Hello All!

I'm finally writing again! It's taken me a while to get this published, I know, but I've managed to carve out some time. To begin, I know that stories like this have been done, and I was originally inspired by those and I acknowledge the wonderfulness of their creators. But I thought I'd try my hand at this type of AU and add a little twist of my own. (And I promise you original twists).

Character-wise, this story is Remus and Sirius-centric, with a lot of Harry and many appearances by Moody, the Weasleys, Hogwarts professors, et al.

Because of the canon content, this is going to start off a little dark, but don't worry, there will be happy things too. I'm trying a parallel story-telling style, so hopefully this goes well.

Anyway, enjoy reading this story!


Disclaimer: J.K. has much better things to do with her time than write fanfiction about her own characters and story.

Warnings: Angst (a lot), possible trigger-warning, the occasional swear word, a hint of PTSD, some violence.

AND a note on updates: Let's get real for a second, folks. I know that I was a fast updater in the past, but my pace is going to slow waaaaayyyyy down. I'm about ten times busier than I used to be and as much as I love writing fanfiction, it can't be my priority, so I apologize in advance.

Chapter 1


November 1, 1981

It was the only inn for miles, crammed into the upper floors of a local bar. In the chilly damp of afternoon, the residents of the village were leaving work for the comfort of the glasses filled with warm amber. They clustered, noses running from the cold and ready to spill bitter thoughts to each other, wishing that someone cared. The air was heavy with complaints, suspicions, gossip, glances.

Vagrants were common here, looking for a cheap night where they could stay anonymous. Or find a stranger to talk to, who would forget them by morning. Blending in, that was the key. Which was why the newcomer was garnering so many stares.

He was tall, swathed in a cloak of deepest indigo blue. A silver beard fell midway down his chest, still retaining a shock of auburn near the chin and under the crooked nose. As he stepped into the dim interior, he swept a pointed hat from his head and smiled pleasantly at the bartender. He did not say a word, but made his way swiftly to the staircase in the back, the one that went up to the overnight rooms.

"'Scuse me, sir," the bartender interrupted, after managing to get over his shock at the visitor. "But tha's for paying guests only."

The newcomer paused and regarded the bartender politely with eyes of piercing sky blue.

"I apologize for barging in. I'm here to speak with a friend of mine, one of your guests," he replied. His tone was genial, but there was a hint of authority that brooked no argument. "Room two fourteen. I hope that is alright."

"Er...er yeah. I know 'im," the bartender stuttered. His patrons looked on with interest. "Been 'ere awhile. Quiet fellow, that one… Yeah. Go on up."

"Thank you." And the intimidating aura vanished. He appeared to wilt into another insignificant vagrant, slowly ascending the stairs. The guests found themselves suddenly second-guessing their curiosity. This man was of no consequence. So they returned to their low buzz of gossip and complaint as if he had never been there at all.

But to the magical community, Albus Dumbledore was important. Essential even. And after the events of the previous night, his time had been consumed with the aftermath. But this… this was his final task. The one that should have been undertaken first, but things unfolded too immediately, too horribly. It was the one he wanted to perform least of all.

He entered the second-floor hallway, feeling all of his long years weighing him down. The corridor smelled of cigarette smoke and stale laundry. Behind one of the doors, a baby was crying. Behind another blared a television set. A third was dark. But the tall wizard that filled the corridor was focused on the fourth door. The paint was chipped and worn. Tarnished brass numerals told him that this was number two hundred and fourteen.

On the threshold, he allowed himself a single breath. Inhale, exhale. Then he raised a weary hand and knocked three times. Soft footsteps sounded on the other side.

"Who's there?" asked a hoarse voice.

"Albus Dumbledore. I told you over a game of gobstones and crumpets that you were accepted into Hogwarts and we had a way to manage your condition."

The door creaked open, revealing a tired man with graying brown hair. Dumbledore frowned, taking in the fraying jumper, the pink lines puckering beneath the collar, the permanent crease of worry. His face was shadowed and gaunt. Had he heard the news already?

No, Dumbledore thought to himself after a closer examination. That mysterious warmth still burned around him, the flame fed by the promise of lifelong friendships. For the moment, Remus Lupin was still whole.

"You scared the hell out of me Albus. I was not expecting anyone today."

"Apologies, Remus," Dumbledore said quietly. He stepped into the dingy room. A neatly made bed was stuffed against a wall to allow room for a table. A few books littered the scratched surface, as well as a cup of something hot. Swirls of steam dissipated into the cold air, lit by the watery sunlight through a single window.

"I'd offer you tea, but I'm afraid what I'm drinking is too weak to be considered much more than hot water."

"No tea, thank you."

"I've made some progress with the werewolves here, but nothing substantial. They're wary of newcomers. I think they will be more likely to listen once I've gained their trust. If they've avoided the Death Eaters this long…"

He trailed away. Dumbledore recognized it, the nervous rambling of a cornered man. Remus was intelligent. He knew that Dumbledore would never come here unannounced, compromising his mission, unless it was important. Or devastating. And it was.

"Why are you here?"

"Sit down, Remus."

Remus remained standing, hands clenched at his sides. "Why are you here?" he repeated in a hushed voice.

"Your mission is… no longer necessary," Dumbledore began. "I've come to escort you home, if you'll let me. But first… you need to sit down."

"Albus, please…" Painful. Entreating.

Dumbledore met the dull amber eyes. He was a fragile shell of resolution, covering terror. The passing of time came to a standstill.

"Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow last night," Dumbledore said, hating himself as he spoke. "The Fidelius Charm was broken. James and Lily are dead."

Remus did not make a sound. But his eyes closed and his face turned white. "Harry?" he whispered, barely audible.

"Alive, miraculously. Voldemort tried to kill him, but as far as I can tell, the curse backfired. Voldemort was destroyed by the child."

The news of Voldemort's defeat did not seem to register. Remus remained statuesque. Dumbledore could hear his trembling breaths through his nose, see the muscles tighten in his jaw. A visceral struggle for control.

"Sirius?" The name was strangled, unlike Remus' voice at all.

"On his way to Azkaban."

"No...no, there must be some mistake," Remus faltered. "Sirius… he wouldn't…" Eyes opened, staring at Dumbledore, pleading with him to agree. It only made the final blow even more difficult to deliver.

"Peter Pettigrew tracked Sirius and cornered him in a muggle street this morning. The confrontation was brief, with several eyewitnesses. Sirius blew up the street. The explosion killed Peter instantly, along with twelve others."

This time, Remus did make a sound, like a wounded animal. His knees started to give and Dumbledore quickly guided him to the bed. Remus sank down, breath coming in short gasps. His head dropped into his scarred hands, the nails biting down into his scalp.

"I'm so sorry, Remus," Dumbledore murmured. The words were crushed by the enormity of the young man's loss.

"Please leave," Remus choked. He was shaking. Dumbledore could feel his ears popping with pressure.


"Please," Remus growled harshly.

Unable to do anything other than what was asked, Dumbledore stood and took his leave. As soon as the door clicked shut, the pressure in the lonely room released. The single window blew outward, raining shattered glass into the dead leaves below.

Dumbledore leaned against the sealed door in silence. He assured the bartender that all was well, even though it was not even close.

And he waited.

March 21, 1986

Time did not matter here. Splintered, broken, dead, and gone.

Except the body had no understanding of this. It was subject to everything, the cold, the wet, the hunger, the atrophy, the years upon years. Shrinking and shriveling under the influence of time's slow decaying influence. Anything immaterial… that was also being eroded. But not by time.

Chaos did not have a timeline.

And the chaos was everything, the grief, the rage, the despair, the memory. The immaterial parts of himself were battered by it. Mind and soul. Torment of laughter and dead, unseeing eyes and "Hi! I'm James." Over and over and over. If only he could go insane. But he was damned by his anchor to rationality. His innocence.

His island in the storm.

And he hated that the metaphor fit so perfectly. His eyes were fixed on still darkness, but in his ears the screams and the sobs and the waves were never-ending. It was never quiet here.

"Come on, Padfoot!"

"Nice one, James!"

"I hate you!"

"Lily and James, Sirius, how could you?!"

He couldn't. That was the answer. The only immoveable part of his perishable mind.

Sirius could not have killed Lily and James Potter.

And perhaps, that was the only reason he noticed. Something was changing. The iron grill was opening, screeching in protest. His spine grated against the cold stones as he shifted. He did not look, he could not bear the sight of the black hoods. They were here to end it, here to take his soul. Panic, red-hot. Despair. Relief. Coward. Finally, finally, finally…


He twitched. That sound, the sanity of it, cascaded through his head. The chaos stilled under its touch. A single string of memory plucked, humming with the sound of the voice, the voice that was so familiar. With it came a spark of sky blue, waterfalls of silver, the smell of home.

I should look up, he thought. It was his first true thought in a long time. It was refreshing. But what if it was a trick? Something to entertain the dementors, false hope taken by a glance.

"Sirius, stand up."

His weakened legs obeyed the command before he could process it. The brittle muscles creaked ominously. Ceiling, walls, and floor tilted dangerously until… a brush of contact.

The universe stilled. Even his trembling ceased. And he had to look, because he had not been touched by another human since that last day of sunlight. The blue and the silver were still there, though hardened and aged by the same time that Sirius thought no longer existed.

"Can you walk?" asked the voice.

Sirius nodded without really knowing the answer. Someone else, a burly prison guard, was fiddling with the iron bracelets on his wrists, detaching them from the wall. The bracelets stayed, but Sirius felt his breath coming faster. He was unmoored. Why? What was happening?

"Can we remove the cuffs?" the voice inquired.

"Not until everything's said and done," responded the guard, apologetically. "'S procedure."

"I understand." He sounded… disappointed. "Follow me, Sirius."

Uncertain feet obeyed his unused mental muscles. Walk. Why? His brain was too stretched, too lost. But he followed. He stumbled once, and was touched again, firmly now. A wizened hand grasping his wasted arm, holding him upright. There were others, too, blurs of reality compared to the one guiding him.

The labyrinth threatened to swallow them whole, vomiting darkness from corners and holes and burrows. Sirius kept his eyes on his walking feet, bile held in check, panting with exertion. They were leaving. I am leaving. That was clear. The threshold was nearing, the air changed. It was moving instead of stagnant.

And then…


The shock made Sirius forget to inhale. Black spots danced in his vision, flitting across the rainy curtains. Rain.

"Easy, Sirius. You have to breath."

Sirius remembered. It did not taste like despair, but like salt. He coughed at the sharpness of the taste.

"Sirius… Do you know who I am?"

It took Sirius three tries to make a sound. When he was finally able, it was a rasp. "Dumbledore."

Then everything went black.

There were no voices in his head when he woke. His mind was entirely his own. The loneliness of his own slow and sluggish thoughts was unnerving.

And the cold was gone. At least, it was gone from his skin. The ache in his bones held onto it like a lifeline, like they had forgotten how to live without it. But his skin… it was cool. He was lying on something soft, not made of stone.

Sirius opened his eyes. Brightness needled into his brain. Grunting, he closed his eyelids to slits, squinting against the light. He was still in a cell, but the chains were gone. The softness beneath him was a pallet on a raised cot. The door allowed some privacy, a small, square window in the top. And the light… the light. Sirius inhaled sharply through his nose. It was clean light, untouched by shadows. Artificial magical glow, but nothing like the flickering torches and dull wandlight of Azkaban.

He let his eyes adjust. His ears listened to the steady rattle of air in his lungs, the soft murmur of conversation floating through the walls. Coming closer, closer…

It ceased outside his door.

There was a jingle of keys, the sliding of a deadbolt, then two men entered. They froze when they saw that his eyes were open. Seconds of eye contact. Then the first one broke it, lifting a pair of handcuffs from his belt. Sirius lowered his eyes to the man's polished shoes and slowly pushed himself upright, feeling every joint throb, his stomach lurch. He coughed painfully, swallowed bile.

"Hands, Black."

Sirius made no move to lift the skeletal creatures from his lap. He heard an exhaled breath, then the man stepped up to him and lifted his hands himself. The cuffs were adjusted to fit his thin wrists.

"Stand up."

Standing hurt more this time. His mind was still soporific, resistant, but his, and it felt more clearly. Atrophied muscles struggled to obey, joints scraped, and then he was up. The second man had watched this patiently, not saying a word.

"Can you walk?" he finally asked. Dumbledore had asked that as well. Sirius remembered that quite suddenly. His voice had been… equivocal. So was the guard's. Sirius had concluded that they were guards.


Sirius realized he had not answered. He nodded stiffly. Then, one shuffling step after the other, he left the cell and entered a long, dark hallway. It was paved in glossy stones that were dark as obsidian. Sirius watched his distorted reflection, relieved that it did not show any distinguishable features. He did not want to see the stranger.

They did not walk far. He stumbled a few times, only to be deftly caught by the men flanking him.

"Nearly there," the first guard murmured. Sirius' eyes darted to the guard's face in surprise. Was that pity? The fog was still swirling in his brain, but for the first time, Sirius was truly confused. The rest of the way, a new question pounded clumsily through his mind.

What is happening? What is happening? What is happening?

This door was large, ornate, decorated with a brass number ten. The second guard rapped smartly on the solid wood. They waited, then the door opened of its own accord.

Every wasted muscle in Sirius' body froze. Beyond the threshold was a huge, circular chamber. Raised seating wrapped around the walls, filled with hundreds of eyes staring directly at him. The people wore robes of black and scarlet, divided by color into pools of ebony and blood. In a high dais sat two wizards and a witch, all with gold and velvet on their sleeves. And in the center was a cleared space with a single chair. Sirius could feel himself trembling with shock. This was a courtroom.

"Witches and wizards of the Wizengamot, we now present the accused, Sirius Orion Black, whose actions will be tried on this day, March twenty-first, 1986, in light of the new evidence presented to you, the court, over the last week. If the guards will escort Mr. Black to the floor…"

The tall, dark-haired wizard in the dais gestured to the guards on either side of Sirius. The first guard grasped his upper arm again and nudged him forward. Sirius' mind was blank as he sank into the isolated chair in the middle of the courtroom. There were chains on the armrests, but they hung limp. Then the guards disappeared, leaving Sirius feeling vulnerable and naked before the court. Their focus fixed him in place.

What is happening?

"On November the first, 1981, the accused was sentenced to life in Azkaban for the murders of Peter Pettigrew and twelve muggles, as well as passing on the whereabouts of James Potter, Lily Evans Potter, and Harry Potter to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, leading to the murders of James and Lily Potter on the eve of October thirty-first, 1981…"

The droning voice was drowned out by a fresh wave of grief that was staggering. A wound that could never close, prodded with something sharp. "James and Lily, Sirius, how could you?!" Sirius clenched his jaw and stared straight ahead. He as good as killed them.

"...will now proceed with the questioning of the defendant about his deeds on November the first, 1981, the evening of October thirty-first, 1981, and the days preceding. Will the defendant please state his name for the court?"

There was a shuffling around the chamber. They seemed to be waiting for something. Sirius let his gaze rove over them, searching for someone familiar. There was Mad-Eye Moody, electric blue eye glaring down like a spotlight, a frown cutting through his craggy face. And closer to the front, silver beard on black, was Dumbledore. His expression was thoughtful, but he gave Sirius the slightest tilt of the chin-

"Your name," the tall wizard repeated, louder. Sirius looked up at him, understanding bleeding slowly through the fog. This was his trial. The one they had never given him. Why now? His battered brain was not yet capable of supplying an answer. He cleared his throat.

"Sirius Orion Black." His voice scraped over dry, unused vocal chords like wind across sand, barely above a whisper. But it echoed eerily in the vaulted chamber, filling every cranny.

"The defendant must swear upon his magic that he will answer with the truth, and nothing but the truth before this Wizengamot. Do you so swear?"


"Then let the record reflect that I, Everard Allen Bones, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, am leading the following examination of Sirius Orion Black." The tall wizard-Bones-shuffled his papers, then fixed Sirius with sharp eyes. "Before the events of October thirty-first, 1981, Lily and James Potter were put under the protection of the Fidelius Charm. Mr. Black, were you the Secret Keeper of Lily and James Potter?"

"No," he breathed out immediately. The courtroom inhaled. For the first time, Sirius believed that they were listening.

"If not you, who was the Potter's Secret Keeper?" asked Bones, his voice unchanged.

"Peter was."

"You are referring to Peter Pettigrew?"

"Yes… we-we switched," Sirius stated numbly.

Bone's expression was unreadable. He unfolded a pair of reading glasses with quick, precise movements and perched them on his nose. Then, looking down at the top paper in his stack, he said, "In a previous interview, Albus Dumbledore stated that you were, in fact, the chosen Secret Keeper. You switched without telling the man who performed the Fidelius Charm?"

"We told no one," Sirius confessed, regret welling in his stomach.

"No one," Bones repeated, neither skeptical or believing. "You and Peter Pettigrew were close friends?"

"Not anymore," Sirius hissed.

"Answer the question, Mr. Black," Bones said sternly. "Were you and Peter Pettigrew close friends at the time just before the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"

Sirius eyed Bones balefully, wishing he understood why this was important. "Not as close and James and I. But yes… I considered us close."

"So your close friends, James and Peter, knew of the switch. But there was a fourth in your group, as I understand it. Did you consider yourself a close friend of one Remus John Lupin?"

Remus. More regret. "I did," he whispered. The past tense lingered in his ears, begging to be corrected. Was Remus here? He had not seen him, but the room was so full of people that maybe…

"I have a record here of Lupin stating under veritaserum that you were the Potter's Secret Keeper." Sirius looked up. In Bones' hand was another thin sheet of paper, translucent in the overhead light. Lines of emerald green text crawled across it. As the minutes ticked by, the dementors' influence was draining from his head, allowing his thoughts to flow faster. Under veritaserum… what?

"He told what he firmly believed to be true. You told your close friends, but excluded Lupin. Considering the accounts of your friendship I have from multiple acquaintances, I find that hard to believe. Unless there was a reason," prompted Bones, breaking Sirius' reverie.

There was the guilt again, like hot lead. Sirius allowed his gaze to drift back to the blank stare at the floor. "We knew someone close to us had switched sides. I thought… I thought he might be a traitor." The words were bitter. "But it was Peter. It was Peter."

Bones was quiet. A few members of the Wizengamot shifted. Mad-Eye rubbed his jaw. Dumbledore was perfectly still. And Remus. Remus was no where.

"Why was Peter chosen as Secret Keeper instead of yourself?"

"I thought… I thought it would be clever. J-James and I were best friends, I was the obvious choice. But Peter could go into hiding… I could divert Voldemort's attention-" Nearly everyone in the courtroom flinched. Sirius shrunk down at the sudden movement, startled.

"So on October thirty-first, how did you come to learn of the Potter's deaths?"

Sirius' throat was dry. He licked cracked lips. "I went to check on Peter but he wasn't in his safehouse… I didn't even-I thought maybe he had been caught. I went to James' and the door was… it was blown off its hinges. There was a hole in the side of the house-"

His voice faltered and died. He could not finish this.

"Mr. Black?"

Sirius shot him a weak glare. The crowd around him seemed to be leaning forward, waiting for what he had seen. Morbidly hungry for the tale, the legend.

"I realized what Peter must have done," he muttered. He could not feed their curiosity. He couldn't. He skipped it all. The magnetic pull of horror as he stepped through the broken door-

James' eyes were wide and fixed beneath crooked glasses. He lay sprawled on the steps, blocking the way to the nursery. Harry's hiccuping sobs echoed down the stairs. He had to move, Harry shouldn't be alone.

He straightened James' glasses with violently trembling hands.

Then he went past in a trance, to a nursery blown to smithereens, to Lily's long red hair flared out on the carpet, specks of dust on her emerald green orbs. Hagrid was already there, holding his godson in his arms, tears streaming into his beard.

"Let me take him. Please." Begging. "I'm his godfather. Please-"

"Fine," Bones said, his voice an unfeeling knife cutting through Sirius' thoughts. But his hard gaze had softened slightly. "Let's move on to the events of November the first, 1981. Eyewitness reports state that you confronted Pettigrew on a crowded muggle street. You were both yelling, though the conversation was indistinct until Pettigrew yelled, quote, 'Lily and James, Sirius how could you,' unquote. What happened next?"

The shout that haunted Sirius was sterilized by Bones' machine-like reading. Sirius shuddered. Then he grasped the question. What happened…

"Lily and James, Sirius how could you?!"

Peter's face was twisted and ugly. His voice pitched with terror, eyes determined. A shaking hand, a flash of silver, and a scream of anguish. A fleshy, jointed shape fell to the asphalt.

Sirius could barely understand. Every organ had been brutally ripped out by Godric's Hollow. He raised his wand.

The street erupted.

And then Peter seemed to shrink in on himself, shrivel with his betrayal. Become the rat. Scurry down into the gutter.

His ears rang. Screaming reached him, it sounded like he was underwater. The street was covered in blood. Only the accusingly pointed piece of Peter left behind.

And Sirius…

Sirius laughed.

"You're saying that Pettigrew cut off his own finger, then blew up the street?" Dubious looks from the crowd.


He should say more, he needed to convince them-

Creaking of old wood in the corner. Dumbledore was standing, solemn in the black velvet robe he wore. Whispers flurried around the room like an anticipatory breeze.

"Permission to address the Wizengamot at this time," Dumbledore asked. His voice was dressed in humility, but beneath it lay the headmaster's intensity.

"Granted," Bones responded.

"In light of the hearing yesterday, March the twentieth, and the testimony of Sirius Black today, I would like to enter a possible artifact for consideration in this trial."

"You have the artifact here in the court chambers?" Bones inquired, eyebrows rising. He appeared more resigned than surprised.

"Indeed." From the depths of the night-black sleeve came a slender box, polished and carefully kept. Bones nodded to a clerk, who vacated his seat immediately and scurried to fetch the box from Dumbledore's hands. Sirius' attention wandered. Nearly everyone watched as the clerk sidled around the seated Wizengamot to the venerable Headmaster.

But the man who was seated behind the clerk… Sirius' fragile concentration adjusted, sharpened. The man was watching him instead, with irises like molten lead. Sirius blinked and the man was watching the clerk again, looking politely interested as Dumbledore handed the clerk the slender box. The man's hands rested casually over his knees, gloved in snow-white.

Then Sirius' concentration broke again, blurred and realigned. The clerk bore the artifact to the center of the room, slightly in front and to the left of where Sirius was seated.

"Open it," instructed Bones. The was a click of the clasp and the box opened, revealing a thin stick of plain wood. A wand. It took Sirius only seconds to recognize it.

"Let Artifact 1-a be entered into the records," Dumbledore was saying. "The wand of Peter Pettigrew, willingly surrendered by his mother, Edith Pettigrew."

There was a collective intake of breath around the courtroom. Bones' expression did not change, but his grip on his papers tightened. "You have been productive since yesterday, Headmaster."

The twinkle below the shadow of Dumbledore's brow was difficult to miss. When he spoke, however, his voice was level. "Due to the testimony provided today, the court has probable cause to perform Prior Incantato on the wand. Of course, that routinely should have been performed on the scene with Mr. Black's own wand, but the wand was, unfortunately, snapped prematurely." There was a hard edge to Dumbledore's voice now. "Should Mr. Black be telling the truth, the last spell performed by Mr. Pettigrew's wand will be the blasting curse."

Bones cleared his throat. There was a dry crackling as he released the papers in his hands. Then he looked down at the clerk. "Proceed," he instructed.

The clerk removed the wand from its cushioned casing. He took a few seconds to feel the wand in his hand, then said clearly, "Prior incantato."

Thunder reverberated in the courtroom, a rush of energy exploding outward and a blinding flash. Then in the echoing aftermath, the entire courtroom was utterly silent. No one moved, no one breathed, rigid in various stages of shock. Then the murmurs began, low rumblings that grew in volume. A roar of voices, pressing against Sirius, who was still blinking away the spots in his eyes, fighting back the tide of ugly despair that had filled him when he heard that sound the first time. With that explosion had ended any hope for his life to continue-

The pounding of Bones' gavel cracked through the noise, which died abruptly. The white-gloved man was a statue in his seat, not a muscle moved, not a finger out of place. But the rest of the court was restless, shocked, horrified even. Bones himself appeared shaken, the stony expression finally fractured. But in the silence, he gathered his composure.

Something had softened in his gaze, and he held Sirius' eyes as he delivered his next statement. "Let the record reflect that examination of Artifact 1-a using the reverse spell revealed that the last spell performed by the wand of Peter Pettigrew was indeed the blasting hex." The court was holding its breath. "Mr. Black, what happened after Pettigrew blew up the street?"

"He-" Sirius' throat was dry, his brain struggling to process. He swallowed. Their secret did not matter anymore. The Marauders no longer existed. "Then he transformed into a rat and escaped. He's an unregistered animagus. I am too."

Bones' eyebrows rose, if possible, even higher, but he chose not to comment. He cleared his throat and said, "The evidence presented today indicates that you are then innocent of the charges brought up against you."

Sirius hesitated.

"I told them to switch," he whispered. "I didn't know that Peter was… What he would do… But I told them to switch."

His final statement fell like a gavel on his sternum. The silence that filled the courtroom was suffocating. Everyone seemed frozen in time, while Sirius waited for Bones to speak. But Bones was not the first to speak, at least, not to address the court. He whispered to the man and the woman next to him, and the conversation was too hushed for Sirius to hear. Then the woman stood. Sirius felt that he should recognize her, but his mind was too blurred. She was not very tall, but her presence had command of the room as soon as she was on her feet.

"All in favor of rescinding the charges against Sirius Orion Black for the remainder of this trial."

Sirius felt something rock hard form in his throat. Hands were rising around the room, making Sirius dizzy trying to count. Dumbledore's was one, and after a moment, so was Mad-Eye. Was that half? More than half? The white-veiled hands remained unmoved, carved marble upon ebony knees-

"Motion passed," the witch announced. She nodded solemnly at someone behind Sirius.

It was the first guard. He produced a small key and inserted it into the handcuffs. Sirius watched, light-headed. Then the weight of the metal bracelets was gone.

"Mr. Black from this point in the trial onward, you will be treated as a witness, pending further evidence against you," the woman said. Her tone was gentle, nearly apologetic, but firm. "I will ask that you remain in this courtroom under guard until the proceedings are officially concluded. Do you understand?"

Sirius nodded. His tongue felt thick in his mouth, his hands feather-light without the cuffs.

"Please take a seat in the empty rows on your right."

A repetition of the painful shuffle, but with his new audience. The bench that they sat him on was hard. His guards took up a place on either side. Confused emotions swirled. He felt ill. The questioning had drained him of his meager energy for human interaction. But the trial was forcing him to focus, forcing him to push past whatever clinging effect the dementors had.

What was happening? Why was he here? What loose ends needed to be tied for him to be allowed to leave? March 1986… it had been years. Years of thinking he was forgotten, that no one would come. Not even Remus, who probably hated him. Something had changed… something had happened, big enough to release Sirius from the hold of Azkaban, big enough to search for exonerating evidence-

"The Wizengamot now calls Peter Pettigrew forward."

The lightning shock of clarity ripped through Sirius.

That's all for now! Review with your thoughts and I'll be back with an update...eventually...