Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything what you can recognize from the books. I do however own the plot of this story but I don't have profits because of it unless you count improving my English as a profit.
Summary: Three is supposed to be lucky number. What if Sirius's explanations concerning Pettigrew were interrupted not by two but three men? Will presence of one man alter the future? Will Harry have a true family? How big is the price of happiness?
Author's notes: This is an effect of a writer's block which concerns A Year to Remember (it's not that I don't have ideas, it's worse: I have so many ideas that I managed to write three versions of chapter ten, three of chapter eleven and two of chapter twelve ... I just need to find willing guinea pig to test them on - Anyone interested?). This story is a side effect of throwing various ideas on the well and watching what would come back in relatively fine shape ... plus I have a major rewrite of chapter two of Wheels of Time on my hands because current version is too packed for me to like it. I'm not even mentioning the sequel to The Blacks: Son of A Black because I have two completely different first chapters for that one.
So read, enjoy and review (because I love to read your criticism and as long as you are logged in or I have your email I'm answering to your questions).
Chapter one: The Marauders and Their Shadow.
"So that's why Snape doesn't like you," said Harry slowly, "because he thought you were in on that joke?"
"That's right," sneered a cold voice from the wall behind Lupin.
Severus Snape was pulling off the Invisibility Cloak, his wand pointing directly at Lupin.
Hermione screamed. Black leapt to his feet. Harry felt as though he'd received a huge electric shock.
"I found this at the base of the Whomping Willow," said Snape, throwing the cloak aside, careful to keep his wand pointed at Lupin's chest. "Very useful, Potter, I thank you …"
Snape was slightly breathless, but his face was full of suppressed triumph. "You're wondering, perhaps, how I knew that you were here?" he said, eyes glittering. "I've just been to your office, Lupin. You forgot to take your potion tonight, so I took the goblet along. And very lucky I did … lucky for me I mean. Lying on your desk was a certain map. One glance at it told me all I needed to know. I saw you running along this passageway and out of sight."
"Severus …" Lupin began, but Snape overrode him.
"I've told the headmaster again and again that you're helping your old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here's the proof. Not even I dreamed you would have the nerve to use this old place as your hideout …"
"Severus, you're making a mistake," said Lupin urgently. "You haven't heard everything … I can explain … Sirius is not here to kill Harry …"
"Two more for Azkaban tonight," said Snape, his eyes now were gleaming fanatically. "I shall …" whatever Snape planed to said he didn't had a chance to finish because suddenly with a big BANG…
Snape was hanging upside down in the air, his limbs were bound to his body. His eyes widened as if in shock but it immediately settled on Black. But Black had no wand on himself, he returned their wands when he started talking.
"Only one will go to Azkaban tonight," said a strong male voice from the shadows of the corridor. "But it won't be them," the man stepped out from the shadows and he pointed at Black and Lupin.
"Lemeraude!" Snape snarled. "Let me out in an instant!"
Lemeraude was a man with shoulder-length grey hair but to the contrary of his hair his face looked still young and handsome. His dark-brown eyes were slightly obscured by a pair of rectangular, framed in silver spectacles and were glimmering with something which Harry normally would take for tears.
"I waited for this twelve years," Lemeraude said as he turned away from Snape.
"I found them first!" Snape snarled.
But Lemeraude didn't listened to Snape at all. He made few, suddenly tentative, footsteps and he stopped in front of Black who looked like someone who had been greatly surprised.
"Sirius," Lemeraude whispered and suddenly he embraced Black like one would embrace a brother, except unlike Lupin, Lemeraude didn't let Black go.
"Do I know you?" Black mumbled in shock.
"You should," Lemeraude pulled away just far enough for Black to see his face. "Because aside of you I'm the only other living witness of Fidelius Charm placed upon Potter family."
"There was no witness," Black shook his head. "Unless…" he paused and his eyes widened. "Shadow," he whispered.
"Not Shadow," Lemeraude shook his head. "Someone else," he said and stepped away from Black for three steps.
Lemeraude lowered his head as he touched his hair with his wand and suddenly they changed their colour from grey to jet-black. When he raised his head again Harry felt the blood leaving his body. Lemeraude looked like Black's better looking twin and the only thing which could make one tell them apart were their eyes. Black's eyes were grey and Lemeraude's eyes were dark-brown.
"Regulus," Black chocked out. "You were … there … in Godric's Hollow?"
"Ever since I learned about the Prophecy," Lemeraude confirmed. "I was a dead man and I knew that the Potters needed someone who would watch over them permanently and in a way it allowed me to keep an eye on you. There was hardly a conversation going in that house which went without my supervision, lucky for you ever since I learned about the plan to use Fidelius Charm I didn't missed any single one. I knew about the decoy and I was present when the charm was cast."
"Pardon my intrusion," Lupin interjected, "if you were aware that Pettigrew was the Secret Keeper then why you failed to mention it to Dumbledore or the Ministry?"
Lemeraude ran his hand through his hair before he sighed, "Because the only proof that I was telling the truth had ran away from London after blowing up the street and framing my only brother for the crime he didn't commit."
"You were there?" Black mumbled and he gripped Lemeraude's hands.
"Since you found James and Lily …" Lemeraude nodded sadly. "My greatest mistake was trusting in Pettigrew, like it was yours mistake. When the charm was cast I let my paranoia down, I calmed down and took my time in catching the sleep I missed over the months of watching out for any sign of danger …" he shook his head. "I thought that we were safe …" his voice broke down slightly. "I was sleeping when he … You-Know-Who walked in the house. I didn't heard anything until Lily's shrieks awoke me … I was in my Animagi form, on the bed … I was about to jump on the floor and transform back when the explosion threw me across the room … I hit my head against something … bedside table probably … knocked me out. I woke up much more later … when you were talking with Hagrid … Ever since then I didn't left your side until I chased after the rat … But I lost him once we left London … he vanished and I didn't knew where he had gone. I spent months chasing rats all across the British Isles until I gave up and come here … I teach Ancient Runes," suddenly he looked at Harry with his teary eyes. "I longed to have you in my class, kid. Pity, that you didn't listened to these who have a brain when you were choosing your electives," his eyes for a moment flashed to Ron with sudden disgust.
"What you have against me?" Ron asked nervously.
"A long list, too long to count it now," Lemeraude muttered. "I suggest keeping in mind that there is a full moon tonight," his eyes wandered to Lupin. "Good thing that I followed Severus and took what he left behind," he pulled out something which looked like a hip-flask and handed it to Lupin who immediately downed the contest of the flask.
"Black," Snape muttered.
"Yes, Severus?" Lemeraude turned to Snape who was still hanging in the air.
"Would your repeat it under Unbreakable Vow and Veritaserum? What you said about the Secret Keeper?" Snape asked blankly.
"Without a blink," Lemeraude nodded. "But perhaps you would like a proof in presence of one Peter Pettigrew?"
"Gladly, as well as my wand returned," Snape muttered.
Lemeraude waved his wand at Snape and suddenly Snape landed with a heavy thud on the floor, boundless.
"I'm not doing it because I like you," he muttered to Lemeraude as he approached him and then he glared at Black and Lupin, "or them."
"Different reasons, same aim," Lemeraude shrugged. "Weasley, unhand the rat," he added sternly.
Ron clutched the rat closer to his chest.
"Come off it," he said weakly. "Are you trying to say he broke out from Azkaban just to get his hands on Scabbers? I mean …" he looked at Harry and Hermione for support, "Okay, say Pettigrew could turn into a rat … there is million rats … how's he supposed to know which one he's after if he was locked in Azkaban?"
"Sadly money isn't the only thing you are lacking, Weasley," Lemeraude snorted. "But it is a good question nevertheless. How did you know that he was with the Weasleys, Sirius?"
Black pulled out something from his robes and he showed it to three men who were standing next to him first. Their brows narrowed before Black handed it to Harry and Hermione.
It was the photograph of Ron and his family that had appeared in Daily Prophet the previous summer, and there on Ron's shoulder was Scabbers.
"Just a finger," Snape muttered. "Just a damned finger. Brilliant!"
"He probably lost it in a fight!" Ron yelped.
"I've put with Weasley family stupidity for long enough and I'm not planning to listen to it for any moment longer," Lemeraude snarled. "Listen boy, you are playing with four men who are very specifically trained in Dark Arts and Defence Against it. For the record; one werewolf with Defence Against the Dark Arts Mastery, one former Auror and two former Death Eaters … who is more likely to win that fight?" he growled angrily. "Certainly not you, now be a good boy and unhand the rat."
"For the record Black, your brother ever since came to teach at Hogwarts had the opinion of the most patient and nicest Professor," Snape snorted.
"I think that his infamous patience had to run out some day," Black snorted.
"Harry, do something!" Ron pleaded.
But Harry didn't planed to help Ron. Whatever Black was wrong or right there was no sense in prolonging that discussion. If Black was wrong then Scabbers were safe and if not … He looked at Hermione and he knew that she was thinking the same.
"I'm sorry Ron," Harry shook his head.
"Hermione!" Ron begged.
"You are wasting time, Ron," Hermione shook her head. "If Black is wrong then nothing bad will happen to Scabbers but if he is right…"
Suddenly another thing had happened. Scabbers suddenly transformed into a small, not taller than Hermione man with balding, mousy hair. There was a rustle and suddenly Ron had his own wand pressed into his pulse point.
"Let me go and the lad will live," said Pettigrew.
Everybody took a step back in an instance and before Harry knew what happened he and Hermione were pushed behind Black and Snape.
"Help!" Ron yelped.
"You don't want to hurt the boy, Peter," stated Lupin as calmly as one could spoke it in situation like that.
Suddenly Harry felt a rustle of a spell slipping past him and when he glanced for a moment after it he saw something silvery slipping through the door.
"If you kill him, you will spend the rest of your life in Azkaban," Lemeraude muttered. "Unless his mother will be granted with visiting right and then you will be dead after the first visit. It's not a win-win situation Peter, you are screwed up if you do, you are screwed up if you don't."
"I will let you go if you unhand the boy at once. You will be free to go wherever you want, Peter," Black said calmly, his voice sounded reasonably controlled for someone who just recently had an attack of hysteria.
"You want to survive, Pettigrew," said Snape. "What had happened to the Potters if the outcome was different would raise you amongst Death Eaters. But it didn't, you sold the Potters to the Dark Lord and that's where the Dark Lord had fallen. At large you are in danger, every Death Eater would love to kill you, slowly and painfully. Azkaban will save your life even if it takes away your freedom. Consider your options."
"Would you really have done it, Peter," Lupin said quietly. "Kill the innocent child?"
"I wouldn't keep discussing it," snorted Pettigrew and he pressed the wand closer to Ron's pulse point.
"You aren't bad Peter," Lupin said calmly. "You were scared…"
"You have no idea," Pettigrew muttered.
Suddenly there were rustle of footsteps and Harry quickly turned his head around and saw surprised Dumbledore and even more stunned Fudge.
"Now you have it!" Pettigrew yelled and suddenly green light burst out from the wand and something hit the floor with a big thud.
Almost at the same time four men who were shielding Harry and Hermione rushed ahead and after a moment of rustle Pettigrew was pressed against the back of the wall by four men. But Harry didn't paid attention to that, he was staring at the floor where Ron was lying with his eyes wide open but lifeless.
"Ron…" Harry whispered and before he realised what he was doing he was kneeling at his friends side, crying wildly. He heard Hermione's sobs coming from nearby.
He paid no attention to other things than Ron's lifeless body until the moment when he was pulled into someone's tight embrace. The person who was hugging him was stinking and his bones was digging into Harry's body but that embrace was solid and comforting.
"I'm sorry, Harry," he heard barely audible whisper. "I should remember how to handle that situation. I'm sorry that I didn't helped your friend, Harry."
"Merlin's socks!" yelped Fudge. "Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew."
"I think that we should take this explanation to more comfortable surroundings, Cornelius," said Dumbledore calmly. "I would like to hear all of them before you will decide what to do. In the light of recent events I think that Sirius Black deserves a chance to be heard out, after all he didn't get a trial which is granted to everyone by law."
"Let it be, Dumbledore," mumbled Fudge. "But Black will be shackled."
"If I can interrupt, Minister," Lemeraude said quickly. "I would sorely advise putting Anti-Animagi Transformation Charm on Pettigrew's shackles as well. We found him here in his animagi form and since he is a rat it would be rather easy for him to transform."
"Speaking about transformation," Snape interjected. "We are running out of time, headmaster. It would be wise to send Lupin to the castle and lock him in safe place."
"Mr Lupin will answer my questions together with you," huffed Fudge.
"I'm afraid that it won't be possible, Minister. Say ten minutes and the only thing which you will get from Lupin till tomorrow will be a howl and occasional bark," Snape snorted.
"Excuse me?" Fudge yelped.
"Professor Lupin is a werewolf, Cornelius. He receives Wolfsbane Potion which keeps him harmless but it doesn't prevent transformation itself. Severus is right, Remus can answer your questions tomorrow but I believe that the rest can explain as much as Remus would. Shall we go to the castle, Cornelius?" Dumbledore asked calmly.
"Surely Lupin…" Fudge started.
"Will go ahead and Minerva will make sure that he is properly locked in his rooms until the moon goes down. She is waiting at the gates of the castle. Remus, please go," Dumbledore said calmly.
Harry heard footsteps which were getting farther from them until they died down.
Suddenly he felt that he was being pulled into standing position but he clutched on the person who was holding him for a dear life.
"Sirius would you let Harry go for a moment?" Dumbledore asked.
"I would," Black nodded. "But as you see, he is the one who holds on me."
"I think that it would be wise to let go of Black, Mr Potter," said Fudge.
"He just lost his friend and he needs someone to hold onto," Lemeraude muttered.
"I cannot allow it," said Fudge. "I'm already bending rules by not calling the Dementors."
"Then we can do it here," stated Dumbledore.
Harry finally raised his head to look at him as he conjured a long black fabric and covered Ron's body. Then he approached Snape and Lemeraude who were keeping Pettigrew pressed to the wall. With a flick of his wand he conjured a chair with shackles and together with Snape and Lemeraude they moved Pettigrew to the chair and shackled him to it. When Snape had his hands free he went to Hermione and gently picked her up into standing position.
With their voices breaking Harry and Hermione told Dumbledore and Fudge how they went to Hagrid to cheer him up and how they found Scabbers. From there Sirius took over, explaining how they got to Shrieking Shack and the discussion which had occurred until the moment firstly Lupin and then Snape and Lemeraude appeared. Then Lemeraude started explaining something about faking his own death and hiding in his animagi form at the Potters and what had occurred that night when Voldemort had found the Potters.
"It's the most unbelievable story I ever heard," Fudge breathed out. "And you Mr Lemeraude … Black you owe us ten years in Azkaban for not registering…"
"All is fair in love and war Minister," Lemeraude stated calmly. "Would you come through any lengths to protect those whom you love the most?"
"So did I," Lemeraude stated calmly. "If for keeping my brother and his friends safe I will have to go to Azkaban then I will do it. I just hope that you will be able to sleep well at nights that you send a man, whose only crime was protecting the ones he loved, to Azkaban."
Fudge said nothing for a moment and finally he muttered, "If I don't see your name, either your own or the one you use to hide yourself from people who would love to see you dead, in Animagi Register until the noon of the day after I will personally drag you to Azkaban via Wizengamont, Black."
"You are being too generous, Minister," Lemeraude nodded.
"The great injustice had been done and even I'm not that cruel to separate brothers who just found each other," Fudge muttered. "This has to be done lawfully," he sighed. "I will call the Aurors who will take Mr Black and Mr Pettigrew to secure Ministry's cells to face the trials. Dumbledore, I'm afraid that as much as you hate it …"
"Harry and Hermione will testify if they wish to," Dumbledore finished.
"Very well," Fudge nodded. "I will go to the Ministry to remove the Dementors from Hogwarts, lift the allowance for Dementor's Kiss on Mr Black and will come back here with Aurors in a matter of a hour at the most."
Fudge left quickly and Harry, Hermione and other three men were left together with Dumbledore, Ron's body and still shackled Pettigrew.
"I'm sorry that you had to watch it, Harry, Hermione," Dumbledore whispered.
"We shouldn't let that happen," Snape muttered grimly and as Harry turned to stare at the man he realised that Hermione was still settled in the man's arms and was sobbing slightly.
"It wouldn't happen if the boy handed the rat as soon as we asked…" Lemeraude muttered.
"Regulus!" Black hissed angrily.
"I'm only telling the truth," Lemeraude shrugged. "I didn't wished him death … I saw too much of innocent kids dying to wish death to anyone but I refuse to be that arrogant to take whole blame for not being careful with the rat."
"Regulus," Dumbledore said calmly.
"His death was unfortunate," Lemeraude continued. "And the blame which rests on us if the one of being lenient and too patient. One of us should have pried the rat away from the kid but instead we got into discussion."
"Black!" Snape hissed.
"I'm sorry Harry," said Lemeraude as he turned to Harry. "From the moment I came here I should have pry the rat away from your friend but I let my guards slip. I should have remembered that Pettigrew isn't as harmless as he looks," in answer he received a glare from Pettigrew, "he had no troubles with treachery and killing innocent people before. But I let my past memories of slimy always fidgeting rat who always hid behind the backs of these who were bigger and more powerful than him cloud my judgement as well as I let my heart grant the wish of hugging my brother before taking the responsibilities which were put on my shoulders together with the title of Professor."
"You didn't killed Ron," Harry whispered. "He did," he jabbed his fingers at Pettigrew.
"But I could save his life if I let my mind make me do what was necessary first and not grant my heart its wish," Lemeraude said sadly. "Years ago I swore to myself that no one would die in my presence if I can prevent it. Tonight I broke that promise."
"You are not a seer, Regulus," Dumbledore sighed. "You couldn't know what may happen."
They spend the rest of their time before Fudge's arrival with four Aurors in complete silence. After shackled Pettigrew was lead out of the shack two other Aurors stood next to Sirius and waited.
Harry didn't want to let him go. He just gained his godfather, lost his best friend … having Sirius go now when he needed him the most … he couldn't bear it. Someone gently pried his hands from Sirius.
"He will come back, Harry," he heard a soft voice and he was drawn into embrace.
He looked at Sirius, who nodded quickly.
"I'll be fine, Harry," he told him firmly, his eyes hadn't left Harry even for a split second. Then he looked up at the man who was holding Harry and added, "Take care of him while I'm gone."
"Don't worry, I will," replied the man. "Take care of yourself."
The Aurors shackled Sirius but they didn't manhandle him like the others did with Pettigrew. They allowed him to walk on his own, between them down the corridor. Harry's eyes followed them until they disappeared down the stairs.
"It's time for us too," said Dumbledore, his voice sounded calm and controlled but there was some foreigner note in it which Harry couldn't name. "Boys," he turned to Regulus and Snape, "would one of you …"
"I will," Snape and Regulus said at the same time.
"More peaceful side of the castle," Snape said firmly. "And peace is what they need right now. Minerva would need to deal with the rest of the family."
"I will handle it myself," Dumbledore said gravely.
Harry didn't feel like moving, he felt like he was rooted to the spot. Suddenly a pair of strong arms hoisted him up and he was carried down the corridor and through the rest of the shack and on and on and on.
He barely remembered being put in a mahogany bed, on soft mattress, under velvet covers in dark green colour. He thought that he was given something to drink and dreamless sleep enveloped him.
Awaiting criticism - like always. I'm replying as long as you leave me your email or you log in while reviewing. Bring my ego down ;)