Werewolf on Trial

Chapter 3- The Verdicts

After twenty minutes of nervously tapping his foot on the floor, Sirius couldn't stand sitting anymore and began to pace in front of the bench.

"Dogs," James said with a shake of his head.

"Um-hm," Peter agreed with a smile.

Sirius stopped and looked at them both.  "When Remus comes out, I'll go for a walk.  That way he can sit here with you two if he wants."  They nodded, and he resumed pacing.  He resisted looking at the clock.  "If I don't look at the clock, he'll come out sooner."  It didn't make any sense, but he kept thinking it all the same.  When Remus finally came out, he and Sirius locked eyes for a moment and they both stopped dead in their tracks.  Remus's expression gave no clue as to how his testimony had gone, but Sirius was certain that it had been the most humiliating experience of his life.

"You can sit here, Remus.  I'll go."  Sirius turned on his heel and walked down the corridor toward the exit.  He didn't know how long to stay away.  If the committee's attitude to his final words was any indication, they probably wouldn't want to listen to Professor Dumbledore for long.  However, he was Professor Dumbledore.  Who would dare to not let him say whatever he wished to say?

            Sirius heard footsteps behind him and turned to see Remus following him.  His hands were shoved deep into the pockets of his robe.  Sirius stopped to wait.  As Remus passed, he indicated with a jerk of his head that Sirius should walk beside him.  Sirius walked a half step behind Remus, just behind his shoulder.  It was Padfoot's usual place beside the wolf and it just seemed right today.  Moony was the alpha.  Their path was his choose; the pace was his to set.

For several minutes, they wandered through various hallways in silence.  "Really unfair of him to leave James and Peter behind if he's planning on beating me into a pulp, and if he's planning to kill me, he really shouldn't do it in this building.  The Forbidden Forest would be a good place to die.  We had fun there, and they'd never find my body."

            "My first instinct is to refuse to speak to you for the rest of my life, but I know I'd never make it through even one year," Remus finally said.  "And since the rest of my life is probably much less than a year, I might as well start speaking to you again now."  Remus kept walking without looking at Sirius.

            Sirius wanted desperately to say something hopeful, to make Remus realize that the committee would rule in his favor, but Sirius didn't believe that any more than Remus did, and Remus could see through his lies even faster than his parents could.

            "Oh God, Moony.  I'm so sorry.  I don't even know how to say how sorry I am."

            "I want to tell you something, but you can't tell James or Peter."

            "Then don't tell me.  I've proven myself hopeless at keeping secrets."

            "You've learned your lesson.  You probably already know this, but I wanted to say it anyway, while I can,"

            "Please stop talking like that, Remus."

            Remus ignored this and went on.  "I wanted to say that you, Padfoot, are most definitely the wolf's favorite."

            "Yeah, I knew that.  You're Padfoot's favorite, too.  The deer and the rat just aren't the same, are they?"

            "No.  Can't even bark."

            "Or wag their tails."

            "Or howl."  Remus finally stopped walking and smiled at Sirius.  "Promise me you'll howl at the moon for me after I'm gone."

            "Only if you promise the same thing, because this committee is not going to rule against you, and you'll probably outlive me by several decades."

            Remus shook his head but didn't bother to argue.

            "Can you forgive me, Remus?" Sirius asked.

            "You know what I realized while they were questioning me?"  Remus resumed walking and led the way back toward the others.  "I realized that I wasn't in there because you're a bloody idiot."

"Although I am."

"Although you are, but I was in there because I'm a werewolf and they want me dead.  You just gave them an excuse to kill me, and if you hadn't they would have found another excuse.  Don't blame yourself for what's about to happen.  I forgive you, and I want you to forgive yourself, too."

            Sirius didn't reply; he didn't trust himself to speak without sobbing.  A few tears spilled down his cheeks, but he let them dry without wiping them away. Remus wasn't looking at him, and the tears might go unnoticed if he left them alone.

            "You know what I want to do, Sirius?"  Sirius shook his head.  "As soon as we get back to James and Peter, I'm going to tease you unmercifully for fainting in McGonagall's office."

            "How'd you know?"

            "She told my mum and me.  She thought we should know how 'concerned and upset' you were."

            Sirius growled.  "Stupid cat."

            "Going to chase her up a tree?"

            "Can't.  I took a vow not to chase cats anymore."

            "Why?"

            "Because McGonagall was so nice to me when I fainted."

            Remus started laughing.  Sirius thought it was one of the best sounds he had ever heard.

            "Where have you been?" Peter shouted as they came around the corner.

            "We were—"  Sirius began.  "Smiling.  Peter is smiling.  James is smiling.  Everyone is smiling."  "What happened?"

            "They voted in Remus's favor!  It's all over!"  James shouted as he ran forward and hugged Remus.  When he let go, Remus ran to his mother and embraced her.  Sirius stood stunned.  It was the result he hadn't dared hope for.

            "How close was the vote, James?"

            James threw an arm around Sirius's shoulders.  "Three to two, but don't tell Remus that unless he asks."           

"Did the committee leave yet?

            "Why?  Do you want a recount?"

            "No, I want to kiss that white haired witch."

            James laughed.  "Several of us did!  We're all going back to my house for a party.  Your mum already left.  She wanted to tell my grandmother the result and help get things ready."

* * * * *

            Sirius helped himself to a second slice of chocolate cake and then licked some frosting off his thumb.

            "Where did my stupid fork go?"

            "Here, catch!" James laughed and then lowered his voice so the adults in the neighboring dining room wouldn't hear him.  "Guess what Gran did."

            "What?" Sirius asked around a mouthful of cake.  He put his plate on the kitchen counter and pushed himself up to sit beside it.

            "She told Simmy to set the table with her favorite china and silver because tonight is a celebration."

            Sirius laughed.  "She didn't."

            "She did.  She forgot.  Fortunately, Simmy put out the stainless flatware instead.  Right, Simmy?"

            "Yes, Sir," the house-elf squeaked before hurrying back to the dining room with a bottle of sherry.

            "Thanks, Simmy!  You're an angel!" Sirius called after her.

            "I'd better get back in there and rescue Peter.  Gran was lecturing him about worrying his mother by sneaking out of the house."

            "Does his mother know that he's here?"

            "Yeah, your dad apparated over and told her."

            "Brave man, my dad."

            James went back into the dining room.  Sirius licked the last of the frosting off his plate and put it in the sink.  He went to the dining room door; a quick glance revealed everyone except Remus.  Sirius suspected that he'd find Remus outside (after feeling trapped all day, he'd want space), so he went out to the back garden.  Remus wasn't sitting in any of the chairs on the patio.  Sirius began to walk beside the low wall heading for the break in the wall where two steps led down to the lawn.

            "Oh—there you are, Moony." 

Remus was sitting on the lawn leaning back against the patio wall.  Sirius jumped over the wall and sat beside Remus.  For a while, they just sat in silence looking at the dark blue sky.

"Takes forever to get dark in the summer, doesn't it?" Sirius finally said.

"Um-hm.  Doesn't really matter though," Remus replied.  "There's no moon to howl at tonight anyway."  He smiled but didn't look directly at Sirius.

Sirius grinned.  "We could howl anyway."

"We could," Remus grinned, "but we'd freak out your parents and James's grandmother." 

Sirius laughed as he pictured their reactions to Remus howling.  "It wouldn't throw Dumbledore."

"Nothing throws Dumbledore.  Your dad just came outside."

Sirius raised his hand to be seen over the wall.  "Over here, Dad."

Sirius's father levitated a patio chair over the wall, positioning it to face the two teenagers.  He climbed over the wall and sat in the chair.  Then he pulled a small book out of his pocket and tossed it to Remus.

"I'm glad you didn't need this.  You might as well put it away somewhere safe," Sirius's father said.

"What is it?" Remus asked.

"It's called a 'passport'.  It's a kind of identification that muggles have to have if they want to leave the country.  One of my friends at the Ministry has a friend in the muggle department that issues them.  This one has your photo and a different name, but that's easy to change with a bit of transfiguration."

Remus opened it up, and Sirius looked at it with him.

"Not a bad photo," Sirius said, "dumb name though."

"I don't understand," Remus murmured.

"Just our little back-up plan.  Passports for you and your mother, tickets on a muggle airplane to Canada, and some muggle money to get you started.  I promised Sirius that we wouldn't let anyone hurt you, and I meant it."

Sirius was both amazed that his father had gone to these lengths, these illegal lengths, to help Remus and exasperated that his father had kept it a secret.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked his father.

 "We didn't tell you, Sirius, because we thought a bit of terror might teach you a much needed lesson.  And we didn't tell you, Remus, because, quite frankly, there were no guarantees that it would work, and we didn't want to give you any false hopes.  Just getting you out of the building would have been a major feat.  As soon as you entered the building this afternoon, all the exits were sealed to you, you know."

Remus nodded.  He had known.  Sirius hadn't.

"And it was a poor second choice to a favorable ruling from the committee," Sirius's father continued.  "You would have had to spend the rest of your life on the run.  So, we readied this plan, but hoped that we wouldn't have to use it."

"Who are 'we'?" Remus asked.

"Sirius's mother, Professor Dumbledore, and I, but that's our little secret."  Sirius's father stood up and smiled.  "You do know how to keep a secret now, don't you, Sirius?"

Both boys stood up, and Sirius embraced his father.  "Thank you, Dad."

When Sirius took a step back, Remus extended his hand.  "Thank you, Sir."  Aeneas gripped Remus's hand but used it to pull him close and embraced him.

"You're quite welcome, Remus.  You're quite welcome.  Now let's go back inside.  We adults are about to leave, and James has talked his grandmother into allowing the three of you to sleep over."

"You two go ahead," Sirius said.  "I'll be inside in a minute."

Remus gave him a suspicious look but accompanied Sirius's father inside.  Certain that he was alone, Sirius returned to the shadowed privacy behind the patio wall and transformed. 

Padfoot howled his joy to the sky.  Remus, James, and Peter all grinned as they listened.

"Just a dog," Remus announced to the puzzled adults, "but he howls pretty well."

The chapter title isn't a typo; it's plural on purpose.   How many verdicts do you count?  Reviews and constructive criticism are very, very welcome!  Review my stories and I promise to read and review yours!

Disclaimer:  All characters, etc. belong to J.K. Rowling. (As if you had any doubt.)