A (not so short) note at the beginning:
A couple of months ago, I decided that this fic needed a good working over. I myself started to cringe when I read certain parts, and there were obvious plot-holes that needed to be filled. But then I thought, as this is a 6th year fic, it might be better to wait until OoP came out and make the adjustments according to what happens in that book.
Now, as most of you might know by now, the ending of OoP makes it a bit difficult to adjust this story in any way, impossible really. I won't explain further, those of you who have read the book know what I mean and those who haven't read the book and are waiting for the translations to their own native languages (I don't think it's worth the wait, folks) will know in time.
To make a long story short (and not to bother you with my own opinion about OoP, which is not a positive one for many reasons), I have decided to give The Last Marauder my own personal working over, independent from most of what happens in OoP (especially in the fourth and third to last chapter) and call it AU from now on. I guess very much I'll write from now on might fall into that category.
I've made a couple of adjustments, mostly I added sub-plots and hopefully gave my characters more reasons to act as they do. And I tried to do something about that weird timeline, I really did.
So here is the re-written version of The Last Marauder. Those of you who already read it hopefully find something improved (though the main storyline remains the same) and for those who haven't, I hope you find a good new fic here.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything except the plot. All Harry Potter™ characters and settings are the sole intellectual property of Joanne K. Rowling, Warner Bros. and various others who all aren't connected to me in any way. If they were mine, I'd have done certain things very much differently. No money is being made with this fic and no copyright infringement is intended.
Remus Lupin was sitting at the wooden table in his small kitchen and was reading the Daily Prophet, just like he did every morning. His cottage lay secluded near a forest somewhere in Kent, far enough from the next settlement so that he didn't pose any danger to the inhabitants of the small town. In Remus' opinion, one could never be careful enough if one was a werewolf.
For the past year, Remus had been sharing his small cottage with his old friend from school days, Sirius Black, another occurrence when the seclusion of his home came in handy. Sirius was still on the run from the Ministry, he was still searched for crimes he had not committed. Clearing his name had become more and more urgent during the past months, not only but most importantly because of one person: Harry Potter, Sirius' nearly sixteen year old godson. Harry was still living with his muggle relatives in Surrey, but not only Remus and Sirius thought it important that he was protected by wizards whenever he was not at school.
At the end of Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, slightly more than a year ago, Lord Voldemort had managed to get hold of Harry and had used the boy's blood in an ancient magical rite to resurrect himself. Not only this, but he also ordered the death of Harry's school mate Cedric Diggory. A boy of seventeen years, Cedric had died just because he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As if this had not been enough already, Minister of Magic Fudge had refused to believe the story Harry had told after he had managed to get back to Hogwarts alive by sheer luck. As a result, Albus Dumbledore had broken with the Ministry because he had refused to sit back and wait for Voldemort to act, he had refused to let the Dark Lord attack and strike them unprepared. Dumbledore had his own circle of loyal supporters, allies from every imaginable position in the wizarding world, and during the past year those supporters had done the best they could to track down Voldemort's followers and find any hints as to what the Dark Lord was planning.
Because even though the past twelve months had passed without any incident related to Voldemort at all, none of those close to Dumbledore believed this to be a sign that Voldemort would not strike. Truly, it had helped Fudge in promoting his view on things, it had helped him convincing the public that Voldemort's second rise was nothing but the fantasy of a mentally unstable teenager.
There had been nothing Sirius and Remus had wished more than to be able and support Harry during this trying time, but it had been nearly impossible. Other than a couple of short meetings during the past school year and a regular contact via letters there had been nothing else Sirius could do for his godson, no matter how much he had wanted or Harry had needed it. As long as Sirius was still on the run from the Ministry there was no possibility for him to gain legal custody over Harry, and Remus himself didn't have much better chances. 'Werewolf petitioning custody for The Boy Who Lived', now that would be a show to remember.
Whenever Harry was not at Hogwarts, he was staying with his muggle relatives in Surrey. It was a solution that agreed with neither Harry nor Sirius and Remus, let alone the Dursleys, but there simply was no other place for the teenager to stay where he would have been as safe as he was with his blood relatives. Blood relations provided an ideal basis for strong protection magic, and until Sirius' name was cleared and he and Remus could actively care for Harry's security, staying with the Dursleys was the only alternative Harry had.
That was why the two men focused all their attention on finding a way to clear Sirius.
As a werewolf and an escaped convict, both didn't like respectively were unable to leave their secluded hiding place, so Sirius and Remus spent most of their time with organizing the correspondence of Dumbledore's order, keeping in touch with all his supporters, collecting the information that was gathered by them and doing research on what the other members had found.
All of Dumbledore's other supporters had been informed of Sirius' innocence and Pettigrew's treason, and they were all well aware of the urgent need to clear Sirius' name. Under normal circumstances, Sirius' confession under Veritaserum should be enough to prove his innocence, but under the current circumstances within the Ministry, neither Dumbledore nor Sirius wanted to risk handing Sirius over voluntarily. He was still ordered to receive the Dementor's kiss upon capture, no matter that he never had a trial when he had been first arrested. And unless it wasn't granted that Sirius would be given the trial once he was captured, Sirius put all his efforts in finding Peter Pettigrew and thus forcing the Ministry to listen to his story first.
Slightly less than a week ago, Mundungus Fletcher, an Auror and close ally to Dumbledore, had received news concerning the location of a possible Death Eater hideout, and Sirius had followed him to southern Wales in the hope to find Peter Pettigrew amongst them. So far, Remus had not received news from any of them, and slowly he was starting to get worried.
Sirius' one big advantage was the fact that he was an illegal animagus and that therefore nobody recognized him when he assumed the form of his alter ego, a big black dog. But the form of Padfoot didn't provide complete protection from the Ministry, and there were far more things that could possibly go wrong than Remus allowed himself to think about.
He kept no telling himself that no news meant good news, at least he'd know by now if something had happened.
And so far he had not heard from Fletcher, either, so it was possible that they were still investigating the hideout. It was of no use if he started to panic now. But still, Remus was not able to suppress the bad gut feeling that was getting stronger and stronger.
With a sigh, Remus rose from his chair and put his breakfast plate in the sink. He'd make himself another cup of tea and then he'd return to his study and continue to work through the pile of parchments on his desk. Two days ago, copies of intercepted letters had been sent to Remus and he was still trying to decode them. They had been sent by somebody whom Arabella Figg suspected of at least being associated with Death Eaters, and the fact that this person was sending coded letters was enough to let the order's alarm bells ring.
The letters had been passed on to Remus in the hope that he would be able to find out what they were saying. Remus had a liking for solving puzzles and quite a talent for translating languages and solving riddles. But this time Remus was at a complete loss at what to do. He didn't know what to make of the strange combination of letters and symbols that were the contents of the letters, and he had already spent the whole previous day with trying to think of a possible starting point to unravel the code.
With movements that were carried out so automatically that Remus didn't really need to think about what he was doing, he filled the kettle with water and placed it on the stove. While the water was boiling, Remus threw three tea bags into the large tea pot and waited until the water was finished.
With the tea and a plate of biscuits, Remus went into the study and sat down at his desk. A biscuit in his hand, Remus stared at the parchment in front of him. There had to be a way to decode the letter, and all Remus needed was a starting point.
One and a half hours later Remus still wasn't closer to solving the code than he had been before. The teapot was empty, there were no biscuits left and he had the strong suspicion that the letters were abbreviations for book titles or other references. With a sigh he decided to send another copy of the letter to Madam Pince in the Hogwarts library. If his suspicions were true, then she would be the one to figure it out.
Just as Remus was about to search his fridge for possible lunch ingredients, a low *pop* from the hallway announced that he had a visitor. Which surprised him quite a bit. Usually, his visitors didn't apparate straight into his hall, but had the decency to either announce themselves through the fireplace, or to apparate in front of the door and to knock.
Remus quickly drew his wand and turned towards the hallway to investigate the identity of is visitor.
Upon hearing the voice, Remus let the wand sink down, though he didn't pocket it again. That he would only do once he had made sure that it was really who he supposed it was. When Remus turned around the corner, the unmistakable red hair of a Weasley greeted him and that was as much confirmation as Remus needed. He put his wand back into the sleeve of his robe and went over to greet his guest.
"Arthur, hello. What brings you here?"
Remus. My apologies for apparating straight into your house, but I'm afraid
it's rather urgent."
Both men quickly shook hands, but from the look on Arthur's face Remus could already guess that something was seriously wrong.
For a moment, Remus contemplated why Arthur would have come or been sent here. Normally, though they both worked for Dumbledore, their ways rarely crossed. Arthur was doing what he could within the Ministry whereas Remus completed the information Arthur gathered from various other sources.
"Arthur, has something happened?"
Suddenly, that bad gut feeling Remus had had earlier that day was back again. Something here was definitely not right.
Arthur Weasley sighed and nodded.
"Yes, something has happened. Albus sent me to come here and fetch you. We have a big problem."
A lump formed in Remus' stomach and he prayed that this didn't mean what he thought it did. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.
caught him this morning. We need to get there as fast as possible. Albus is
already there and tries to convince them to give him a trial, but in case they
refuse it might be better if it's not only Albus there to defend him."
Remus nodded, desperately trying to straighten his tumultuous thoughts. Sirius had been caught. That was rather bad news, but as long as Albus knew about it and had already involved himself there was still hope. He just had to keep his wits together, it would not help Sirius at all if he started panicking now. Nevertheless he could not help to worry about him.
Remus quickly grabbed his robe and nodded at Arthur.
to do we apparate?"
"Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Entrance Hall."
Straight into the lion's den. A grim determination on his face, Remus nodded and prepared himself to apparate.
Five minutes later Remus stormed through a corridor in the DMLE in search of the staircase. He had left Arthur in the entrance hall, it was not necessary that they were seen together. Arthur was supposed to keep a low profile at the Ministry, his close connections to Albus Dumbledore and his circle of supporters needn't become public if it could be avoided. He had been able to tell Remus that Sirius and Dumbledore supposedly were in one of the holding cells in the basement, so that was where he was heading.
He reached the basement easy enough and soon found himself in the area where newly-caught prisoners were held. So far, Remus had not encountered anybody who had tried to stop him. The entrance to the basement had been guarded by two Aurors, but upon telling them that Albus Dumbledore was expecting him in the downstairs corridor they had allowed Remus to pass. He had only needed to sign the register, that had been all. But that didn't strike him as odd. It was no wonder that getting into the holding cells was easy, it was getting out that surely was near-impossible. The whole basement reeked of magic, and three times already Remus had felt the magical signature of holding wards as he had crossed them. Nobody got out here without either permission or without triggering all alarms.
At the far end of the corridor, Remus saw five wizards in the official yellow and black Auror robes guarding the cell at the end of the corridor and another strongly secured room next to it.
The door on the right was guarded by two Aurors, seemed to be protected by strong magical shields and still Remus could feel the mind numbing cold waves emitting from the Dementors that he supposed were held behind it.
In front of the other door, the one at the end of the corridor, arms crossed over his chest, stood Albus Dumbledore, and it was obvious that he was not too pleased with what had happened to Sirius. Had Remus not already known that the old headmaster was not the fragile old man he often appeared to be, but a very powerful wizard, the look on Dumbledore's face right now would have convinced him. The old wizard's blue eyes were hard and resolute, daring the Aurors to try and get past him in to the room where Sirius was most likely locked in. He was radiating power and at the moment it was completely understandable why even Voldemort feared Albus Dumbledore.
The three remaining Aurors were standing between Albus Dumbledore and the only exit at the other end of the corridor, and Remus wasn't entirely sure whether they were guarding Sirius behind the door or Dumbledore in front of it.
Remus stepped closer and immediately he found himself held at wand point by one of the Aurors. He raised his hands slightly to show that he was holding no wand. Remus thought he saw a slight smile appear on Dumbledore's face.
"Ah, Remus. I was hoping you'd arrive as fast as possible."
"I came as soon as I heard what had happened."
The Auror that had held him at wand point pulled out a register from his pocket.
Remus turned towards him.
"Remus J. Lupin."
The Auror wrote the information down.
you want to stay here, you'll have to hand over your wand. We can't let you
Remus obediently handed over his wand, but the Auror didn't seem to be finished with his instructions.
"You may remain in the corridor, but you may not enter the prisoner's cell without previous permission of the Head of the Magical Law Enforcement or the Minister of Magic himself. If you try to resist any explicit order given to you, or make any attempt to attack a Ministry official or help the prisoner escape you will immediately be taken into custody yourself. Until the further procedures are decided, nobody enters the prisoner's cell. Is that understood?"
Remus nodded half-heartedly and stepped beside Dumbledore, mimicking his stance with his arms crossed over his chest. He couldn't care less about the other wizard's instructions at the moment, all he could think of was Sirius and how it would go on from here for his friend. Dumbledore was glancing over at Remus, and the younger man was a little surprised to see the headmaster's eyes sparkle behind his glasses, as if he was a tad bit amused even despite the situation they were in now.
"I take it Sirius is in the cell behind us?"
"How is he doing?"
Not taking his eyes off the Aurors in front of him, Dumbledore answered.
"He was lucky. When I arrived they were already about to hand him over to the Dementors." The old wizard shook his head in a gesture of disbelief. "I didn't even know there were Dementors in the building. Fudge seems to keep two of them here on a regular basis for cases like this. Sirius has been lucky this time."
Remus slowly released a breath he hadn't been aware he'd been holding. That Sirius might be caught and receive the Dementor's kiss had been his biggest concern for two years now, and realizing that today this nightmare had nearly come true was not a very calming thought. But everybody had earned a bit of luck at times, and Merlin knew Sirius had been entitled for it.
What worried him was that Dumbledore had said Sirius had been about to be handed over to the Dementors. Remus knew what the presence of Dementors did to his old friend.
been close to the Dementors again?"
Dumbledore nodded grimly, his eyes flashing angrily.
"He didn't take it too well, but he's holding up alright at the moment. But he knows the Dementors are still close, so I guess he won't be completely relieved until he's as far away from them as possible."
They continued their vigil silently for some more moments, but Remus had still too many questions that were bothering him.
Remus didn't need to elaborate any further. Dumbledore knew what he wanted to know. How had it happened, how had Sirius been arrested?
"I don't know the details, but from what I gathered, on his way from southern Wales back to Kent he had the misfortune to run into a group of hit team wizards who were cleaning up a crime scene."
Remus frowned his brow and shook his head.
"But that doesn't make sense. How were they able to recognize him as Padfoot?"
Dumbledore didn't reply but merely looked at Remus intensely. The look in his eyes was answer enough.
"But…why? I mean, I know that Sirius is rash and sometimes he's not as careful as he should be, but he knew how important keeping his disguise was. I can't imagine why he would have just run around for everybody to arrest him."
Dumbledore let his eyes wander through the corridor.
"That is one of the things we need to ask him once there is the time for it."
"What will happen now?"
Dumbledore shrugged and sighed deeply.
"For now I think I have prevented him from being handed over to the Dementors immediately. Fudge is on his way here, and I won't let anybody get past me until I have the guarantee that Sirius will be given a trial."
"Neither will I. I just hope it will be enough."
"So do I Remus, so do I. But it's all we can do at the moment."
"We can't go in that cell and see him?"
Dumbledore shook his head, his eyes darting over towards the armed Aurors that were watching them attentively.
"I'm afraid that would not be a good idea.
maybe it'll all be over sooner than we expected. Cornelius, how are you?"
Remus looked up just to see the figure of Cornelius Fudge stride towards them. From the look on his face, he was not in the best of moods, quite the contrary to the cheery face Dumbledore had suddenly started to show.
Fudge ignored him for the moment and went over towards the Auror who was in charge.
"Sirius Black is in holding cell 7b?"
The Auror nodded.
have Dementors in the building?"
Again, the Auror nodded.
"Then I take it that the Dementor's kiss has been administered already?"
This time, the Auror shook his head and scratched it in search of an explanation. Fudge seemed to be utterly confused.
"Professor Dumbledore intervened…"
"Albus Dumbledore holds no authority in this building. Why haven't you ordered the kiss to be administered?"
The Auror shrugged and avoided the Minister's gaze. It was true that technically spoken Albus Dumbledore didn't hold any authority at the Ministry, but he had been headmaster of most of the younger Aurors, and the Transfiguration Professor for most of the older Ministry officials, and a lot of them still held a huge amount of respect for him. It was difficult to say no to Albus Dumbledore, one didn't just disagree with him. Except from Cornelius Fudge, of course.
"I demand to know what is going on here, Albus. You have no right to interfere in official Ministry procedures."
Dumbledore met Fudge's gaze squarely and Remus got the impression he enjoyed the confrontation. His voice evenly, very much unlike Fudge's shouting, he replied.
"I have taken the liberty to save the life of an innocent man, Cornelius. And you would be aware of that fact as well if Sirius Black had been granted a trial when he was first arrested more than fourteen years ago."
Fudge's face turned deep red and he dramatically waved his hands in the air.
"That is impossible! I really start doubting your sanity, Albus. First you believe that crackpot story the Potter boy came up with a year ago, about You-Know-Who having returned, and now you claim that Sirius Black is innocent? Albus, that man has killed thirteen people in one strike, he's been found at the scene of the crime, laughing insanely.
Really, we finally got You-Know-Who's right hand man in custody again and now you claim that he is innocent!"
"Yes, this I do. Sirius Black is innocent, he is not insane, and neither is he or has he ever been Voldemort's right hand man."
Remus had to hide a smile as he saw Fudge flinch at hearing the Dark Lord's name. But Dumbledore wasn't finished yet.
"There is a very good explanation for the events that took place nearly fifteen years ago, and you'll hear it if you agree to give Mr. Black a trial, just as it is his right. If you're so convinced of his guilt then you have nothing to lose, but the trial will prove once and for all that you were right."
There was a challenge in Dumbledore's voice, and after a moment's hesitation, Fudge accepted it.
"Alright, but don't hold me responsible if this farce ruins your reputation once and for all."
Fudge checked his watch.
"It's half past eleven, I'll see that we'll get a free court room this afternoon. If you also want him to have a legal representative, you'll have to organize one yourself. Good luck in finding somebody willing to defend him in court."
Fudge grinned smugly, but Dumbledore's expression didn't change. Calmly, he replied.
"Don't worry yourself over Mr. Black's legal representative. I'll defend him in court, that should be more than sufficient."
The Minister regarded Dumbledore from narrowed eyes.
"You're really involving yourself, Albus. I hope you know what this will do to you and your position in the magical community once this 'trial' is done with and Black has received the Dementor's kiss. I really hope you do.
Is there anybody else you need as witness to prove Black's 'innocence'?"
Dumbledore nodded, ignoring the sarcastic malice in Fudge's voice completely.
"Actually, yes there are. I have a small list of witnesses, now that you ask."
"Remus J. Lupin, for one."
Fudge stared at Remus and it was impossible to tell whether the contempt Fudge was showing was because of his lycanthropy or because of the fact that he had been named as a witness for Sirius' innocence.
"Ronald Weasley. He's the youngest son of Arthur and Molly Weasley, getting him here on time should not pose a problem. From what I know, Arthur is in his office right now, he should be able to bring him over.
Then Hermione Granger, muggle born Hogwarts student. Her parents reside in a Manchester suburb. If you have problems locating her, just contact Minerva McGonagall to bring her over."
Fudge was clearly not pleased with the insinuation that his office would not be able to locate a muggle born girl.
"I think we can manage that very well on our own. Somebody else? Or are you quite finished?"
Dumbledore smiled, ignoring the snide sound of Fudge's voice deliberately.
just one witness more."
Fudge raised a curious eyebrow.
"And that witness would be?"
Fudge looked thunderstruck for a moment, the deep red colour of his face and his rapid breathing the only signs telling that he had not been petrified. Finally he shook his head.
"Let me get this straight. You not only claim that Black, deranged killer that he is, is innocent. No, you also call a werewolf, two underage Hogwarts students and another boy who has proven more than once already that his mind is unstable enough to come up with the most absurd stories, as witnesses to prove that innocence? Albus, you can't be serious about that."
Remus had immediately tensed at Fudge's remark, but Dumbledore put a hand on his shoulder, nearly as much to calm him as to hold him back in case Fudge made another remark like that one. His blue eyes didn't leave the Minister's face.
"I'm as serious as one can be about that, Cornelius. Now, if you'd be so kind to see to it that the trial is prepared, I'd be more than thankful."
Fudge raised his eyebrows and gestured first at Dumbledore, then at Remus and last at the locked cell door behind them.
"You intend to stay here? In front of that door? Until the trial begins?"
I do, Cornelius. We wouldn't want to risk that Mr. Black has an accidental
encounter with a Dementor before a trial can be held, would we?"
The expression on Fudge's face told clearly that this was exactly what he had wanted to 'risk', but Dumbledore remained calm. With one hand he kept a firm grip on Remus' shoulder to prevent the werewolf from giving in to his anger at the Minister's intention for his best friend, with the other he stroke his beard.
"I do. In fact, I'll also have to speak with Mr. Black before the trial begins, and we need to provide him with some decent clothing for this afternoon. It surely isn't a problem for Mr. Lupin and myself to see him?"
Fudge just stared at them for a moment, his eyes wandering between Dumbledore and Lupin as if they had both grown second heads. Eventually, he gained enough control over himself again to talk.
"If you must", he spluttered, "then you might see him. But everything you bring him has to be controlled before it gets into his cell, and at least two Aurors will be present as well."
Dumbledore resolutely shook his head.
"I will also need to speak alone with him, and as his legal representative I have a right to do so."
For some long moments, both men stared at each other, their gazes locked, each willing the other one to be the first to back down. After a very long minute, Fudge looked away.
"I give you fifteen minutes alone. And then it's only you and Black, Albus. If there are no Aurors present, Lupin won't stay in there, either. That's my only offer."
Slowly, Dumbledore nodded.
"Alright, that will be all I need."
And without another word, Fudge turned around and left the corridor. The Aurors who had watched the entire scene silently took up their previous positions again, two guarding the door that led to the Dementors, the other three keeping an eye on Remus, Dumbledore and the door to Sirius' cell.
After Fudge had left, they all remained silent for a while, until Dumbledore turned to Remus.
"I'd think that Sirius might not exactly look presentable after a week of travel and his encounter with the Ministry wizards."
Remus immediately understood.
"I have clean sets of his robes at home. Is there anything else I should bring along?"
"Nothing I could think of at the moment. It might be good to organize him something to eat, though, but that can be done later."
Remus nodded and left his place in front of Sirius' door. Dumbledore immediately shifted to the side so that he now stood in the middle of the doorway again.
Remus went over to the Auror who had disarmed him when he had arrived.
want to leave again?"
"Yes. As soon as I can get my wand back."
The Auror retrieved Remus' wand from a small box on the table beside him and handed it over, then he filled something out on a piece of parchment.
"The holding wards are disabled for your departure. Leave now, and check out again at the holding point straight next to the basement stairs."
Remus nodded again.
He walked down the corridor and checked out at the Aurors who guarded the basement, then went up the staircase towards the entrance hall again. Arthur Weasley was nowhere to be seen anymore, but that didn't really surprise Remus. After all, he had been down in the basement for over an hour.
With quick strides he crossed the entrance hall and left the building, apparating away as soon as possible.
Remus apparated into his front garden and lost no time to run into the house. There he did the first thing that came to his mind. He slammed the door shut behind himself and kicked against it as hard as he could, repeatedly.
"Shit! Shit, shit, shit!"
It wasn't the peak of eloquence and it wasn't something Remus usually did, but at the moment cursing and kicking the door seemed the only right thing to do.
Another kick against the door. His foot didn't even leave a dent in the wood, no matter how hard he kicked.
As he realized what he was doing there, Remus stopped his assault on the door and leaned back against the wall.
What was he doing? Losing his temper wouldn't help Sirius, either. What his friend needed now was the reassurance of the people close to him, and he needed to be prepared for the trial this afternoon. And maybe some prayers and a little divine help. But he definitely didn't need his best friend to break his foot on the wood of his front door. Definitely not.
Remus ran his hands over his face and through his quite unruly sandy brown hair in a frustrated gesture.
Why? Why did they have to catch Sirius? Why now, when they still didn't have any proof that Peter was still alive and that he had been the traitor? The list of witnesses on Sirius' behalf which Dumbledore had given to Fudge was short, but unfortunately it named the only people who could really testify that Sirius was indeed innocent. The only one Dumbledore had not named was Severus Snape, but Remus understood why.
By now Remus had been told that Fudge knew about the Potions master being a Death Eater, and if Snape had testified at the trial this could have become publicly revealed. And if there was something they really couldn't afford at the moment, then it was losing their spy amongst the Death Eaters. And this didn't even consider the consequences Severus would have to bear if his fellow Death Eaters got to know that he had been spying on them.
Fudge had been perplex at Dumbledore's choice of witnesses, and frankly Remus had to agree that it wasn't much they had to offer for Sirius' support.
He himself would testify on Sirius' behalf, even under Veritaserum. The truth serum didn't necessarily agree with him, during his questioning after Sirius' capture all those years ago he had had enough opportunities for first-hand experiences of how sick and nauseous it made him feel, but for Sirius' sake he'd be more than willing to deal with this little inconvenience. But the testimony of a werewolf didn't count for much, Veritaserum or not.
Remus was sure that Ron and Hermione would say exactly the same that he'd say, but they were still underage teenagers and could not be legally questioned under Veritaserum. Their testimony could be easily declared irrelevant for the judgement, without a truth serum it would most probably useless.
As would be Harry's. People might tend to believe him more than they would believe Ron and Hermione, but Fudge had not let any opportunity to ruin his Boy-Who-Lived bonus during the past year. Remus didn't really know if Harry would be able to convince the judges, especially since Sirius was his godfather. Fudge would do his best to picture it as if Sirius had been influencing the boy.
So it all depended on Dumbledore's presence as his friend's legal representative, and Sirius' own testimony. Dumbledore was highly respected all over the wizarding community, and Sirius would surely testify under Veritaserum. Now if only Dumbledore could stop the people from thinking that Sirius was Voldemort's right hand man who knew enough Dark Magic to escape from Azkaban and to resist the truth potion, then his old friend might have a chance to win.
He might have.
With a sigh, Remus pushed himself off the wall and climbed the stairs to the upper floor of his cottage. Sirius had been living here during the past year, so all the clothing he owned was here in this house, as well.
Remus entered the second room on the right side and could not help but smile. The room practically screamed its owner's name.
Sirius had always been untidy, and no mater what punishment he had been threatened with throughout the years, nothing and nobody had been able to change that. His mother, James, Peter, Remus himself, Minerva, Lily, so many people had tried to turn Sirius Black into a tidy person and nobody ever succeeded. Remus didn't have any hope left, so he just allowed Sirius to do whatever pleased him as long as his untidiness was limited to Sirius' own room. In fact, he quite enjoyed finding little traces of another inhabitant all over the house, even if it were things he grumpily cleaned away. He had been alone for far too long, he enjoyed Sirius' presence far more than he wanted to admit.
And that was exactly why he wouldn't let them lose the trial. And if they did…well, then he'd have to think about another way of getting Sirius away from the Dementors before it was too late.
Of course Remus knew that in case Sirius was really found guilty during his trial, every attempt to break him free before he was handed over to the Dementors would make him a searched criminal as well, but Remus was not willing to let them take away his last friend from him. His innocent friend.
Before his anger could boil over again, Remus made his way across the room towards the wardrobe. He carefully avoided stepping onto anything on the floor, which meant he was hopping from one of the few spots of visible floor boards to the next.
In the wardrobe, Remus found a clean set of plain black robes that would be sufficient clothing for the trial. He folded them, put them in a bag and left the room again. On his way down, he stopped in the bathroom and added a comb and, following an instinct he couldn't quite explain, some Pepper-Up and Pain-Numbing potion. After all, he didn't know what shape his friend was in. To be on the safe side, he also added a bottle of disinfectant and some bandages, and downstairs in the kitchen he packed in two large bars of chocolate.
Remus once more looked around in the room and contemplated whether there was anything else he needed to bring, but as he found nothing he left the house and apparated back to the Ministry.
He immediately turned towards the staircase on the backside of the hall and descended into the basement, his only thought being his wish to see Sirius and his hope that he was alright.
The scene at the end of the corridor was still the same it had been when he had left. Dumbledore was still standing in front of Sirius' cell and the five Aurors were still guarding him and the doors.
Remus handed his wand and the bag with Sirius' clothes and the other supplies over to one of the Aurors, then took his place next to the old headmaster again.
Dumbledore shook his head.
"No, Remus. It has been surprisingly uneventful since Minister Fudge and you left. Did you bring some clothes?"
"Yes, and also a Pepper-Up potion and some other supplies in case he's not in the best of shapes."
"Good, that might be needed."
At that moment, the Auror stepped over to them and handed the bag back to Remus.
"I have to search you for concealed wands or other weapons before I let you into the cell."
Remus immediately thought about that age-old joke about hidden wands and how Sirius would surely have cracked it had he heard that comment right now. But as it would surely only confuse the Aurors if he started grinning now, Remus forced back his smile, raised his arms to his sides and let the Auror do his work. After Dumbledore had been searched as well, the door to Sirius' cell was opened and they were let in.
The cell, like any holding cell, didn't hold any furniture except from the wooden construction on the far off wall that obviously served as a bed. Remus saw the figure of his friend sitting on it, knees drawn up to his chest, and immediately wanted to hurry over, but Dumbledore held him back.
Only then did Remus realize that there was another ward separating Sirius from the side of the room where the door was. He would have run straight into it.
They waited while the two Aurors closed the door and disabled the ward, giving a nod of the head as the sign that now it was safe to cross the room.
Remus didn't even wait until the Auror had finished nodding.
The fact that Sirius had not shown any reaction when they had entered worried him greatly. He went over and sat down beside his friend on the bed.
Sirius was a complete mess. His robe was dusty and dirty, one of his sleeves torn. His hair was dishevelled and not clean, either. But what worried Remus most was the blood on the left side of Sirius' face. It seemed to come from a wound just above his temple that didn't look as if it had been treated in any way.
Remus put a hand on Sirius' shoulder and tried to get his friend's attention.
Remus spoke softly, not wanting to startle his friend. Pale blue eyes looked up into his face, and after a moment widened in recognition. Sirius bit his lower lip.
"Yes. I'm here, and so is Albus. We'll help you out of this, don't worry."
As if he suddenly remembered where he was, Sirius dropped his gaze to the floor.
"That I got careless enough to let them catch me."
Remus closed his eyes and sighed. He should have known that this would come, he should know Sirius well enough to be aware of his self-blaming tendency. He let his hand drop from Sirius' shoulder and rubbed circles across his back, then carefully drew him into a hug.
"It's alright, we'll get you out of here, I promise. But it's important that you don't give up yet, alright? You have to believe that there's still a chance, otherwise you've already lost."
Sirius nodded against Remus' shoulder and after a moment the werewolf drew back a little to have a closer look at Sirius' wound. He held his friend's head firmly in place with one hand and ran the other along the edges of the wound. Sirius winced.
"Has a medi-wizard examined this?"
Sirius made a small, choking sound that somehow resembled a laugh.
"They were so busy with feeding me to the Dementors that somehow nobody thought about calling a medi-wizard. I can't imagine why."
Remus just shook his head, eyes still trained on the wound. At least it had stopped bleeding by now.
"Sarcasm isn't going to help you any, Sirius. You sound like Severus, really."
for ruining the last hours of my life by comparing me to that greasy, slimy,
obnoxious git of a Slytherin."
Remus slapped Sirius sharply on the uninjured back of his head.
"I think I said something about not giving up yet. Albus, would you hand me the bag, please?"
Dumbledore had watched the two friends silently, and even now he wordlessly handed over the bag to Remus and then stepped back.
He knew very well that if things went wrong this might be the last moments the two friends had alone with each other, so he stepped aside and let Remus treat Sirius' wound.
Sirius hissed sharply as Remus pressed a cloth with disinfectant on the wound.
"How in Merlin's name did that happen, Padfoot?"
Sirius winced again.
"I had a little disagreement with one of the Aurors. He wanted to arrest me, I didn't want to be arrested. Somebody stunned me from behind and I guess I knocked my head when I fell."
He shrugged as if being arrested wasn't something as much of a catastrophe as it was for somebody in his position.
"And would you care to tell me how it was possible that you were recognized at all?"
Though Remus didn't speak it out, Sirius knew very well that his friend was asking why he had not been safely disguised in his animagus form.
"It was all an accident, really. I had stopped at this pub for a little rest and maybe something to eat, depending on how irresistible Padfoot's begging look would be, and all of a sudden the chaos started. I don't know, I guess some guys wanted to mug the pub and before I knew what was happening they had drawn their wands and the curses had started to fly."
He shrugged again.
couldn't just sit by and wait for it to go over. Somebody must have called the
Ministry, though, and when they arrived one of them immediately recognized me.
There was a struggle, I got stunned and the next thing I know is I woke up and
they brought in a Dementor. I must have passed out again at that point."
The last sentence came out as a whisper and Sirius lowered his eyes to the floor. Remus squeezed Sirius' shoulder again and searched in the bag for the chocolate he had brought. He handed it over to Sirius and was glad when a slight smile crossed his friend's features.
"I personally think that one doesn't need encounters with Dementors for a nice little chocolate feast, but at the moment you look as if you need it."
Sirius tore off the wrapping paper and bit off a large chunk of the chocolate. As soon as he had swallowed it, some of the colour returned to his abnormally pale face.
"They're still close, aren't they?"
"Yes, behind another door on this corridor. But don't worry about that now, alright? They're locked up behind a magically warded door, and as long as Albus is standing vigil in your doorway nobody will dare to let them lose."
Sirius looked up from the last piece of chocolate he had been eying.
"Albus is what?"
"Well, since he received word about what happened to you, he's been standing in your doorway, glaring at everybody who does as much as approach it. Under any other circumstances, it would be a hilarious sight."
Sirius just shook his head.
"You're all making too much of a fuss just because of me. Just because I was stupid enough to get caught."
"You listen to me now, alright? You've managed three years on the run without getting caught, that counts for something. I know that you've always did your best to stay hidden. I know that you've been as carefully as you could. It has happened and we can't change that now, but we'll get you out.
Albus has stopped them from feeding you to the Dementors, and he has made Fudge agree to give you a trial, so things aren't as bad as they might look.
And now finally hold your head still, otherwise it only takes me longer to look after that thick skull of yours."
He handed Sirius the other bar of chocolate and had to suppress a laugh at the look in his friend's eyes.
"How, short of pointing his wand at Fudge's throat, did Albus manage to make that man give me a trial?"
"He chose to take the other infallible method: challenged Fudge's pride. Fudge is so convinced of your guilt that he considers the trial to be an ideal publicity event that will ruin Albus' reputation once and for all. He's overly confident, that should work to our advantage.
You'll get your trial this afternoon, so Albus still needs to talk to you about all necessary procedures."
Remus looked over Sirius' shoulder, but only to find that Dumbledore was gone. Only the two Aurors guarding the door were still in the room. Sirius followed his gaze.
"Where did he go?"
"Probably went to fetch you something to eat. Here, drink this before he comes back."
He pulled out the Pepper-Up and the Pain-Numbing potion and handed the two small bottles to Sirius.
"Better not to drink those on a full stomach, I don't think it would make a good impression on the judges if you got sick in the middle of the court session."
He gave Sirius a smile which the other man returned, just that it didn't reach Sirius' eyes. Sirius obediently took the two potions and swallowed them.
"Right. Now we only need to make you look a bit more presentable. I brought you some clothes."
Remus pulled out the robes and handed them over to Sirius. Upon undressing his torn and dirty robes, Remus found another couple of scratches and smaller hex marks which he treated as best as he could with the limited supplies he had brought, then he helped the still somewhat stiff and unsteady Sirius into the clean robe and handed him the comb. He even managed to convince one of the Aurors to perform a simple cleansing charm on Sirius' hair and face so that he'd look more like a human being in court.
After all of that was done, Sirius and Remus sank back on the makeshift bed in the cell and stared at the opposite wall in companionable silence. It was Sirius who eventually broke it.
Remus turned his head and looked at Sirius, but his friend continued to stare at the far off wall.
"If I ask you something, will you give me an honest answer?"
Remus sighed. He could guess very well what Sirius' question would be, and as much as he wanted to tell Sirius that everything would be okay again, he didn't want to lie to him. Sirius had earned his honesty, no matter if he didn't like it.
Sirius took a deep breath and for a moment seemed to be searching for the right words.
"Do you think there is a chance I win this trial today?"
Remus leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling.
"I think your chances are small, but you definitely have a chance. Though I'd have liked it better if we already had proof that Peter is still alive, that would help us a lot.
The problem is that everybody out there in the courtroom has spent the past fifteen years thinking of you as a deranged killer with an immense knowledge in the Dark Arts. And as long as they believe that, I don't know how much your own testimony will count, Veritaserum or not.
And we don't have much more. I will testify for you, under truth serum if necessary, but I'm a werewolf. You know how people think about that. Ron and Hermione are still too young to be questioned under Veritaserum, and though Harry still is everybody's Golden Boy, Fudge has done his best in the past year to scrape his good reputation.
Our big bonus is that we got Dumbledore on your side."
But Sirius didn't seem to even have heard the last sentence. He was staring wide-eyed at Remus.
"Harry? What's Harry got to do with this?"
"Well, Dumbledore named him as a witness for you. After all, he was present in the Shrieking Shack that night two years ago. He is one of the few who have seen that Peter is still alive. And he is your godson, I'd think he should have a vital interest in this trial."
Sirius shook his head.
"I don't like the idea of him getting involved in it. He doesn't like to be dragged into publicity, and there is bound to be press present during the trial. If that Skeeter woman starts another campaign against him, his next school year will be hell again."
Remus put a hand on Sirius' shoulder and waited until the other man looked at him.
"Sirius, let's just assume that we keep Harry out of this and he doesn't turn up today. Do you think he'd be delighted to get the news of your innocence or worse, of your execution, from the Daily Prophet?"
Remus knew that his choice of words was harsh, but somehow he needed to get Sirius' attention.
"Sirius, Harry cares for you. Besides all the help he might be able to provide, I'm sure he would want to be here. He'd want to see you, would want to show that he supports you."
Slowly, Sirius nodded.
"You're right. I might not like it, but I guess you're right."
Both men turned their heads at the sound of somebody knocking on the cell door. The Aurors raised their wands and opened it up to let Albus Dumbledore into the room. In his hands, he carried a bag that radiated the delicious smell of freshly cooked food.
"Ah Sirius, I see Remus did a good job in patching you up again. I brought you something to eat, though it's only the Ministry Canteen Menu."
He checked the time on an old watch he pulled out of his pocket.
"We have slightly less than an hour before the trial starts, and the two of us still need to go through the procedures. The Minister was so kind to allow us some time alone for that purpose."
Remus nodded and got up from where he had been sitting. Sirius followed suit and for a moment the two men just looked at each other. Forcing himself to smile, Remus pulled Sirius into a hug once more.
see you in the courtroom, then. Don't let them bring you down Padfoot,
Sirius nodded into Remus' shoulder.
if…if things go wrong later, promise you'll take care of Harry."
He withdrew from the embrace and looked Remus in the eyes.
don't think he'd take it too well, just take care that he's alright."
He playfully punched his fist against Sirius' chest.
"See you later, Sirius. Take care."
"Yeah, you too."
With a last glance at his old friend, Remus turned
around and left Sirius' cell.