AN: Sorry for the long delay. I was having some real trouble with the part after this, so I decided to split them up and publish this section on it's own. Again, sorry for the long delay, and I don't own Harry Potter.
Interlude: A Black Affair
"Good evening, Mr. Black." His shocked grey eyes meet my steady green. "Go on, take a sip." He notices the glass of butterbeer I've set out beside him on the small table next to the armchair he sits in. Hey, I'm many things that fall under the heading of "arsehole", but rude host will not be one of them. I set up the Room of Requirements for a quite comfortable chat with the man. Because him attacking the Fat Lady, even if she doesn't remember it… raises questions. One such being: what the hell are you doing? Or, have you lost your sense of direction? Because the Headmaster's office is the other way.
Numbly, he reaches out for the glass, and wolfs the contents down in one gulp. Maybe it's the wand I have pointed at him, and his lack of one. Or maybe he was just really thirsty; being out on the run and all that. Or maybe- "Ha-Harry?" He stares at me. "It-it is you, isn't it?" He asks in a gravelly voice.
"Yeah. I'm Harry Potter. And you're Sirius Black. Now then, I don't normally do this kind of thing, but I do have a few questions to ask you," I explain casually, taking a sip from my own glass. I was considering keeping him in tennis ball form and finding somebody to play a match with, but I really am curious. Something just doesn't feel right with this whole set of circumstances. And by not feel right, I mean: why is this fugitive trying to gain access to Gryffindor Towers? Is that really something one could expect from a notorious man on the run?
"Ar-aren't you going to kill me?" He asks, his voice emotionally dead. Not quite what I was expecting.
"No. Why would I want to do that?" I ask curiously. Hey, as far as I know, he's done nothing to me. Bring him back to Azkaban maybe, depending on his answers, but kill him?
"I… I killed you parents," He points out lamely. Can I take a moment to point out how warn and ragged he looks. Considering that, the fact that he recognizes me and can actually make conversation is nothing short of a bloody miracle. And, oh yeah, he holds himself responsible for my parents death. Even if he killed other, he doesn't deserve to carry guilt over that. Right, so let's rectify that, if only so I can sleep a little better at night.
I scoff. "No, you didn't. Peter Pettigrew was the one who sold them out to Lord Voldemort. To my knowledge, anyway," I finish neutrally. Maybe there is more to it, and this is a guy who would know. I really only have one side of the story; albeit in great detail. So just in case let's make sure that all my info is correct. It costs very little to verify, especially right now. Nothing but time, anyway, and that is something I do have to spare.
"But I- I as good as killed them," He mutters, his eyes looking dead. "I persuaded them- if only they hadn't listened-" Okay, nothing new there. Just guilt. And I think that says it all at this point. That he's lived with the guilt for thirteen years while being in the cold embrace of the dementors… well, it's a fate I wouldn't wish upon anyone.
"I really don't consider you trying to act in your best friend's interests, murder, Mr. Black," I interrupt gently. Thirteen years in Azkaban living with that guilt? And he is this sane? Quite remarkable, actually. It seems a damn shame that I have to send him back. Although… "However, I am very interested to know why you were threatening the Fat Lady with a knife."
"You- you don't think I killed them!" He finally realizes. It seems to take a bit of weight off of his shoulders, and that personally makes me feel pretty good. "But… but-"
"Why were you threatening the Fat Lady?" I cut across harshly. Guilt and guiltiness, stability and instability; it's all immaterial considering that he has shown rather violent tendencies in the past hour.
He blinks. "The rat," He finally mutters. "I need- the rat… you're in danger, and the rat- I needed to… Gryffindor Tower…," He starts muttering incoherently under his breath. Okay, forget what I said about being stable.
"The rat? What rat?" I ask politely. Perhaps Azkaban really has unhinged the man. It certainly seems that way. And he seemed so… normal, just a few minutes ago. But, ah yes, 'the rat', seems to have changed his demeanor.
"Peter Pettigrew," He replies immediately. Okay…
"It was my understanding that Mr. Pettigrew met his end by your hand," I reply neutrally. Well, not just my understanding; the DMLE's, the Headmaster's- basically everyone in the country.
"He escaped!" Sirius mutters harshly. "He escaped, and he left me holding the bag!"
Okay, on the one hand, he seems nuts. On the other hand… Peter Pettigrew escaping? Well, that sounds like something he'd do. So it is in character for the blasted rat. But still, this seems so absurd. Looks like another one more for Azkaban. "You seem to think that he is alive, and residing in Gryffindor tower." Or at least, he mentioned it once and tried to force entry there earlier tonight. "Now then, I don't know of any rats…" Hang on a tick. It just so happens that I do know of a rather annoying rat residing in Gryffindor tower, one who has chewed on my pillow multiple times. A little annoying rat that has been around since I've gotten here. And actually resided here before then; in the care of the Head Boy. But… no! …Could it be…?
"-And Percy's old rat."
"A common garden rat can't be expected to survive for so long." They can't. But a human? Thirteen years isn't quite so difficult, especially if one lives the life of a well-fed and cared for rat.
"I don't think Egypt agreed with him." He became ill right around the time Sirius Black had broken out. The rat, if this is him, would not have been pleased with that development. If he really is Peter, then… then…
Oh. Oh. Well… shit. Could it be? This changes everything… if he isn't leading me astray. "Let me get this straight: Peter Pettigrew escaped from you, and has been living as a rat for thirteen years, and he is currently residing in Gryffindor Tower?" I ask quietly. Oh, fuck. Could it be that the traitorous bastard has been living in close proximity to me in recent years? And if that's the case… is he aware of all the things I have been planning? Wait a second; he could be totally wrong.
Slowly, my words sink in and Sirius nods resolutely. A suspicion comes to me; since Peter is actually still alive, who has the blood of all those muggles on their hands? After all, one of the involved is a murderous Death Eater, and the other is enraged and emotionally unstable man. Or at least he was at the time. "What happened that day he confronted you?"
Sirius lets out a bark of laughter. With a sinking feeling, I think I've just gotten my answer. "I confronted him! I finally caught up with the bastard after he sold your parents out! But the rat yelled about how I had murdered Lily and James for the whole bloody street to hear and then stuck his wand behind his back and blew the thing apart. Then he cut off his bloody finger and fled like the animal he is! Damn Vermin!" He hisses lowly. It sounds… plausible. But I do need a little more evidence before I decide one way or the other. Good thing that evidence could be easy obtain. Could be… it seems to be the norm that I make things harder than they have to be.
"And how did you know of his whereabouts thirteen years later?" I ask calmly. Maybe he's really charismatic, but I think I actually believe him. Or at least he believes this story, and it isn't just a tale of woe to distract me. But there are still some important pieces missing from the story.
He thrusts his hand in his robe pocket and withdraws a weathered newspaper clipping. I take it carefully and stare. Ron sent me this very clipping. It's about the Weasleys winning the Daily Prophet Drawing. Happily posing for the camera in Egypt. And… on Ron's shoulder. Yeah, it seems like a shot in the dark- or at least it might have started this way- but… he may well be right. Certainly worth investigating.
"One final query: upon putting the pieces together, how did you escape?" Now this is something I really want to know. No telling when escaping from Dementors may be useful. Especially with the enemies I'm making. There is a part of me losing sleep at night over the fact that our lovely Minister may someday see the need to make me Azkaban's newest resident. Especially seeing as I may someday soon be crossing swords in the public forum.
He stares for a long time. "Dementors feed on positive emotion. Feeling responsible for your best friends deaths… is not positive." No, really? "I think that's how I kept my sanity. And when it all became too much, well…" He shifts into his animagus form- a Grim. Oh. Yeah, I did know that. Or at least, I was supposed to know that. "Once I saw that he was positioned to act should hints that his side was regaining power reach his ears, well…" He taps the newspaper clipping, and I pull it back and place it in my pocket, "I slipped through the bars in my animagus form and swam to freedom," He explains finally. "I've been on the run in this form ever since. It's… it's how I got past the dementors and into the castle tonight."
I nod, a bit distracted. Okay, I think I'm satisfied with the answers I've gotten, at least. "All right, Sirius. You are going to stay here for the time being. All right?" Sirius stares at me before nodding. "I'm going to go catch us a rat and gather a few relevant parties. Like the Headmaster; he needs to be brought into the loop. So stay here, please, and I'll be back soon" I instruct. He grudgingly nods. With a thought, I ask the room to get him a pitcher of butterbeer and some sandwiches, and thankfully it complies with my request. "Dig in, while I'm gone," He doesn't wait for my invitation before he starts diving into what's probably the first decent meal he's had in years. And with that, I leave the Room of Requirements to perform a few more errands. So much for a quiet and peaceful night.
I suppose barging into the Great Hall half way through dessert would attract notice. Significant notice. But I don't really give a damn at this point. I snuck back into the Tower and located a certain rat. An animagus revealer told me all I needed to know. The rat is now securely trapped in my pocket; try to transform bastard and experience death by fabric strangulation. Well, maybe it wouldn't be considered death by fabric… neither I nor Voldemort have ever offed someone in that manner. Not that that's likely in any case; my stunner will hopefully make sure of that. Finding my target, I stride purposefully towards the Headmaster and hand him a note; I wrote it to make sure this matter doesn't attract curious eyes. "Yourself and Professors Lupin and Snape are needed, sir." We lock eyes and I let free a memory of who I just encountered. That gets him moving. As for Lupin and Snape… well, I need people who can verify Sirius Black's story and identify an old schoolmate. Those two fit the bill rather well.
"Remus, Severus, with me," Dumbledore instructs as he quickly gets to his feet. "Lead on, Harry." Snape and Lupin follow his command with all haste and the four of us swiftly make our way out of the Great Hall and towards the Room of Requirement.
"So what is going on, Headmaster?" Lupin asks gently. I decide to be the one to provide an answer. Some might say it's not my place, but I actually know what's going on, and I find myself in the rather unique position of being an authority on such matters.
"I think this is something that has to be seen to be believed. Suffice it to say, Mr. Sirius Black is presently a guest of mine in the castle," I conclude. Three people turn to stare at me. Poor choice of words, Harry.
"I ran into Mr. Black this evening, and after a rather civil and enlightening discussion, I thought it would be prudent to fetch you and a certain acquaintance of yours. You'll understand in a few minutes," I conclude airily.
"You have Mr. Black secured?" Dumbledore asks quickly. I nod, and that's all he thinks he needs to know. "We'll take it from here, Harry."
"No, you won't." I reach into my pocket and pull out a certain rat-prisoner. "Recognize him Remus?" He shakes his head; he has no idea what's going on. "No? You used to go out on moonlight promenades once a month when you were in school. Surely you haven't forgotten him." Widening eyes. I think he gets it.
Remus stares at me, and then the rat. "Th-that's Peter?" He chokes out in disbelief. You ain't the only one, buddy. He continues staring at the rat in complete shock. Yep, he certainly gets it at this point.
"Peter?" Snape turns sharply, his fiercest glare on his face. "Peter, as in Peter Pettigrew?" I nod with a small, sad smile on my face. "You expect us to believe that the rat is…" Words can not describe the mix of fury and disgust on his face. Maybe it's the idea that it's not two but three of the troublemakers who used to torment him that still walk the Earth. No, he's not quite that petty. On the other hand, there is my first potion's class to consider…
"I used the Animagus Revealer. Even if this isn't Peter Pettigrew, this is an animagus that has spent several years inside the walls of Hogwarts. I think that alone is worthy of notice. So I figured that we should sort all of this out," I finish. "Now come on. We have an appointment with Mr. Black."
No more interruptions as I swiftly lead my companions to the seventh floor. They all stare at me as I begin pacing in front of the Room of Requirements. Stare at me like I've lost my mind, that is. Snape is about to ask what the hell is going on when I finish pacing and the door comes into view. I hold the door open and beckon them through.
"One rat as requested," I tell Sirius as I reenter the room with guests. "And I brought along a few familiar faces. People who I feel can contribute to tonight's discussion. Just to help smooth things along."
"You brought Snivellus along?" He asks, aghast. Snape turns an ugly shade of pale in response. Lupin is just staring at him. Oh yeah… they're longtime enemies, aren't they? Whoops, forgot that little detail. Or at least, I forgot how vehemently they hate each other, so much so that they meet up again for the first time in a decade and change, and all the enmity between them is magically remembered.
"Well, I needed another person who was familiar with Mr. Pettigrew. And I don't know which is worse; you using that stupid nickname you gave him, or his still being affected by it," I mutter. Two glares come my way. Diplomat Potter I ain't; more like International Incident Potter, come to think of it.
Dumbledore clears his throat. "While I'm sure you two would be delighted for the opportunity to grind axes once more, we have more pressing problems. Like a potential Death Eater hiding in this school," He mutters archly.
I toss the unconscious rat to him. "See for yourself." He withdraws his wand, and with a flick, it confirms that the rat is indeed an animagus to all assembled. "Like I said, at very least there's an animagus hidden in your school." Another flick, and the rat sprouts upwards and outwards, and in its place is the unconscious form of Peter Pettigrew. Beside me, Lupin and Snape do a double-take, and begins glancing from Sirius to Peter. "Well, I guess this qualifies as a reunion of sorts."
Snape continues to stare from Sirius to Peter. "How exactly did the rat survive!" He asks furiously.
I step in for the explanation. I seem to be doing this a lot, lately. "Quite simple. Mr. Black switched his place as Secret Keeper with Mr. Pettigrew, who had long since defected to Lord Voldemort." I'm mostly explaining this for Lupin's benefit; deep down, Snape probably already knows but has forgotten. "Seeing that the Secret Keeper sold my parents out, his best friends, he then pursued the man in a haze of revenge. Unfortunately, Mr. Pettigrew was apparently able to outmaneuver him. Mr. Black claims that Mr. Pettigrew is the man responsible for the deaths of the muggles on that fateful day. Now, I'm not quite sure I believe it, but on the other hand, I'm more inclined to trust him than the man with the Dark Mark." Good timing too, as that's the moment where Dumbledore rolls up his sleeve and sees the Voldemort's brand. It certainly seems to confirm the web of conspiracy that I've been spinning.
"P-Peter?" Remus asks uncertainly, staring at the mark. He looks from Sirius to Peter to Sirius again. "So… they switched?" He mutters finally. "And he… he sold them out?" He concludes. "And… oh."
"My thoughts exactly. The question now is: what do we do next?" I ask, staring from Death Eater to fugitive. "After all, we've caught a bona fide Death Eater, and we have fugitive who's apparently innocent of his crimes."
"While Mr. Pettigrew's appearance does raise questions, I think that we should not so readily dismiss Mr. Black's part," Snape hisses. "For example, how could he possibly escape Azkaban with no outside aid?"
"He explained it to me, and the answer is quite simple." Once again, all eyes on me. "Dementors feed on happy emotions. Knowing that you are innocent is not a happy emotion by any stretch. He says it enabled him to keep his sanity, clinging to that unhappy emotion. As a result, he could still use magic… still transform." Remus' eyes widen in understanding. "He could transform back into his animagus form. And that's also how he gained access to the castle tonight, how he slipped past the Dementors. And when Fudge handed him the newspaper, and he saw the man responsible," I hand Snape the newspaper clipping Sirius gave me earlier, "He knew it was time. Granted, it does seem like a shot in the dark, but we do have proof," I point out quietly.
Snape continues looking from Marauder to Marauder before he spits at Peter in disgust. "Sirius!" Remus chokes quietly. "I'm so-" I tune out the reunion as Snape and I walk over to examine Peter.
"It's him, Headmaster?" The bat asks quietly. He already knows; I doubt he could ever forget Peter Pettigrew. But he must be wondering if this could somehow be a trick; someone disguised as him. Or at least that's what I hope he's thinking, because anything else might suggest his sanity has taken a leap off the deep end.
"Oh yes," He replies neutrally. "While there is of course more to the story, I do have to agree that Sirius Black appears to be innocent." He sees the look on his Potion's Professor's face. "Of course I'm not referring to his conduct towards you. But now the question is, of course, what do we do with such evidence?"
"Turn them over to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and wash our hands of this," Snape growls immediately. Probably because the longer he's around them, the more awful memories that they manage to forcibly drag to the surface.
"I hate to disagree, but I must. Peter Pettigrew is widely remembered as a hero. If he suddenly reappears, what do you think the public's reaction would be?" I counter immediately. Snape glares at me; angry at anything that could potentially lengthen his already unpleasant experience. "However… however, if we hand Pettigrew off to the Aurors, with the whole, we caught a Death Eater line, I think that would work better."
"I'm not certain that will work, Harry. The problem is that the Mark is not indicative enough," Dumbledore explains quietly. What is he… oh. The thing is, Voldemort not only marked his followers, he sometimes used the mark as a substitute for the Imperious; to better enforce his will. After all, he couldn't control every wizard on the island? Thing is, there is a certified connection between the Mark and the Imperious. It's an excuse other Death Eaters have used to get their cases dismissed in the past.
"I know what you're talking about, but if we emphasize the situation; the sneaking around, the illegal animagus form, the Dark Mark, then it might be enough. Especially if he doesn't know about the apparent loophole," I mutter quietly. "In any case, I vote we send him to the DMLE."
"Potter makes a valid point. I do believe this case would be strong enough to stick," Snape agrees. Wow, we agree on something? Or maybe it's the fact that my suggestion raps things up rather quickly. The apocalypse is just over the horizon. "However, what of Mr. Black?"
"Simple. We keep him here," I reply. They both stare at me like I'm insane. "No. Seriously. He can stay in this room- food, shelter, and we can keep an eye on him. I don't there's any better alternative." Well, I think I just lost Snape's approval.
Dumbledore clears his throat. "We should leave this matter for later. For now, we have to turn Mr. Pettigrew over to the DMLE with all due haste. Come, Severus, Harry. We'll let them catch up," He says as he turns and leave. Snape and I quickly follow. Our work is apparently never done.
"-Could you repeat that again?" The hard-nosed auror asks the Headmaster as I watch on. My kingdom for a bowl of popcorn; Dumbledore really is a phenomenal actor. And he is in rare form tonight.
"As I said, Harry," Four sets of eyes swivel to me, "Discovered that this rat was an animagus after he came back from his day out. He was in the process of checking out his improved wand, and according to him, the charm he used identified it as one. He then stunned it and brought it to me. After myself and a few of the Professors checked it over, we concluded that he was correct, and so we contacted you afterwards." He clears his throat. "In the meantime, we transformed him back and searched the suspect over." He lifted up the arm. "We found this," He says, pointing at the Dark Mark, "And… well," He points at him, "He's supposed to be dead."
"Excuse me?" Rufus asks, seemingly certain that he misheard. "Did you just say this person is supposed to be dead?" Even if he's supposed to be in my camp, this is a hard story to swallow.
"Yes," He replies strongly. "This is Peter Pettigrew."
Scrimgeour does a double-take. "What?" He shakes his head, and clears his throat. Hey, at least having friends in high places is good for something; like smoothing this investigation. "And you're certain?"
"Professor's Snape and Lupin, who were school acquaintances, testified as to his identity," Dumbledore adds swiftly, handing him two prepared and signed statements. "Having been Headmaster during his time here, and having interacted with the man outside of Hogwarts, I can say that it does appear to be him." He looks dejected for a second; part of his act, I'm sure, "Which makes it all the more troubling that the Dark Mark appears on his arm, and that he has been hiding out in my school for a long time." An admission of failure no one would ever like to make.
Scrimgeour walks over and examines the still unconscious man's arm. "I agree." He glances back at his colleagues. "Gents, these fishy circumstances require us to take him in for questioning. Secure the suspect."
His auror comrades quickly restrain Pettigrew with a number of charms, and after they're done, they physically lift him to the fireplace to Floo back to headquarters. Once they leave, Dumbledore turns to me, a small smile gracing his face. "Well, Harry, I do believe that was enough entertainment for one night. Rest up; there is much to be done tomorrow." And as I turn to leave, he says one last thing; one last morsel for thought. "And I daresay that you're Godfather would very much like an opportunity to reconnect with you. He deserves that much." I nod as I walk out of the room, still wrapping my head around the night's events. What a weird night.