five minutes ago." James said, looking at his watch, "We'd better Apparate - for all we know, there could be Death Eaters surrounding the house already."

Lily nodded, and turned her attention to the baby in her arms, "Ready, Harry?" she asked. The child looked up at her with a frown. Lily had never Apparated with her son, before - it is quite dangerous to Apparate with another person, the risk of cross-splinching (body parts ending up on the wrong person) is quite high, even for people who have a full Apparating licence. But this was an emergency, and she didn't have a choice. James Disapparated first, and Lily hesitated, before following him, to Sirius' flat.

* * *

The black-haired man was lying, half-asleep, on the couch in his flat. He had been reading a book about Animagi - what your animal means about your personality - but he had long since abandoned that (ironically, on the chapter just before rodents). He was now contemplating whether he should bother getting up to get something to eat, or just go to sleep properly. He had just made up his mind, to fall asleep properly, when ...

"What the Hell...?" Sirius asked, jumping to his feet, as two of his best friends suddenly Apparated into his living room.

"Hi Sirius." James said, cordially.

"What are you two doing here? You should know better than to just Apparate into my flat without asking ... especially on a Saturday night." Sirius said, sounding both worried, and annoyed at the same time.

"When was the last time you ever had a girlfriend round here?" Lily asked, correctly guessing the source for Sirius' annoyance at them.

Sirius glared at Lily, but she just smirked. It was then that Sirius noticed that Lily had brought Harry with her, and James was carrying their travel bag. James never used that bag unless they were going somewhere, long term ... and Lily had vowed that she wound never Apparate with Harry, under any circunmstances ... so whatever reason they were there for was a big deal. "So what's wrong? Why are you here?" Sirius asked, sounding genuinely concerned, now.

"Snape showed up at our house, saying our Secret Keeper had told Voldemort where to find us." James said, "The tone in his voice, I'd guess he thought he was talking about you." he added, with a slight smirk.

"And you believed a word out of that slime-ball's mouth?" Sirius asked.

"If he could find us, then Peter has told someone - the secret had to be passed to Snape somehow. It's better safe than sorry." Lily said, hugging Harry, tightly. At this, Harry squirmed. Lily looked at him, disapprovingly, "What is it now?" she asked, with joke-sternness in her voice.

"Pafoo!" Harry yelled, still squirming.

"Does he ever get my name right?" Sirius joked.

"Never." James said, grinning. He then turned to Harry, and said, "And how do we annoy Padfoot?"

"Prongs!" Harry cheered, gleefully, reaching out to his father, as he said it.

James grinned manically, as Sirius glowered. "Hey," James said, defensively, "He's my son!"

"That's what you think." Sirius muttered.

"I heard that." James snarled.

Lily sniggered, slightly. "You act like you believed that, James." she said, as if she was insulted that he would concider the possiblilty. She knelt down, and let the squirming child go, on the ground.

Harry made his way, very quickly, across the floor to Sirius, who picked him, up. "Pafoo." Harry giggled.

"Aww, come on, Harry - my name is Padfoot." Sirius whined.

"Pafoo." Harry repeated, with a tone of finality.

Sirius shook his head sadly, looking defeated, "What am I going to do about you?" he asked. After thinking for a moment, Sirius decided a new approach, "O.K. what do we call Peter?" he asked.

"Rat!" Harry shouted, angrily.

"Um - last time I asked him that, he said Wormtail - I swear he did." James said, looking mildly confused.

"He is one smart kid - you know it was the rat that told on you, don't you?" Sirius asked, with a grin. Harry nodded, enthusiastically. "See? Smart kid ... wish I had someone that intelligent, to corrupt." Sirius said, wistfully.

"You do - you're his godfather." Lily pointed out.

* * *

Chaos reigned at the Ministry building. The blonde man just stood back, with a cold calculating air around him, and watched as the panicked Ministry workers ran around in circles trying to confirm or deny (preferably deny) what had happened. The attack had run according to plan, and Lucius was enjoying watching this scene of complete confusion. His attention was drawn to the Apparation point, where Albus Dumbledore had suddenly arrived, looking severely pissed off - Severus followed in his wake, looking nervous, and frankly frightened.

"What the Hell is wrong with you, Severus?" Lucius asked, in a hushed whisper too soft for Albus to hear, as he approached Severus.

"What do you think?" Severus snapped, also in a whisper, "Albus believes I'm spying on the Dark Lord - what do you think his reaction will be if he finds out I knew this attack was coming?" Severus lied. Lucius seemed convinced, and left to disrupt the investigation, some more. Severus was really worried because he thought James hadn't taken his advice - all indications so far pointed to the conclusion that the Potters were dead.

Severus followed Albus down a welcoming, and too-bloody-cheerful corridor, to the Magical Law Enforcement office. Albus knocked on the door, and a stern voice answered, "Come in." Both men entered the office, to find, again the too-bloody-cheerful theme had continued in here. A short, officious, and a-bit-bald man (with a moustache that reminded Severus of the Muggle tyrant, Hitler) sat behind an overly-large desk, "Ah, Albus ... glad you could make it." Barty Crouch said, by way of greeting.

"Have you confirmed it yet?" Albus asked, deliberately ignoring the formalities that should normally be observed.

"The house is in ruins, and we cannot find any trace of bodies." Crouch said, matter-of-factly, like this sort of thing was an everyday occurance to him.

"Then they could have left before it happened?" Severus suggested, hopefully.

"What reason would they have for that?" Crouch ased, irritably.

Severus glanced at Albus for a moment, before dropping the subject. Crouch didn't know that Severus was a Death Eater, and it was best kept that way.

Albus seemed to notice Severus' unease, but continued on another tangent, "We can assume, then, that their Secret Keeper informed Voldemort -" Crouch flinched as Albus said the name, but Severus didn't seem fazed by it, "- of their location."

"That would be the most logical explaination - the only other possibility is that He has taken to blowing up random houses and has impeccable luck." Severus said, dryly.

"Quite." Crouch said, with a hint of anger in his voice, as if; how dare Severus speak out of place in Crouch's presence.

"Are you just going to assume they are dead, without checking first?" Severus persisted, returning to the original subject.

"Well, obviously, we are in the middle of the investigation, as we speak ... however, all signs point to that conclusion." Crouch said, "And we are planning to bring their Secret Keeper in for questioning, as well." he added, with a self-satisfied smirk, which said all too clearly that he would enjoy the interrogation.

Albus nodded, sagely, "That is a wise choice, I believe James told me that they would be using Sirius Black as their Secret Keeper." he said.

* * *

The large black dog - Sirius' canine form - stalked down the street, intent on catching Peter, to bring the rat to justice. James had come up with an engenius plan whereby he, Lily and Harry stayed in Sirius' flat, and everyone continued to think they were dead, so that the Death Eaters wouldn't come after them. Sirius spotted the fat, blonde man talking to Remus (who Sirius would swear was starting to go grey, already) in the middle of the street, as if he had nothing to fear. Sirius transformed back into his human form - the street was full of Muggles (none of whom noticed the dog turn into a man in the middle of the street, but they're not very observant creatures, are Muggles), and Sirius figured that none of the three wizards, including himself, were stupid enough to try anything.

"Sirius," Remus snarled, angrily, while Peter cowered behind him, "I'm surprised you have the nerve to show your face, traitor."

Sirius blinked - Remus had called him a traitor. Sirius realised this must mean that Peter had been spreading rumours that Sirius had been the Secret Keeper - it was a common assumption, anyway, and Peter had just been talking to Remus, probably confirming that assumption. Sirius glared at Peter, with a homicidal glint in his eyes, but didn't say anything.

Peter simply smirked, behind Remus, so that Remus couldn't see the smirk, "Lily and James, Sirius, how could you?" he asked, in the best pass for an angry tone that his whiney voice could achieve.

Sirius watched Peter in a calculating way, for about a minute, before he held up his empty hands in the air, "You're right, Peter. I surrender. On condition that you both attend the trial." he said, forcing himself, with some difficulty, not to smirk at Peter's reaction - Peter had practically fallen over, with shock.

Remus took out his wand, and pointed it at Sirius, "All right, then," Remus said, coldly, "Vincio." and Sirius' hands were magically drawn behind his back, and bound with unbreakable ropes that hadn't existed a few minutes ago. Amazingly, none of the Muggles took any notice of this interaction. Remus and Peter escorted Sirius to the nearest Ministry outpost, from which he could be taken to the prisoner holding area, by Portkey.

While they were walking, Peter walked alongside Sirius, while Remus stayed back, holding Sirius at wandpoint. "What are you up to?" Peter asked.

"What do you think?" Sirius responded.

"You know, Dumbledore knows you're their Secret Keeper ... I know you're their Secret Keeper ... everyone knows, and there's no way you're going to keep out of Azkaban for this." Peter hissed.

"You think that, do you, rat?" Sirius asked, still fighting not to smirk.

"Are you going to answer me with anything other than a question?" Peter asked.

"Do you want me to?" Sirius asked, this time failing to keep the smirk off his face.

* * *

Crouch seemed exstatic at the opportunity to prosecute another suspected Death Eater, and this showed on his face. Albus, however, was much graver - more fitting for the situation. "Sirius." he said, in a sad voice that made Sirius feel like he had betrayed Albus, even though he was truely the innocent party.

"Professor Dumbledore." Sirius said, with a resigned expression on his face.

"He surrendered, without a fight, Sir." Remus reported, with a tone that indicated he was surprised by this.

"You think I wanted to fight my friend?" Sirius asked, in an incredulous tone - quite deliberately only saying the word 'friend', not 'friends', because Peter was not his friend anymore.

"You betrayed your friends." Peter said, quickly.

If it weren't for the bindings on his wrists, it would have been all Sirius could do to not kill Peter where he stood, "All right ... if you want to put it that way," Sirius said, through grited teeth, "You think I'd want to go up against the second-best duelist in our year?" he rephrased, glancing at Remus, who noticably blushed at the comment - Remus was too modest for his own good, he had all-but-refused to accept the award at the end of their seventh year, and he sure as Hell didn't want people mentioning it again. Sirius then glanced warily at Severus (who happened to have been the best duelist in their year), who Sirius knew had been the only reason James, Lily and little Harry were still alive - Sirius winked at Severus, it was an attempt to imply that Lily and James were safe and he knew Severus had been responsible for their survival. Severus misunderstood the wink, assuming Sirius was working for Voldemort and believed the same of Severus - the glare on Severus' face let it be all too clear exactly how much contempt he felt to Sirius - more so because he believed Sirius was the traitor, after all the trouble Severus had gone to, to defect to the side of Light Magic.

"We should get this interrogation over with." Severus said, with a glint in his eye that clearly indicated that he would be glad to see Sirius go to Azkaban, or worse.

"You know, Snape." Sirius said, lightly, "We always thought you'd be the first in our year to go to Azkaban." there was now a manic light in Sirius' eyes, "Wasn't that right, Remus?"

Remus scowled, "How can you be heartless enough to make jokes at a time like this?" he asked, harshly.

Sirius' expression instantly sobered, as he turned to face Remus, staring straight into Remus' eyes, "Remus, listen to me, please -" but he couldn't finish, because two burly security-guard-types had taken him by the arms, and were forcibly escorting him to the holding cells. Sirius turned his head, to look over his shoulder, "Remus, go to my flat - trust me." he called, desperately.

Remus scowled, and just as Sirius reached the door, he answered, "I don't think I'll ever trust you again." he said it in barely a whisper, but Sirius heard it ... and it was the worst thing Remus could have said to him.

* * *

Lily was pacing the living room of Sirius' flat, like a caged animal. Sirius had told them that he would be back by dawn, and it was now two in the afternoon. James was sitting on the couch, with his son sitting on the seat next to him - both boys looked very comfortable, and a picture of relaxation. "I thought the usual image was of a man pacing the room like that." James said, jokingly, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

Lily turned, and growled at James, causing him to cringe back into the cushions of the chair. "Sirius said he would be back by dawn - does it LOOK like anytime before dawn to you?" Lily snapped.

"Pafoo trouble?" Harry asked - his voice such a contrast to his mother's angry tone.

"Sirius can take care of himself." James said, casually.

"Pafoo trouble!" Harry repeated, this time it wasn't a question.

James turned to look at his son, who had a determined expression on his face. "Padfoot can take care of himself." he said, slowly. Then, for good measure, James stuck out his tongue, in a childish gesture that said 'I win this argument'.

Harry immediately repeated the action - the childishness didn't seem so ridiculous when a real child was doing it.

James scowled, and crossed his eyes.

Harry crossed his eyes, too, but still had his tongue sticking out.

All this exchange between the two boys achieved was to make Lily laugh. "You are so immature, Harry ... you must take after your father." she joked.

James immediately sobered, and looked up at his wife, "You really think Sirius might be in trouble?" he asked.

"Yes!" Harry answered, in spite of the fact that the question wasn't directed at him.

"Yes." Lily repeated, glancing at her son, for a second, before returning her attention to James, "I think we should go and find him." she added.

"We're not supposed to be recognised. What if the Death Eaters track us down?" James asked.

At that moment, both adults jumped, because there was a sound of a key turning in the lock of the front door. They both hid, where they had a good view of the door, but anyone entering wouldn't see them right away. This attempt at security was ruined entirely, when Harry jumped off the couch, and ran (a little wobbly, but he was still working on the walking thing, at this age) to the door, shouting, "Moony!"

True enough, it was Remus who entered the flat, "Harry?" he asked, in a totally amazed tone, picking up the young child, and glancing around the room, "You here alone?" he asked.

"Of course not." James snapped, as he emerged from the shadows. The shock of seeing James - obviously alive and well, when he had assumed that James had been killed when Voldemort blew up the house in Godric's Hollow - was enough to make Remus nearly drop Harry ... luckily his reactions were quick enough to catch the child before he fell.

"James?! You're alive?! Everyone thought you were killed ... your house was blown up." Remus said, weakly. Lily, meanwhile, had silently approached, from behind Remus, and tapped him on the shoulder. This time, Remus did drop Harry, but James had seen it coming, and caught his son. Now James had an excuse not to let Remus hold Harry ... not that he'd use it. Remus turned around to see who was behind him, "Lily!" he said, in shock.

"Maybe you want to sit down, Remus?" Lily suggested, kindly.

Remus took her advice, and sat on the nearest chair (which happened to be the least comfortable one in the flat, but he really wasn't caring about that, at the moment). "Why did you come here ... Sirius was your Secret Keeper - you know he had to be the one -" Remus started.

But James interrupted, "Sirius was not the Secret Keeper - he was the decoy." he said, slowly, as if he was trying to explain quantum theory to a two-year-old, "Peter was the real Secret Keeper. Peter is the traitor. Peter is the one who's been feeding information to Voldemort for the last six months."

"P-Peter?" Remus asked, "Was the traitor?"

"Yes." all three Potters answered.

The fact that Harry answered as well startled Remus, but he ignored it in favour of more pressing matters, "Sirius is going to have a hearing in two hours - Peter is a witness, and apparently you told DUMBLEDORE that you would be using Sirius as the Secret Keeper - you're the only ones who could prove his innocence."

"Yeah - that was a stupid idea - we should have just used Dumbledore in the first place, huh?" James asked.

"Yes, you should have - think yourselves lucky your alive ... and how did you survive, anyway?" Remus asked.

"Snape warned us." Lily said, softly, "He showed up at our house and told us we had to get out - that Voldemort would attack in half an hour. We didn't really believe him, but the logic was that if Snape could find us, then we weren't safe there, anyway."

"Snape ... saved your lives?" Remus asked, in the most disbelieving tone he could muster through the shock of what Lily had just told him.

"That's about right, yes." James said, with an ironic tone in his voice, "He said he owed me. I saved his life ... and he was returning the favour. Guess we're finally even, now, after I foiled Sirius' murder attempt."

"Don't remind me about that." Remus muttered, remembering the morning after that particular full moon.

* * * X * * * Flashback * * * X * * *

Remus woke up in the Shrieking Shack, as usual. But he had a splitting headache, and there was blood on his hands - human blood. He looked in the broken mirror in the bedroom of the Shack - no blood on his face - that, at least, was a good sign. He cleaned his hands on some of the tattered and shredded sheets, before returning to the school. He arrived in the Infirmary a bit later than usual - Madame Pomfrey looked extremely worried - she also looked angry, but as Remus was escorted into the room, it soon became apparant that her anger was directed towards the other three boys in the room - Sirius, Severus and James. Severus and James both had nasty scratches - claw-marks - on their arms ... Sirius and Severus were watching each other homicidally. When Remus approached them, Severus tried to back away, while James asked, "Remus, you all right? That was a nasty whack on the head you got last night."

Remus looked startled, "What happened?" he asked, fearfully.

"Sirius thought it would be a good idea to tell Snape how to get into the secret passage under the Whomping Willow." James said, glaring at Sirius as he said it, "Snape was stupid enough to go down there, even though he'd already figured out what you were - he had come to us threatening blackmail about it." he now glared at Severus, "And I dragged him out before you got to him ... he also knows -" at this point James glanced at the door to Madam Pomfrey's office, to check she wouldn't re-enter the room anytime soon, "- that I'm an Animagus, because I transformed and kicked you in the head, to get you to back off." James now looked at Remus, and said, honestly, "You didn't bite anyone."

"And I'm going to tell everyone about you." Severus snarled.

"The Hell you are - you do, and I really will feed you to a dangerous creature - way worse than this one." Sirius snapped.

"Like what?" Severus retorted.

"Acromantula ... there's loads of them in the Forest." Sirius said, smirking.

Severus looked mildly scared, but hid it very quickly, "I'm still going to tell -"

At that exact moment, Albus Dumbledore entered the Hospital Wing, "You will do no such thing, Mr Snape. No one shall find out about this. There was no harm done that Madam Pomfrey cannot fix within five minutes." Albus' word was law at the school, and no one had found out about it, yet.

* * * X * * * Present Time * * * X * * *

"O.K. forget about it ... I'm just saying; that was why he told us." James explained, apologetically.

"We need to come up with a plan." Remus said.

* * *

Sirius was led out of the holding cell, by the same guards who had watched him while he was there - Dementors - two of them. He felt terrible - well that was only to be expected - ironically, the worst thing that had happened in his life was the time Lucius had aquired blackmail material on himself and Severus, using a large volume of alcohol, the Imperius Curse, and a Muggle camera - that still photograph haunted him, to this day, and the Dementors seemed to think it was worth reminding him of.

Sirius was led into the court room, and sat down in the Chained Chair (that's the nickname all the Ministry operatives use for it). He looked around at the crowd - Crouch was prosecuting - brilliant ... there was no defence - no one was going to even argue with whatever crap Crouch said he had done ... the witnesses were seated opposite, facing him - Peter and Albus - this was not looking good ... Sirius looked to the jury - all Ministry workers - he didn't recognise most of them, but Lucius Malfoy was there - this was hopeless ... the audience - Sirius spotted Remus, watching him, with interest - that was not the same betrayed expression he had worn last time they had seen one another - hope flashed agross Sirius' mind, for a fraction of a second, but was soon lost due to the proximity of the Dementors ... there were several hooded figures in the audience - they could be anyone - lots of people liked to wear hooded cloaks, these days - it was safer, by far, to remain anonymous.

The Dementors departed, after the chains on the chair had instantly wrapped around Sirius' arms, the second he sat down. He wasn't to concerned about this - what he was worried about was the obvious lack of fairness life had - how could he prove that he was innocent, if the only proof he had was sitting in his flat, and Peter was going to lie under oath?

"Sirius Black." Crouch's voice rang out through the deliberately-designed-to-echo room, "You have been charged with trechery, and Death Eater activities. How do you plead?"

"Not guilty." Sirius said, loudly ... the audience murmured excitedly - this was not what anyone had expected - Sirius had surrendered without a fight, and now he was saying he was innocent.

Crouch took a few minutes to calm the crowd, before continuing, "Very well, then ... we will hear the witness testimony."

Sirius rolled his eyes, as Peter stepped up to the witness stand, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

"Yes." Peter answered, though he didn't look anyone in the eyes.

"As far as you are aware, who was the Secret Keeper for the Potters?"

"Sirius Black." Peter answered, without a moment's hesitation - Peter's a very good liar, when he's not scared shitless.

"Liar." Sirius snarled.

"The defendant will remain silent." Crouch snapped, and a silencing charm was placed on Sirius, so that he couldn't speak ... he then resorted to glaring angrily at Crouch and Peter.

Albus was called next, and he gave the same testimony - that he was under the impression that Sirius had been the Potters' Secret Keeper. Sirius didn't even try to say anything to this - he deliberately avoided looking Albus in the eyes, because the betrayed look on Albus' face made Sirius feel so guilty, even though he was innocent and knew it.

"Is there any other evidence to be heard?" Crouch asked.

"Yes." Remus' voice called out, ringing through the echoey courtroom. Sirius looked up - was Remus going to defend him, or damn him?

"What evidence do you have?" Crouch asked, the contempt in his voice was almost tangible - Crouch was well aware of the fact that Remus was a werewolf, although Albus had persuaded him not to make it public knowledge.

"I have witnesses who wish to be heard." Remus said.

Crouch glared at Remus for some time, before coming to a conclusion, "Are these witnesses present?" he asked, sceptically.

"Yes." Remus answered.

"Well, then ... by all means, let us hear their testimony." Crouch said - it was more than blatantly obvious that he expected these 'witnesses' to be obviously fake.

Two of the hooded figures in the audience, who had been seated behind Remus, stepped forward, to the witness stand. Sirius smiled - he knew who they were, now ... he could smell them (his Animagus status grants him hightened sense of smell).

The question was asked, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" both of them nodded.

"Do you actually speak?" Crouch asked, sceptically.

"Only when you ask the right question." Remus answered for them.

Crouch glared at Remus - his eyes said what his mouth did not: 'How dare this inhuman abomination talk-back to me, as if he thinks he is better than me?' "And what might that question be?"

"Try something relevant to the case?" Remus suggested. Sirius silently laughed - if it weren't for the silencing charm, the laughter would have filled and echoed through the entire courtroom - Crouch had been insulted, and by the looks of it, Sirius reckoned that Crouch hadn't even noticed it was meant to be an insult. Sirius stopped laughing abruptly, when Dumbledore caught his eye - Sirius bowed his head, like a very young child who had just been told off for inappropriate behaviour.

Crouch turned back to the two as-yet-unidentified witnesses, and asked, "What do you know about the events causing the deaths of Lily and James Potter?" he asked. Sirius silently snorted with laughter, again. Remus seemed to be fighting the instinct to laugh, too.

The slightly-taller-but-not-by-much hooded figure lowered the hood of his cloak, and spoke, "Rumours of our deaths have been greatly exagerated." James said, smiling. "And to save everyone the trouble of waiting for our beloved Mr Crouch to ask the correct question ... our Secret Keeper, and the spy, all along, was Peter."

Crouch was doing an excellent impersonation of a goldfish (opening and closing his mouth, but not making any sound - you'd think HE was the one with the silencing charm on him). Albus took control of the situation, when he seized Peter's arm, before Peter could reach his wand ... gods only know what Peter would have done if he had gotten his hands on a weapon. Peter was whimpering, and doing an excellent rodent impersonation, without transforming, as Crouch finally recovered. "You - you're not dead?" he asked James, weakly.

"No. I am not." James said.

"And neither are we." Lily added, lowering the hood of her cloak, and pulling her cloak back, to reveal Harry, held tightly in her arms.

Albus removed the silencing charm from Sirius, "Told you Peter was lying." Sirius announced, grinning. Crouch had no choice but to release Sirius, who immediately made his way to where Peter was being restrained, "And one little detail you seemed to miss, Crouch." Sirius added, grabbing Peter's left arm, and pulling back the sleeve, to reveal a Dark Mark, "All Evil-Incarnate-Wannabie's followers wear this butt-ugly tattoo ..." Sirius then let go of Peter's arm, and pulled up the sleeve of his own robes, to reveal unmarked skin, "... and I don't - therefore I'm not one of the Shit Eaters." he finished.

"Shit Eaters?" Remus inquired, politely (a little too politely for the phrase he was inquiring about).

"Shit is dead ... they call themselves Death Eaters ... I think my version sounds better." Sirius said, simply.

James was in fits of giggles, as he and Lily joined Sirius, Remus and Albus (Peter was being carted off to Azkaban, by some burly-looking security guards ... James had inconspicuously cast an anti-Animagus charm on Peter, so he couldn't transform until someone cast the specific counter-charm). Lily, meanwhile, seemed furious, "Don't use language like that in front of Harry ... I don't want him picking up that sort of profanity until he's at least ten." she snapped, angrily. This only encouraged the three younger men to start laughing even more ... even Albus smiled at her statement.

* * *


Review it and I might - only MIGHT - continue it.