The following story contains realistic depictions of violence, torture, trauma, and mentions abuse of a sexual and physical nature. This is not a story for those under the age of eighteen, and has been rated appropriately.
I dedicate this work of fiction to my wonderful Beta, Rainbow.
It is because of you, and your endless patience that this story is at all possible.
You have been my idea soundboard, my conscience at times, and have become a good friend.
Here's to many more chapters and stories working together as the years go on.
The last decade had been pure and unfettered chaos. Witches and wizards had been slain by the hundreds – possibly even thousands; entire families erased from the fabric of society. The Muggle death toll had been immense and uncounted by the very world that had ended their lives.
It all started with the rise of a wizard, a wizard so feared and reviled that no one dared even speak his name.
He had come from nowhere and, almost overnight, had risen to the very pinnacle of power and authority, ruling over his followers with a fist of iron. It was feared that he had come to lay claim to an ancient Lordship long thought lost to the pages of history. Some had seen him as a saviour, there to lead them to the lands of milk and honey. Others saw him as a harbinger of the end times, a breaker of worlds, a destroyer.
Some, like Arcturus Black, believed him to simply be a charismatic and exceptionally powerful wizard.
Arcturus had never had the pleasure of crossing wands with any of the followers of the Dark Lord; for the last ten years, he had battled a vastly different adversary- his own health.
Arcturus was a warrior just as much as he was an able politician – he had been raised as his father's heir and now held the title of Lord of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, one of the most powerful families in Britain. They were as old as magic, it was said – with only a small handful of other families able to stand next to them as equals.
Despite all of this pedigree, however, it hadn't allowed him to take a stance in the most recent conflict. He had been young and brash once, rushing off to war to face down Grindelwald and his followers, and as a result, he had returned with a body that was remarkably weaker than when he had left. War had cost him many things – and it had cost his family so much more.
To say that he had been upset upon learning just how many members of his own family had sided with the Dark Lord would have been a vast understatement. He had been furious – livid, even. House Black had many lines, and many allies through the various marriages between the houses – he could have brought the full might of all of that against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Instead, in his absence, the family had splintered.
His own son, Orion, had publicly extolled the virtues of the Dark Lord's cause with his wife, Walburga, at his side. It had staggered him, leaving him physically gasping for breath in his bed as his trembling hands had weakly held the paper before his eyes.
It hadn't been long after that that he'd seen Orion's name in the obituary – killed in an honour duel after Orion had spoken out against a wizard's choice of wife.
That his own sister, Cassiopeia, hadn't turned her only daughter from the path she had ended up on, worried him. Cassiopeia had been the middle child of his two siblings, and once, long ago, they had been as close as siblings could be. He had been the eldest, and the only male born to his parents – he had always tried to include Cassiopeia in everything he did, but their age gap often made things difficult.
He had been so proud when he'd gotten the letter that she'd been sorted into Slytherin – he knew she had ambitious dreams. She had often told him of how she wanted to change their society, to make it better – stronger. He wished he could have seen those early signs for what they truly were. What had happened to the small girl who had dreamed of a world where all were equal? When had she been replaced by the blood-purist who had graduated from Hogwarts, already pregnant with the bastard child of House Rosier? Thankfully, the two had married shortly after under the pressure of their father, Cygnus Black.
He hadn't seen Cassiopeia in decades. She had retreated from the public eye shortly after her hastily planned and performed marriage to the father of her daughter; all-but exiled to a remote residence of House Black. There, she had given birth to and raised her daughter, Walburga. Walburga had been announced to the family through a letter, and even now, years later, he could remember the anger in which his father had reacted.
For years, they heard little, if anything from them. He hadn't even known that Orion had been in contact with her until the two of them had married in secret. He had been disgusted with his son for marrying so close a relation. All of the powerful Pureblood families were related in one way or another – many were, of course, hundreds of years old.
The two had married when his illness had laid him low once more. Orion had been older than Walburga, and he should have known better – it was taboo, even in their society. Walburga had revelled in the reveal of their relations, quickly moving all of her belongings into Grimmauld Place in London – the property Orion had purchased after an explosive argument between himself and his son.
If there was one thing he was grateful to Walburga for, it was his grandchildren. In Sirius, he found nothing of the poisonous words of his parents. Instead, he was strong of heart, and had a firm belief in just how the world should be. He was loyal, intelligent and courageous. It had been no surprise that the lad had been sorted into Gryffindor.
That he had befriended James Potter, Arcturus's nephew by his youngest sister Dorea, only made him happier. The two had become as close as brothers, and Arcturus had revelled in the occasional visits from his youngest sister and her husband – a man that he respected and admired a great deal.
Dorea had been the sweetest girl. She had a mischievous streak a mile long and a playful side that he loved to see bubble to the surface. When she had been born, Cassiopeia had been so happy to have a little sister of her own, though that happiness had turned bitter after the death of their mother. Arcturus, being older, had taken it upon himself to look after her as best he could.
He had doted on her the only way a nineteen-year-old man could, and within minutes, she had him wrapped around her little finger as she'd smiled toothlessly up at him and kicked her little legs. He'd been her hero growing up – his own little personal shadow.
She'd been so happy to have Sirius and James be friends, and there wasn't a Black she was prouder of than Sirius. Sometimes he wondered just how she had been sorted into Slytherin rather than Gryffindor.
He had known Sirius had a less than ideal childhood – the beliefs of his parents were far too different from Sirius's own for anything else to happen. He had stepped in where he could, using the Family Magic to protect Sirius as much as he was able, but sometimes it just wasn't enough.
When Sirius had arrived via the Floo in his office bruised and bloody, with the House Elves doing what they could to heal his broken little body as he bled on the dark oak floorboards, Arcturus had been furious. He would have cast Orion and Walburga from the family then and there if it hadn't meant that Sirius and Regulus would be cast with them.
Instead, he had quietly arranged with the Ministry for his heir to be declared as Sirius Orion Black, completely skipping his own son in favour of the kind, fun boy he had watched grow up. He made arrangements for Sirius to live with him at Blackwall and would have made arrangements for Regulus if Walburga hadn't already had her claws in him. Regulus had been a sweet boy, if a little easily led around by the opinions of others. It hadn't come as a surprise to hear that he had gone on to join the Dark Lord's ranks.
When Sirius wasn't with him at Blackwall, he was with Dorea and Charlus at Rosestone Castle in Wales. Arcturus had seen it once, at Dorea's wedding. It was a beautiful fortress that sat on a small island just off of the coast and dominated the land around it. It was no wonder that House Potter was so powerful – in all of its long history, not once had the castle fallen.
House Potter had a reputation that was well-earned. As such, not only had he entrusted his favourite sister to a man that had quickly become a friend, but also his heir – if nothing else, Charlus would protect Sirius when he could not. If the Wards of Blackwall had been breached during the decade of chaos, he wouldn't have been able to protect the future of his House.
And so, he had enjoyed the occasional visit from Sirius over the years, and the two had written to each other constantly – his pride for the boy had bolstered his spirits in his darkest hours, and each letter had brought with it more news of his and James's exploits over the years. When Arcturus had been well enough to host Sirius and James himself, he had revelled in the sounds of childish glee as they rushed about the manor causing mischief.
The two had slowed down a little as the years wore on and the war became more intense – James had seemed almost a different man after the deaths of Charlus and Dorea. Even now, he mourned the loss of Dorea the most – no longer would he hear her laughter or be the subject of her witty retorts and quips over a cup of tea. His little sister was forever gone, and a part of him had left with her.
It had been the push he had needed to break through the worst of his illness, and over the next few years, his health had slowly improved – indeed, as he stormed through the Ministry of Magic in his armour, with his magic swirling around him, he felt every bit the warrior he had once been.
All around him, men and women scurried from his path as he marched the corridors toward the Wizengamot chamber. It was the early days of November, nineteen-eighty-one, and Sirius Black, his Heir, and the future Lord of House Black, was on trial for murder.
Arcturus had only been strong enough to stand on his own two feet without assistance a week ago, but now… now he felt he could take on all of Britain, and win. There was nothing he wouldn't do for that kind, loving, brave boy that he had loved from the moment he had first met him.
Sirius Black was the future of his family, and he'd be damned if he let him be shipped off to Azkaban.
He reached the large doors of the Wizengamot Chamber and slammed them open with a gesture of his hand, using such force that the doors bounced violently off of the walls they hit. A collection of gasps and cries of shock reverberated throughout the chamber as all the eyes turned to look at him.
"Where is he?" He demanded, his voice low and growling. His magic swirled around him in a maelstrom of barely contained power. His Heir needed him – his boy needed him.
"It's Arcturus Black!"
"The coward dares to show his face here?"
Arcturus's eyes swept the assembly, taking in the familiar tiered seating of the various families. Hundreds of heads stared at him in surprise. It was to be expected – he hadn't been seen in public for over ten years. Many had even speculated that he had died.
"Arcturus – I'm glad to see you in such fine health."
Dumbledore smiled from across the room. His white beard was a little longer than Arcturus remembered it, and it seemed the powerful wizard had taken to cinching it halfway down with a neat tie. His sparkling blue eyes briefly took him back to his Hogwarts years, where he'd looked upon the man as he taught Defence Against the Dark Arts.
"Chief Warlock, a pleasure, as always," Arcturus replied, bowing his head politely.
"What are you doing here, Arcturus?" the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement demanded – Bartemius Crouch, Senior. The grasping weasel of a man had such a deluded sense of self-importance, he'd even named his own son after him.
"You will address me by my title, Bartemius," Arcturus snapped, his scowl returning as he took the man in. He was dressed head to foot in the most recent Ministerial robes – they were a plain black and seemed to swallow the man whole with their cumbersome, baggy sleeves, and the ridiculous hat.
He watched as the pencil-thin moustache on Bartemius's top lip twitched in what looked suspiciously like a sneer. "I ask again, Lord Black, what do you think you are doing here?"
"I'm here for the Heir to House Black – I've been told he's in your custody, accused of murder, of all things," he replied, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. His magic continued to swirl around him as his anger returned to the surface.
"You are intruding on a trial in which you were not invited," Crouch snapped, his nasally voice echoing around the chamber.
"I am a Lord of the Wizengamot, you fool – if you decide to have a trial before this body, I have a right to attend!" Arcturus roared in response, and his right hand flexed involuntarily for his wand. To draw it in these chambers was to commit suicide, however. No less than three dozen Aurors stood guard at all times.
"That Sirius isn't present at his own trial proves how much of a farce this whole thing is."
"Lord Black, if you would take your seat in the chamber, we could begin – though, it truly does sadden me to inform you that the evidence is quite damning," Minister Bagnold said from atop her podium, her voice dripping with false sincerity.
"Careful, Bagnold – don't forget who you're speaking to," Arcturus replied, his eyes narrowing as he took in her face. Millicent Bagnold may have been an attractive woman once, but time had not been her ally – where he imagined had once been smooth skin on a sharp jawline and high cheekbones, there were pudgy, pockmarked skin that had an unhealthy sheen to it – the kind that only came of a gluttonous lifestyle.
"You dare speak to the Minister in that way?" the Speaker for the Wizengamot demanded, leaping to his feet as he scowled at him. Arcturus swept his eyes over the man quickly – he was the attractive sort, he supposed. Broad shouldered and tall with short, neatly combed hair and the fine robes of the Ministry to denote his position.
"Careful who you're speaking to, boy," Arcturus growled, taking a step closer to the Speaker's box. It seemed all bravado fled the Speaker as he stumbled backwards at his approach and fell into his heavily padded chair with a huff.
"Arcturus – perhaps if you took your seat, we may be able to move on to the trial and ascertain the truth of these charges, hm?" Dumbledore called over the murmurings of the chamber. Above him, the flashes of cameras briefly lit up the chamber as reporters snapped what pictures they could.
He glanced up to the balcony that was reserved for the press and scowled at them – they were the parasites of society, always looking for the next big story to latch on to and spin in whichever way pleased them the most. There were the occasional members of the press that strove for the truth, but their voices often got drowned out by the sensationalists that seemed to make up the majority.
Looking away from the journalists above him, his eyes briefly glanced at the slightly lower balcony reserved for the Heirs to the Houses that formed the Wizengamot. For a second, he thought he saw James and Sirius up there, whispering and laughing with one another over a comment. He blinked and the image was gone, and he nodded at the Chief Warlock.
He turned on his heel and marched up the marble steps to the ancestral seat of House Black. It was on the highest row of the tiered seating with the other Ancient and Most Noble Houses, such as House Bones and House Longbottom.
Unable to stop himself, his eyes found the empty Longbottom seat and his heart felt heavy at yet another loss. He'd only ever heard good things about the recent Lord of House Longbottom. Arcturus had known his father and mother quite well – Rupert had been a good friend, and Augusta had such a sharp, witty tongue that he had genuinely struggled to keep up at times. How she had been born into House Rosier was a mystery.
When he arrived at the booth of House Black, which sat in pride of place just off-centre of the half-circular back wall, he quickly sat down on the well cushioned, Mithril-framed throne. He took a brief moment, as he always did, to admire the snake engravings that decorated it. He always felt pride when he looked upon the silver serpent of his house.
The moment he reclined in the chair, the fingers of his right hand gently drumming on the arm while the elbow of his left arm was perched on the arm of the chair, the heavy doors he had blown open were shut with a loud thud that echoed all the way up into the high, vaulted ceiling.
It seemed, besides the families that had been completely wiped out from the war – both Ancient and Noble alike, all members of the Wizengamot were in attendance. His heart broke at the dozens of empty thrones, all to forever remain unfilled until a cadet branch of the family, or a distant relation could be found. Some, like House Gryffindor and House Slytherin – even House Peverell, would remain empty until the end-times.
Arcturus glanced over at the Potter Throne a little further along the row. It was the most simple and unassuming of all the seats of power – it was made of pure Mithril and the only decorations were the dual prowling wolves that made up the armrests. He'd seen the reports over the last ten years. He knew just how precarious the position of House Potter had become – one of the oldest and most powerful Houses, hunted into almost extinction, with a boy of not even two years as the sole surviving member.
The Speaker smashed his gavel and the murmurings of the chamber ended instantly. Arcturus found his eyes trailing over to the man.
"The doors have been sealed – the trial of Sirius Black, of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black is to begin. Let the record show that the date is November fifth, of the year nineteen-eighty-one, and the time is two-thirty in the afternoon."
The Speaker paused as he glanced at the Wizengamot scribe, who sat just below the Minister and was busy furiously scribbling away.
"The trial will be presided over by the Minister of Magic, Minister Bagnold, and the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Bartemius Crouch, Senior."
"Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot," Bagnold began, standing and sweeping her eyes across the assembly. Arcturus had to fight the urge to sneer as their eyes momentarily locked.
"It is my privilege to preside over the coming trial and guide you all in the matters of the law. I ask that you form your opinions based on the evidence, and the evidence alone. When both sides have presented their cases, I will call for a vote."
Arcturus watched as she sat down, a smug smile on her face as she nodded at Crouch a little below her. With a quick double-tap of his own gavel, called out, "The Prosecution and the Defence will now present themselves to the Court."
A woman in fine robes stood from the Ministry employee section of the chamber – it was a section of tiered seating reserved solely for those that were in such a high position within the government, that they were allowed to weigh in on matters – these generally tended to be Department Heads, but a good chunk were the usual lickspittles and opportunistic fools.
"Honoured Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot, I present myself before you all as the assigned Prosecutor on behalf of the Ministry of Magic. My name is Kate Young. It is my desire to make sure justice is met and the guilty is justly punished. Across from me, you will find my learned colleague, Natalia Daxer, speaking on behalf of the Defence."
"My Lords, my Ladies," The rich voice of Lucius Malfoy interrupted, calling out as he stood up from his seat on the far left of the room. Arcturus glared down at the man and found his lip curling in distaste. House Malfoy had been a political nightmare ever since the cadet branch had decided to settle in England. The main line in France was pleasant enough to deal with – indeed, House Black had a number of trade agreements with them – but this branch of the family…
"I propose we move straight to a verdict. The accused was caught by our most elite Aurors and has confessed to his crimes without the need for Veritaserum – his guilt is already plain to see."
Arcturus frowned. Sirius had confessed? That couldn't have been right.
Murmuring broke out throughout the room, and Arcturus saw Millicent and Bartemius nod at one another out of the corner of his eye. He stood and stepped to the railing of his box; his hands gripped the metal so tightly, he thought he could hear the metal groan beneath him.
"My Lords! If this is to be a true form of justice, I demand to hear from the lips of the accused himself. I demand the presence of the accused at this trial."
The room was silent as every pair of eyes were levelled upon him.
"I second the motion," Archibald Locke called, standing from his throne, shaped like the great bear that was their sigil – its piercing, metal eyes staring down into the chamber. "I worked with Sirius during the war – I'd like to hear his confession from his own lips."
"Aye – House Weasley would have the truth of it!" Thomas called out, getting to his own feet.
"House Patil demands the truth," Ashok Patil called from the assembly of Noble Lords beneath him. The Patils were a recent addition to the Wizengamot, having arrived in the last decade from India and brought some of their wealth with them. There were a number of rumours about the family, of course – some claimed they had been exiled for an attempted coup on another family, while others claimed they were a cadet branch of a much larger family. Either way, they had brought enough wealth and allies with them to purchase enough land and influence to gain themselves a seat on the council.
More and more voices called out their agreements, and Arcturus watched as Lucius sat down with a frown.
"Very well – the motion to have the accused before the court is carried," Dumbledore called, his powerful voice silencing the entire chamber. "Bring forth the accused."
Arcturus's eyes leapt to the floor and the large circle engraved in the marble. It wasn't easily discernible when you stood before the Wizengamot, but from above, it was clear to see. It sank into the floor by almost a foot, and a small cloud of dust rose from the edge as it moved, wafting away on the gentle current that flowed through the room. The circle split down the centre and opened as a platform was raised slowly.
The platform was plain by design – a dull, roughly hewn granite on which a simple wooden chair with runes gouged deeply into its surface sat. Chains wrapped around the slumped figure in the chair and rattled quietly. He felt his knees almost give out.
The platform spun slowly as it rose, giving everyone in the chamber a good look at the accused. Sirius had never looked in such a poor way. His clothes were torn and there was dried blood over much of it – what he knew were once clean, expensive clothes were ripped and little more than rags. Sirius's usually full, thick head of hair was limp and greasy, while his skin looked pale and sunken.
What had happened to his boy?
Arcturus felt his magic stir, and somewhere in the room, someone yelled before something exploded in a shower of splinters. Arcturus didn't care, though – his eyes were trained solely on the battered and bruised man before him. What had they done to him? His eyes lifted to glare at Bagnold and Crouch, who were whispering furiously to one another.
"Sirius – what happened?" Dumbledore moaned; his eyes wide as he stood slowly. The hushed whispers of the assembly quietly rumbling at the sight.
Sirius didn't respond.
"Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot," Kate Young called, stepping fully before the assembly. "Sirius Orion Black, son of Orion Black, and Heir to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black is brought before this august body today on a number of damning charges."
Arcturus watched as he slowly sank into his chair, as Kate Young unrolled a piece of parchment.
"Sirius Black is accused of thirteen counts of murder – twelve Muggles and one Peter Pettigrew, a wizard. He is also accused of leading He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named directly to James and Lily Potter."
Arcturus watched as a number of heads slowly nodded. To think that James Potter was dead… It was almost as unthinkable as Sirius being the murderer – anyone that knew the two boys would have been able to verify just how close they were.
"There are a number of pieces of evidence. We have testimony from a number of esteemed wizards and witches, as well as a confession from the man himself – obtained without the use of Veritaserum. It is my job today to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this man is guilty and should be sentenced to life in our most secure prison – Azkaban."
Arcturus felt his jaw clench at the thought of that awful penal colony. While the Ministry owned and operated dozens of prisons throughout Britain, Azkaban was by far the worst. Located in the North Sea on a small island sixty miles from the coast of the Scottish border, it was originally a fortress of a fallen wizard some centuries before. Now, it was a prison guarded and patrolled by the last remnant of its previous lord's twisted experiments: Dementors.
Dementors were foul creatures. They were aspects of magic that had been twisted and corrupted into something truly sinister. They fed on human emotions, draining their victims of emotion and memory until they were trapped within their own minds with their worst memories.
Some fates were worse than death.
"I would call my first witness to the stand – one Auror Amelia Bones," the Prosecutor called. Arcturus glanced to the Bones seat and watched as the attractive young woman stood with all the composure and grace he would have expected. That she sat in the seat of House Bones as one of only two surviving members of her House broke his heart – another House laid low by the damned war.
He watched as Amelia walked down the stairs to the main floor and climbed into the witness stand. Her face remained unreadable, but there was a tension about her – evidently, she had expected to be called, but wasn't comfortable with it.
"Amelia Bones, you are sworn by magic to tell the truth in this courtroom. You are an Auror, are you not?"
"I am," Amelia replied. Something stirred at the back of Arcturus's memory – why did he know the name of this woman?
"You were one of the arresting Aurors when the accused was brought in, correct?"
"That's correct, yes."
"Could you describe to the court just what you witnessed upon arriving at the scene?" Kate asked. Arcturus sat forward a little – for all of his network of informants spread throughout the Ministry, there had been extraordinarily little information available on just how Sirius had been arrested.
"We were alerted to a duel taking place in the middle of Eton Avenue in Wembley at eleven-hundred-hours on November the second, nineteen-eighty-one. It was a Monday, and the weather was clear for the most part." Amelia glanced up at Sirius mournfully and took a deep breath.
"We came across the accused duelling one Peter Pettigrew in a Muggle residential area. The casualties were the results of homes being reduced to rubble from powerful curses."
The assembly murmured among themselves and Arcturus frowned as he rubbed his chin.
"Upon the arrival of the Aurors, Peter Pettigrew began retreating towards us and shouted toward Sirius – sorry, the accused. The accused shouted something, and then there was an explosion that created a crater four feet deep where Pettigrew had been standing. We only recovered his finger."
Amelia sighed and looked back to Sirius.
"When we had all recovered, we found Sirius on his knees laughing – he wouldn't stop, and just kept repeating, 'I killed them'."
"Thank you, Auror Bones. Could you tell the court your relationship with the accused?"
Amelia scowled at the Prosecutor.
"I don't see how that's the business of the court."
"I'll allow it as long as it leads to a relevant question – answer the question, Auror Bones," Bagnold called over the quiet rumble of voices.
"We were courting. I loved him, and he loved me," Amelia replied with a look of barely restrained fury.
It all came back to him in that moment – Sirius had written to him of a girl from Hogwarts that he had taken a liking to. He'd asked permission to court her, and he had given his blessing – that she was from a powerful family like House Bones was a surprise. Sirius had only ever mentioned her by her first name. He'd assumed, wrongly, that the girl had been a Muggle-born or a Half-Blood.
The chamber erupted in noise – Lords and Ladies of the various Noble Families were yelling question after question over one another and making impossible demands. Arcturus remained in his seat and leaned back. He interlaced his hands before his face and pursed his lips in thought. There were too many holes in Amelia's story for him to be happy with, though he understood how it appeared. No doubt the Prosecution thought the evidence damning enough.
"Silence!" Albus shouted over the din, his wand pressed to the side of his neck as the Sonorous Charm projected his voice loudly throughout the assembly. Once the room fell silent once again, the aged wizard removed his wand from his throat, though his voice was every bit as powerful as it had been.
"We are here to determine the guilt of the accused – not to descend into anarchy within these hallowed halls. Any member of this body that speaks out of turn again will be ejected – is that understood? Excellent – Prosecutor, you may continue."
"Thank you, Chief Warlock," Kate replied, bowing a little at the waist.
"Auror Bones, would you say that Sirius Black is capable of killing?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"So you admit that he can kill. In his duel with the recently deceased Peter Pettigrew, do you happen to recall how Sirius Black looked? How he acted?" The Prosecutor said, cutting off any further comment from Amelia.
Amelia scowled, but sighed deeply.
"He seemed livid – I've never seen him so angry and reckless."
"That will be all from me."
Arcturus watched as Kate backed away to stand by the side of the floor where the witch acting as Sirius's defence was. Arcturus grimaced at how the slightly older woman struggled to balance the many sheets and rolls of parchment in her hands before she handed them off to an assistant.
"My Lords, my Ladies – Auror Bones," Natalia said with a polite inclination of her head.
"Auror Bones," She began, turning to face the witness. "How many years were you and Sirius Black involved?"
"He approached me in my fifth year of Hogwarts – we've been involved ever since then," Amelia replied calmly. Arcturus pursed his lips as he watched the proceedings like a hawk.
"So you would say that you knew him rather well. Tell me, did his actions seem out of character at all?"
"I've seen him angry before, but never like that. I can't see him attacking Peter like that, either – I knew the man briefly through Sirius. They always seemed to get on."
"And would you believe him to have led the Dark Lord to James and Lily Potter?"
"I can't, no. They were like brothers – anyone that knew them could tell you that."
"Thank you – could you tell me what kind of spells were being exchanged? I believe as an Auror you would have some insight, no?" Natalia asked, folding her hands calmly before her.
"It was hard to tell from my position, but they looked like powerful blasting curses, which would make sense with the damage we found at the scene."
"Did you ever see any hint of animosity between the accused and the deceased Peter Pettigrew?"
"I didn't," Amelia said, shaking her head slowly. "They were close friends throughout Hogwarts. I saw Peter just the week before laughing with Sirius."
"Thank you – that will be all for now," Natalia said, returning to the side of the floor where her assistant stood with armfuls of notes and parchment.
"Thank you, Auror Bones – you may return to your seat," Dumbledore said with a small nod. Arcturus watched as Amelia nodded her thanks and hurried up the stairs quickly to retake the Bones seat.
Kate stepped forward, this time calling for Alastor Moody. The gruff, disfigured wizard limped forward, his prosthetic leg clunking against the stone as he leaned on his thick, wooden staff.
Arcturus leaned forward; his eyes wide at the state of the man he hadn't seen in over a decade. He'd dealt with Alastor Moody a number of times over the years and found him to be a refreshing change of pace to the usual witch or wizard he met.
The man was a legend – he had fought in the war against Grindelwald, straight from the Auror Academy and had lost his leg. He hadn't let that slow him down, however, and once he had returned to his active duties, the man had put criminal after criminal away.
The Prosecutor moved to stand before the grizzled Auror, and while Arcturus was watching Alastor look directly at her, he couldn't help but shiver slightly as the magical prosthetic eye moved independently and lingered in his direction.
"I shall remind you, Auror Moody, you are under oath to provide the truth in this courtroom."
"Aye missy, I know," Alastor grunted as he adjusted his large leather coat. "This isn't my first experience in the docket."
"Quite," Kate replied. "Auror Moody, you were the Senior Auror assigned to Auror Bones' squad, yes?"
"Could you tell the court a little about what you saw?"
"Alright. We arrived in the street just as Auror Bones described it to ye'. Sirius and Peter were engaged in a duel, and Peter appeared to be on the losing side of it. When he saw us, he began backing toward us and he shouted something to Sirius – not sure what. It all got lost in the confusion and the sounds around us."
Arcturus watched as Alastor glanced up at Sirius for a moment with his real eye and sniffed.
"Sirius shouted something back and looked a little panicked. Next thing I know, there's a crater so deep the sewer pipes were blown wide open and there was smoke everywhere. I was the first to come across Sirius on his knees with his wand by his side."
"And what was the accused doing when you came upon him?"
"Laughing, mostly," Alastor shrugged. "He was cryin' too, come to think of it."
"Did he say anything in particular while in this state?"
"Just that it was his fault. It was clear he was in some kind of shock, though – I put it in my report and the Healers corroborated it."
"Indeed – thank you, Auror Moody."
Alastor inclined his head a little and watched as the Healer retreated to the side of the room. Even from where Arcturus was sat, he could see the satisfied, smug smile on her face.
"Auror Moody, can I just begin by saying that I think I can speak on behalf of all of us here in thanking you for your upstanding track record," Natalia began, clasping her hands behind her back as she slowly began to pace the floor.
"Think nothin' of it, missy."
"Can you tell me what your relationship with the accused is?"
"Aye – I trained him to fight. Him and James Potter both."
"Would you say you taught him to kill?"
"I did," Alastor confirmed, frowning.
"Would the accused use lethal force if he was simply trying to subdue an opponent?"
"That would depend on the opponent and a number of extenuating circumstances," Alastor replied slowly as he leaned back in his seat. "If the opponent were using lethal force themselves, Sirius would respond in-kind. If he wanted the target alive, he would incapacitate and then secure them by any means."
"What spells did the examination of Sirius Black's wand reveal, Auror Moody?"
"Blasting Curses, Cutting Curses, Shield's and Stunners."
"What would you deduce, from these spells, was the intention of the accused?"
"Sirius wasn't trying to kill Pettigrew – if he wanted the man dead, Sirius wouldn't have allowed the fight to go on for so long. Sirius Black is a powerful wizard – much more powerful than what I know of Pettigrew."
"Thank you, Auror Moody – you may return to your seat. I have no further questions for the witness," Natalia said with a slight inclination of her head.
Arcturus pursed his lips as he ran a finger back and forth over his chin; the short hair lightly scratching the skin. That the Prosecution hadn't made mention of Sirius's wand so far had been interesting. If what Alastor claimed was true of how Sirius fought, and he had no reason not to believe him, Sirius would have ended the fight with a much more powerful and lethal set of spells.
His mind whirled a mile a minute, working through all the different nuggets of information that had come to light through the trial so far, and he could begin to see a picture forming slowly in his mind.
Even he had to admit, the evidence was fairly damning against his grandson, but it seemed circumstantial so far. There was something missing – some key thing that would make it all make sense. He knew in his heart that Sirius was innocent. The boy he knew would never have fallen for the Pureblood propaganda that had been espoused over the last decade. He was smarter than that.
Besides himself and Amelia, James was the most important person in Sirius's life. The two had done absolutely everything together since they were boys – he'd even told him of how proud he was to be named young Harry's godfather. Sirius had spoiled the baby rotten, he knew.
"As my learned colleague has mentioned, I would now present to you all Sirius Black's wand." The Prosecutor announced, snapping Arcturus from his thoughts. He looked down at her and saw the thin piece of wood held above her head as she paraded it before the assembly.
Arcturus knew it well – he'd been with Sirius when he'd bought it from Ollivanders. It was eleven inches of the finest Yew wood, with a core of Coy-Oh-Tay whisker. It had always struck Arcturus as an elegant wand in its design. While most wizards and witches preferred a handle of some sort, Sirius's didn't have one. Instead, it had a twisting design carved out of its unusually straight length, with powerful runic symbols along the grip.
"I have invited Garrick Ollivander here today, my Lords, as his experience with wands is unchallenged," Kate continued, inclining her head at the wild-haired wizard who stepped onto the central floor.
Arcturus watched as Ollivander - not to be confused with his older brother, the Lord Bertrand Ollivander, though the two looked almost identical – gently grasped the wand and began turning it over in his hands.
Whatever was on the face of the wizened old man was lost to him as Garrick kept his back to him – whatever he was doing seemed to be making the Prosecutor a little nervous, which interested him greatly. He sat forward in his seat, resting his forearms on his knees.
When Garrick revealed his own wand and began chanting quietly in the silence of the chamber, Arcturus wasn't surprised. There was little that the Ollivanders didn't know about wands – if there were any secrets to be gleaned from the wand, Garrick would find it.
"This wand has cast no dark curses and remains entirely loyal to its wizard," Garrick announced after the chanting had subsided. His voice was scratchy, yet gentle – it was a contradiction that had always baffled him.
"It is an eleven-inch Yew wand, with a core of Coy-Oh-Tay whisker – I remember selling this very wand some years ago. I have no doubt in my mind that this wand belongs to Sirius Black."
"I'm sure the court would like to hear your confirmation that the last spell fired was the one that killed Peter Pettigrew, Mister Ollivander," Kate said, for the first time, her voice was uncertain.
Arcturus almost laughed – she didn't know! She hadn't spent the time checking it – had nobody checked the wand thoroughly in the days since Sirius was arrested? While he had thought it ridiculous to have Sirius on trial only days after he had been caught, it was becoming clearer that many had expected the farce to have gone smoothly. Too many had simply taken the facts at face-value – this was how Sirius would be acquitted!
Garrick chanted something else under his breath and waved his wand over Sirius's in a complicated pattern before a series of burning runes appeared, shimmering in the air a little above it.
"The last spell was a Stupefy, Madame Prosecutor. The runic configuration of the spell is clear to see, as is the Arithmancy."
"I… have no more questions, Mister Ollivander," Kate murmured quietly; her voice soft. While she practically whispered the words, they carried well enough in the chamber and all of a sudden – warning from Dumbledore or not – the quiet whispers of the Lords rumbled through the room. Arcturus grinned as he watched the prosecutor walk dumbly back to her position.
If Kate Young looked stunned and thrown off, Natalia Daxer looked like the fox that had gotten into the chicken coop.
"Mister Ollivander, could you explain the significance of the wand you are holding?" She asked, pacing slowly around the chamber.
"Of course. The Coy-Oh-Tay is a breed of Coyote from the mountainous regions of Central America. It's known to be tricky to spot and they are devilishly intelligent. In all my years of wand-crafting, I've only been able to obtain the one whisker, I'm afraid," Garrick replied evenly, idly turning the wand over in his hands.
"I find it to be quite the fascinating core. Much like the creature it comes from, the whisker has a penchant for being placed in wands that go to mischievous spell-casters. It should be known, however, that it prizes loyalty above all else – it would refuse to work for a traitor of any kind."
Arcturus grinned as the chamber began to murmur once again.
"So, you're telling us that if Sirius Black had been unfaithful in his loyalty to James Potter, the wand wouldn't be loyal to him?"
"Yes, that is what I'm saying."
"And can you confirm that the wand is indeed loyal to Sirius Black?"
"It is," Garrick affirmed.
The whispers grew in volume around the chamber, and Arcturus cast his eyes to the Prosecutor. Her face had lost all colour, and she was looking between the wand, Minister Bagnold, and Crouch with a panicked look – the two Ministry officials looked positively livid.
It was no secret that Crouch coveted the position of Minister, and Bagnold was a smart enough woman to keep him close. If Sirius were to be declared innocent after all the accusations had been made from both of their offices, it would be the end of their careers.
Not a single member of any of the Noble families would support a man and woman that had tried to steamroll a trial on one of their own, regardless of political and financial alliances. The lack of due diligence and the general attitude the Ministry showed this trial were enough to set a precedent no family wanted.
It was no secret that Bagnold had assumed so much political power over the years by catering to the Half-Bloods and the Muggle-born, promising to bridge the social divides. They followed her almost religiously in the beginning – she had been a charismatic woman, one that had risen from a poor Half-Blood family and ascended to the top of society in Britain.
The reality was a little different. As loathe as he was to admit it, the Ministry and the Wizengamot were often rife with corruption. Wizards and witches like the Malfoys, Parkinsons, and the Dondarrions flaunted their wealth and paid off officials every other week – little had changed in the decade he had been away.
Bagnold was one such official – her biggest benefactor being House Dondarrion.
That wasn't to say that she was a puppet of that family. Her stance against the Dark Lord throughout his war was enough to show that. More than one member from House Dondarrion and the other bigoted families had been outed as a follower, caught by well-trained squads of powerful Aurors. Some had been killed in battle, others captured and brought before the Wizengamot.
Most had ended up in Azkaban, sentenced by the formidable duo of Bagnold and Crouch. Others had claimed the Imperius, such as Lucius Malfoy. The Daily Prophet had made sure to print detailed accounts of every Death Eater's trial and their sentences throughout the war. Each day, as he had lain in bed, he'd checked the obituary columns, praying not to see Sirius's name among them.
The banging gavel of Dumbledore was enough to silence the noise.
"Thank you, Mister Ollivander – your expertise has been eye-opening," Natalia smiled. Instead of moving to the side of the room as she was expected, she turned to Dumbledore, and Arcturus couldn't help but lean forward in his seat anxiously.
"Chief Warlock, I understand that it is against the norm, but I humbly request to bring forth my own evidence and witness."
"While unusual, I'll allow it," Dumbledore replied, leaning back in his chair with a nod.
Arcturus watched as Natalia gestured to her assistant, who quickly moved toward her and fished something out of a small bag. What it was exactly, Arcturus couldn't tell, but it appeared to be a necklace of some kind, made of the most brilliant Mithril.
The closest to the floor gasped as the Defence held it aloft and circled the floor.
"My Lords, my Ladies, I present to you a Blood Locket."
He couldn't help it – he leapt to his feet and gripped the railing before him. A Blood Locket was a powerful piece of magic – arguably more powerful than an Unbreakable Vow. An Unbreakable Vow would kill you outright if one were to go against it – a Blood Locket would destroy you.
It was a complicated ritual and could only be completed on certain days in the year. The House of Black had many books on it, as they did with many different subjects – both light and dark. It was rumoured that the first had been created by Merlin and Morgana themselves.
"This particular piece of evidence belongs to Sirius Black and James Potter – as the court can clearly see, Sirius Black is alive."
"How do we know that it is linked to Sirius Black?" Bagnold demanded from her chair, an ugly scowl on her face.
"Ah, forgive me, Minister," Natalia replied, quickly pulling out her wand and muttering an incantation.
Immediately, a red mist rose from the dangling chain into the air above the Defence. Arcturus watched with wide eyes as it coalesced into a younger Sirius and James. The shadowy, red-tinged figures stood opposite one another in a darkened room, grinning at each other excitedly.
Sirius drew his wand and cut his palm with a quick swipe, with James following shortly after. The two clasped hands and began the chant. He knew the ritual well – their blood would mix and join together, and from that union, the necklace would be formed – as would its twin.
He watched as the blood slowly seeped out between their joined hands and the magic around them ruffled their hair and clothes, sweeping the two of them up in a cyclone of energy. The blood rose into the air above their hands and morphed into a churning ball of liquid, stretching, and thinning itself out until a pair of necklaces formed.
It was beautiful to witness, and Arcturus found his throat tight.
The scene ended and the mist descended into the necklace once more, and the room remained utterly silent – not even the reporters, or the members of the public in the galleys above them breathed a word.
"Chief Warlock, in light of this, I request to bring Sirius Black to the stand for questioning."
Arcturus's eyes flittered to the Chief Warlock, and found the old man still staring at the space where the image had been with an odd look on his face. Dumbledore stirred after a moment, and visibly shook himself before nodding tiredly.
"Permission granted," he sighed, running his hands down his face.
The grinding of the stone plinth that held Sirius's chair slowly began to descend. The scraping of the stone echoed off of the marble walls, and Arcturus found himself wincing the longer it carried on. There was a gentle boom as it came to a stop – Sirius still slumped over in the wooden chair with all the chains.
"Can you confirm that you are, indeed, Sirius Black?" Natalia began, a smirk tugging on the corner of her mouth.
Sirius stirred a little and sat up slowly, the rattling of the chains as they clanked against themselves and the wood. Even from here, Arcturus could see just how pale and gaunt he looked – what had happened to him in the time he'd been arrested?
"I am," Sirius croaked, his voice quiet and scratchy in the quiet room. Arcturus had remained standing, gripping the railing before him in an iron grip as he fought the urge to rush down the steps to his grandson.
"Can you confirm that this is your Blood Locket?" Natalia asked, holding the locket up once more for the assembly.
"And can you confirm this is your wand?" Natalia asked, holding the wand before her in her other hand – Arcturus hadn't even seen her move to get it, so focused was he on the man in the chair.
Sirius closed his eyes and breathed in slowly and nodded. "It is."
"Can you explain the nature of your relationship with James Potter to the rest of the court?"
Sirius looked pained at the mention of the young man's name, and his head slumped forward as his shoulders shook.
"He was my brother," he moaned pitifully. "He was my brother, and now he's dead."
"When did the two of you complete the ritual that the court has witnessed?"
"We were in our final year at Hogwarts," Sirius replied with a quiet moan. "The war was escalating, and I knew how my family had splintered…"
"Take your time," Natalia offered gently; her voice soft. If nothing else came of this trial, Arcturus was going to make sure to secure Natalia's services for the family – the woman had performed flawlessly throughout the proceedings.
"James and Charlus helped to raise me. They gave me a home when Arcturus couldn't. I owed them everything. I was loyal to him. Nobody else."
"Can you explain the events, as you understand them, that led to the deaths of Lily and James Potter?"
Sirius looked up finally, and his eyes swept the room before his gaze landed on Arcturus. He nodded slowly and offered a small smile. He would stand by his grandson – he knew him to be innocent. Sirius blinked and nodded once in return.
"It started when Harry was born, and James asked me to be his godfather. The Potters were already being hunted, killed off one branch at a time – they slaughtered them in the street, or in their own homes, it didn't matter. Shortly afterwards, Dumbledore suggested they go into hiding. I told them to go to Rosestone, but James wouldn't hear it – he thought it too obvious," Sirius began, sitting up a little more.
Dumbledore nodded, confirming the tale for the chamber. There were a number of quiet gasps before Sirius continued.
"Lily suggested the Fidelius and got Dumbledore to cast it over their home in Godric's Hollow," he began, but frowned, shaking his head.
"But something wasn't right – it didn't work properly, or something, I don't know! All we knew was that the house wasn't hidden for long, and the charm fell.
"Lily re-cast it herself, but I couldn't act as the Secret Keeper anymore – we thought it was because I had been Dumbledore's…" Sirius trailed off for a moment, his eyes vacant. "So, we chose Peter Pettigrew."
The chamber erupted in noise. Lords and Ladies all around him shot to their feet, crying out for one reason or another. It didn't surprise him in the slightest – Peter was the wizard Sirius was accused of killing, after all. Not only that, but he'd been awarded a posthumous Order of Merlin, for his bravery in battling Sirius – rather presumptuous, he'd thought.
"Silence!" Dumbledore called out once again, though this time he remained on his feet and leaned against the railing of his own podium.
"Sirius, are you telling me that Peter was the Secret Keeper?"
"Then why did you continue to tell everyone that you were?"
"I was the decoy!" Sirius cried, his eyes wild and furious. "I was the more powerful of the two of us – my relationship with James made me the obvious choice! The rat sold James and Lily out – we knew there was a traitor-"
"Sirius," Dumbledore interrupted with an edge to his voice that Arcturus couldn't help but notice. There had been rumours of a group of wizards and witches that had been fighting back against the Dark Lord. The Ministry had been incredibly reactive during the war, but the group of vigilantes had taken the fight to the Dark Lord on more than one occasion – the Prophet had covered each show-down between the two sides regularly.
Had Sirius been involved? He was certainly powerful enough to give most wizards and witches pause. He would have been a tremendous asset to the group.
Sirius calmed himself, though his stormy expression remained.
"Peter was a traitor. I felt James die that night, and I went straight there."
"You Apparated to Godric's Hollow?" Natalia asked, raising her brow slowly.
"No – I took my motorcycle. I wouldn't have been able to Apparate without splinching myself, and to Floo there could have meant suicide. It took more time, but I thought the bike the best choice."
"Could you share with us the model of the bike?"
"A white Triumph Bonneville."
"Let the record show that one such bike has been produced as evidence by the Chief Warlock, courtesy of one Rubeus Hagrid. Can you tell the court why Rubeus Hagrid had your bike in his possession?"
"Aye – when I arrived, the cottage was already half destroyed. Hagrid was already there, with Harry in his arms. I begged him to let me have him – I'd have taken him to Blackwall Manor, but Hagrid argued he was safer at Hogwarts. We argued, but eventually I gave him my bike to get Harry there."
"Can you confirm these events, Chief Warlock?"
"I can – Hagrid has already told this same story and is one of the few testimonies the Prosecution has avoided, it seems."
Arcturus glanced at Kate Young and found her pale and cringing – no doubt it wouldn't be just Bagnold's and Crouch's careers ending if Sirius were declared innocent.
"What did you do immediately following these events?" Natalia asked, turning her gaze back to Sirius.
"I hunted Peter and found him on the second in Wembley. He drew his wand on me, and we fought – I wanted to bring him before the Wizengamot and have him confess before I executed him myself," Sirius snarled, his fists clenching the arms of the chair in a white-knuckled grip. "That was when the Aurors turned up."
"What happened, Sirius?"
"He started backing toward them, pretending he was overwhelmed. He accused me of betraying James. He removed a finger before he blasted the road open and made his escape."
"How did Pettigrew escape? In all of the reports, they claim Pettigrew was at the centre of the explosion."
"I saw what he was going to do. He escaped because he's an Animagus – his form is a common garden rat."
"How can we believe a word that you say?" Natalia asked, slowly walking around the bound Sirius. Absently, Arcturus noticed Dumbledore slump into his chair.
"Because James and I showed him how to do it – we took him where he needed to go, and we walked him through the ritual!" Sirius snapped. "James and I were Animagus too. I'm a Grim, and James was a Stag. We did it in our fifth year."
"Why did you not register yourselves, as required by law?"
"We didn't want anyone to know if we needed to use them in the war. There aren't many of us, and we thought it an advantage."
"So, you would have us believe that Peter Pettigrew escaped into the sewer? That he is still alive, and is the true culprit to these crimes?"
"I would, aye. I would never harm the Potters, and I would die before siding with the Dark Lord. They were the most important people in my life," Sirius replied, hanging his head slowly.
"My Lords, my Ladies, before you sits a man loyal and true to House Potter – the future Lord of House Black," Natalia began, her voice ringing out across the chamber as she turned to gaze upon the Lords and Ladies.
"This is a man who has been accused of heinous crimes, to which he is not guilty. Do I believe he acted rashly, and without forethought? Yes, but what can any of us do when overcome by grief?"
Natalia paused and Arcturus felt his mouth split into a grin – all around him, men and women were muttering between themselves.
"I say this man before you is innocent – a victim of circumstantial evidence and a desire to sweep the tragic events of the closing days of the war under the rug. Tell me, my Lords and Ladies, how would you feel if it were your heir sat chained before you in this way? I move for an immediate vote on the accused's innocence – what say you, Chief Warlock, Minister?" she asked, turning to look at the two officials.
Arcturus took in Bagnold's pale features as furious scowl – she had been perfectly manoeuvred into a corner from which she couldn't escape, and for a moment, he thought he might kiss Natalia for her excellent work.
"I find myself in agreement," Dumbledore replied, while Bagnold simply nodded once.
"Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot, it is my duty to inform you that you must remain true to the evidence you have seen today. If there is any doubt in your mind, you must vote innocent," Bagnold called out, her voice tight and clipped.
"With a show of wands, those who believe the accused guilty?"
Arcturus looked around anxiously as he chewed on his bottom lip and almost wept at the number of small white lights that lit up the dark chamber. It was less than a quarter – his boy would be free!
"Those who believe the accused is innocent of all charges?"
The room lit up, with a sea of white wand-tips and Arcturus almost felt his knees give out beneath him.
"Let the record show that Sirius Orion Black, heir to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, is found innocent of all the charges before him," Bagnold announced to the chamber, a number of cheers from the Vassal Lords of House Black answering her.
Arcturus swept from the box of House Black and almost sprinted down the stairs, despite his protesting knee. He was held back from rushing onto the central floor by a pair of large Aurors, both with their wands pointed in his general direction. He would give them credit, neither flinched under his gaze.
"Arcturus," Dumbledore called from the centre of the floor, a shaking Sirius in his arms. "Come and get your boy."