A/N: As I said before this particular story will not have a ship in it, and I am still undecided on the ship for the eventual sequel. I am leaning H/Hr because of the inclination that Hermione is more mature to handle the given situation with Harry, and because of the fact that this takes place before the canon sixth book, something that makes the H/G Pairing a tad more difficult to create. On the flipside of the coin I can see the potential for H/G as well, given the fact that Ginny would be better at getting Harry's mind off of the situation he is in. Plus the experience in the chamber provides some basis for understanding Harry's plight as well on an emotional level (whereas Hermione might be more academic.)
The only thing I will say is that Harry's 5th year will be decidedly different from the book.
I'm also taking ideas on how the Dursleys should be dealt with. I have a nifty little punishment set aside for Baby Beluga (aka ickle Duddeykins) but am at a loss for creative ways of dealing with the parents other than shipping them off to Azkaban. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Anywho, sorry for the longer than usual Author's Notes, just thought I'd explain myself a bit on where I'm coming from on the relationship angle. Enough of my rambling, onto the story.
Chapter 8: The Trial of Sirius Black
Carl Meadowbrook considered himself an honest man simply making his way in the world. To say that he was without prejudice or malice would be a severe overestimation of his character however. He didn't readily tolerate stupidity, nor did he tolerate those who would attack the people he considered his friends.
Harry Potter fell into the category of friend, Carl had quickly decided.
To be honest he still didn't know much about the boy, but sifting through his memories that day, the few happy ones he could conjure given the circumstances, Carl believed he had a brilliant heart, even if he was a bit slow in certain academic proceeds. Something Carl blamed himself for after a quick check of his records.
It also posed a potentially dangerous situation, but one he could deal with when the time came.
Added to this picture of the boy were the glowing reviews of everyone who seemed to know him. Even, when pressed, Severus had to admit that he was of both partially keen mind and of deep heart. He seemed to have a profound impact on anyone who took the time to know the real Harry Potter, aside from the celebrity that he was made out to be.
It broke Carl's heart that the boy was little more than a political pawn in people's games, and in his own mind he partially justified his own actions as truly being for the boy's benefit. He wanted to be with Sirius, and Sirius was the best thing for him. He hated having been put in the position to have partially made that decision on his own, but the Dursley's had forced his hand.
At the moment he was personally seeing to it that his newly found friend would in fact get his wish. Meadowbrook was sitting in a small office, awaiting the trial proceedings of one Sirius Black. Currently Carl was simply reading over some paperwork concerning the last battery of tests that he had run on Harry a couple of days prior. All told he had made a complete physical recovery for the most part, though he would still be a few weeks yet before his weight and strength had returned to a comparable level of what they were before. He was walking again and his arm was completely healed as well. Undoing the years of abuse in terms of malnutrition would take longer, and even beginning to heal the mental scars could take years, if ever at all. To be honest Carl thought he was handling it quite well, though how much of that was simply a brave face put forward was still yet to be determined.
Carl set down the file folder and looked at his other client, Sirius Black, who was dressed in the finest dress robes Carl could supply on short notice and was currently pacing a hole in his rug. The grizzled man had been tamed somewhat, with a trimmed goatee and haircut that made him more presentable to public society. It brought about a large change in the man and seemed to take years off of him age wise, though all told Carl's best description of him would still be "haggard at best."
Sirius stopped his pacing and flopped down on the small couch in the office. He turned a worried glance towards Meadowbrook and sighed. "You're absolutely certain there's no way that idiot Fudge will double cross me?"
Meadowbrook laughed. "Yes Sirius, but rest assured I have Fawkes on loan from Professor Dumbledore should he try anything outright. Though you know nothing about that, and neither does the Professor." Meadowbrook motioned to the side, where a phoenix sat in the corner, hidden from view from everyone else. "And if he does then you can be certain that in no short order he will be in the unemployment line. Trust me, if he crosses me he'll be lucky if he can ever get hired as a chimney sweep." Meadowbrook smiled, though his eyes belied some of the fate awaiting Fudge should he fail in his bargain.
Sirius smiled for the first time that day. "I suppose he could always become the new Malfoy house elf." Meadowbrook chuckled at this, before standing up.
"You remember how it's going to go?" Sirius nodded. "The most important thing is that you simply answer not guilty to all charges but one...the one about being an unregistered animagus. The punishment will simply be a 1,000 galleon fine and an order to register within the next thirty days. Since you're likely to be given restitution for your twelve years of unlawful imprisonment in Azkaban, the fine will be merely deducted from that. And the registration won't be a problem since I took the liberty of procuring the paperwork for you." Meadowbrook nodded to his desk, where a large stack of parchment stood.
"Don't remind me," Sirius said in a raspy voice, rubbing his right hand as he did, "I thought my arm was going to fall off after all that paperwork." He paused a moment before a wry smile came across his face. "Maybe that's why Voldemort is fighting this war, a war against bureaucracy!"
Meadowbrook could barely stifle a full out laugh before he glanced at his watch. "We best be off," he said finally, and Sirius stood up. Meadowbrook led him out of the office and into the courtroom to await the trial.
The courtroom was rather packed all things considered. Many of the luminaries of the wizarding world had taken the day off to see the infamous Sirius Black, accused murderer and Death Eater stand trial. Some, in fact a good many of them, did not believe the story printed in the Prophet about Pettigrew and his betrayal. Still others sympathized with the man at the outrageous conduct of the Ministry 12 years ago, especially in light of the upcoming Trial of the Dursleys.
Sirius and Meadowbrook ignored most of the crowd, though Sirius turned to receive a reassuring look from the Weasley parents and Remus sitting near the front room. Several tense moments filled the courtroom before the sound of a large gavel pounded and five wizards in judicial robes came walking in. In the center sat Amelia Bones, currently serving as head of the Wizengamot for this trial due to Dumbledore recusing himself due to conflict of interest. To her right sat Minister Fudge, a frown firmly plastered upon his face upon seeing Meadowbrook standing before him. To his right was a toad-shaped woman who quite literally waddled her way to her seat. It was the Minister's Senior Undersecretary, Delores Umbridge. To the left of Madame Bones was Amos Diggory, newly appointed head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and further down was the head of the Auror Department, Rufus Scrimgoeur. Amelia cleared her throat, and addressed the gathered crowd.
"This proceeding to determine both the legal status of one Sirius Orion Black and the guardianship of Harry James Potter will now be in session." She turned down to Meadowbrook. "Solicitor Meadowbrook I trust you realize how rare it is that a situation such as this occurs. Having two diametrically opposed procedures is not common practice."
"I recognize this Madame Bones," Meadowbrook stated with clarity and conviction. "And I thank the court for granting this opportunity. I am here both on behalf of both of my clients, the afore mentioned Sirius Black who is also here in person, as well as Mr. Harry James Potter as his guardian ad litem for these procedures."
"So noted." Bones turned to Black and stared directly at him. Though she often had doubts of his guilt, she still cast the same intimidating presence to him as she did with all defendants. "Sirius Orion Black, you will stand and face the charges against you." Sirius stood, standing in defiance in the face of Madame Bones, drawing a slightly respectful gaze from the elder witch. She turned to the court scribe, "Scribe you will read the charges against Mr. Black and then enter his plea into the rostrum of the court."
A slightly pudgy faced man stood in front of the high bench of the courtroom and turned towards the assembled courtroom. "Sirius Orion Black, you stand charged of being a Death Eater and of aiding and abetting the Dark Wizard He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the commission of crimes against the Wizarding World. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," came a sharp bark from the defendant, that nearly knocked the flustered scribe out of his robes. He repositioned himself and waved his wand, noting the plea before continuing.
"You also stand accused of being in league with You-Know-Who in the conspiracy to commit murder against the Auror James Potter and his wife Lily Evans Potter by way of betrayal of your charge as their secret keeper under the Fidelus Charm. How do you plead?"
"You also stand accused of the murder of one Peter Pettigrew and of 12 muggles in direct violation of the International Statute of Secrecy. How do you plead?"
"You stand accused of being an unlicensed animagus, having obtained such abilities through illicit research, how do you plead?"
"Guilty!" There was a slight murmur at this. The scribe noted the final plea and closed the scroll he was holding, turning back to the head of the court.
"You have pleaded guilty to the crime of being an unlicensed animagus Mr. Black," Madame Bones firmly stated, "You are hereby ordered by this court to pay a fine of 1,000 galleons and to register with the Ministry within thirty days from this proceeding. Do you understand these conditions and accept them?"
"I do, Madame Bones," came the somber reply from Sirius, trying to sound much like his namesake.
"Very well. Mr. Meadowbrook, you may proceed with your client's defense." Meadowbrook nodded.
"Thank you Madame Bones. It is at this time that my client wishes to take the stand in his own defense, submitting to the usage of Veritaserum as is his right." Madame Bones motioned for the auror in the court to take Sirius towards the center of the room and placed him and bound him in the chair. Another auror approached with a small container of clear liquid. Unscrewing the cap on the vial, he pulled out the eyedropper and placed it in Sirius' opened mouth. He dripped three drops onto his tongue and withdrew the cap, replacing it on the vial. There was a few moments that passed before Sirius' eyes glazed over showing the potion taking effect. Carl saw this, and immediately began pacing in front of Sirius as was his custom, and firing off his questions one right after the other.
"What is your name for the court's record?"
"Sirius Orion Black."
"And what was your occupation prior to November 2nd 1981?"
"I was an Auror with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
"Have you ever been in league with the Dark Lord known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Have you ever knowingly associated with anyone in league with You-Know-Who?"
"No, not knowingly."
"Have you unknowingly done so?"
"Yes. My friend, Peter Pettigrew, was, unknowingly to me, a Death Eater."
"Were you in fact the Secret Keeper for James and Lily Potter?"
"No, I was not."
"How do you know that?"
"I suggested it to James as a way of throwing Voldemort off our trail." There was a collective gasp at the use of the Dark Lord's name. Sirius blinked once, and Meadowbrook motioned for the auror to apply another three drops of Veritaserum. Unabated, Meadowbrook continued with his line of questioning.
"How would that throw Voldemort off your trail?"
"Everyone knew I was James' best friend. Naturally they would suspect me. But no one would suspect Peter."
"When did you learn that Peter had allegedly betrayed you?"
"I went to his house Halloween night to check on him. When I found him gone I just had a bad feeling and rushed over to James' house to make sure they were fine. When I got their the house was in ruins."
"And you knew it was Peter that had told You-Know-Who about the Potter's location?"
"It's couldn't have been anyone else."
"What did you do next?"
"I gave Harry to Hagrid for safe-keeping. He said that Dumbledore wanted to make sure the boy was taken care of. I then went looking for Peter?"
"Did you confront him in a muggle alleyway the night of November 1st, 1981?"
"What happened when you did?"
"He started shouting aloud about how I betrayed James & Lily. Then he cut off his finger and cast a blasting curse at the ground in front of him. The explosion killed 12 muggles."
"But not Peter?"
"No. Like me Peter was an illegal animagus. I saw him scurry down a sewer drain."
"I was too shocked. Aurors came immediately and disarmed me and bound me. By the next week I was in Azkaban." Sirius blinked again, and the veritaserum was applied a third time.
"No further questions for my client."
Madame Bones and the rest of the jurists nodded as Meadowbrook stepped aside. There were several moments that passed before Rufus Scrimgoeur cleared his voice, offering the first of the questions.
"How did you escape from Azkaban?"
"I slipped through the bars unnoticed because of my animagus form and then swam to shore. The dementors have negligible affects on animals." Scrimgoeur nodded, his only question satisfied. The rest of the panel appeared to be either to stunned, or held back by the look from Meadowbrook the moment they opened their mouths to say something. Umbridge in particular looked like she was ready to tear into Sirius, but a glare from Carl and a shake of the head from Minister Fudge brought her down from her perch temporarily.
"If there are no more questions," Madame Bones said, glancing to both of her sides. "I believe we can take a vote on this matter, provided of course Mr. Meadowbrook has no further witnesses."
Carl took one quick look back at the gallery, giving a nod to Severus Snape before turning back to the bench. "I do not your honors." Sirius began blinking in rapid succession, before he shook his head and was released from the bound chair. The 5 jurists conversed amongst themselves in whispered tones for a few moments, before silence fell over the courtroom.
"Sirius Orion Black, stand before the bench." Sirius did as he was told. "Now, by show of hands, all those who find that Mr. Black should be exonerated of all charges that he is entered a plea of not guilty to, raise your hand." Almost immediately the hands of Scrimgoeur, Diggory and Bones shot up, followed hesitantly by the hand of Minister Fudge and Madame Umbridge. "So noted. All outstanding charges are hereby dropped."
There was a cry of happiness from many in the court, and Sirius felt a sense of relief wash over him. Madame Bones quickly cleared her throat and the cries reduced to a small murmur. "All those who feel that Mr. Black should be awarded the sum of 1,000,000 galleons for his unlawful and wrongful imprisonment, raise your hand." Again three hands shot up, followed even more hesitantly by the hands of Fudge and Umbridge. "So noted. Please note that the sanctioned fine for being an unregistered animagus will be deducted from the afore mentioned restitution." She paused a moment, looking for some paperwork.
"Now, concerning the guardianship of Mr. Harry James Potter, it is cataloged with the Ministry that you are the boy's legal guardian as established in the will of James Potter, is that correct Mr. Black?"
"It is your honor."
"Since there are no other claims of guardianship for the boy, I believe that we can dispense with the need for a hearing at this time. All those in favor of granting temporary custody of Harry James Potter to one Sirius Orion Black, please raise your hands." Bones & Diggory's hands were the first to rise, and after a few moments Scrimgouer's hand joined them. However Fudge and Umbridge's hands stayed at there sides, not budging an inch. Meadowbrook sighed, the fool...
"By a 3-2 decision the measure passes. However Mr. Black as it is not a unanimous decision, you shall not be granted permanent custody of Mr. Potter. A hearing will be set six months from now to determine any possible changes to Harry's custody. Do you accept these terms?"
Sirius forced down a look of contempt at the jurists on the left "I do Madame Bones."
"Very well, I declare this session to be over. You are free to go Mr. Black." Sirius breathed another sigh of relief as the jurists filed out of the courtroom. The friends and family of Harry Potter gathered around one another as the proceeding came to a close. All except Meadowbrook, who sat at his table collecting the few papers he brought with him. As he did, Severus Snape approached him, a somewhat bewildered look on his face.
"Meadowbrook," he calmly asked, drawing the older wizard's attention, "Why didn't you use my testimony? I expected you to use everything to your advantage to sway Fudge..." Meadowbrook smiled and took one good look at Snape's eyes.
"I gambled on my influence with Fudge to be enough to sway him. Besides, we didn't need a unanimous decision anyway." He paused a moment, closing his briefcase and then looking back at Snape, seriousness belying his expression. "And I need you alive Severus. There's more you can offer Harry as a shield, and partially as a mentor."
"We'll discuss it later Severus," Carl said with a smile. "Tell the others that I have some paperwork to attend to and I'll meet with them tomorrow. For now, go and enjoy a well-earned victory." Carl nodded towards Severus and made his way out of the courtroom.
Meadowbrook had learned a long time ago, the hard way, that evil only exists when good people to nothing to stop it. It was a lesson he had taken to heart. He knew his part in the tale would now be reduced to a cursory one. And that the future was in their hands now.
A/N: Really sorry for the delay, and sorry for the length. This fic is almost complete and I'm going to try and knock it out. Thinking maybe three or four more chapters and it hopefully should be done by the middle of April.