A/N: what you recognise is quoted from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Which parts those are should be known to most of you
Idea 1: Why didn't they just STUN Pettigrew? (Well, the answer is easy: because JKR didn't want a solution at that point. Drama for drama's sake is what I call it, but that's neither here nor there.)
Remus Lupin pointed his wand to Pettigrew. Harry looked worried again, but Lupin said:
"I'll only stun him so we can transport him."
"Oh, okay then," said Harry.
"What about Professor Snape?" asked Hermione, once Pettigrew had been stunned. Even if she didn't like the professor, she was still worried that they might have hurt him.
"That's next – watch this: Enervate," Lupin answered.
As the spell hit him, Snape started to stir and slowly sat up, only to find five wands trained on him.
"Before you say anything, Severus – turn your head to this one over here. Who would you think this is?" asked Lupin.
Snape, still a bit groggy, but not too groggy to recognise his one time year-mate at school. He turned abruptly and looked at Lupin.
"I suppose even you would agree that Sirius would have had a hard time killing Peter if he's still very much alive…" Lupin said laconically.
"Where's he coming from?"
"Everything will be cleared up at the castle, Severus, but you need to get them there, I have to stay back here. Can I trust you to stay fair with Sirius? He was not James and Lily's Secret Keeper, we have found out that it was Peter and it was him who sold them out to Voldemort. It was also Pettigrew who killed the Muggles. He was very successful in framing Sirius. Be careful when you take them back to the castle, Pettigrew is an Animagus and his form is that of a rat. In fact he posed successfully as the Weasleys' pet rat Scabbers for all these years. I'm placing a spell on him that will not allow him to transform, at the castle Sirius will know how to reverse that."
"The hell I believe that! Give me my wand back, Black!"
"I think I'll hold it for you until we're back inside the castle and have spoken to Dumbledore. I'm not going to risk the truth coming to light by giving you a shot at cheap revenge, Snape. Hermione, the spell to transport Pettigrew is Mobilcorpus. Snape, you'll help Ron. I'll stay at the rear."
He pointed his wand on Pettigrew again and said:
Pettigrew was pulled upright and looked like a puppet. Hermione silently took over to move Pettigrew.
"Well then, I suppose you're ready to go… I obviously haven't had the full dose of Wolfsbane and will stay here for the transformation. You'd better leave now, you're safe once I've closed the latch of this trap door," said Lupin.
It was a strange group that moved through the tunnel and then out on the grounds of Hogwarts. Sirius trained his wand on Snape and made sure that the Potions master stayed in front of him.
As they walked through the tunnel, Sirius talked with Harry and offered him a home.
"Really? Live with you?" Harry asked, and his eyes lightened up.
"Of course, if you'd rather stay with your aunt and uncle…" Sirius said, insecure.
"Are you mad? Stay with them when I could get away from there? No way. Do you have a house? When can I move in?"
Sirius threw a look at Harry. Did the boy imply mistreatment from his relatives? In this case he would have to get him out of there as soon as his name was cleared. They would go to his old home, which he hated, but with Remus' help he was sure they could remodel the house quickly.
"Yes, I do, actually. It's not very pleasant at the moment, but it would be fun to refurbish it together, wouldn't it? I'm sure that Remus would join us, too."
"I can't wait, Sirius…"
They passed most of the way to the castle when suddenly the clouds shifted and they were bathed in the light of the full moon. Sirius thought of Remus down in the Shrieking Shack and wanted nothing more than helping his old friend, but he told himself that he would be able to help Remus again from on the next month if everything went well.
He was scared, very scared, especially when he felt the Dementors closing in all of a sudden. They had clearly picked him up and were coming closer, but Harry, who felt them just as strongly, immediately cast his Patronus. With the new hope of getting out of the Dursleys' place he actually sent a fully corporeal Patronus right into the Dementors, driving them away before they even got close. Snape snapped for air, when he became aware of that. Harry stared after the stag, that seemed to round up the Dementors and Sirius stood still, rooted to the spot, less because of the Dementors, but because of the Patronus' form.
"Prongs…" he whispered.
He looked at Harry with even more awe. How very much like his father he was, he thought. And immediately corrected himself, because even now he was able to find a lot of Lily inside of his godson, which pleased him immensely.
The group reached the castle and moved through the corridors until they reached the entrance to the headmaster's office.
Snape gave the password. He hadn't said even one word on the whole trip. They came up the moving stairs and knocked on the headmaster's door. Sirius transformed immediately. Dumbledore opened and after only one look over the group, he guided them in his office where the Minister still sat.
"I think this asks for some explanations," Dumbledore remarked.
"Yes, we'll give them to you immediately, but please, Professor, make sure that this man cannot get away. He is an Animagus! His form is that of a rat," Hermione replied.
"Where did you catch him?" Fudge wanted to know.
Dumbledore made sure that Pettigrew was secured. Then he turned to the Snape.
"It's obviously Pettigrew. I haven't looked at his arm yet."
Dumbledore looked at Pettigrew's left wrist and called Fudge over.
"Can you see the Dark Mark on his arm, Cornelius."
"Yes, but… who is it? Pettigrew? What Pettigrew?"
"This, Cornelius, is Peter Pettigrew, who is obviously alive."
"But he's dead! Black killed him, didn't he?"
"No, he didn't," said Harry. "Pettigrew framed him; he was my parents' Secret Keeper."
Fudge protested, Dumbledore silenced him and looked at his staff member, but Snape said:
"The three students disarmed me and I was out of it until they brought me back. I only saw that Pettigrew was there, and I can tell you, Minister, it is indeed Peter Pettigrew and it does look like Black didn't kill him after all."
"If you don't mind I would like for you to give me your memory of tonight's happenings, which we can then see all together. This way no verbal recounting is necessary and we are sure that your points of view match," said Dumbledore.
"How do we do that, Professor?" Hermione asked.
"You don't need to do anything, only think of what happened today. I will pick the memory from you."
Dumbledore went to a cabinet and came back with a basin made of stone, adorned all around with runes. He explained:
"This is a Pensieve. It will allow us to see your memories."
He stirred the greyish mass in the Pensieve and the three men and the three children touched the mass and were drawn inside Hermione's memory from the moment they left Hagrid's hut. They saw how Ron chased after Scabbers.
"Ah, is this the rat you mentioned?"
"Yes, but we didn't know that of course. Only he behaved so strangely. He seemed scared like never before!" Ron explained.
Then the huge black dog turned up and pulled Ron down into the hole in the earth. Harry and Hermione followed him as soon as Crookshanks stilled the tree.
"A remarkable cat – it is yours, Hermione, isn't it?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes. He seemed to be in league with the dog…" Hermione whispered.
"Part Kneazle?" Dumbledore asked on.
"I think so…"
They watched the fight between the children and Black. They watched how Lupin came in and asked Sirius where "he" was. They watched how Black and Lupin explained their common history and they watched how Lupin checked the corridor. Then they saw how Snape joined the group and how he just bound Lupin and was gleeful because he would be the one to hand Black to the Dementors. And they saw the attack on Snape by the three children. In this context, even Snape had to admit that they had done the right thing.
Finally, they watched how Black and Lupin got the man out of the rat. And they watched in horror how Pettigrew admitted to the crimes for which Black had been condemned.
Dumbledore took them out of the Pensieve.
"Sirius, would you kindly take your human form? We have just seen Miss Granger's memory of what transpired earlier on and it is clear that you are innocent of the crimes you have been charged with."
Padfoot looked over to the Minister, but that one was still rather shocked and didn't react. Sirius transformed and immediately handed Snape his wand.
"Here. There's no reason for me to hold onto it still."
"Where's Remus, Sirius?"
"He stayed in the Shrieking Shack. He mentioned a potion and that he missed a dose?"
"Yes, the Wolfsbane Potion. It helps him to keep his own mind while he is transformed. You could probably go to him and he wouldn't attack you while he's transformed under the influence of the potion. We'll look at Harry's memory now – to corroborate what we saw from Miss Granger," Dumbledore ordered.
The two memories were near identical, only Ron's memory later on showed the slight difference of his trip through the passage and the small fight with Black when the man took his wand and hid behind the door.
"I'm sorry, I broke your leg, Ron! I didn't want to hurt any of you, all I had in mind was Pettigrew!" Sirius apologised.
"It's okay…" Ron mumbled, now definitely in urgent need of medical assistance.
Dumbledore went to the fireplace and called for Madam Pomfrey.
"Poppy, please come up to my office, we have someone who needs your help."
Moments later, she was beside Ron and treated his broken leg.
"Professor Lupin made the splints," Ron said.
"And he did well. He can't mend bones very well, but he does know his first aid… here you are, Weasley, that should set you up very nicely. You should go to your bed immediately now."
Then Pomfrey looked up to see Black among them. Unbound and obviously not challenged by anyone.
"What's HE doing here? Why don't you stun him at all?"
"It's fine, Poppy, we have just found out that it was never Sirius who betrayed the Potters and killed the Muggles, it was this man over there," Dumbledore said and pointed to the still stunned Pettigrew.
"No way! That's… that's really Peter Pettigrew! I thought he was dead!"
"We all did. But he only faked his death when Sirius supposedly killed him. In reality he was able to hide in a very unique form, that of a rat. He is an Animagus."
"Oh dear. Sirius, let me look at you! You look like a corpse!"
Pomfrey turned professional as soon as she had thrown a glance at Sirius, who was rather amused at her behaviour. He knew her well, he'd seen her often enough when he was still a student. Either as a patient or when she treated Remus. So he now let her fuss over him until Fudge woke up and started to put up some resistance to a thought that wasn't his own. He had believed Sirius to be guilty since he had seen him in the street, laughing.
"You were there on that street and you were laughing, Black! Laughing! How could you not be guilty? Obviously you just enjoyed the killing…"
"I did not kill those Muggles! I am no Death Eater, Fudge, never was, never will be! You never even asked me one question; you just threw me into Azkaban, you and Crouch. It was so easy; no one would ask a question, no one would have to believe me. If you had given me some truth potion you'd have had your right answers right then, but you enjoyed telling everyone that you caught Voldemort's second in line, didn't you?"
Fudge flinched at Voldemort's name, so did Ron. Harry got angry:
"It's only a name, for Merlin's sake! Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself!" he called.
"Precisely. I see that you learned your lessons well, Harry," Dumbledore confirmed.
"Be that as it is, we haven't yet heard the answers of this man you stunned, even though I'm really not convinced he's Pettigrew."
Dumbledore turned back to Sirius:
"Would you give us your memory of the event itself, Sirius?"
"Stop! You don't believe him if he does, do you, Dumbledore?"
"It sounds far more in character than for Sirius to betray his best friend, Cornelius. I have known them both well and while I did testify that Sirius was the Potters' Secret Keeper I only wasn't informed of the switch. But if it would help – Severus, can you get us some Veritaserum? I do think you have a few drops somewhere, don't you?"
"I do. I will bring it."
Snape went by Floo and returned the same way only minutes later. Sirius took the drug willingly and then Dumbledore plucked his memory. Everyone in the room saw it and they all shuddered at the wreckage! From this point of view it was immediately clear that Sirius was after Pettigrew and not the other way round. They could also clearly see the proceedings and how Pettigrew transformed into the rat and vanished. Dumbledore stilled the picture to compare it with the picture from the Daily Prophet. He showed it to the Minister.
"That is the same rat…"
Even the Minister had to admit it. He grumbled, but accepted the fact.
Finally they woke Pettigrew who of course tried to convince everyone that he was the victim of Sirius' lust for his life, but then Snape said:
"I still have some of the Veritaserum here… should I give it to him, Headmaster?"
"I suppose it will make sure, go ahead, Severus."
The subsequent questioning made everything clear. Under the truth serum, Pettigrew admitted to everything: to being a Death Eater, to having been the Potters' Secret Keeper, to betraying them to Voldemort and to killing the Muggles on the street.
"Now this time I suppose we can forego a trial…" Dumbledore remarked.
"I'll have the Dementors perform the Kiss immediately," the Minister agreed.
"NOOOOOO!" Pettigrew screamed.
While Hermione shuddered, Harry and Ron looked distinctly horrified. Sirius on the other hand was highly satisfied. Dumbledore was still opposed to any Dementor in the castle and said:
"You will have to take him to Azkaban for that, Cornelius. I'm afraid that even in this case I will not permit one of those creatures entrance to the castle."
"Fine. I'll then call a few Aurors, won't I? He needs to be stunned."
Dumbledore took care of that part.
"And you will also sign the pardon for Sirius?"
"Good. I'm writing it up while we wait for the Aurors. You can sign it at once."
"I demand compensation from the Ministry, Fudge. I've been imprisoned without reason for over eleven years. My salary as an Auror times the amount of years costs you at least 30'000 Galleons. Put that into the pardon as well as my claim to Harry's custody, Dumbledore," Sirius spoke up.
Dumbledore looked up.
"I cannot let you take Harry away from his relatives, Sirius… his safety…"
"…counts nothing if they mistreat and hate him. I offered him a home and while I believed he would not want to leave his aunt and uncle you have seen and heard his reaction."
"I can't believe it is that bad…" Dumbledore replied.
"Harry, why did you want to leave your aunt and uncle immediately?" Sirius asked.
Harry looked slightly embarrassed.
"They're not very nice to me…" he said.
Hermione and Ron snorted.
"Where did you sleep until you came to Hogwarts?" asked Hermione slyly.
Harry blushed. He didn't want to admit his weakness to the adults in the room. But if it would be the thing he needed to say to get to live with his godfather he would do it.
"The cupboard under the stairs…" he whispered.
Dumbledore looked like he wasn't surprised. Harry was sure he knew more than he would admit. Sirius didn't need anything else. He was furious.
"Have you ever even checked up on him, Albus? How could you do that to James and Lily's son? The child we all adored? You had no right to overrule James' will! Even if I couldn't take him, then Remus could have. Or the Longbottoms. They were ALL mentioned as possible guardians. And I know for a fact that James and Lily SPECIFICALLY forbade that Harry should grow up with Lily's sister. Lily knew what would happen in such a case."
"Harry needed to be safe. Lily created a safety no one could maintain but someone whose blood she shared. That was her sister. As long as Harry can call her house his home he is safe."
"But that's just it, Professor Dumbledore – he doesn't call their place his home… since we started here he has called Hogwarts home, he always just speaks of his relatives' place," Hermione dared to throw in.
Dumbledore looked more than slightly put out at that remark.
"There you are. That would have negated the whole safety at the latest since Harry came to Hogwarts."
"The love that bound Lily to Harry bound him to her sister who shares her blood. The fact remains that he is safest at Privet Drive."
"Well… now that my name will be cleared you have no say to that anymore, Albus. Because I'll claim my right with the Ministry, who is truly competent to give me the custody. That and Harry's own wish. Harry? Do you want to stay with your aunt and uncle?"
Harry shook his head.
"No. I always dreamed that someone would take me away. Since I could reach the stove they made me cook. They made me work while my cousin got everything he wanted. I never got anything, except for my glasses. Dudley broke them whenever he was in the mood for it and they blamed me. I was not allowed to be better than him in school and Dudley is really stupid! I never had a friend because he beat everyone up who tried to be my friend…"
Harry, once started, could hardly stop naming all the injustices he had to endure at his relatives' hands. When he told them about his uncle's sister and what she did to him over the years everyone in the room but Dumbledore was convinced that he would never find anything to love in his relatives. Even Fudge then demanded that Dumbledore added the custody part to the pardon. And so the pardon was signed and handed to Sirius. It granted the young man the custody over his godson as well as a compensation for the time served in Azkaban over 50'000 Galleons. For that Sirius confirmed not to have any other claims and would be content with a public apology over the Daily Prophet and the Wizarding Wireless Network.
It was already early in the morning when Harry, Ron and Hermione finally went back to their house. Sirius was captured by Pomfrey who allowed the children to come and see him the next morning. Fudge and the Aurors took Pettigrew to Azkaban, where he was given to the Dementors to receive the Dementors' Kiss immediately. Fudge also ordered the Dementors off the school grounds at the same time.
Snape was not happy. But even in his closed mind he had seen the injustice and accepted the fact that his fallen enemy didn't really fall and was still on the same good side. Sirius on his part had quite immediately accepted that Snape had turned and was willing to believe Dumbledore. He would have a few days before the students left Hogwarts to organise somewhere to stay with Harry.
'…and Remus,' he thought.
In the morning, Remus found his way back to the castle – returned to his human form. He was very nervous. What had happened? Had they believed Sirius or had they have him Kissed on the spot? How were the children? He had been lucky and had a relatively easy transformation. He passed at the hospital wing first to pick up some ointment for his joints from Poppy. He had hardly stepped into the room when he saw Sirius' black hair spread over a pillow. Smiling he went over. He stood by the bed and was relieved. Sirius lying here in this bed unsupervised meant surely that he had been acquitted. That he was set free. He couldn't imagine his friend being placed so openly and without a guard in the hospital wing if he was still a prisoner.
"There you are, Remus…" Poppy said quietly behind him.
"Is he…?" Remus asked.
"Everything's just fine with him, all he will need in the next weeks is nourishment and to move to train himself back to full health," she said soothingly.
"He's free then?" Remus wanted to make sure.
"Yes, he got Fudge's pardon. It's already been brought to the public over the WWN and will be in today's Daily Prophet. And probably all Daily Prophets for the next week or month…" Poppy replied.
Remus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he hugged the nurse.
"Thank you, Poppy. I'm sure you put him together as well as you could."
"I did. He'll need a couple of potions to regain some of his strength. I've put his teeth back in order and healed whatever injuries he had. But he will mostly need you to heal completely, Remus. I think he has lost trust in all of the humans around him but a select few. And I'm sure you belong to them…"
"He thought I was the spy…" Remus said sadly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "He's lost his trust in me first…"
"But he's gaining it back right now. He'll need protection from the media, too. And he got custody over Harry, so he'll need you with that as well, I'm sure."
"Trying to be the matchmaker again, Poppy?" a sleepy voice asked behind them.
Sirius was awake.
"I call things as they are… here's your ointment, Remus, I'll leave you to it…" she said haughtily and left them.
Sirius and Remus both grinned, because the mediwitch was incapable of really pulling it off in front of them. They had been friends for too long. Remus sat on the edge of the bed and said:
"Move over there, Padfoot…"
Sirius budged a bit closer to the edge of the bed. Remus started to undress and tried to pick up the bottle with the ointment when he felt it being taken by someone else. Sirius held it up and ordered:
"Make yourself comfortable, Remus, I'm taking over again… that was your last transformation alone. Hopefully for a long time."
Remus couldn't but smile to that. He received the overall treatment with the ointment. Sirius checked him over and used the ointment freely on all of his friend's joints. Remus fell asleep on the way. Sirius covered him up, returned the ointment bottle to the nightstand and got back into bed next to Remus. In his sleep, Remus turned to him. Sirius sighed a happy sigh and pulled his loved one closer still. For the first time in so many years, Sirius dared falling asleep without fear.
That was how Harry, Hermione and Ron found the two when they came in the morning to see Sirius. They saw the two immediately and Hermione looked at them with a smile.
"Just look at that! They're such good friends," whispered Harry.
"I think, they might be even more than that," claimed Hermione.
"What? You mean they're poofs?" Ron hissed.
"If they're anything, they're probably gay, Ron. Poof is a very impolite word."
"Well, they're not very normal if they're… you know…"
"Come off it. Why do you care who they love? I think it's a good thing. Professor Lupin seems to be so lonely and I'm sure Sirius will not just jump back into the midst of a great social life, so they're good for each other. So what if they're together?"
"Well, I don't mind. My uncle is always going on about them as if they're criminals. If he thinks that way then it must be okay," was all Harry had to say.
"Whatever!" said Ron. "Could we go and have breakfast?"
"Yes, just go already, I'll tell Madam Pomfrey that we have passed, just in case Sirius asks…" Harry said.
Ron turned around and left the hospital wing. Hermione and Harry looked for Madam Pomfrey, but she wasn't in her office.
"Must be having breakfast, too," Hermione thought.
Just then Sirius woke up. Harry saw it and rushed over to say hello.
"Morning Harry, Hermione! Where's your friend Ron?"
"Just left to go and have breakfast. We wanted to tell Madam Pomfrey that we've passed, so she could tell you, but now you're awake, even better," said Harry.
Sirius let go of Remus, who burrowed even closer to him in his sleep. Automatically, Sirius caressed him over his shoulders and back, until he felt his friend relax.
"May I ask you something, Sirius?" Hermione asked.
"You and Professor Lupin… are you two a couple?"
Sirius laughed. Then he looked down on Remus and said:
"First of all I can tell you that there is no need to speak so low, Remus sleeps so deeply, he won't wake from us talking. And then – yes, we've been a couple. Whether we are one now I don't know yet, Hermione. Though the way he's cuddling up to me tells me he still wants to."
"Well, I think you want to in any case, don't you? You'll be brilliant together! And good for Harry, too."
"Thanks Hermione," Sirius said, grinning.
"You're welcome. Do you want me to get you some breakfast?"
"I don't think you need to take care of that, Hermione, methinks there's Poppy coming already…"
Indeed, they heard the mediwitch coming in, levitating two well-filled steaming plates for Sirius and Remus.
"Good morning, Madam Pomfrey," Harry and Hermione greeted her.
"Good morning, children. Take care not to wake Professor Lupin. He needs his rest."
"We're taking care, Madam. Sirius just said he's sleeping very deeply," Hermione replied.
"He probably does, dear. He just seems to have had a somewhat rougher night than usual."
"They know, Poppy," Sirius hinted.
"Oh, they do? Well, then you'll know why he needs his rest."
Madam Pomfrey now set up a privacy curtain around the bed. She didn't want eventual visitors to the hospital wing to see the two men in bed.
"You two should go to breakfast as well, you can come back and pick Sirius up later on, he really doesn't need bed rest!"
"You let me out after only one night? Must be a first, Poppy," Sirius said with a grin.
"Okay, we'll be back later, Sirius!" Harry promised.
"Great! See you later then!"
The last thing Harry saw was Sirius' appetite, with which he dove into his plate. He grinned and followed Hermione to the Great Hall.
They arrived there just in time to hear Dumbledore hold his speech:
"Good morning, students – and teachers. I have a short, but important message to pass on to everyone. Last night, a few students helped saving two innocent lives. They were able to free Hagrid's hippogriff AND they helped to prove that a great injustice had been committed by the Ministry to Sirius Black. It has turned out that Sirius Black is NO murderer. He has NOT betrayed his friends James and Lily Potter to Lord Voldemort. Minister Fudge has therefore seen fit to sign his immediate pardon and has consequently removed the Dementors from the Hogwarts gates. Sirius Black is currently resting in the hospital wing, but he will be released this morning and join us for the next few days here at Hogwarts, especially to get reacquainted with his godson Harry Potter, whose guardian he has become last night."
The students hardly reacted more to this message than starting to discuss the probability of its contents. There were a few boos from the Slytherins. Malfoy called out:
"If it wasn't Black, who was it then?"
"For the details, Mr. Malfoy, I'll guide your attention to the incoming Daily Prophet. It would lead too far to explain everything. I only ask all of you to treat Mr. Black with the utmost politeness as befits the Hogwarts student body. He has been suffering for much too long!"