Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling
This fanfiction is not for profit.
Hogwarts September 1989
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, slingshots and dungbombs, a single volley of artillery targeting Slytherins on their way to dinner. They had set their ambush with great care, their cover was excellent, their escape routes ready to hand.
But they hadn't allowed for the damn cat.
Fred flicked a glance at George then returned to glaring at Mrs. Norris. She had tracked them, yowling the while, until her wretched master had cornered them. Now they were stuck in Filtch's office listening to his sadistic fantasies. Fred gave up on feline intimidation and tuned in to the caretaker for a minute.
Really, he thought, this man is badly warped, what are they thinking allowing him near children?
Filtch leered at the twins as he ran a grimy finger over a set of manacles.
"I keep all the implements of discipline ready for instant use."
Argus admired the oily sheen of the cold iron.
"You should have behaved. You should have been good children. Thought you could befoul the castle did you? Thought you could throw dung around and just waltz away!"
He snatched up a cat of nine tails from the rack by the door and swung hard. The twins jerked away from the crack of the whip on the desk. They were as brave as any two eleven year old boys could be but there were limits and a sadist with a cat of nine was well past them. Filtch sneered, his eyes were hot, his breathing uneven. Fred twitched his head towards the office door and George gave a little nod. As Filch turned to put the whip back in the rack George pelted out of the office screaming blue murder.
"After him!" Filtch roared at Mrs. Norris and the dust colored cat zoomed out of the office in hot pursuit.
Filtch's got nose to nose with Fred, who cowered away from him, trembling in fear, lower lip quivering, eyes wet with tears.
"You will stay here and you will stay quiet!"
The caretaker slammed and locked his office door then thundered after Mrs. Norris and George.
Fred muttered, "Stupid Git!" as he crammed their satchels full of delicious contraband riffled from a file cabinet labeled 'Confiscated and Dangerous'.
Percy was, of course, insufferably condescending.
"Have you no regard for others? Must you play your stupid games? You lost fifty points you morons!"
Charlie was, of course, more laid back about it all.
"Percy, give them a break will you lad? Filtch gets everyone sooner or later." Charlie gave the twins the beady eye, "Now you two know to keep an eye for the damn cat."
Percy puffed himself, "Filtch has never gotten me!"
Fred snorted, "Well of course not you. You are perfect."
George eyed his pompous brother with deep suspicion, "Been up to anything old Filtchy wouldn't approve of Percival?"
Percy smirked, he was far from perfect and very very adept at avoiding notice.
Fred laid a tender hand on Percy's brow and frowned in worry. "You do have a pulse don't you? Adopted do you think Charles? George?"
That wound Percy up good and tight, he ranted on for another full ten minutes which helped make the whole thing worthwhile, at least in the twins opinion.
A few days later the twins were stumped and in need of expert and discrete advice.
George grinned at his older brother. "Er.. Could you give us a hand?"
Charlie raised an eyebrow and asked, "What's this about then?"
"Well.. When we had that spot of bother with Filtch we managed to liberate some goods and err.. we aren't entirely sure what all of it does?"
Charlie hid a grin behind a hand and tried very hard to look serious. "Do you mean to tell me that you raided his office?" They beamed at him, puffed their chests and buffed their nails, "Actually that would be bragging.. and not discrete."
He snorted, "Let's see what you have then.."
Charlie wasn't an intellectual powerhouse like Bill or Percy but he was no slouch. He had picked up a bit from Bill the cursebreaker. Living with the twins made learning diagnostic spells a priority, they were insufferable when they succeed in a prank.
The twin's booty made an impressive pile and the brothers enjoyed rummaging through the plunder. Fred and George worked to learn the detection charms Charlie used, but it was advanced magic, it would take more than an afternoon to master the spells. One item Charlie commandeered despite protest.
"OI! We did the detentions Charlie!"
Charlie shrugged as he tucked a fanged frisbee into his book bag, saying only, "Mine to begin with little bro, consider it tuition for the advanced charms lesson."
They grumbled, but he had the right of it.
Finally they were left with a very rude bit of parchment that nearly glowed with magic as it insulted them.
The Marauders were number one on the pranking leader board, even years after they had left Hogwarts. The twins dearest ambition was to supplant them. Charlie frowned at the parchment, "I don't know what it is, but it's magical as hell and locked up tight. You could mail it to Bill? He might be able to work it out."
"Thanks Charlie! You're the best, even Nymphadora says so!"
"You know not to call her that. And never mind about Tonks!"
It was nearly a month later, early October, when the twins got mail from Bill. He had returned their bit of parchment with a note.
Dear Trouble Twins:
I have solved the security on the parchment. I hope you solve it as well. I swear you would find your mischief easier to manage. Let me know how you get on.
Love and kisses from
There was no joy in Mudville. Charlie grinned as he listened to his brothers complain.
"How could he be such a bloody minded git?"
"It's tragic, just tragic."
The twins worried at the secret of the parchment but it was an exercise in frustration for them. They agreed that Bill was terrible and should suffer horribly the next time he was in range. Charlie was keeping Bill informed, every time the twins gave up Bill would write and ask them how it was going. He wouldn't give them a hint, the git, he just poked at them. It was not to be borne.
One evening in early November Charlie joined the twins on a couch in the common room, "You idiots ever figure out that parchment?" he asked. Normally extremely jovial, they glowered at him and groaned, "No."
Someone came thundering down the boys staircase behind them, howling, "FRED! GEORGE! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
The twins brightened immediately. Charlie grinned at them and lifted an eyebrow, muttering, "Incoming."
George tilted his head back, sneered and lifted a trembling hand to point at the charging Percy, "J'accuse!" he intoned.
Percy only growled and snatched up George's book bag only to dump the contents on the table and scrabble through the mess.
"Where is it? You gits have gone to far this time! I'll tell mum!"
Fred recoiled in horror, "Tell mum? You beast! How could you!"
Percy only snarled at Fred and dumped Fred's book bag as well. He rummaged through that pile but didn't find what he was looking for which only made him angrier. Fred and George drew their wands, slowly, carefully, watching Percy closely. Percy's ears were flushing red, a sure sign he was combat ready. He could be quite fierce when truly angry and he was really, truly, angry. Percy shot to his feet with an inarticulate roar, the wand in his hand sparking as he glared at the twins.
"Easy now Weasleys. No blood on the floor. You know mum hates that."
Charlie was very strong, always had been, and he easily forced the twins wands down to the table. Percy won't curse them, Charlie thought, Probably. If they don't provoke him any more.
The twins were so rattled that they messed up their twin speak, talking over one another.
George said, "I solemnly swear that we.." just as Fred asked, "You think we are up to no good?"
George goggled as the bit of parchment that had tortured them for so many days revealed it's secret. He launched himself into Percy's arms, crying hysterically, "I'm so sorry! What can I do to make it up to you?"
While Percy thrashed about trying to get free of George, Fred hid the Marauders Map. Charlie just shook his head, muttering, "Luck. Pure blind dumb luck."
It took a while to settle Percy. They had to return his diary, err.. journal... and still he only let up after he confirmed that it hadn't been broken into.
As soon as they could manage it the twins were shuffling towards the Fat Lady and some privacy, hoping to explore their newly unlocked treasure.
Charlie's meaty hands landed on their shoulders, "Lads? Going somewhere?"
"Just an evening constitutional dear brother, nothing to worry about."
"Excellent, I'll be joining you."
It wasn't a question. Arthur always told them not to trust anything that could think for itself if you couldn't see where it kept it's brains. Charlie wasn't about to leave them alone with the parchment.
Soon the three of them were tucked into an empty classroom with the Marauders Map before them.
"This is amazing! How did they ever make this?"
Charlie shook his head, "It took a full team of cursebreakers three weeks to break the security. You twin gits just wanked your way into it. Unbelievable."
Fred recoiled from studying their new treasure, "EWWW!"
"What?" asked George.
Fred pointed at the third year Gryffindor's dorm, "Look at that. Did you know?"
Two names intermingled on what could only be Percy's bed, Percy Weasley and Peter Pettigrew.
Charlie gagged, "Mum will kill him. Intervention time Weasleys! Mount up!"
Fred gagged in turn and began hitting Charlie, "You didn't say that! No mounting!"
George grabbed their arms, "Wait a minute! Pettigrew? Isn't that..."
Charlie shook his head, murmuring, "But he's dead, Peter Pettigrew is dead. Black killed him."
He looked at his brothers, "The map must be broken but.. At any rate let's go see Percy and his.. squeeze." The twins resumed battering him.
Percy was comfortably ensconced in his four poster bed, Scabbers napping on his stomach, he had a book in hand and he was quite pleased with himself. The protections on his .. journal.. had held against the worst the twins could do, no small accomplishment. He jumped, surprised and very suspicious when George yanked his curtains open. Fred and Charlie were with George; Fred staring at a scrap of parchment, and Charlie with his wand drawn. They all were looking quite unsettled.
"What do you gits want then? Can't a man have a bit of privacy?"
George rolled his eyes, "Well a man could have, a boy on the other hand.."
Charlie plucked Scabbers from Percy's stomach.
"OI! Put him down!" Percy yelled as he wrestled to get free of his covers.
Charlie backed away from Percy's bed, looking at Fred. Fred shook his head, telling Charlie, "The map must be broken, it still says Pettigrew."
Scabbers gave a shriek and went from a passive lump dangling from Charlie's hand, to a thrashing, biting menace.
Charlie Weasley would never be even a tiny bit afraid of a rat. He gave it a good shake, "Stop it! Stop it or I snap your spine!"
That only increased the rat's frenzy. When the rat managed to sink his sharp yellow fangs into Charlie's hand, Charlie had enough and hurled it at the stone wall of the dorm room, hard enough to kill it if it had struck the wall. There was a flare of magic and a fat ugly little man slammed into the wall with a horrific crunch, slid to the floor, and scrabbled feebly towards the doorway. A very startled Charlie stunned him.
"Get McGonagall! Now!"
Percy struggled to catch up, "Wha... Who..? WHERE IS SCABBERS?"
"Looks like Scabbers is Peter Pettigrew Percy."
Percy blinked as he tried to catch up, "Scabbers is Pettigrew? How could Scabbers be Pettigrew?"
"How? Animagus obviously. Why is the real question and I don't think we'll like the answer."
They waited only minutes before the twins and McGonagall marched into Percy's dorm room.
"You Weasleys had better have a very good reason to …"
She trailed off into silence, staring at Pettigrew.
"How in the world?"
Charlie nodded a welcome to her then yelled "STUPIFY!" putting all he had into the hex. He watched in satisfaction as Pettigrew bounced a couple of feet into the air from the impact of the curse.
McGonagall screeched, "Mister Weasley!"
Charlie ducked his head, "Sorry ma'am. Just a mo.. STUPIFY!"
Pettigrew flopped again and the twins saluted Charlie, as McGonagall deducted points, as Percy snarled at the very stunned man and edged closer to him.
McGonagall had to admit she was curious, "Why Mister Weasley?"
Charlie shrugged and pointed at Percy who snapped a rib shattering kick into his former pet.
"Two reasons Professor. One, Percy hates being made a fool of. Two, Percy hates any smudge on his reputation."
McGonagall nodded. She looked like she might like a few kicks herself but she pulled Percy away from Pettigrew though she was in no hurry whatsoever to tend to Pettigrew's injuries. She knelt by Pettigrew, her wand flicking, assessing the very stunned man's condition.
"There will be no need to injure Pettigrew further Weasleys. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
She cleared away the onlookers before levitating Pettigrew and marching off towards the Infirmary.
Poppy used up a good bit of her ready supply of Skela-Grow on Pettigrew while Minerva contacted the DMLE and the Headmaster.
Dumbledore was trying to reduce the mountain of paperwork his various positions generated. The task was a never ending, a chore he hated. He had long ago learned that he was more productive if he took little breaks every so often. The timer had just dinged and he had just kicked off for a spirited twirl in his very sumptuous Corinthian Leather Executive Office Chair when McGonagall's message patronus hopped onto his desk.
"Infirmary. Pettigrew captured."
The Supreme Mugwump was so startled he barked his shins quite badly stopping his spin. The Sorting Hat roared with laughter, it was a big fan of physical humor.
Fawkes gave a low questioning sort of note but fluttered over to him. They vanished in a ball of flame.
Dumbledore arrived in a ball of flame, twinkled happily at the crowd of Gryffindor's before telling them, "Off you go students, chop chop!"
The twins were carried away on the tide and clearly unhappy about it. Percy and Charlie stayed by Pettigrew's bedside. "Misters Weasley?"
Charlie answered for them, "Pettigrew was Percy's pet for years, we need to know if we are in danger. My mum should be home if you prefer?"
Dumbledore closed his eyes imagining Molly's reaction. Whatever she would do it wouldn't be quiet.
"Quite. Well then. Please tell me what happened."
Dumbledore was very impressed as he examined the Marauders Map. He got a bit carried away trying to work out the charms involved and it took several increasingly vigorous throat clearings by McGonagall to get him back on track. Dumbledore beamed at his Deputy, "Fascinating. They were extraordinary." He was about to return to his investigation of the map when McGonagall plucked it from his hands. Charlie tried to liberate it in turn, but she had years of experience on him and it went into her pocket.
"Shall we attend to Pettigrew gentlemen? I have taken the liberty of contacting DMLE Headmaster, Aurors are en route."
Dumbledore winced. McGonagall raised an eyebrow and he nodded. She had only done what was required and logical after all.
When Pettigrew rejoined the land of the living he knew instantly where he was, Hogwarts infirmary. He'd been here enough as a Marauder to have a very clear memory of Pomfrey's domain.
This is not good.
He kept his eyes closed to bare slits and inhaled through his nose, gathering information. He wasn't alone, McGonagall, Pomfrey, Charlie, Percy, and worst of all; Dumbledore. There were some new scents as well, people he didn't recognize. He tried to shift to his rat form.
"That won't work Mister Pettigrew."
Dumbledore's voice, Pettigrew thought. His heart beat like a trip hammer and he brushed at his eyes, the very picture of confused innocence.
"Where am I? What happened?"
He opened his eyes fully, blinking rapidly. It was easy to make his voice weak and thready, to sound meek and beaten, to wait for his chance.
They watched him closely, giving nothing up. A tall sturdy witch, gray and hard, dressed in Auror's robes, took a vial offered to her and approached him. Her voice was cold, pitiless as the sun.
"Open your mouth."
She drew three drops from the bottle into a pipette. Peter groaned and clamped his mouth closed. Madam Bones pinched his nostrils shut, forcing him to open his mouth for air and giving her the opportunity to dose him. She waited a few minutes for the potion to take effect then began to question him.
"Who betrayed James and Lily Potter?"
"Did Sirius Black kill thirteen muggles when he confronted you in Manchester?"
"My slicing curse burst a gas line and caused an explosion."
"Who betrayed the Longbottoms?"
"I don't know."
"Are the Weasleys in danger?"
"Who endangers the Weasleys?"
"The servants of the Dark Lord."
"Is there a current plan to harm the Weasleys?"
"Not that I know of."
Amelia raised an eyebrow to Charlie and Percy who nodded back and left the Infirmary after thanking Amelia. She resumed questioning Pettigrew.
"Name all the Death Eaters you know."
That took a while. A good rat could get nearly anywhere and Peter was a very good rat.
"What crimes are you guilty of?"
That took even longer. At the end of his recitation Amelia was taking deep full breaths to control her rage. This offal has escaped justice for years because those responsible found the law inconvenient. She stood at the traitor's bedside, glaring at Dumbledore.
"Dumbledore, a portkey to DMLE if you please."
The Headmaster nodded, drew his wand then picked up an empty flask of Skela-Grow and cast the Portus spell on it. Amelia turned to her quartet of Aurors.
"Shack, Dawlish, portkey with Pettigrew and lock him up so tight you have to pipe him air. Stay with him. I'm putting Moody in charge of his security so expect Alastor to join you. Confirm Moody's identity."
Shack dropped the portkey on their prisoners chest and took one of the rat's arms. Dawlish moved to the other side and took Pettigrew's other arm. The two Aurors and Pettigrew disappeared in a swirl of color.
"Shall we adjourn to my office Amelia?" Dumbledore asked.
They were silent the whole way.
With a casual gesture Dumbledore created a plush chintz armchair before his desk and waved Madam Bones into it. The Headmaster took a calming breath and began the ritual he used for visitors, "Lemon drop?" he asked. She levitated a candy into an evidence bag which she quickly labeled and tucked away.
Not a good sign, not a good sign at all, he mused.
He rose from his desk and strolled to a cabinet near the window where he picked up two heavy crystal glasses in one hand and a bottle of Ogden's in the other. He returned to his desk, sat himself and poured them a healthy dollop. They each took a good belt of their booze and sighed. They sat back and studied one another. Dumbledore began the dance.
"You must believe me when I say that great care need be taken to avoid making matters worse. It may not be the wise to try Pettigrew."
She snorted, "Like Hell."
Albus twinkled at her, "As I am sure you know, there is a good chance Voldemort didn't die that night."
Amelia nodded. A very interesting briefing with an Unspeakable when she was appointed head of DMLE had pointed in that direction. While she had no proof that Voldemort somehow survived his Halloween battle with the Potters, she had a strong inferences.
She shrugged, "Voldemort doesn't matter. For centuries it has been a steady parade of one Dark Lord after another. What matters is the rule of law, something we must have if we are to stop this endless parade of Dark Lords. Pettigrew and Black getting the justice they deserve is a fine place to start. No member of the Light could want anything else."
Albus frowned as he sat back, he had to convince her.
"Voldemort is the greatest danger the world has ever faced. How can you deny this Amelia?"
She shrugged again, "Saying that doesn't make it true Dumbledore. Voldemort isn't much. Any competent muggle head of state can muster a larger force and arguably do more damage. What are you doing to end him?"
Dumbledore blinked at her, thrown off stride, "What do you mean?"
She lost her patience, "Damn it Dumbledore! You've just said he is alive! There are any number of wizards who can lead the ICW or the Wizengamot. McGonagall would be a stunning Headmistress. If you think he is the greatest danger in the world what are you doing to end him?"
"I'm afraid I can't divulge my plans to you."
She stared at him as the odds and ends of the whole mess whirled about in her mind then clicked into a new shape.
"The boy. Clearly it's something to do with the boy. Pettigrew frees Black, Black gets the boy..."
Dumbledore's voice was soft, "I will require an Unbreakable Vow of silence before you leave this office."
She will make a fine addition to the Order.
Madam Bones quickly dashed his hopes, "You will give me your vow to tell the whole and complete truth, no evasions, nothing left out."
They stared at one another. The Headmaster thought her very impertinent.
Madam Amelia Bones was not a soft woman, not a meek woman, and not easily rattled but she had been sickened by the confession of Pettigrew. She glowered at the Headmaster and stood.
"You've done nothing for years and you still want control? The torch passed when you dropped it Dumbledore. Who told you that you're a genius? Why did you believe them despite all the evidence to the contrary?"
While the portraits yelled, while the Hat laughed, while Dumbledore sputtered, Madam Bones moved over to the fire and tossed in some floo powder. The fire flared green and she stuck her head in.
"Override Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Azkaban Prison, Wardens Office!"
Warden McNulty's office spun into view before her. He was napping with his feet on his desk and the Daily Prophet over his face.
He jerked upright, nearly falling out of his chair.
"Madam Bones! What can I do for you?"
"Release Sirius Black into the custody of two Aurors. Have him brought to St. Mungo's secure ward immediately. Tell no one."
McNulty rose to his feet and straightened his tunic while staring very hard at a spot just over her left eye.
"I have special orders concerning Black ma'am. He is not to be moved. I am to alert Crouch, Dumbledore and Fudge of any attempt to move him."
"You will do as I have ordered and only as I have ordered."
Her warden shifted uncomfortably and repeated himself, "I have orders ma'am."
"McNulty, you trouble me. You will obey my orders or I will see you in Black's cell. Am I clear Warden?"
"Ma'am, yes Ma'am!"
The Aurors made their way to Black's cell where a huge black dog shivered in it's sleep. The dog slept as much as it could, sleep was the easiest way to pass time when in the company of Dementors. The Dementors moved away from the cell to make way for the approaching guards and the dog sighed in relief. The rattle of keys woke Padfoot, he had only just transitioned to Sirius when the jailer threw open his cell door.
"On your feet Black!"
There were three of them, the warden and two others.
His voice was a growl, almost not language. He had been the dog for a long time.
"You're off to St. Mungo's. On your feet. Move it!"
Sirius was sure he wouldn't live out the next ten minutes and wasn't sure he cared. He struggled to his feet and lumbered out of his cell. They marched him off and they didn't hit him which was a blessing, they didn't even call him traitor, another blessing. He was sure it was the end.
A few cells away Bellatrix screamed at things only she could see.
St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries November 1989
The brilliantly white hospital walls were giving Sirius a hellish headache, a headache that wasn't helped by everyone bustling about much to quickly. They talked to him, they talked to each other, they talked to no one.
They always were talking.
He tried to reason out his new circumstances but reason, rusty from long disuse, failed him and he batted them away from him with sudden furious strength then cowered in a corner, shivering, and shifted to the dog again. The dog knew what to do, bristle and growl, snap and snarl. The dog wasn't so afraid.
Madam Bones had just arrived at St. Mungo's and was listening to the treating healer when the Minister rammed through the doors of the secure ward and hove to before Amelia.
"Bones, what is the meaning of this! I left orders regarding Black! Aurors, secure Black, he's going back to Azkaban!"
Amelia watched Fudge closely as she dropped her bombshell.
"Pettigrew was found alive today."
Fudge blinked, "Who? Pettigrew? Are you mad?"
He looks surprised, Amelia thought, but he is a politician, lying is natural to him. She itched for a dose of Veritiserum. "Pettigrew is in custody right now. He is an unregistered animagus, a rat, and has been living as the pet of Arthur Weasley's son Percy since November of 81. He has confessed that he was the Potter's secret keeper and that he killed those muggles in Manchester."
Fudge ground his teeth and wrenched savagely at his bowler hat, "Blast! This is a disaster!"
Bones murmured to him, "Black was jailed by Bagnold, not you. Crouch was head of DMLE. Previous administration."
The Minister's eyes narrowed as he calculated the probable shifts in public opinion. He stroked his chin, muttering "...previous administration... no idea... full investigation... yes that might..." She nodded, and pitched her voice for his ears only.
"Minister, we should deal with this expeditiously, will you call for the trial tomorrow or shall I?"
Fudge was never one to miss an opportunity to arrange events in his favor.
"Now Amelia, your part is done. I'll see to scheduling a trial! I want a total news blackout in the meantime. Any leak will cost someone a job and possibly prison time! Very well, carry on here!"
Fudge blustered his way out of the ward. Her Auror's were professionals. Not a one got caught rolling their eyes.
Healer Crenshaw, the Mind Healer on duty, was edging toward the ward doors when Amelia snagged him.
"Healer Crenshaw you will stand watch with me. Until the situation stabilizes only you will treat Black. You will stay with him at all times. I will have your vow that you will do all in your power to protect and heal him."
Crenshaw sighed. It was never good to get tangled up in politics but here he was, well and truly tangled.
Madam Bones settled in for the rest of her very good day while Healer Crenshaw sat with the shivering dog.
Black is not doing well,, not well at all he thought, I might as well be a veterinarian. Most of the day passed before Sirius allowed Crenshaw close enough to rub his ears.
Crenshaw finally convinced Sirius to transform by pushing Padfoot into a tub and telling him that hands were excellent for washing, paws not so much, and would Sirius prefer a nice beefy orderly to bathe him? A long time later a very clean and very wet dog crowded against the laughing healer and shook all the water possible onto him. It was the beginning of a lasting friendship.
The Burrow Christmas Holiday 1989
Charlie pushed back from his mothers table, ridiculously full from her welcome home dinner.
"Mum, that was amazing, thanks."
Molly smiled and nodded, "It's so good to have my chickens home to roost. How is school boys?"
Percy frowned and poked at the last of his cherry pie, "Mostly fine mother. That mess with Pettigrew.."
Percy shook his head, glowering. One of the twins chucked him under the chin and chirped, "Not to worry Percy. Bit unlucky that your rat was a .. well..."
Percy groaned, "A traitorous bastard?"
Molly exploded "Percy Ignatius Weasley! I will not have such language in my house!"
"Mum that thing slept with me!"
Everyone at the table gave full body shudders. Percy looked close to tears, "Has dad heard anything? It's been weeks!"
The Ministry had made no announcement of Pettigrew's capture, the Daily Prophet had carried no headline. It was as if nothing had happened, as if Pettigrew didn't exist. Molly rose from the table and fussed at her stove. Arthur was very uneasy about the news blackout, he had grumbled about it last night.
"Your father promised he would look into it today."
They made their way to the sitting room after dinner. Percy was being decimated by Ron at chess, the twins were playing exploding snap with Charlie, while Ginny sat curled in a chair reading one of her Boy Who Lived books as Molly knitted and beamed at them. The fireplace flared green and a rumpled and tired Arthur stepped through with a cheerful shout of, "Evening Weasleys!"
Molly bustled over to him and vanished the soot from his robes before giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
"I'll have your dinner ready in just a minute Arthur."
"Thank you dear. How are you all this fine evening?"
Arthur wound his way around the room dispensing hugs and hair ruffles as he went. This was his favorite time of day. The peaceful, if not quiet, hours after work that he spent with his brood as they huddled close to the fire exchanging their news of the day. He scooped Ginny up into his arms, ignoring her huffs and squirming.
"And how is the most amazing Weasley ever?"
She gave up pretending disgust to hug him and giggle into the crook of his neck, "I'm fine Papa."
He carried her into the kitchen with the rest of his family following. He took his place at the head of the table and tucked into Molly's excellent beef stew.
Percy cleared his throat, "Dad? What's going on with Pettigrew?"
"Ah, that's a very interesting bit of news. Nothing is going on. I asked around this morning and no one had a clue what I was on about. When I came back from lunch Fudge had me in his office to say that he was reviewing my position and that he hoped I was loyal to the Ministry."
Molly peered at her husband, "Reviewing Arthur? What exactly does that mean?"
"It means that the Minister is burying the news about Pettigrew."
Molly poured Arthur a cup of tea, "But why dear?"
Arthur patted her hand in appreciation as he stirred in a light dollop of milk, "Malfoy has been oozing about the building."
Molly groaned. Arthur was a good man, Molly thought he was a great man. He was honest, loving, kind and generous. He was a wonderful husband and father. He was implacably opposed to Lucius Malfoy and all his works. If Arthur could be said to hate anyone, he hated Lucius Malfoy. They had been enemies since they started Hogwarts, oil and water the two of them.
"Arthur! What have you done?"
"Nothing yet dear."
"Can't you leave it Arthur?"
He set his tea cup down and said firmly, "No. No, I can't. Not only because Malfoy is corrupting the Minister with his filthy money. Not only because I dislike the slimy git. But because silence will hold Sirius Black prisoner just as surely as his cell in Azkaban."
Percy asked, "How can news like this be held quiet though? The Headmaster was there. Madam Bones was there. Most of Gryffindor saw the rat! Madame Pomfrey, the Aurors... How can it be kept quiet?"
Arthur nodded to his son.
"Very good points Percy. The Gryffindors only saw someone levitated to the Infirmary and have heard only Weasleys say he was Pettigrew. It's rather a lot for some to believe on just our word."
Arthur took another sip of his tea and continued.
"For some reason the Headmaster is complicit in the silence, at least for now. He is holding the staff of Hogwarts quiet. As for Fudge, it's clear he takes his orders from Malfoy's vault. Madame Bones is a good woman but she and her Aurors take their orders from Fudge. Malfoy may be holding the Prophet in check as well, I don't know for certain. St. Mungo's acknowledges Black is in their care but will give no details. Malfoy's motivation is clear, at least part of it is. Black will inherit his families fortune if he is cleared as healthy and innocent. If Black isn't declared fit and innocent, Malfoy's son Draco will inherit. I'm sure of Fudges motivation, Malfoy's millions, but I don't understand the Headmaster's inertia at all."
Molly put a hand on Arthur's shoulder, "What will you do dear?"
"I'll do what is right Molly. I must. I have you lot watching over me after all. Would you floo Xenophilius please dear? I think it's time he had a conversation with unnamed Ministry sources..."
The Ministry of Magic January 1990
Despite Fudge's best efforts the Quibbler special edition gained enough traction to break the Pettigrew scandal wide open. Over the holiday reporters swarmed over the Burrow, over Hogwarts, through the Ministry. Fudge put up a creditable defense but in the end had to bow to the inevitable. Pettigrew was scheduled for trial the day the students returned to Hogwarts.
Amelia had called every living Auror to the courtroom, including any retired Aurors that could still hold a wand. She would always believed that their suffocating presence prevented any violence. As Chief Warlock, Dumbledore presided over Pettigrew's trial and Madam Bones stood for the prosecution. Fudge was present but quiet, he had no dog in the fight and the chance of collateral damage was high. He thought it better to keep his head down during the trial and see what opportunities became available as a result. After all, the Black fortune was rumored to be vast and a grateful Sirius could be disposed to generosity.
Madam Bones gave a signal to Moody and ward after ward settled over the courtroom ending any chance of either apparition or portkeys working. She administered Veritiserum to Pettigrew and began the questioning.
She led Pettigrew through the betrayal of the Potters and the confrontation with Black. It wasn't long before she faced the Wizengamot.
"Witches and wizards of the Wizengamot, the prosecution has presented all pertinent testimony regarding the betrayal of the Potter family to Lord Voldemort. Let us now decide Mister Pettigrew's guilt or innocence in two charges of accessory to murder and one charge of accessory to attempted murder."
They found him guilty without exception.
"In the matter of the murder of thirteen muggles on November 1st, 1981 taking place in Manchester the prosecution has presented all pertinent testimony. Let us now decide Mister Pettigrew's guilt or innocence in thirteen counts of murder."
Again the vote was against Pettigrew without exception.
"We now move to the sentencing portion of this trial. The state will accept either the death penalty or life imprisonment. May I see a show of wands for life imprisonment?"
They wanted blood, blood and silence. Pettigrew was quickly sentenced to death. Amelia faced the defendant.
"Peter Pettigrew you have been found guilty of thirteen counts of murder, two counts of accessory to murder and one count of accessory to attempted murder. You have been sentenced to death. You will be held for questioning until you have surrendered all knowledge of criminal activity then you will suffer the Dementor's Kiss."
"We now turn to the matter of Sirius Black."
Malfoy glanced around at the massive Auror presence and held his silence.
"I am ashamed to say that Mister Black has never been tried. Mister Black has spent nine years in Azkaban for the crimes Mister Pettigrew has just been found guilty of committing. Let us vote now to offer Mister Black a formal apology and declaration of innocence. Let us vote to release him from Azkaban, and to offer him any care he may require at the expense of the Ministry."
Madam Bones won those votes easily as well.
Minutes later Lucius stormed from the green fire of the floo into the entrance hall of Malfoy Manor. Narcissia was waiting for him. They exchanged a look.
"I heard," she said, "The complete session was broadcast on the Wireless."
Lucius only snarled and stomped off to his study looking for the comfort of firewhiskey and to begin planning his revenge.
Draco tugged at his mum's robes.
"Mum? What happened?"
"My damned cousin had been declared innocent. As he was never officially disowned, he is the current head of House Black. I am afraid your inheritance may be in danger Draco."
"But mum.. He's a blood traitor! He can't inherit can he?"
"We must face facts Draco. He can inherit. Indeed, he has inherited as of the declaration of his innocence. Knowing your father I doubt he will long enjoy his inheritance."
Draco puffed himself. Everything would be fine. His dad was taking care of things, just as he always did.
Lucius hurled the crystal decanter into the fireplace causing a whoosh of flames and a spray of glass shards.
The oldest Malfoy elf popped into place before his master, bowing low.
The house elf popped away for a second and returned with a fresh bottle of Ogden's Oldest which he opened and set within easy reach of Lucius. Lucius flailed drunkenly.
Boody bustled about the room, gathering up the broken glass, straightening the wild disorder Lucius' drunken rampage had made of the study. Lucius slammed down another glass of whiskey and glared woozily at the elf. Boody was old, old and tired. The elf had trouble getting around, age had stiffened him, but he worked as quickly as he could, eager to be away from his very dangerous master. He wasn't quick enough.
Lucius snap cast a spray of slicing hexes.
The old elf couldn't dodge all of the hexes, one clipped his leg and Boody went down with an artery pumping blood across the room. Lucius laughed and cast an immobilizing charm on the elf. He watched as his servant of twenty years bled out. Boody's eyes held the most delicious terror before they dimmed in death.
A young elf popped into place before Lucius, crying and clearly terrified.
Dobby lifted the bloody remains of his father into his arms and popped away. He returned in seconds to finish cleaning the study as he had been ordered. Dobby was nimble, he managed to dodge the spells Lucius fired off before Malfoy slithered into unconciousness. Lucius would never remember what happened and Dobby would never forget.
St. Mungo's January 1990
Mind Healer Jasper Crenshaw sat back in his chair and studied Sirius Black. Black was both better off than he should be and worse. Black was sane. He was frightened, maladjusted and in poor physical condition, but he was sane. He shouldn't be. The dog had saved him at the same time as the dog had hurt him. Sirius retained his higher intellectual functions, his ability to reason was unimpaired. He understood reality in roughly the same way as most others. His ability to communicate verbally had been badly damaged. Sirius could write in full complete sentences, form complex thoughts logically, but when it came to speaking he was reduced to nouns and verbs, all the interesting connecting bits got blocked. His words were barked, growled, whined. His impulse control had been damaged, he reacted without thinking things through. His impulse control showed signs of improveming, his language difficulties hadn't improved at all.
"Sirius, Pettigrew was tried today. He was found guilty and sentenced to the Kiss."
Sirius growled, "GOOD!"
Crenshaw nodded and continued, "You were declared innocent. Once I clear you as fit, you will be free to go."
Black grinned at him and flexed a flacid bicep.
Crenshaw shook his head, "I haven't said but several people have been trying to see you since the story broke. Remus Lupin, Andromeda Tonks, Dumbledore and McGonagall, Moody."
Sirius growled softly, "Moony?"
"Yes. I think you are ready to meet with him. Do you agree?"
"I'll arrange it for tomorrow then."
The next day a tall man, slightly stooped, showing a bit of premature grey at the temples and wearing rather battered robes approached the nurses station.
"Where can I find Sirius Black please? Remus Lupin to see him."
The nurse smiled at him, "Mister Lupin, you're expected, right this way."
She bustled from behind the counter, all starched green robes and squeaking nurse shoes, and led him through the halls to a closed door guarded by an Auror.
"Remus Lupin for Mister Black" she announced.
The Auror nodded and she bustled away.
"Good morning Mister Lupin. I'll need a vow on your life that you mean Mister Black no harm and are under no compulsion or influence."
Remus lifted an eyebrow but drew his wand and spoke after a seconds thought.
"I swear on my life and magic that I currently mean no harm to Sirius Black and that I am under no influence or compulsion."
"Currently Mister Lupin?"
"He's a prankster. He can be annoying."
The poor Auror had suffered through some of Sirius' attempts to lighten things up.
"Yes! I.. I know what you mean."
He looks terrible was Remus' first thought. He's pale, so pale, and so thin, wasted. But his smile was pure Padfoot, full of joy and mischief.
They hugged and didn't mention the terrible dust allergy each had suddenly developed. Crenshaw was sitting to the side at a small table, watching them. The Marauders got their company manners out and joined the Healer.
"I'm so glad to see you Padfoot."
Sirius nodded happily and punched Remus in the shoulder, then asked softly, "Harry?"
Remus took a deep breath, "Living with Petunia."
"PENTUNIA?! NO!" Sirius shot to his feet, body rigid, fists clenched.
"Easy Padfoot, easy" Remus said, "I tried to get him but the Ministry wasn't about to let me have him were they? Dumbledore says that it's dangerous to contact him and Petunia won't allow contact with the magical world. He says it's safest to leave him be."
Crenshaw cleared his throat, "What is the problem gentlemen?"
Remus fussed with his cup of tea, "This must all be kept very quiet Healer. Can you promise us that you will keep this secret?"
"I can. I am sworn to hold the everything about Mister Black's treatment secret."
Remus nodded but began to talk only after Sirius nodded as well.
"Sirius is Harry Potter's godfather and would have raised him but for being in prison. For some reason, when James and Lily died Dumbledore gave Harry to Petunia, Lily's sister. Petunia hates magic, she hates magical people and always has but Dumbledore says it's the only place for him."
Sirius was pacing and growling.
Crenshaw raised an eyebrow. "Sirius? I take it that you would like to assume the care of Harry?"
The Healer nodded. "Well, the first step toward that will be to get you cleared medically won't it?"
Sirius glowered at Crenshaw and answered "Yes."
"So glad you agree old chap, I'll just leave you two to catch up shall I? I'll be back this afternoon Sirius so we can continue therapy."
Crenshaw struggled with Sirius for months. Black was easily the most difficult case of the Healer's career. He had taken so much damage over so long a time that the usual methods were ineffective. They made a breakthrough when they began erase memories. Crenshaw pulled strand after strand of memory, day after day of Azkaban, and discarded it. What was the point of keeping the memory of years of torture? Any given day with the Dementors was like any other. The loss of the memory of thousands of days in Azkaban brought other feelings to the fore, made room for hope.
"You need something to do Sirius."
Crenshaw watched his patient. Black was pacing back and forth in front of Crenshaw, he nodded in agreement with the Healer.
"You're not ready for Harry. You need a goal, something to put your mind to. What are your plans for Harry? Will you leave him with Petunia?"
"Dumbledore believes it's the best place for him."
Sirius snarled and thumped into the chair across from Crenshaw, snatched up parchment and quill then dashed off a few lines.
Dumbledore left me in Azkaban. James and Lily would never want Harry with her.
"So you will take Harry from them because you feel Dumbledore betrayed you?"
He makes mistakes. This is one. Petunia isn't good to Harry. You know what Moony said.
The Marauders had accepted they couldn't stand watch over Harry since their constant presence might lead an enemy to him. Remus had visited Privet Drive for a few hours and hadn't been at all happy with what he saw.
Harry was tiny, clearly unhappy, dressed poorly and always working. He was often screeched at by Petunia, often taunted by Dudley, always bellowed at by Vernon.
Sirius scribbled again.
If it really is the safest place and they really are treating him well then Harry stays there. If they are treating him as poorly as we suspect, he lives with us. I have a house with every possible protection.
Crenshaw lifted an eyebrow.
"Your mother's house? You hate that place."
Sirius nodded and looked all kinds of disgusted at the thought of Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
"Didn't you say it was a very dark place?"
Again a nod.
"There is your goal. Make it someplace suitable for Harry."
Grimmauld Place March 1990
Sirius stood on the stoop of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, wanting to be anywhere else. The tarnished silver door knocker in the shape of a serpent, the filthy peeling paint, the dull windows, all spoke of years of neglect. Remus laid a hand on his shoulder but said nothing. Padfoot gave a huge whuffling sigh and took hold of the doorknob.
He felt a small sharp pain in his palm. There was a long moment before the locks rattled back. He opened the door and stepped into the house for the first time since he was sixteen.
The foyer was dark and filthy, dust covered, mildewed. Gaslights flared and fluttered before settling into a steady low light. There was a pop and a bent gray house elf stood before them. The elf's voice was deep, croaking, froglike.
"Wicked son returns to Mistress's house. Blood traitor brings an animal! Leave the house of Black!"
Sirius snarled, "STAND!"
The elf bared his yellow fangs but didn't move as Sirius ripped his cloak off and tossed it over the elf, "GO!"
The elf made to rush at Sirius but disappeared with a sharp snap before he got near.
Further down the hallway black curtains covering a portrait burst open.
"VILE SHAME OF MY BLOOD! BEGONE FROM THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS! KREACHER! REMOVE THIS ABOMINATION! I CAST YOU OUT! I REFUSE YOUR PRESENCE! SHAME AND DISHONOR YOU HAVE..."
The screaming voice cut off as Remus wrenched the curtains shut, his voice soft, "I never did like her. Kitchen to start?"
Sirius stumbled past him, down the stairs to the kitchen, white as a ghost and trembling.
Truth be told, Firewhiskey is an excellent idea! Remus thought as he poured the first one.
The Marauders entered into a pitched battle with the house. Sirius had ritual after ritual conducted in the hopes that the brooding background of dark magic could be cleansed. Slowly they gained ground as they moved up through the house.
Despite their best efforts, no matter what they tried, the portrait of Sirius' mother remained. Whatever magic had been used to attach the portrait to the wall, it was immovably attached. At the slightest noise the curtains would fly open and Walbrugia Black would pour hate over anyone in sight at earshattering volume.
Every few days they would apperate to a small bit of rock in the Orkney Islands, a tiny bit of land, just a few square meters at high tide, miles from any other land. They would drop the latest sack full of dark objects before mounting their brooms, retreating to their maximum range and drawing wands. Together they would aim over their shoulders and bellow "FIENDFYRE!" before darting away at top speed. Behind them the fires of hell bloomed, consuming everything on that speck of granite, melting even the rock to a glossy sheen before dying out. Every time it scared the hell out of them.
At first they hadn't been nearly so cautious, but something from the drawing room had screamed horribly before detonating in a massive explosion that had torn them from their brooms. After that incident they made sure to vacate the area at as quickly as they could.
Some of the cleansing took months. Clearing the Black library was such a job. They spent the day cleaning and repairing, sorting useful things from the clutter of generations. Sirius found it excellent practice. He was becoming more used to using his magic, better able to control and direct it. They became adept at magical construction, very familiar with paint spells and cleaning spells. They learned a good deal of first aid. They banished boggarts, sanded and varnished floors, painted walls, put up wallpaper, laid carpet. They often got drunk. They ate poorly. They forgave one another. They wanted Harry.
And they won. By the end of June Grimmauld Place was no longer the oppressive dark wreck of a mansion it had been. The tarnished silver serpents had been replaced with gleaming brass owls, ravens, lions and badgers. Everything was in good repair and fair taste. It was decidedly masculine but well done for all that.
Crenshaw came for dinner the last day of June. They dined on take out as usual. There was a wonderful curry shop in the neighborhood, quick and tasty. They sat easily together, they had become friends over the months. Crenshaw took a sip of his beer.
"Sirius, I am releasing you from my care. You have a clean bill of health. I have taken a huge risk in certifying you sane."
Sirius batted at him, "OI!"
Crenshaw grinned at him, "Really Sirius, very well done, very well done indeed."
The Marauders beamed back at their favorite Healer. Crenshaw beamed back and asked,
"What's next gentlemen?"
They answered as one, "Harry."
Remus cleared his throat. "We check on Harry. I've been to take a peek a few times and I don't like what I've seen. Tomorrow we can do something about the situation now that Sirius can legally take him."
Crenshaw nodded, "I'll be standing by."