It Only Takes a Drop of Blood

Chapter 11: Sirius Matters

Two weeks passed before Hermione mentioned her Defence idea again.

Harry had been mulling it over, among several other concerns on the forefront of his mind, and concluded that it wasn't a bad plan... He just wasn't sure he wanted to be the one teaching.

Being the focus of attention was one thing, but he already had enough to be getting on with in his life without the additional burden of teaching Defence to his friends. However, that didn't stop his traitorous mind from coming up with lesson plans for all of the useful spells he knew.

So when Hermione brought up the subject, Harry agreed, albeit reluctantly. And when she said that it shouldn't just be the three of them, he was skeptical but figured that one or two more wouldn't hurt. Of course, that was before he saw the group of 25 that came to join them in the Hog's Head.

"A couple of people?" Harry choked as he saw the large crowd congregating before them. "A couple of people?"

"Yes, well, the idea seemed quite popular," Hermione said cheerily, ignoring his spluttering. "Ron, do you want to pull up some more chairs?"

The whole thing was an unmitigated disaster, in Harry's opinion. He was quickly prodded about the Cedric Diggory debacle and then all the mad things he'd gotten up to over the years, from Basilisk-slaying to the Triwizard Tournament. When they finally got on topic, the group started arguing about when to hold the meetings, then shouted a bit about Umbridge, until finally, Hermione and Luna started having a go at each other over whether heliopaths existed or not.

But as they walked out of the Hog's Head that afternoon, Hermione's bright grin and the scroll of names in her bag said that Harry shouldn't mention how awful the meeting was if he wanted to keep his head.

The three of them continued down the street and stopped at the quill shop. As Hermione searched for a new quill, the conversation wandered from the Defence group to the people who came to the meeting. And when Hermione mentioned that Michael Corner and Ginny were dating, Ron threw a fit.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Ron," she said at last, standing on his foot, "this is exactly why Ginny hasn't told you she's seeing Michael; she knew you'd take it badly. So don't harp on about it, for heaven's sake."

"What d'you mean, who's taking anything badly? I'm not going to harp on about anything…"

Ron muttered all the way out of the store and down the street, Hermione and Harry following in his wake.

"So," she asked, poking Harry in the arm, "have you talked to Cho yet?"

Harry shot a bewildered look at her. "What d'you mean?" he asked, taken aback.

Hermione huffed. "Well it's obvious that she couldn't take her eyes off you the whole meeting," she said, "which means she probably doesn't know that you're seeing someone else."

"Oh," Harry said, almost sighing in relief. He'd half thought that Hermione was wondering if he was going to talk to Cho about Cedric.

"You should tell her," Hermione said. "She shouldn't have to go around mooning at you if you aren't going to do anything about it."

"Yeah, I guess," Harry said with a grimace. At Hermione's insistent expression, he reluctantly added, "I'll talk to her later."

Hermione shot him a knowing look but decided to leave the subject for now. Hurrying to catch up with Ron, who'd stopped muttering and had paused to wait for them, she started chattering about something or other.

Harry followed his friends quietly, as the group wandered through the small village, passing by the Three Broomsticks and window-shopping at Zonko's. He was busy thinking about the letter he'd received, not two days ago, from Clarisse.

The letter was a little shorter than he'd expected, what with her being home again and getting ready to go back to school. She told him that all their friends in the study group were missing him and asked him again if he was coming back for Christmas. Harry really wanted to go, but, as going to Surrey meant spending the holidays with the Dursleys, he was a little reluctant to agree right off. They wouldn't be happy if he showed up for Christmas. Maybe if he spent the holiday with Sirius, he'd be able to sneak off again?

The whole situation was complicated. Harry had written her back, saying that he'd ask his godfather for permission and then he'd let her know. He'd also asked questions about what she'd want for Christmas and told her, in brief, what was he was doing at school. It was only when he'd penned his name at the end of the letter, did he realise how short it actually was. When you took out cancer, there wasn't much he could tell her about his life, especially when she didn't know about magic.

Harry sighed loudly, tucking his hands into his pockets and scuffing at the ground with his trainers. His big plans to ask Dumbledore for permission to tell her had quickly fizzled out over the last couple of weeks, as Dumbledore refused to talk to him. Harry wished he could just tell her the truth and not have to worry about getting permission. Clarisse could handle imminent death just fine, so who's to say she couldn't handle knowing about magic too?

"What's up, mate?" Ron asked, sidling up next to him. "You look deep in thought."

Harry sighed again and shrugged. "Nothing much, I guess," he said. "Just thinking."

"About?" That was Hermione, bumping into his other side.


Ron and Hermione exchanged knowing looks.

"So why're you sighing?" Ron prodded. "Usually you're grinning like a loon."

Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "I dunno," he said unhappily, kicking at a stone on the path. "I guess it's just… in the summer, we could just talk and things were simple. But now, with me being here…"

"There's not much you can say without bringing up magic," Hermione finished, nodding wisely.

"Yeah," Harry said, sighing once more. "I just wish I could tell her. It'd make everything easier."

"So why don't you?" Ron asked. Hermione and Harry looked at him incredulously. "Don't look at me like that! Yeah, I know the Statute of Secrecy says you can't, but Hermione, your parents know, don't they?"

Hermione nodded slowly. "But my parents needed to know because I'm a witch," she said carefully, glancing at Harry. "I don't know if the law applies to telling your girlfriends or boyfriends."

"I was going to ask Dumbledore for permission, but he won't even stay in the same room with me long enough for me to ask him," Harry said glumly.

"So what?" Ron shrugged. "It's not like you're going to be telling the whole world. She's just one person. As long as she keeps it to herself, who's going to know that you told? Clarisse wouldn't tell, would she Harry?"

"No, she wouldn't," Harry said, a grin slowly erupting on his face. "That's brilliant Ron!" His whole face brightened and he started walking with a skip in his step.

He wouldn't tell her in a letter, no that wouldn't be right. He'd have to tell her in person, so Christmas would be his best chance. Harry grinned. He would make her a magical gift, something really pretty just for her and give it to her after he told her. It was perfect!

Ron looked very pleased with himself and Hermione was about an inch from protesting when the former trod on her foot.

"What?" Hermione hissed, glaring at Ron.

"Look at how happy he is," the redhead said, glancing at Harry. "Don't ruin it for him."

Hermione huffed. "But he shouldn't tell his girlfriend about magic!" she argued hotly, keeping her voice low so Harry wouldn't hear them. "It's dangerous, not just for him but for her as well."

Ron sighed. "Look, we both know that," he said quietly, crossing his arms, "but look at how awful this year has been so far for him." He eyed his best friend. "The only time he's really happy is when he's reading her letters or talking about her." Hermione looked at the ground, knowing that this was true. "If telling her the truth is what's going to make him happy, then I say that we should let him do it."

"Fine," Hermione said reluctantly. Ron inclined his head in thanks and hurried to catch up with Harry, who'd gone on ahead. Hermione looked at her two best friends, who were chortling with their arms swung round each other's necks. She huffed and sped up to keep up with them, muttering under her breath.

A short man stepped out of the small apothecary, gingerly tucking several bags and phials of ingredients into a larger brown bag. He was sweating profusely and was glancing around the crowded street. No one seemed to pay him any mind as he made his way past several groups of people, heading for the arch at the mouth of Diagon Alley.

A group of witches passed in front of him, chattering about makeup charms, and one bumped his hand, causing him to drop the sack. It crunched when it hit the ground and the man hastily bent to check that nothing had broken or been damaged. He sighed in relief when all the potion ingredients were intact and stood, trying not to hit anyone else.

Then he saw him. That old friend of his, standing just under the arch leading to the Leaky Cauldron. Remus Lupin, looking worn and aged as he always did just before the full moon, was furrowing his brow, glancing around curiously. The shorter man's eyes widened and he backed into a small alley off the main street, praying that Remus hadn't spotted him.

He had planned to wait until Remus walked further down the alley, but his Dark Mark changed things when it started to burn unpleasantly. The Dark Lord wanted him. Biting back a yelp of pain, he looked out into the Alley and saw Remus standing just so between his alley and the way out. The werewolf was chatting with a young pink-haired witch and clearly had no intention of walking away anytime soon. The pain in his arm skyrocketed as the Dark Lord called even more insistently.

There was nothing for it. Peter Pettigrew transformed into a rat and ducked out of his nook, pointedly skirting Remus Lupin and his witch. He made his way to the exit, only to realise that he needed to be in human form to tap open the brick wall. Squeaking in frustration, he craned his neck to check that no one was looking back at him, and transformed. Peter turned, to see a group of Aurors standing in the now-open archway, staring at him.

Peter jumped in surprise, stumbling back. Several Aurors raised an eyebrow but didn't comment, so he blushed and ducked his head. "Excuse me," he mumbled, hurrying aside.

He was almost out of the archway when one of the Aurors called him back. Peter paled and turned around, eyes wide and mouth dry.

"Er, yes?" he stammered nervously, licking his lips. His arm was burning steadily and his whole body itched to hurry out of there.

The man who called him back was a pompous fellow with a red face and coiffed grey hair. "Sir, I believe you dropped this," he blustered, holding out Peter's wand.

Sweating profusely, he forced a smile on his face and leaned forward to take his wand with his right hand. It glinted in the sunlight, catching the eye of a large black Auror in the back. He stepped forward and smiled cheerfully.

"That was an excellent transformation," he said smoothly before Peter could accept his wand and hurry off. "Where did you learn to become an Animagus?"

"Uh-well that's-I should-someone's expect-," Peter stammered.

"Hogwarts," the pompous Auror said. "I can definitely see McGonagall's hand. The best Transfiguration Mistress this side of the Continent!" He puffed out his chest. "We share a great-grandfather! Great man…"

Sweat was rolling down Peter's forehead by this point and his skin was taking on a paper-like colour. He bit his lip, trying not to cry out as the Dark Mark burned more insistently.

"Reginald," the Auror who'd noticed Peter's hand, interjected the pompous Auror's rambling in his deep tone, "didn't you say once that your cousin was one of seven registered Animagi this century? I thought the youngest was Dirinius Moon. He registered in, what, 1962?"

"That's right," Reginald agreed, looking shrewdly at Peter. "How old are you, young man?"

"Er…I…well, that is-," Peter stammered, backing away from the group.

"I'm sure you must have filed your registration with the Improper Use of Magic Office very recently and our office just hasn't been informed as yet," the black Auror said calmly, holding out his hand, "but if you could show us proof of registration, we can let you go about the rest of your day."

Peter panicked and bolted, transforming mid-step for the Leaky Cauldron. He made for a crack at the base of Tom's bar when a spell caught him and floated his rat form to the group of frowning Aurors.

"Guess we won't be having lunch after all, boys," Reginald said, folding his arms across his chest, eyeing their bobbing prisoner.

Kingsley Shacklebolt eyed the prize from the back of the group with a gimlet eye as the rat squealed and squirmed.

The Order was in uproar that evening as Dumbledore called an emergency meeting and Kingsley recounted the events of the day in detail. Sirius was staring straight ahead, completely missing that his Firewhiskey forming a puddle on the floor as it dripped from the goblet in his slack hand. His gaze refocused when Remus' voice penetrated the din.

"I was there," his friend said blankly. "I was in Diagon Alley today, getting new robes, and… that must be why he transformed! Remember Tonks, we were talking just outside of the entrance!"

"What luck!" Tonks exclaimed. "Why, if you'd been just a tad late or if Kingsley's team had decided to eat lunch at the Cauldron…"

"I wouldn't be free," Sirius finished dazedly. Everyone turned to him and he sat up, staring feverishly at Kingsley. "I am free, aren't I?"

Kingsley shook his head. "Not yet," he said, putting his hands up to preemptively placate Sirius, "but trust me, you will be. Pettigrew was screaming, holding his left arm, when we reversed his transformation in the Holding Cells. We found the Dark Mark on his arm. Trust me, it's just a matter of time before there's a full inquiry. The truth will come out, just give it a few more days."

Sirius frowned and muttered to himself about waiting for thirteen years already, but, used to his ramblings, everyone else moved on.

"What about the Dark Mark?" Bill Weasley asked, leaning forward. "Surely if they've seen how dark it is, they would have made the connection that You-Know-Who is back?"

Even Dumbledore looked at Kingsley intently at that, but the man shook his head. "Only my team and Rufus know that Pettigrew was found with the Mark and, for now, they're keeping it quiet."

Snape sneered. "Even if they do tell someone," he said with a scowl, "it still won't be proof enough for the Minister."

Everyone tried to speak at once, but Dumbledore interceded. "Severus is right," he said calmly. "The Minister will need to see Voldemort in front of his own eyes to believe the truth." He sighed disappointedly and turned the conversation. "Instead we must take heart at Kingsley's news. Without his servant, Voldemort's position is weaker than before and we can only hope that this will slow his advances greatly and buy us more time to prepare for the war."

Harry sat upright in bed, gasping and sweaty, as his scar burned. He could still hear Voldemort's angry screams from his vision and shakily wandered to the bathroom. The cool cascade of water across his clammy forehead and cheeks brought some relief to his tense shoulders. Leaning back from the sink, Harry eyed the ghostly reflection in the mirror and examined the angry scar that was prickling less by the minute.

He'd been up late the night before, catching up with homework, and had finally finished in the early hours of Monday morning. Ron and Hermione had finished long before him, as they'd been doing their work while he was in Dundee getting his weekly treatment. Harry sighed and grimaced. These new treatments were almost worse than the older ones. He was lightheaded, tired and mildly nauseas all the time now, instead of only two or three days in a week. Dr. Taylor seemed optimistic, however, that the treatment was working, so he swallowed the complaints and tried to cheer himself. The program wouldn't last forever and then he wouldn't need the treatment ever again.

Yawning, he made his way back to bed and crawled between his sweat-dampened sheets, grimacing. It was too cold in the tower to sleep on top of his blankets, so even though the wet cloth felt uncomfortable against his skin, Harry had to make do until morning.

He shut his eyes, vaguely wondering what Voldemort had been so angry about. He fell asleep before he could remember.

Unfortunately for him, whatever good mood Harry woke with, didn't last for long.

It was inevitable that Umbridge would find out about their new study group but none of them ever expected that she would find out so soon. On Monday morning, the latest of her Educational Decrees was posted on the common room notice board, dwarfing everything else in its wake. All student groups larger than three students were disbanded and needed the Hogwarts High Inquisitor's permission to be reinstated.

Harry's heart sunk to the bottom of his shoes. The breakfast was completely chaotic as students worried about their clubs, the Quidditch teams and other extracurricular activities. Fred, George and Ginny asked about the defence group and Harry felt a bit of satisfaction when they all agreed to go on as planned. It finally felt like he was actually doing something to stand up to Voldemort and the Ministry.

Of course, what happened during History didn't help matters. He had been studiously ignoring Binns and Hermione's prodding as he doodled in the margins of his book, when his friend poked him sharp enough to draw his attention.

"What?" he hissed.

Hermione's point had him looking to the window, where Hedwig was perched. Harry raised an eyebrow. The letter on her leg told him where she'd been, but why hadn't she delivered it at breakfast as she normally did?

It wasn't until he'd let Hedwig in and she was sitting on his lap that he noticed her oddly ruffled feathers and her bent wing.

"She's hurt!" Harry exclaimed, bending closer. "Look, there's something wrong with her wing—"

He went to touch it and Hedwig jerked, puffing up and giving him a baleful look.

"Professor, I'm not feeling well!" Harry quickly made his excuses and hustled out of the room. Binns hardly cared, as he went back to reading about goblins in his incessant monotone.

Further down the corridor, he paused to think. With Hagrid gone, who would he take Hedwig to? The only one he could think of was Grubbly-Plank. He looked out the window but she wasn't anywhere near Hagrid's cabin, which meant she'd be in the staff room.

Harry hustled downstairs, trying not to jostle Hedwig's precarious position on his shoulder.

The stone gargoyles in front of the staffroom gave him lip, but at his knock, McGonagall answered.

"You haven't been given another detention!" she said upon seeing him, her eyes flashing. Harry highly doubted he'd survive telling her if he had.

"No, Professor!" he said hastily.

"Well then, why are you out of class?"

"It's urgent, apparently," a stone gargoyle mocked. Harry had a sudden urge to kick it.

"I'm looking for Professor Grubby-Plank," said Harry. "It's my owl, she's injured."

Grubbly-Plank took that moment to appear over McGonagall's shoulder, smoking a pipe. Harry showed her Hedwig's wing and explained what happened.

"Hmm," Grubbly-Plank said, examining Hedwig. "Looks like something's attacked her. Can't think what would have done it though... Thestrals will sometimes go for birds, but Hagrid's got the Hogwarts thestrals well trained not to touch owls."

Harry hardly cared. He just wanted to know that Hedwig would be okay. McGonagall, however, glanced sharply at him. "Do you know how far this owl's traveled, Potter?"

"Er, from London, I think."

He met McGonagall's eyes and knew that she understood that London meant "number twelve, Grimmauld Place." His Transfiguration professor's brow furrowed.

Grubbly-Plank agreed to look after Hedwig and said that she'd be fine in a few days. The bell rang in the distance. Harry stammered out his thanks and would have let the woman wander off with his letter if Professor McGonagall didn't have the presence of mind to ask for it.

The Care of Magical Creatures professor walked off with Hedwig in hand, who gave Harry a soulful look. He couldn't help but feel guilty for letting her go just like that. He turned to leave, but McGonagall called him back.


"Yes, Professor?"

She glanced up and down the corridor where students were beginning to wander.

"Bear in mind," she cautioned quickly and quietly, "that channels of communication in and out of Hogwarts may be being watched, won't you?"

"I—" Harry started, but the flood of students came upon them both.

McGonagall squeezed his shoulder with a firm hand and gave him a small smile. She gave him one last glance before sweeping back into the staffroom. The crowd of students pushed at his body until he was carried into the courtyard, where he found his friends waiting. He hurried to them and opened the tightly curled scroll.

Today, same time, same place. Good news.

It was Sirius' handwriting, though more sloppy than Harry'd seen it before. It was like Sirius had written it very quickly.

"Is Hedwig okay?" Hermione asked anxiously, the moment he was in earshot.

"Where'd you take her?" asked Ron.

"To Grubbly-Plank," Harry said. "And I met McGonagall. ... Listen..."

He told them what McGonagall had said, but neither of his friends looked surprised. Of course, he should have known that Hermione had come to the same conclusion.

"Who's the letter from, anyway?" Ron asked, taking the note from Harry.

"Snuffles," said Harry quietly.

"'Same time, same place'? Does he mean the fire in the common room?"

"Obviously," Hermione said, reading it over Ron's shoulder. She looked just as uneasy. "I just hope no one else has read this..."

"It was still sealed and everything," Harry argued, trying to convince himself as much as her. "And nobody would understand what it meant if they didn't know where we'd spoken to him before, would they?"

Hermione straightened her bag anxiously. "I don't know," she said. "It wouldn't be exactly difficult to reseal the scroll by magic. And if anyone's watching the Floo Network... but I don't see how we can warn him not to come without that being intercepted too!"

They started walking to Potions, trudging down the stairs.

Then Hermione spoke up. "What do you think 'Good news' means?"

"Dunno," Harry said, shrugging.

"Maybe Snape's dead?" Ron offered gleefully.

Harry snorted. "Like we'd have that sort of luck."

Ron rolled his eyes. "Yeah, he'd probably still make us turn in the homework from beyond the grave."

Harry and Ron burst out in sniggers and Hermione shook her head indulgently. Their attitude was a little more cheery when Draco Malfoy's smarmy tone carried to them from the door of the Potions classroom, where he was waving a piece of parchment.

Great, Harry thought. Time for a session of arrogant git.

That evening, Harry had a hard time focusing on his homework, what with all the chaos in the common room. Fred and George were showing off their latest invention, a pill that caused projectile vomiting, and the other students were lining up to watch the raucous show and buy their own sample. Hermione's disapproving sniffs only added to the distraction. Not to mention, Sirius's impending fire call.

Harry was desperately trying to finish the extra-long Potions essay Snape had assigned in retaliation to Umbridge's inspection. It was past midnight and only a foot into the essay, when he finally gave up and put away his books.

Ron, who'd been dozing in his armchair, woke with a grunt. "Sirius!"

"Hi!" Sirius said, grinning.

"Hi," chorused Harry, Ron and Hermione. They all knelt around the fireplace, hopefully hiding the fugitive from view.

"How're things?"

"Not that good," Harry said glumly. "The Ministry's forced through another decree, which means we're not allowed to have Quidditch teams-"

"-or secret Defense Against the Dark Arts groups?" finished Sirius.

The teenagers froze for a moment.

"How did you know about that?" Harry demanded.

"You want to choose your meeting places more carefully," said Sirius, his grin widening. "The Hog's Head, I ask you…"

He explained, much to Hermione's indignation, that their poor choice of location was probably the reason why Umbridge had found out about the defense group so quickly. And he inadvertently revealed that Harry was still being followed. The young man quickly filed that away for future reference.

Mrs. Weasley's warning to them about the defense group fell on deaf ears, especially when Sirius gave them his full support. Harry felt a warmth in his chest at Sirius' approval.

"So," said Sirius, "how are you organizing this group? Where are you meeting?"

The Animagus proposed the Shrieking Shack, but Hermione pointed out that it wouldn't be easily accessible for their large group of students.

"Fair point," said Sirius, looking slightly crestfallen. "Well, I'm sure you'll come up with somewhere… There used to be a pretty roomy secret passageway behind that big mirror on the fourth floor, you might have enough space to practice jinxes in there-"

"Fred and George told me it's blocked," Harry said, shaking his head. "Caved in or something."

"Oh…" said Sirius, frowning. "Well, I'll have a think and get back to you. Anyway, there was something I wanted to-"

He broke off, looking alarmed. Sirius glanced sideways, almost looking at the brick wall of the fireplace before he disappeared.

"Sirius!" Harry exclaimed. He looked to his friends. "Why did he-?"

Hermione gasped and jumped back from the fire.

Coming out of the space where Sirius's head used to be was a grasping, stubby, short-fingered hand covered in ugly old-fashioned rings. It was snatching at the flames, as if trying to grab at Sirius's hair.

The three teenagers ran for it, going straight to their bedrooms. As Harry was getting ready for bed, he realized that Sirius hadn't had a chance to tell them the good news.

"Umbridge has been reading your mail, Harry. There's no other explanation."

"You think Umbridge attacked Hedwig?" Harry said, outraged."

"I'm almost certain of it," said Hermione, grimly. "Watch your frog, it's escaping."

Harry summoned his bullfrog, who was making a bid for freedom, to his hand.

Charms was probably the best place to hold a private conversation because there was typically too much chaos for anyone to bother listening in. Today they were working on Silencing Charms, so the room was full of croaking bullfrogs, cawing ravens and shouting students. The heavy rain pounding on the windows added to the din and their conversation went unnoticed.

"I've been suspecting this ever since Filch accused you of ordering Dungbombs, because it seemed such a stupid lie," Hermione whispered. "I mean, once your letter had been read, it would have been quite clear you weren't ordering them, so you wouldn't have been in trouble at all - it's just a bit of a feeble joke, isn't it? But then I thought, what if somebody just wanted an excuse to read your mail? Well then, it would be a perfect way for Umbridge to manage it - tip off Filch, let him do the dirty work and confiscate the letter, then either find a way of stealing it from him, or else demand to see it - I don't think Filch would object, when's he ever stuck up for a student's rights? Harry, you're squashing your frog."

Harry looked down, where he was squeezing his bullfrog so hard that its eyes were popping. He quickly released it onto his desk.

"It was a very, very close call last night," continued Hermione. "I just wonder if Umbridge knows how close it was. Silencio!"

Her bullfrog was immediately silenced and the creature glared at her balefully.

"If she'd caught Snuffles…"

Harry swallowed. "He'd probably be back in Azkaban this morning," he finished for her. He waved his wand without concentrating and his bullfrog began to swell alarmingly. It let out a shrill, high-pitched whistle.

"Silencio!" Hermione said quickly, deflating Harry's bullfrog silently. "Well, he mustn't do it again, that's all. I just don't know how we're going to let him know. We can't send him an owl."

"I don't reckon he'll risk it again," Ron pointed out. "He's not stupid, he knows she nearly got him. Silencio!"

Ron's crow cawed derisively.

"What d'you think he was going to tell us?" Harry said. "The 'good news', I mean."

Ron shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe it wasn't that important," he said, prodding at his crow with his wand.

"I don't know," Hermione said. "Sirius may be impulsive, but he doesn't exaggerate. And Dumbledore wasn't at breakfast this morning. Maybe something's happened."

"What, like Voldemort keeled over?" Ron snorted.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "No, Ronald," she said scathingly. "And you should pay more attention to your schoolwork. It's trying to eat your wand."

Harry ignored Ron's indignant squawk and mulled over his friend's wry comment as the redhead shouted in the background. Could Voldemort really have died, just like that? If only he were that lucky. But if it wasn't Voldemort, what else could have happened?

Two days later, they had their answer.

Thursday morning was greeted with a flurry of newspapers as the Daily Prophet delivered a special edition to the residents of Hogwarts. Hermione opened hers, gasped and the paper plopped straight into her morning porridge. Harry craned over her shoulder to look and his jaw dropped.

"Peter Pettigrew Found Alive!" Harry read aloud.

"What?!" Ron exclaimed, spitting out his mouthful of eggs.

Hermione picked up the newspaper, eyes flowing over it intently. "Yes, that's what it says," she said. "Listen. 'Peter Pettigrew (35), a rat Animagus, was found in Diagon Alley by a squad of Aurors on Sunday. He reportedly transformed in front of them and fled when the Aurors asked for his registration paperwork. Pettigrew was promptly arrested and charged on Monday with becoming an illegal Animagus.

'Pettigrew was declared dead on November 1st, 1981, when Hit Wizards at the scene determined that he had been murdered at the hand of Sirius Black, the only known criminal to escape Azkaban. Black reportedly escaped in the summer of 1993 and has not yet been apprehended by the authorities.

'Reportedly, all that remained of Pettigrew was a single finger. His reappearance has now raised an inquiry into Black's case, as Pettigrew and all his fingers have been accounted for. An informant at the Ministry also suggested that there are, "some other details about Pettigrew and Black's case that are not adding up".

'Pettigrew will officially be declared alive in a trial tomorrow, observed by the entire Wizengamot and Minister Fudge. The trial will also serve to shed some light on the events of November 1st, 1981.'

"There's not much else," Hermione concluded. "They talk a bit more about Sirius's disappearance and speculate about Pettigrew's reason for staying dead for over ten years."

"Well, that's it, isn't it?" Ron said, slowly. "They'll find out that Wormtail really killed all those people and that he's working for Voldemort. Then they'll finally believe Harry and Dumbledore!"

Harry shook his head. "I don't know if it'll be that simple," he said doubtfully.

"Harry's right, Ron," said Hermione. "Pettigrew will probably tell them that he was afraid of Sirius or something, and that's why he stayed a rat for all that time. He was afraid of reprisals. Unless they use Veritaserum, I doubt that they'll find out the truth. Remember, the Minister didn't believe Voldemort had come back, even when Snape showed him the Mark! It's going to take more than the reappearance of a dead man for them to believe Harry."

"At least they got him," Harry said, fervently. "Pettigrew's in custody, which is a step in the right direction. Let's just hope that Dumbledore's helping Sirius's case." He glanced up to the head table, where the headmaster's seat was empty. "Wherever he is."

A/N: Erm... *checks last post-date* I'm sorry?

I really didn't intend to be gone so long, but my life was just super swamped with grad school. I literally just finished my term on Friday and worked my butt off to get this ready for you today. It's not a hundred percent polished, but I felt that I owed it to you all to post it already. :) I hope you'll forgive the wait! If it makes you feel any better, things should go smoothly now that we're over the hump that was chapter 11. I got really stuck on the canon bits, but as you can see, we will soon be leaving that junk behind! Things are changing! I'm hoping that you are still having fun with this story.

I'd like to thank all my lovely reviewers for telling me how much they love this story and PM-ing me to bug me with update news. It helps me to know that people are still reading this and still want to know what happens next! :D So thank you all for staying with me.

Let me know what you think of the new developments and I will try my hardest to finish chapter 12 a little more promptly. Happy Summer!