Inspired by the scene between a firstie Sirius and Head Boy Kingsley in my multichapter fic. I am not J.K. Rowling.
The photographs start accumulating the day after Sirius Black escapes. The whole Auror department is on the case, of course. Hell, the entire Ministry's on red alert. Scrimgeour stalks up and down between cubicles, barking out orders like a ship's captain. His haste is motivated by ambition as well as urgency—if he can successfully solve his first major crisis after taking over from Moody, it'll be a pretty feather in his cap.
Kingsley cuts Black's picture out of the Daily Prophet, his scissors slicing the newsprint with painstaking accuracy, and tapes it up next to his illuminated parchment world map. He gets a box of red pins out of the filing cabinet and starts marking possible locations for his tracking investigation. Kingsley has always been a visual person, so maps, markers, and pictures of suspects on the walls help him focus.
The hard-working Auror department is mainly silent, except for discussion of the case, and the sound of its denizens frantically rifling through papers. There is plenty of time for him to think, unfortunately. He wonders over the logistics of an escape—it's supposed to be impossible. But mainly, he thinks of Sirius Black before Azkaban. While other Aurors see the opposite side of the War Against Voldemort as a data file—Sirius Orion Black, born November 22nd, 1959. Thirteen counts of murder—Kingsley has always found it hard to forget faces, stories.
Sirius Black. One of his most memorable charges as Head Boy. Professor McGonagall tells him to keep an eye on the first-year, a new Gryffindor from an infamously Slytherin family. Kingsley spends the first few weeks of term on the lookout for any signs of bullying, either from the Slytherins or from their own Housemates. Sirius settles in very well, though Kingsley keeps an eye on him. He and the similarly loud, mischievous and charming James Potter, with an assortment of others, run wild around the school. Sirius has managed to rack up an impressive sixteen detentions by the time Kingsley boards the Hogwarts express for the last time.
Sirius Black, still best friends with James Potter. Two of Dumbledore's fresh-out-of-Hogwarts recruits to the Order of the Phoenix. They aren't yet used to war and still have the joking familiarity and light-hearted banter that Kingsley, and others like the Prewett brothers, still young themselves, appreciate. Even the grim old soldiers like Moody and William McKinnon enjoy having a bit of young blood around. Cheers things up, even in the middle of a war.
Most of the Order attends James and Lily's wedding. Kingsley's fiancée, Sarah, squeezes his hand as Lily walks up the aisle, her long red hair braided and wrapped around her head like a crown. "Honey, do you think I'd look pretty with my hair up like that?" she whispers in his ear. "If you can find a hair-growing charm that works quickly enough," he teases, pulling at a strand of her chin-length bob. "I'll test it on you, shall I, baldy?" "I liked 'honey' better." "Sssh, they're starting!" Sarah leans forward, gazing up at the altar. Sirius Black, the best man, is almost as radiantly happy as the bride and groom.
The two friends' carefree nonchalance begins to harden over the next two years. The Order loses soldiers. The Prewetts and McKinnon, among others, are killed. Though Sirius and James still make jokes, the mood is darker. Harry is born, and Sirius shows Kingsley pictures of his baby godson at least seventy times in the first week. The Potters go into hiding. The war seems more hopeless than ever before, but, unseen, the coil begins to wind down. The night the war ends, Sirius Black commits his first, secret atrocity. The next day brings public jubilation, and in the midst of it all, public slaughter.
After the escape, Kingsley's heart is heavy. He's tried to forget the crimes of the war, but it's next to impossible. When he leaves work at ten in the evening, his head aching from the long day, only interrupted to scarf down a cup of tea and a ham sandwich, the halls are abuzz with chatter. The monumental escape is first on everyone's minds. When he returns home, he tiredly greets Sarah, goes into their eight-year-old daughter Elizabeth's bedroom, where she's already asleep, and kisses her forehead. Then he goes to bed himself. He doesn't want to think about murderers he watched grow up, who he thought were put to deserved justice. He doesn't want to wonder where it went wrong. He knows he won't sleep well tonight, and he doesn't.
By the time Sirius Black has been missing for a month, there are several photographs. There are pictures of a younger Black, a Black that today would be unrecognizable. A picture from Lily and James's wedding, a snapshot of a grinning teenage Black waving at the camera with one hand and holding, oddly enough, a fat rat in the other. The photo that really twists at his heart, though, is a one that must have been taken the year he was Head Boy. The two boys in the picture stand knee-deep in a pond, arms slung around each other's bare shoulders. Dressed in shorts and baggy tshirts, they look a bit cold but otherwise ecstatic. The taller, handsomer boy is smiling broadly. The spiky-haired boy—James Potter—blinks nearsightedly at the camera, eyes unfocused, but smiles as well. Kingsley looks at the cute, innocent boys, and wonders what went wrong. How one of them could have betrayed the other to his death. What the hell was wrong with Sirius Black, anyway?
By the time Sirius Black has been missing for a year and a half, the Ministry devotes a single Auror to the task of finding him. Kingsley volunteers. It's a depressing job. There's a lot of paperwork. No one wants to do it. Someone has to do it. Might as well be him. Kingsley never spotted Black's true nature. Maybe it was impossible to spot. Someone has to make sure justice is done. By this time, the photographs cover a whole wall of his cubicle.
When the Order of the Phoenix is reassembled, he learns the truth. He feels sick. He feels horrified. He feels responsible. Every time he walks into his office, the photographs on the walls stare down at him, and he feels confronted, cornered. It's his duty to prevent the Ministry from tracking down innocent, scarred, ruined Sirius. To make sure the real guilty party is found. To avenge the Potters' deaths. He begins to question the system of Azkaban, something he's never been fully on board with. He looks at the handsome, young face of his pretended quarry, and the wasted mask of the man he knows now. He looks at the two boys in the photographs and wonders why their story had to end so badly.
The day the Ministry finally takes their heads out of their asses, as Moody tells him to tell Scrimgeour, and as he neglects to tell Scrimgeour out of tact, is the day after Sirius Black's name is finally cleared. Unfortunately, it's far too late by that time. He stands in the middle of his claustrophobic cubicle and surveys the photographic collage of a wasted life. Then he starts to tear the pictures down. He hesitates when he reaches the photo of young Sirius and James in the pond. Instead of tossing it into the trash bin, he sets it down on his desk. Later, he will tuck it into a small, unassuming frame, and put it behind the large pictures of his wife and Elizabeth. Someone needs to mourn. Someone needs to remember. Might as well be him.
When the war is over, and he sits behind the desk of the Minister, he reflects. He never wanted the job, was never ambitious like Scrimgeour, like Fudge. Maybe it's better that way. He hopes he can fix the damaged country, at least some of the way. The people trust him enough to place their future in his hands.
He sits behind the desk when he signs the Justice Amendment, six months after the Battle of Hogwarts. No suspect will ever be sentenced without a fair and impartial trial. Convicted criminals will be treated humanely. Change comes quickly after wars. Sometimes it brings new hopes. He looks at the photograph of his two first-year charges from long ago, splashing their legs through pond water and hugging each other. Friends. United. Innocent. Sometimes it helps to keep a small reminder of the casualties of unjust justice, and the causalities of war.