The sound of breaking glass tinkled in the night air. Harry smirked at the large, soggy rodent that slapped into his palm. Who knew that a simple Accio of the rat through a glass window would be so satisfying? A feral grin stretched Harry's lips. Yes, the blood dripping from the unconscious Animagus was very satisfying indeed.
Disapparating from the Burrow, Harry stuffed the rat into his expanded pocket and walked into The Leaky Cauldron. He climbed the stairs and searched for room seventeen. By now, Rita Skeeter should be there waiting for their second appointment of the evening.
Harry found the room and walked in, shutting the door and surreptitiously casting wandless silencing and locking charms on it before letting go of the doorknob. Rita Skeeter sat at a small table, her long fingernails tapping out an impatient rhythm.
She peered over her horn-rimmed glasses, lips pursed. The woman's lipstick was a ghastly orange color that made her complexion seem more sallow than normal and clashed horribly with her yellow and blue paisley robes. Harry barely repressed a shiver of revulsion.
"Well, boy, were is this supposed evidence you promised to prove the outrageous story you told earlier?"
"Here." Harry pulled the rodent from his pocket and dropped it to the floor near her chair.
Rita shrieked and jumped from her chair, scrambling to the top of the rickety table.
"A rat! Wait, a rat? Is this some sort of sick joke? That's disgusting!" She screamed.
Harry doubled over laughing, ignoring her continued ranting. Really, she had no room to complain about a disgusting rat when her own animagus form was a bug. A creepy, crawly multi-legged beetle, no less. He tried to calm his laughter, but it was a struggle while watching her tippy-toe dance on top of the wobbly table, screaming for him to "remove the grotesque vermin this instant".
He finally pulled out his old wand and stared at her, eyebrow raised and a sneer curling his upper lip. When she finally calmed down, he cast the charm to reverse Peter's animagus transformation.
The small body grew, fur and tail receding. Soon, a short, chubby, balding man with rat-like features lay on the floor, covered in bleeding cuts and scratches. Harry levitated him to a chair and cast charms to restrain him and prevent the animagus transformation.
Rita climbed down from the table and gasped, "Is this…"
"Peter Pettigrew." Harry finished.
Rita looked over at Harry, shock written plainly on her face.
"If this is really him, then everything you told me earlier was true!" Her eyes took on a glazed look of greed. "An innocent man sent to Azkaban without a trial, a traitor living amongst decent wizarding folk for years as a rat, one of You-Know-Who's followers secretly lurking within our midst…Oh the horror! The mortal danger we've all been in without knowing it! I'll be famous with a story like this!"
Harry sighed in irritation at her antics. "Listen, do you still have the veritaserum I gave to you earlier to test?"
Rita pulled the vial out of her pocket and eagerly moved to squeeze three drops into the man's mouth.
As soon as she'd finished, Harry pointed his wand at Wormtail and whispered, "Ennervate." The man blinked his eyes open groggily.
Seeing that he was awake, Rita demanded, "State your name."
Instantly, he replied, "Peter Pettigrew."
Rita squealed in delight and pulled out her quill and a pad of paper.
# # #
Harry sat at his breakfast table, sipping his coffee and eagerly waiting for Hedwig to return with the morning edition of the Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter had been ecstatic with the exclusive story she received last night. She'd hammered Peter with questions last night, her quill flying across the page the entire time, occasionally complaining about "Dante's" refusal to let her use a Quick-Quotes Quill.
Little did she know that Harry had placed a powerful, slightly dark truth spell on her. She'd never be able to write an untruth again. There was no way he was going to leave Sirius' exoneration to chance.
Afterwards, Harry had re-dosed the man with veritaserum and Rita had cheerfully apparated Peter to the entrance hall of Auror Headquarters. She had been all too eager to declare Peter's betrayal to the authorities and get the rest of the information she needed to round out her story.
Harry just hoped all had gone well and Fudge didn't try to cover it up. At least, if the Minister did try that, Rita's printed story would go a long way to change his mind.
Hedwig swooped into the room, hooting, and dropped the newspaper.
ACCUSED DEATHEATER AND MURDERER, SIRIUS BLACK, INNOCENT!
PETER PETTIGREW ALIVE – ADMITTED TO FRAMING BLACK!
By Rita Skeeter
Ten years ago, Sirius Black, thought to be James and Lily Potter's secret keeper, was accused of alerting You-Know-Who to the whereabouts of the Potters' location, resulting in their deaths. The only survivor of that fateful night was their son, The-Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter.
Mr. Black was also accused of later killing 12 muggles and family friend, Peter Pettigrew, in an explosion he created on a busy street. When captured, Sirius Black was sent straight to Azkaban without a trial or the use of veritaserum, declaring his own innocence the entire time.
Last night, yours truly, Rita Skeeter, had the honor of assisting in the capture and interrogation of the true villain – Peter Pettigrew. Under the influence of veritaserum, Mr. Pettigrew admitted his identity and the fact that he was the Potters' true secret keeper. He further confessed to being a Deatheater, with the mark on his arm to prove it, and to killing the muggles, cutting off his own finger to leave behind, framing Sirius Black for his death along with the poor muggles.
Minister, Cornelius Fudge, himself was awoken from his slumber and brought down to Auror Headquarters last night to witness Peter Pettigrew's confession. After numerous identity spells and extensive questions from the Minister himself, Mr. Fudge was convinced of Mr. Black's innocence.
After yours truly, Rita Skeeter, assured Minister Fudge that I would dutifully report on his diligence in obtaining proof positive of Peter Pettigrew's treachery, Mr. Fudge cleared Sirius Black of all charges and arranged for his immediate release from Azkaban later this evening.
A Deatheater Rat Among Us – How Peter Pettigrew Has Been Living – Page 2
That Fateful Night – The Story of the Potters and the Boy-Who-Lived – Page 3
Can There Be Justice Without Veritaserum? – Page 10
# # #
"Albus, can this be true?" Severus asked, his voice weak with shock.
The Headmaster's normally bright eyes were dulled with sorrow as he replied, "I'm afraid so, my dear boy. I spoke with Kingsley Shacklebolt earlier this morning before owling Remus. Kingsley, himself, was one of the Aurors that attended Pettigrew's interrogation."
Severus glanced back down at the newspaper in his shaking hands. He had never liked Black, but this… This was beyond horrible. To be carted off to Azkaban with no trial, no way to defend one's self, having been innocent the entire time, was beyond his ability to contemplate. And, without Dumbledore's backing during the trials, Severus could have easily ended up in a cell next to Black. At least the ministry had actually given him a trial.
Severus looked over at Lupin. The man still sat motionless in his chair, his face thunderstruck, tears rolling down his cheeks. Lupin's copy of The Daily Prophet was crumpled in his fists.
The Headmaster cleared his throat. His voice oozing guilt, he began, "Remus, I'm so sorry. If only I'd checked to see if there had been a trial…"
A chocked sob ripped from Remus' throat. Throwing down the newspaper, he jumped up and ran from Albus' office, slamming the door behind him.
For the first time since he'd met them, Severus Snape felt sorry for two of the Marauders. Surely, hell had frozen over.
# # #
Harry stood beside a scraggly tree, a light breeze tossing around wisps of his shaggy hair, and watched the scene unfolding below him. Two men stood on the old wooden dock, clutching each other and sobbing into the other's shoulder. One man was thin and filthy, his clothing no more than rags hanging off his body. The other was healthier and cleanly, if only shabbily, dressed.
Sirius and Remus.
Harry had expected to see Dumbledore with Remus, ready to greet Sirius after getting off the boat from Azkaban Island. But, the old man hadn't shown up. Harry was partly relieved that he didn't have to avoid the Headmaster, but, at the same time, he was angered that Albus had left Remus and Sirius to face their reunion alone, without anyone to support and guide the two emotional men away.
Eventually, the Aurors who had escorted Sirius from Azkaban left, leaving only the two oblivious men on the deserted dock. Harry gave them all the time they needed, watching them alternately hugging and pulling away to clutch the other's face, staring and making sure each was real.
When the two men turned towards him, walking side-by-side, arms around each other, to leave the dock, Harry stepped away from the tree to approach them. For the first time since arriving in this time-line, Harry wore no glamours. His black hair was brushed back from his face, leaving the vivid curse scar on his forehead visible.
The two men were so wrapped up in each other that Harry had to loudly clear his throat to get their attention when they were only a few feet away.
Remus and Sirius stopped, looking up to see who'd intruded on their private moment. Seconds later, twin looks of shock overcame their curious expressions.
Harry nodded at Remus and Sirius, smiling. "Hey Padfoot, Moony. I've come to take you both home with me."
Harry suddenly found himself squashed between the two men, the breath being hugged out of his body and listening to renewed bouts of sobbing above his head.
Tears of joy running down his own face, Harry grabbed onto both of them and apparated them home, not caring about his casual display of power. He planned on telling both of his surrogate fathers everything anyway.