Harry Potter – A Life Lived
By Jules 6
Author Notes –
My very first and only AU story that will follow the books, movies and have a good dose of original ideas mixed in. There will be new scenes, spells, events, places, people, animals etc and my interpretation of why some things happened or will occur. Some of it will interweave with what is already on screen and written, other times it will not. Some scenes will move time frame from when they occur in the book and movies or who it happened to, or a different result. I don’t want to give too much away yet.
This story will explore what would change to all events and characters if Sirius Black returns much earlier, BEFORE Harry goes to Hogwarts. And to my way of thinking, Harry would take just a little longer to get used to a magical world that he doesn’t understand how it works, or the role he or anyone else will yet to play in it. And continue through until the last book but the path may not be as direct or known yet.
I was going to add more to the synopsis, but for know I will leave you to read along and find out what happens along with Harry and the rest of the cast as I take them out of the box. I promise to put them back when I am finished. If you think you know what might happen throughout and the ending, hopefully I have created enough twist plots and changes.
Strong friendship only – no slash. Very little romance (I am no good at writing that) – And plenty of angst, hurt/comfort. For those don’t know my previous work – this won’t be a Disney version.
This will be a very very long story, with many chapters, and many of those being long as well – just the way I write. And I usually try and describe from the viewpoint of multiple characters for any one scene. As well as describe every rock, tree branch and blade of grass along the way.
I have a very complicated plot planned, and some many not agree how I have altered the course of things, or that I introduce them and Harry differently than the books or films. Hopefully you will continue to follow and read as the story progresses. If it hasn’t happened yet, or there isn’t enough information about something yet, that is usually deliberate on my part. Sometimes there are subtle clues that I put in chapters, other times I don’t.
This first chapter is mostly setting up for what is going to happen later. There is usually method to my madness, but other times there is no method.
If you don’t particularly like how I have written this, that is okay, no harm done, feel free to write and share your own version of events.
I have taken information from a number of sources, some canon, some not, and a lot my own interpretation of why thing happen the way they do.
A new fandom for me, but to my other readers please know that I have been writing all of my other fandoms too and a lot of rewriting of those chapters and stories to come in addition to the new chapters and stories.
This story is going to slow building so things will take quite a while. Harry’s experiences, emotions and reaction will change with his age, time and as things slowly progress.
Please Note: My one big change at the beginning is the time Sirius has spent in prison, being closer to 10 years rather than 12 years.
Disclaimer: all rights and characters belong to J.K. Rowling.
Chapter One – A Second Chance
The silence of early morning in the kitchen of a house was punctuated by a burst of green flame erupting within the fireplace. The stone mantel was set a little lower, and the unannounced visitor was forced to duck his head as he stepped out. An older man grabbed the tails of his robes as he exited only to be met with a wand being pointed directly at him, for a few seconds but then lowered.
“Good morning, Remus,” Dumbledore greeted the occupant as he whispered a small spell of scourgify to brush the ash from his long attire.
The expression of mild surprise and embarrassment were hard to mask, as the wand of cypress and unicorn hair was tucked into the inside of a well-worn jacket, “Please accept my sincerest apologies, Albus.” almost making the mistake of addressing the older man as Headmaster. Strange how it had been many years had past since his schooling years, but the passage of time had paused for a moment.
“It is I who should have advised you of my early arrival,” Dumbledore offset as a lapse in proper etiquette.
“One cannot be too careful in such uncertain times,” Remus gave as a partial explanation. “I find myself being on edge more often than not lately.”
The thin young man walked over to the stove, turning back towards his guest to bring back a steaming hot kettle, “Can I interest you in a cup of tea this morning?”
A smile was shared between them, “Only a small cup if you please. Sitting down at the table, two lumps if I may,” he added as tea was poured into two waiting cups with milk and sugar added. “I regret that I have other important matters to attend to this morning after leaving your company,” Dumbledore added cryptically.
The Headmaster reached into his long silvery robe and withdrew two items, Remus watching with keen interest, but waiting to see what they were. The first was a small long vial of potion. The next a small bundle of folded newsprint. He placed them in front of him, but gave no further explanation for a moment.
Remus had already recognized the vial for what it was, his gaze drawn to it, something that brought both relief and misery at the same time. He made no attempt to reach out for it. The newspapers held his attention a little longer though.
“I bring your wolfsbane potion as arranged for this month, courtesy of Severus,” Dumbledore answered for the unspoken question of the potion.
Remus gave a brief dry laugh at such a statement, “Must have been like chewing glass for him,” but inwardly knowing that being without it when needed was too much to even contemplate.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” knowing that there was a reason behind such an impromptu visit. Whatever the subject matter, it certainly wasn’t for small talk.
“This is the first time I have been in your new home, Remus, care to give me a brief tour?” Dumbledore stood peering through into the next room in anticipation, entirely changing the subject and flow of the awkward conversation.
Remus now joined the man, switching on an electric light to illuminate the sitting room, “I have only been here a few months as you know. It is not very large. The last remaining materialistic possession purchased with the money left over from the estate of my dear parents,” he elaborated, using his hands to point. In total three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a small kitchen we are standing in right now, the cosy sitting room there adjoining it on the ground floor. And a private cellar occupying most of downstairs,” his voice trailing off hoping that the short jaunt wouldn’t need to go down there.
“A nice simple room,” Dumbledore declared as he stepped into it and took in the sparse wall decorations. The embers in the fireplace had burned low, but a soft glow emanated from them enabling one to feel the gentle warmth.
“I suspect you must feel a little lonely at times with all of the extra bedrooms?”
“I have been living on my own for quite a long time, Albus. Even before coming to this house,” Remus pointed out, not sure where this series of questions and off-handed comments was leading to, but able to sense the under lying tones were more than mere curiosity. “Some of the space is currently taken up with a number of boxes of old useless objects and sentimental memories that have no need to be displayed at this time. He didn’t want to admit that quite a few of the boxes belonged to some very dear friends.
Dumbledore had been attempting to peer out of a raised curtain covering one of the windows facing out of the sitting room, but stood up at detecting some slight avoidance towards him and a request for plain talk. Out of any of his former students, this young man was probably one of the most underestimated for his intellect, intuitiveness and his guardedness.
Before speaking again, the older wizard turned away from the small square window, an unspoken question showing on his expression. The man’s face appeared upon first glimpse to be fairly young, but the flecks of grey through his tawny brown hair were the distinct signs of torment. But perhaps it was the way he stood, too-thin shoulders forced to carry an unseen burden for too long and its toll almost too costly, that held his gaze.
“No word of regular employment now that you have a more permanent place of residence?” Albus enquired, walking back towards the kitchen.
Remus looked down at his hands, “The wizarding world has not changed in an age. Pickings are slim and opportunities for someone like me almost non-existent.”
“For that I am truly sorry my friend, I wish the wheels would turn a little faster at the Ministry of Magic for a number of urgent issues, but since Cornelius has been appointed, it seems that some matters are not given the correct attention, nor any in a timely manner.”
“The witches and wizards who oversee the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures are still arguing over which division should be handling our classification,” Remus added with a barely disguised scoff. “And then there are others within the Ministry trying to make a name for themselves and would like to decree even tougher laws.”
Dumbledore’s eyebrows raised in surprise at this, having heard such whispers in long corridors himself but not having divulged them to anyone.
“The teaching position of Defence Against the Dark Arts became under review at the end of the last school term, and I have spoken upon your behalf, but alas it appears that the School Board of Governors have granted reappointment to a man by the name of Quirinus Quirrell.”
“Thank you for all your efforts, they are appreciated,” Remus mentioned in a humbled tone. “Reappointment? What qualifications does he bring to Hogwarts?”
“Much like yourself, a young teacher who showed great promise when he first joined the teaching staff at Hogwarts,” Dumbledore began detailing. “Very bright and enthusiastic on the subject matter in his first year, though there was some discussion and offer of taking the position of Muggle studies. I stepped in at this point and recommended that such a workload of both subjects was too much for one person. This position is adequately filled by Miss Charity Burbage.”
Lupin could hear the ‘but’ that wasn’t said out loud, and was rewarded for his patience, “Then he took leave for a year to travel, submitting that he wished to gain more experience away from a teaching environment. Speculation from other professors remains just that, but there was mention of him being in Albania. Any other personal reasons for needing to go there remain quite mysterious.”
“Why was there a need for a review by the Board of Governors?”
“Complaints from some of the sixth and seventh year students reached their parents about his manner of teaching. Whilst on the surface he seemed quite capable of relaying the theory of defensive magic to students wishing to complete their exams, when it came to the practise of the precise skills, wand movements and incantations he was less adept and challenging. Some of the students received less than pleasing marks and their results were far lower than expected for those interested in pursuing sought after careers.”
“So this year he will be under a fair bit more scrutiny,” Remus surmised, not being able to help but consider how much conjecture someone like himself would be under.
“I have spoken to him about this very matter, and deem it necessary from myself as well, as only a Headmaster should when considering the academic performance of all students. If the Board or I decide that a change of teacher is warranted after this year, then once again I would be willing to submit your name as a willing and most suitable candidate.”
“Once again, I appreciate the vote of confidence.” By now the conversation was being held back in the small kitchen. Lupin wanted to know the real reason for such an early visit. It certainly wasn’t to relay the discussions of the School Board nor their choice of teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts.
“Thank you for this and last weeks editions of the Daily Prophet as well. I am sure they will give me a few hours of amusement in keeping up with what is currently occurring in various circles. Though I usually find myself a week or two behind most everybody else,” Lupin commented, picking up the bundle of papers and skimming through the few pages of newsprint.
“Which reminds me, do you have any plans for 10am this morning?” Dumbledore enquired as though he had almost forgotten to mention it.
“Ten o’clock this morning?” Lupin exclaimed, looking down at his watch and see that the hands signifying the current time to be 7.30am
Pulling the bundle away for a moment, before identifying a newspaper date two days earlier. “I think the article on page nine will be of significant interest to you.”
“I apologize for keeping you too long already this morning, Remus,” Dumbledore apologized before walking back into the fireplace. “Remember page nine and thank you for the tea.”
“Ministry of Magic,” the wizard stated clearly before being engulfed in the familiar green flame of the floo network.
Remus Lupin stood puzzled for a moment, looking over at the cup of tea that still showed some steam rising from it. The place of destination for the Headmaster didn’t escape him either, as he looked at the newspaper in his hand. The man could be irritatingly and deliberately evasive.
Putting the other papers aside on the table, and turning to the suggested page. Across the top a few simple advertisements. The announcement of the birth of a child to a wizarding family whose name he did not recognize, but showing a photo of beaming faces and a proud set of parents holding a fussing infant. It wasn’t until he reached the bottom of the page that he was grateful to be sitting down as he read a small article bearing a capital “M”.
Chief Warlock To Open Old Case
A review has been requested in relation to a ten year old matter. All interested parties are required to attend. The Ministry of Magic advised that Cornelius Fudge himself was unavailable for further comment or clarification. The details are sketchy at best, but the matter will commence tomorrow morning at precisely 10am. The Daily Prophet has learned from a reliable but unsubstantiated source, that the matter involves a certain prisoner who was sent to Azkaban Prison almost ten years ago for murder. This reporter will keep her quill poised for an update as soon as further information reaches her ears.
Remus was reading it again for a third time before the words written on the page began to form cohesive sentences. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind what the “case” was about or who exactly the prisoner was, even without a name. Sirius Black. He could scarcely believe the article had been printed by the Ministry. The fact that it was printed below everyday mundane information where it could easily be missed, said a lot about how secretive they were attempting to be.
Dumbledore was playing with fire, but did he realise just how many people remembered and who could easily be burnt even after all the years that had elapsed? There was much more at stake.
At 9.00am, Remus Lupin picked up a small tin box from his table. An ordinary looking, some might describe as rusty and old metal box that no longer held the contents advertised on the faded and torn label stuck to the top. It was a portkey, one that was yet to appear on the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects. Nor had its presence been detected or tracked by the Portkey Office within Department of Magical Transportation.
Lupin could have use the floo network, but decided against it, wanting his appearance to go as unnoticed as possible. Dumbledore hadn’t even mentioned where he was supposed to go once he had arrived. He didnt travel by this method very often at all. There had been only one other occasion that he could remember being in the high profile building, and that had not been by choice. Without knowing if there were any unfriendly spells or enchantments from stopping him entering a little more secretively, he didn’t feel comfortable apparating either.
A distinct pull from behind his navel, and Remus found himself standing on Level Eight of the Ministry of Magic. The Atrium, for those who had not been here before, or for a long time like himself, the re-introduction was a visual and sensory overload. Witches and wizards came into the expansive hall, arriving and carrying briefcases on their own, others in group of four to five, muttering and talking loudly that all the voices became one large drone of noise.
Remus removed himself to the outer edges of the corridor, trying to dissolve into the crowd and remain inconspicuous. For a moment, he was certain that a wizard dressed in a long coat and a hat concealing his identity had noticed him standing to one side. Just when he though the man was going to approach and ask if he was lost or needed to go somewhere in particular, a larger group of people had passed by, obscuring his direct line of site with the fellow. When the assortment had cleared, the man was no longer there.
Lupin was just about to remove himself from the area in case the man returned, but was startled by a hand tapping him lightly on the shoulder from behind.
“Thank you for coming, we haven’t got much time,” Dumbledore uttered before starting to walk towards one of the elevators. For an older wizard, Albus certainly kept up a good pace as the two of them headed towards the golden security gates at the end of the corridor.
A wizard sat at a desk reading a newspaper, but looked up with disinterest at the sound of quickly approaching footsteps. There was a moment where Remus could have sworn that the man was about to speak to them. A demanding question to know their business forming across the furrows of his brow.
Dumbledore raised his hand in gesture at the man, “Good morning, Eric, so nice to see you, ” the older wizard greeted him cheerfully.
The man’s facial expression changed from a sour scowl to one of bewilderment and perplexity, as though he had forgotten what he was about to ask. He resumed his seat and picked up his newspaper, “Morning,” was the only word returned before he started reading again.
Remus never saw a wand in the Headmaster’s grasp and he didn’t hear an incantation, but would put good money on the bet that said Dumbledore had just cast a Confundus Charm on the unkempt watchwizard.
Both men stepped into another small hall beyond the gates, waiting for an elevator before climbing into a cage with others. Remus curtailed his tongue on demanding to know what exactly they were both doing here and why it was deemed necessary to use spells on unsuspecting Ministry officials.
“Going down one level, if you please,” Dumbledore politely informed the witch closest to the door, who nodded her acknowledgement at the direction they wished to go.
Once the doors were closed, and with a sudden jolt that caused the life to descend to the floor below. The jangling of the doors echoed with them opening and allowing them to step out. No sooner had they done so, did the lift rattle back up towards the atrium where they had just come from.
“Level Nine” came the clear announcement of their current location, but Lupin noted that the purpose of this particular division had not been included. He had not been in this part of the building before and couldn’t quite put his finger on the cause of his growing unease.
“I originally wanted you to wait in Arthur Weasley’s office, Remus, but his office is too far away,” Albus conveyed as they approached a single door. “Unless you wish to consult with the Support Services part of the Beast Division,” he added in whisper.
A frown and clear displeased look from Lupin was all it took for that thread of conversation to abruptly end. Remus knew which support services Dumbledore was referring to, but this was not the place to voice his opinions where anyone could hear his scathing rebuke.
“Why are we using a set of stairs?” Lupin asked assuming they had been intending to go through the door.
“This level cannot be reached as others in this building,” Albus answered, starting down the stairs.
Remus couldn’t help but notice the dark stone walls, almost reaching out to touch one of the large cobbled blocks, but withdrawing his hand before doing so. The air was becoming much cooler on his face, signifying how deep they now were. Once they reached the bottom of the staircase, they were met with another short but dark and claustrophobic corridor and a set of large thick double doors at the end which read Courtroom Ten in stark white lettering.
The double doors were swung open by a wizard of small stature, who did not introduce himself.
It was a courtroom Lupin gasped inwardly as he took stock and looked around the room. There was a large gallery of seating wrapping around the back wall, dimly lit with evenly spaced torches. He was brought out of his inquisitiveness by Dumbledore whispering at him.
“I said it would be best if you seated yourself up towards the back,” Albus repeated, “Please trust me,” he implored, a tone of voice seldom heard from the well-known wizard.
Lupin nodded without further query or argument and did as he was asked. From where he chose to sit, he could see the balcony where those presiding over any proceedings could plainly be seen. The area was quite large and would be able to accommodate a large number of member from the Wizengamot he calculated. In the centre of the room, sat a single high-backed seat. Chains could be seen dangling menacingly from the back of the chair.
With his watch now reading 9.45am, the quiet respect that such a room expected was shattered by the two doors re-opening for a second time, and a loud voice to be heard complaining. “I tell you I have no idea why this is even necessary,” came the shout.
Remus didn’t need to turn around to recognize whom it belonged to. Cornelius Fudge, the portly man wearing a pin-striped suit and his bright lime green bowler hat, making their way over towards Dumbledore. If he was perturbed by the outburst in any way, it didn’t show it as he reached out to shake hands with the Minister.
A flustered junior wizard followed Fudge, holding a briefcase and looking as though this was his first day on the job as assistant to the Minister of Magic.
There was a desk for each interested party positioned in front but to either side of the prisoner, allowing them to see him and for him to see them as events unfolded. There was no other assistant seated with Dumbledore, giving Fudge the viewpoint that he already had the Headmaster outnumbered and the upper hand.
Two other men now entered the courtroom and took seats towards the back as he had done but on the opposite side of the gallery. Lupin recognized one immediately, and perhaps the second as well, but couldn’t remember a name or place where he had seen the man before.
The doors to the courtroom where now closed and it seemed as though there would be no-one else attending.
“I demand to know what this is all about, Dumbledore!” looking down at the extended hand, but choosing to ignore it.
“I thought it was made quite plain in the application that reached your office, Cornelius,” Dumbledore countered.
“Your application didn’t make anything quite plain,” Fudge argued. “I should have thought it………,” but he was interrupted before the sentence finished.
“The application is not mine to make any kind of assessment based on its merits,” Dumbledore pointed out, “I merely act as advisor and counsel in this matter this morning. Have you had him brought here?”
Lupin could hear everything being said, with the acoustics of the room doing what they were designed to do, and couldn’t help but applaud Dumbledore’s unyielding pleasantness towards the Minister. Although on this occasion his calm nature and simple answers appearing to only fuel Fudge’s outrage.
“Now see here, that is another area where I say you have overstepped your mark, Albus. Interfering with Ministry business and affairs far too much I suspect, without sufficient warning and”
“I promise you that I have given no cause or intentions of interfering……?” now it was the Minster’s turn to infringe before Dumbledore had ended his explanation.
“Sirius Black has been brought here. And most definitely not under my authority I assure you,” Fudge hissed. If the Daily Prophet gets word out to the public about this it could be very damaging for all involved. “A full investigation into who allowed such a dangerous person to be brought from Azkaban……..”
Any further veiled threat from the Minister ceased as a set of doors set on the other side of the room were opened. A man hunched over in his stance, finding movement difficult and impeded with heavy chains lashing his ankles. His walk was no more than an undignified shuffle. An Auror stood on either side of the prisoner, each with a hand grasped around an arm and a wand in the other. A third wizard followed them into the courtroom.
The three Aurors were unfamiliar to Remus, giving them an appraisal of suitability the position and such a task from a distance. The two on either side of the prisoner were tall, one wearing a long cloak that almost reached the floor. The other wore a hat that was a size or two too large, and was positioned lopsidedly to compensate, sitting on top on top of a nest of straw coloured hair. The third wizard was probably the least suitable upon first assumption, being considerably shorter and wider.
Not all that long ago, the werewolf would have thought himself fortunate to have good contacts within this department of the Ministry. Inside informants as it were, that would relay vital information as required, on a completely unbiased and secretive basis of course. But the tides of time had caused many changes for a great many wizards and witches and now those trustworthy sources had all but evaporated and dried up.
Visiting Azkaban prison was certainly not a viable option that he had ever considered since Black’s imprisonment. He had certainly heard of family members of other wizard inmates doing so for those considered of a lower security risk. But for one accused such as Sirius had been and a proverbial ‘feather in the cap’ of the Ministry’s self-proclaimed list of achievements, those privileges were never afforded to nor considered.
Many a night had seen him fearing a similar dreadful fate, through wrongful implication. Being found in the company of his old school chum, and Remus himself could easily have ended up a cell-mate. Despite this, it would be something that he never fully come to terms with and always regretted.
Nothing could have prepared him for the events beginning to unfold before his eyes today.
Lupin’s mouth went completely dry as he got his first glimpse of a friend in ten years. To believe that a decade had taken its toll would be the most erroneous understatement. His eyes went to Dumbledore who too seemed a shocked at the appearance of the man known as Sirius Black. For a moment he averted and closed his eyes, before returning his attention to the centre of the room, forcing himself to quell his anger and fixating an unseen glare at the back of Fudge’s head.
Remus could scarcely fathom that this dishevelled figure, with grey and torn striped thin fabric rags hanging from his lithe frame, wearing no shoes on his feet, was one of the closest friends he had ever known. The ever present wolf part of his sub-concious, wanted to release a foul discord of malcontent at the mere thought that a lifetime of loyalty and friendship had been reduced Black to this shadow of a man.
Under obvious duress, Black was directed to stand in front of the prisoner’s chair. A flash of defiance for the briefest of moments had the two Aurors, altering their grip quickly to maintain a good hold on him and to physically coerce him. Once seated, the prisoner was magically bound to the chair.
Even from the public gallery, Lupin saw a pained expression flick across his friend’s pale features as the cuffs at the end of the enchanted chains reached out and bit viciously around his wrists. Black was using his shoulder muscles to pull his arms away from the back of the chair, attempting to lessen the tauntness of the manacles and allow some blood circulation and colour back to his hands and fingers.
There was no evidence of the youthful expression, or enthusiasm, quick wit and fun-loving playfulness that was once associated by the mere mention of his name. If one didn’t know better, it would be fairly easy to assume that Sirius had allowed incarceration to beat him into submission.
Unshaven and with long knotted matted hair falling down and hiding his face, Sirius was not able to bring his hands upwards very far. Instead bowing his head downwards towards his chest, in what emerged as abject defeat. Considered dangerous and manic and a serious threat, and having every available method of restraint being used to demonstrate this mindset from those in the wizarding world who followed the Daily Prophet or listened to the word according to the Ministry of Magic.
Dumbledore cleared his throat, causing Sirius to raise his head and turn in the direction of the voice he heard.
At first Black didn’t give any indication that he was fully aware of his surroundings. His gaze flitted back and forth from the front of the courtroom, to either side and then back again, never staying long enough to acclimatise, nor turning his head too far in any one direction. The torches along the back wall barely gave off enough light, but the centre of the courtroom allowed sufficiently more awareness. Sirius closed his eyes, opening them and blinking rapidly a number of times as though light-sensitive. Being a long time prisoner of Azkaban, there wasn’t any chance of seeing sunlight and one could assume that the symptoms he was displaying currently were a direct result.
A hoarse croak gurgled from the back of Sirius’ throat, as though he wanted to speak. He made a second attempt, but still no definable words escaped his lips. His raised his arms as much as the restraints would allow and began clawing at his neck, the chains clinking at the jerks from Black’s cuffed hands. A silent plea.
Fudge made a motion towards the Aurors, as though instructing them into subduing the prisoner before any unforseen spell could be cast. Dumbledore, frowned and with a simple wave of his wand and uttering of the words ‘Urceus Cylix Aguamenti’ as an incantation, summoned a pitcher of water and a metal cup. The pitcher filled the cup with clear drinking water without further assistance.
“It is merely water, for goodness sake, Minister. He is still a human being.”
Fudge looked ready to argue that point, but closed his mouth, seething inside that the Headmaster chose to put on a display of arrogance and self-righteousness in front of ministry staff members and others to make him look like a fool.
The cup drew close enough for Sirius to seize it desperately with both hands, bringing it painstakingly to his parched lips and all in the room watched the man drink the water with a frenzied desperation, some of it dripping down his chin.
As the cup was lowered, Black held it for a moment, his eyes coming to rest upon Dumbledore and Fudge. He allowed the metal vessel to fall from his hands, watching it intently as the two wizards saw it land at his feet.
Any previous sign of befuddlement could be belayed, as he fixed the two men with a stony-faced stare that would have caused lessor men to run or cower with fear.
Fudge’s junior assistant was about to move from his position and pick it up, but was held back by the Minister. A curt nod to the Aurors prevented them from needing to use their wands.
A small grin appeared on Black’s face, that Fudge and Dumbledore had indeed picked up on the underlying tones of his dare. The politician was afraid of his notable reputation. His former Headmaster, recognising the perceived threat and choosing not to antagonise.
Just so we all understand one another.
Sirius looked away from Cornelius and towards Dumbledore, but his expression was nearly unreadable, even to Remus some distance away. It certainly wasn’t friendly or one of respect for being brought before the courtroom. Barely concealed animosity was a more apt description.
Black’s cheek bones were sunken and his face pale, wan and tired. The lines attesting to someone who had gone for many nights and days without sleep or refuge. His fingers that had been trembling slightly when holding onto the cup of water, now lay listlessly across his lap, the fingernails chipped and broken.
His dull grey eyes looked haunted and heavy, but for Remus, what shone through from the shadows and lurked behind them was an intense and piercing gaze with shrewd attention to detail. A characteristic trait that had shown itself to be invaluable on many occasions during his youth. There was a look of sharpness and intelligence to them that didn’t come from learning second-hand magic from a book. Boldness, brashness and sometimes recklessness, but forever watchful.
A second set of doors to the courtroom were opened and the announcement of the commencement began with the introduction of Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Those already in the room watched as a witch with very short grey hair approached the bench. Following behind her was a particularly tall, but very thin middle-age witch with dark hair, Eunice Parks. She was recorded as being the court scribe, and was wearing thick glasses that did not sit well on her face.
The woman had barely had time to sit down in her chair and adjust her plum coloured robes when Cornelius spoke out of turn.
“Forgive me, Madam Bones, but were you planning to conduct such an important and serious matter such as this on your own. Instead of the full Council of Magical Law being utilized.”
“I have not even had a chance to determine the full extent of today’s proceedings as yet, Minister. This particular courtroom has not been used in many years, and is too dark for my liking. There have been many changes to the Council and how matter are conducted, as you have no doubt been made aware. But please enlighten me as to why you feel that I am unsuitable to conduct any matter on my own as deemed necessary?” she challenged in annoyance.
“The Ministry feels a little like yourself this morning, Madam, in that we are in the dark as much as you as to why we have been called here today.” He didn’t pursue the issue of only one member of the Wizengamot hearing the application. Chances were it held very little caliber, at least to his way of thinking.
“Then lets get on with it shall we?” she declared, not intending to give the man any further time to grand stand. “Please let me it be known that today’s proceedings are closed to the public unless I deem it in the interest of the parties involved to be made public.”
An audible sigh of relief escaped Fudge’s lips at this comment, as his junior clerk could be heard rifling through sheets of paper. Several pages were handed to him. The court scribe could be seen doing the same, though only one page was handed to her.
“Introductions if you please,” Amelia requested, pointing to the Dumbledore for going first.
“Good morning, Madam Bones, if it pleases the court, my name is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Though my capacity today is as representative, counsel and advisor.” A number of other bestowed titles had been deliberately omitted as was the mention of friend.
“Advisor and counsel to whom?” Madam Bones queried, her own quill in hand, poised and ready to write notes of her own.
“To the Applicant, Sirius Black, Head and Heir to the family of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black,” Dumbledore put forward, standing up as he addressed the court.
Madam Bones shifted her gaze to the Minister, trying to ignore the garish purple boots adorning his feet, as he too stood and took a step forward, puffing out his chest, “Cornelius Oswald Fudge, recently appointed Minister of Magic, Order of Merlin, and here to ensure that justice is upheld for convicted murderers like Sirius Black and they are given what they deserve,” he finished with emphasis on the last half of his speech.
“Without the embellishments of your personal achievements if you please, Minister,” Bones instructed, as she adjusted her monacle and looked down at Fudge as though carrying on like a spoilt child.
Dumbledore hid a brief smile with courteous professionalism as he continued, “Madam Bones, unfortunately I am here today upon the request of Mr Black to ask for a review into a matter, that if proven in any manner to have occurred, would be a most grievous miscarriage of justice.”
“Miscarriage………,” Fudge shouted out of turn, “This is an outrageous and most slanderous……..,” he was halted by a raised hand.
“You will have the opportunity to put forward any remarks or questions you may have, Minister. But for the moment, it is for Mr Dumbledore who is speaking. This court will and all those who conduct themselves within these walls, observe the correct procedures, implied structure and decorum at all times.
Fudge folded his arms across his chest, looking contrite and suitably chastised, but scowling in Dumbledore’s direction. The Minister wasn’t used to being spoken to in this manner. Like some errant child who needed to be scolded and told to behave himself.
“Ten years ago, Mr Black was sent to Azkaban prison alledgedly for several heinous crimes. But it would appear the administration within the Department of Law Enforcement and those acting within that office, took it upon themselves to ignore proper protocol and basic rights afforded to every witch or wizard, even if they are accused of such acts.”
“The evidence against Black was overwhelming at the time…… I think this is some kind of farce and poor stunt being pulled by…….,” Fudge rambled, without hearing Bones’ call to cease on the first and second occasion. Clearly put off balance by the scandalous statement just presented.
“Minister Fudge,” Madam Bones called out sternly, “That is a second warning, there will not be a third. Control yourself or you will be asked to leave these chambers until such time as you can listen.”
Black, silent and taking stock of everything that was being said, but the expression on his face revealed little more.
“It is at the request of the applicant, that all evidence, statements and other materials be presented here today so that they can be examined by an impartial party and proved beyond reasonable doubt. There appear to be many inconsistencies during the original apprehension of Mr Black and what occurred that night. I leave it to him and his office to bring forth what overwhelming supporting documents they have,” Dumbledore concluded, resuming his seat.
“Now Mr Fudge, you may respond,” Madam Bones directed to the Minister.
“What happened that night to the Potter family is a matter of tragic history, I am sure we don’t all need to revisit here today after ten years,” Fudge began, he was beginning to feel more than uneasy about where Dumbledore was leading to.
Remus and Black both gasped inwardly a little at the mention of the Potter name. Sirius’ quiet demeanour remained, but the pain from the mention of his best friends names clearly visible now.
“If it is Dumbledore’s position and intention that he wants to waste the court’s time and spend the rest of today dragging up old matters then I must object strongly to this application being heard. Especially since it is now a matter of public record and has been for quite some time.”
Madam Bones considered the opening rebuttal of Fudge for a moment before speaking, “I would have to agree with the Minister on that point, Dumbledore, if that is indeed the reason for this application appearing before me today. This is a most serious accusation against this Department and the Ministry of Magic, and I sincerely hope you can substantiate your reasoning.”
“The reason for the application, Madam, is not only to assess the actions taken of those responsible immediately before and following his arrest on the night in question, but new information has been brought to my attention which I could not find myself ignoring in the interest of justice. The most troubling being that Mr Black was denied a trial of any kind before his imprisonment.”
“New information? How and by whom?” Fudge stammered absolutely dumbfounded.
At the mention of the latter, Madam Bones sat up a little straighter in her seat and adjusted her monocle, “Denied a trial?”
Fudge found the paperwork in front of him a little more interesting despite such an allegation, something which didn’t escape the keen eyes of Amelia. She could see him pulling as the collar of his shirt, fidgeting with the top button as though constricting.
“Is this true, Cornelius?” Madam Bones asked, briefly forgetting about proper name etiquette by the sheer impact of what she had heard, her tone of voice demanding nothing but a straight simple answer.
“I am afraid I could not answer that question myself, Madam, as I was not the Minister of Magic at that time, and have little knowledge of what materials were kept or whom was spoken to,” he replied, but wanting to avoid what he already knew to be true. “Twelve muggles remain dead, as well as poor Peter Pettigrew. Any wizards or muggles who may have been interviewed on that particular night or thereafter, are certainly not going to appear in person here today.”
A short, barely detected growl could be heard coming from Black at the mention of Pettigrew’s name.
Remus could scarcely contemplate what Dumbledore meant by ‘new information’. The revelation was just as much a shock to him as others in the court.
Fudge looked up towards the bench and saw an astonished and displeased manner. He could see this day was about to become a lot more complicated and embarrassing for the Ministry and his office. He looked back towards Black and scowled at the very notion that he needed to prove that the right choice had been made all those years ago.
“Then I suggest Mr Fudge, that you call upon whomever you need to, and very quickly. The suggestion that anybody, from a half-blood or pure-blood family having their rights diminished or denied in any capacity, must be dealt with forthwith and is very unsettling,” Amelia stated.
“That would require that I call another Ministry official, Barty Crouch to this court, Madam. It could take some time, his position is now with the Department of International Magical Co-operation,” Fudge offered, as though it was going to be a lot of effort to carry out her request.”
“We have all day, Minister,” Bones countered, not phased and rather annoyed for his nonchalant attitude. She turned to the junior wizard sitting at the desk, “What is your name young man?”
The junior wizard got to his feet, shocked and clearly nervous about being addressed, “Eugene, Madam. Eugene Bigmore.”
“Mr Bigmore, please hurry to Level 5 and inform Mr Crouch that his presence is required immediately. Do not take ‘no’ for an answer, and tell him to bring with him ‘all’ materials and paperwork pertaining to the matter of Sirius Black.
The junior wizard gulped and swallowed the ball of fear in his gullet at the prospect of having to firstly find someone like Mr Crouch in such a large building, and then demand that he come with him. But he nodded dutifully and scurried towards the doors, the corridor on the other side and the stairway.
“This court will convene again as soon as Mr Crouch arrives,” Madam Bones announced, not intending to leave the room.
“May I approach the prisoner and confer with Mr Black whilst we are waiting?” Dumbledore queried.
Madam Bones considered his request for a moment before answering, looking at the security in place. “You may, the Aurors will remove themselves further towards the back of the room to allow you privacy, but the restraints will remain,” she granted with conditions, having read about Black’s reputation herself and knowing of his Family name notoriety.
Fudge was clearly against the removal of the Aurors as he saw the elderly wizard approach Black and begin whispering to him out of earshot. A curt nod or shake of the head from the prisoner was all he could discern from this distance before he would be accused of eavesdropping.
Forty minutes later, with an anxious Fudge barely able to sit still any longer in his seat, the two main doors re-opened with Eugene Bigmore leading the way in, carrying a large cardboard box. Another taller gentleman strode in behind him, burdened with two equally large boxes clutched in his hands.
Approaching the desk, first impressions of the man were certainly very different to those observing Cornelius Fudge. A long grey coloured cloak draped over a dark pin-striped suit. A toothbrush shaped moustache situated above his upper lip. Leather shoes on his feet and a dark coloured hat of a much more appropriate style for someone in a position of authority.
Fudge’s sense of style could be described as comical and his character over bearing and pompous compared to Crouch whose presence drew attention and held respect. Setting the boxes on the table, Eugene handed him a long black cane and retreated to the gallery, but close enough if the Minister or his associate needed any further assistance.
With Crouch’s arrival, Dumbledore concluded any talk he had been having with Black and moved back towards his own desk. A nod of acknowledge at Barty was given as Fudge turned to his counterpart and began filling him in on what has transpired so far.
Crouch’s face turned a few shades paler as Fudge informed him for the first time who was sitting in the prisoner’s chair. Two broad steps around the portly Minister and Barty turned take a look at the person. A man whom he had tracked every waking moment a decade ago, but had paid little heed about since.
Black glared back with narrowed and hardened grey eyes, daring each other to openly speak first.
Crouch and Fudge exchanged worried glances, with one of them realising that this issue was about to become very messy and complicated. Cornelius sat down leaving Barty to somehow salvage the argument about such an application. There had been some conversations and directions given that this Minister was not privy to.
“If you are quite ready to continue, gentlemen?” came the question from Madam Bones, “I know it is not possible to apparate into this courtoom, otherwise your journey may have been much quicker,” she added, indicating that enough time had been wasted already.
“Madam Bones, I have with me here today……,” Crouch began, after removing his hat as good manners required he do, and putting on his best diplomatic face.
“An introduction if you please,” Bones reminded him, her quill once again making a number of notes in front of her.
“Forgive me,” Crouch smoothed over, “Bartemius Crouch, currently employed with the Department of International Co-operation.”
Amelia was pleased to note that he too had left off any previous ministerial positions or achievements that didn’t need to be taken into account for this matter.
“Before you go any further, you have been summoned here this morning upon my request, to address a most serious accusation made here by Mr Dumbledore as part of the application for a review of Mr Black’s imprisonment and subsequent sentence,” she warned him sternly.
She paused a moment before speaking again, making sure she had everyone’s undivided attention. “This is not a place for playing games.”
“This review is not a trial, and because of the high profile positions each of you three gentlemen hold in the wizarding community, I shouldn’t have to ask but I will. What I have heard here this morning, in under the first hour alone, brings me to needing to make this point crystal clear. That everything you say here in these proceedings today will be the truth to any question and to the best of your knowledge.”
“There certainly are methods that can be employed or devised to make you do so. For if not, and it can be proven, such an act would be deemed most grievous indeed and the consequences would be most severe.”
“Yes, Madam Bones,” was the resounding affirmation given by those sitting at the desks. It could also be heard from Eugene Bigmore still seated in the gallery.
“Mr Crouch, in relation to the matter of the imprisonment, it is alleged in the application by Dumbledore that Mr Black has not received a trial of any kind in relation to the crimes he was arrested on, including the murder of twelve muggles and a Mr Peter Pettigrew. I don’t want a long winded speel, a simple answer would suffice.”
“Unfortunately it is not quite that simple, Madam, Bones,” Crouch responded, his hands firmly grasping the front of his jacket, ready to justify his actions at the time.
“Yes or No, Mr Crouch,” Amelia demanded.
Barty was taken back a little by the bite in the tone of voice from the small woman. “No,” finally came from him.
“No?” she repeated back to him, the quill in her hand moving quickly across the page showing her displeasure.
“Not unlike yourself, I have sat as Head of various councils in this very courtroom where we are now, and determined matters upon their merit with the material presented at the time and statements made by witnesses,” Crouch offered in explanation. “However, might I remind someone like yourself, Madam Bones, that we are talking about a very dark time in our history, where some of the usual protocols were not always upheld due to the savagery of what was going on in the streets,”
“No you certainly may not,” Amelia cried out hotly. “May I remind you Mr Crouch that I too have lived through such uncertain and troubling times as well. But that doesn’t give me, you or anybody else the permission to deny basic rights to anybody. Even in times of upheaval and discord.”
“But Sirius Black isn’t not just any ordinary wizard or prisoner, Madam Bones,” Cornelius jumped up in defence.
Amelia was about to reprimand the Minister for speaking out of turn once again, but decided against it. It was just part of the man’s nature to be rude and interrupt.
Remus was aware that Sirius had received no fair trial, but because of what he was, long established prejudices and other factors prevented him from coming forth at that time to help his best friend. He had not known of Dumbledore’s intentions before today, but what he was hearing and witnessing cemented that there were still some who believed Sirius was not responsible for Peter’s death, or the muggles that had perished in that busy street all those years ago.
The person who remained silent during all of this confrontation, was Sirius. But one look at him could see that he was listening very intently.
“Minister Fudge, your predecessor from my notes was Millicent Bagnold? For all intents a witch held in high esteem for at least a decade,” Bones addressed Cornelius. “Whilst she has made some rash statements very early in her career as Minister of Magic, she is recorded as being most prolific in dealing with breaches of the International Statue of Secrecy following the attacks on the Potter family.
“Yes, Madam Bones, she was required to answer to the International Confederation of Wizards on a number of occasions during that time, that I can recall,” Fudge agreed.
“She was a Ravenclaw during her days at Hogwarts, so I find it highly improbable that a Minister of that distinction would allow such blatant and biased judgment to occur under her management,” Amelia inferred.
Crouch reluctantly nodded in agreement at the assessment of her character. She had been someone he had followed well during his career and had hoped to take over from. But alas, that had not gone according to plan.
“Mr Crouch upon your own admission here this morning, and with the support of your colleague Mr Fudge, you both leave me with very few avenues than to grant Mr Black his application to review the material from the time of his arrest and to hear any new information that Mr Dumbledore may wish to introduce on his behalf.”
Barty and Fudge both looked as though they had just swallowed something very unpleasant on their faces, their mouths drawn into thin lines of indignation.
“There is no need to change the day for this, all relevant parties are here and the prisoner himself has been brought forward. There is no need to delay this matter any further,” Amelia stipulated.
Dumbledore looked suitably pleased with the outcome, whilst to Remus, Sirius appeared to have conflicting expressions on his face. The first being avid relief that some version of the truth may very well be heard, and secondly, a shadow of fear that exactly that might just happen.
“Mr Black,” Madam Bones called out addressing the prisoner, “Please note that today will not be a full scale trial as should have been your right.”
Sirius gave a slight nod of his head to signal he had heard her talking directly to him.
Now turning to Dumbledore, without ignoring the protocols of the court, she was prepared to give a little leeway into which way the material would be examined. “In which order did you wish to present your information?” Bones questioned.
Dumbledore stood up as he spoke, “If you please, Madam, I believe there are a few steps which I believe should be followed here today to find out exactly what happened before, during and after the truly sad loss of the Potters. Firstly, I would like to ask Mr Crouch a few lingering questions concerning the arrest of Mr Black. And secondly, I have with me today, a number of witnesses to give testimony.”
This was the first time that Crouch and Fudge actively took the time to look about the room and peered objectively at a few unannounced visitors sitting in the gallery.
“You will be allowed to ask your questions in a moment Mr Dumbledore. Mr Crouch do you have any witnesses to call upon today to give evidence?”
“No Madam Bones, but I have in these boxes, a large number of first hand statements from both wizards and muggles who give a clear description of the chaos and horror that they were forced to endure on the night in question,” Barty answered.
“As I mentioned Mr Crouch, this is not a trial, and therefore although I will in good-faith allow the submission of the statements. However, without the witnesses here themselves to corroborate what is contained within those pages, they may not hold much weight on their own.”
“Duly noted, Madam,” Crouch delivered, but aware most other material used to convict Black was circumstantial.
Fudge motioned for Eugene to approach the desk, and instructed the young wizard to take bundles of paper towards Eunice Parks, the court scribe.
“You may begin with your first question, Mr Dumbledore,” Bones directed.
“During your capacity as a Ministry official, were you ever in a position to direct other staff about their duties?”
“Nearly every day,” Barty claimed proudly. “It was my responsibility to apprehend dark wizards, not an easy task at any time.”
“Did you ever extend the bounds of your position during that time?”
“I don’t understand the question?” Barty asked, growing tiresome already of the focus being on his choices and commands rather than the crimes of Black.
“Which members of your staff arrested Mr Black after it had been assumed that he killed the muggles and Pettigrew?”
“AFTER it was clearly established that Sirius Black had committed murder,” Crouch ground out through clenched teeth, “I sent a number of highly trained and skilled wizards to apprehend him, at any cost.”
“At any cost?” Dumbledore quoted, “After you hired a gang of Hit Wizards to hunt him down, no matter what little information you had at the time. And by granting them unparalleled permision to use spells that are usually preserved for Death Eaters themselves, even Unforgiveable curses.”
Crouch turned his face away from Dumbledore’s accusatory gaze, but then looked back at the older wizard again, knowing that there had been some wizarding families thankful that he had taken the stern and harsh methods that he was being accused of. “Yes, if that was what it took during times of unrest and pandemonium. Many people were looking to me to identify and fix the problems. Fullstop.”
A quick gasp of surprise echoed in the large room from Eugene Bigmore. He had never in his life thought a man like Barty Crouch would have authorized and sanctioned such methods.
Looking over at Fudge, the man looked as though he had just eaten a large chicken dinner, feathers and all. The man was in damage control, trying his best to soften the large blow that his Ministry and others were taking from within its own walls.
The questioning from Dumbledore continued along a similar unyielding path.
“During your capacity as a Ministry official, were you acquainted with Sirius Black?”
The question seemed out of place and hardly noteworthy to Crouch, be he did answer, “The Black Family has been known in the wizarding word for hundreds of years. Many of them are skilled in the Dark Arts and a number of them have questionable backgrounds and have even been Death Eaters.”
“You cannot give heresay evidence, Mr Crouch,” Bones interjected.
Turning back to Dumbledore, he rephrased his reply, “I did not know him personally, no.”
“After his arrest, what happened once he was brought and placed into a cell of the dungeons in this very building?”
“He was sent to Azkaban prison as we all well know by now, Albus.”
“Was he searched before being placed in the cell?” Dumbledore queried.
The expression on Black’s face changed a little, the man clearly trying to dig through his own memory banks to recall what he had been carrying in his pockets.
“Yes, and all possessions on his person were confiscated as is usually the practice for any convicted wizard for any serious crime.”
“Including his wand?,” with anticipation hanging from the end of the short rhetorical question. Dumbledore was now at the very point of his questioning he had been trying to reach.
“His wand?” Fudge interceded, not fully understanding what Dumbledore ploy was.
“I believe that in cases where other wizards have been sentenced to Azkaban, their wands were snapped and destroyed.”
“Usually yes, but not for Sirius Black,” Crouch informed, reaching into the last remaining box beside his feet and withdrawing a long, thick wand and placing it on the table for all eyes to see. He had meant to destroy it, time and time again. But something made him treasure it as a souvenir of sorts for capturing a man who had betrayed many.
Black’s attention was certainly drawn to it. He had not seen his wand for a very long time. There had been a time when he knew every minor notch or splinter, but despite being out of his hand for so long, there was an unfamiliar and undeniable hum ringing in his ears at seeing it again.
Looking up at Madam Bones, Barty knew that he could not give a believable excuse as to why it was still sitting in a long forgotten box.
“For now, I have no further questions of Mr Crouch, Madam Bones, but may the wand remain in your custody until a later time?”
“Yes it may, please bring it to me, Mr Bigmore,” Amelia directed Eugene. The junior wizard was only too happy to do as instructed, giving an apologetic look to Barty, as he removed it from the table and made his way to the front of the courtroom.
“Whom are these witnesses you wish to give testimony, Mr Dumbledore?” Madam Bones queried.
Crouch and Fudge listened keenly to the names about to be introduced.
“The first, a Mr Remus Lupin, please Madam. He has knowledge before the arrest of Mr Black that will prove most helpful.”
Fudge could be seen about to jump from his chair and object due to knowing about his condition, but was prevented by doing so by a restraining hand from Crouch, and a firm negative shake from his head, indicating he wasn’t to interfere.
Lupin had risen from his distant position at the mention of his name, and navigated the gallery seating to reach the middle of the courtroom.
Black’s mouth dropped open at Remus’s name, and his face grew a little paler at the first sight of his friend. Time, pain and torment had not been kind or forgiving to either of them.
Remus didn’t speak to Sirius, but a disguised smile reached to his eyes.
A chair was conjured and positioned in the middle of the courtroom so that all would be able to see and hear the witness.
“You may remain standing for a moment and give your full name please,” Amelia requested.
In a hoarse, but audible voice, “Remus John Lupin.”
Fudge rose in front of Crouch, wanting to be the first to ask, “Can the witness please advise all here today of his current living arrangements and employment status?”
Dumbledore signalled for Remus to allow him to answer first. “I am afraid that Mr Lupin currently resides at an address which is under the protection of the fidelius charm, Madam Bones. It is a very complex form of magical concealment as no doubt you are aware, and the location cannot be revealed.”
“I have employment at present, but live on my own and carry out odd jobs as they come along,” Lupin stated, answering the second half of the question.
“That line of questioning will now cease Mr Fudge and the court is not here on a fishing expedition for you, Minister,” Amelia chastised and silently applauding his ability at insulting tone directed at him.
“Mr Lupin, you may be seated, and then please tell everyone here in your own words where you were on the night when the events which occurred at Godric Hollow,” Dumbledore directed.
Looking towards Sirius briefly, Remus gave brief apology for what he was about to reveal, and no doubt the pain it was going to cause both of them. He looked down and began rubbing the palms of his hands together as emotions that he had tried to quell for a long time, bubbled to the surface.
“On the night, Potters died, I wasn’t in the area, nor anywhere close to be of help to them or anybody else,” Lupin explained. “I was in the north of the country on other business.”
“What other business?” Crouch demanded sharply, but his question was ignored.
“By the time I had gotten back, no more than two days later, my whole world had been turned upside down. James and dear Lily were dead. Peter was missing and declared dead, and Sirius had been taken into custody, or so I managed to read in the Daily Prophet,” he uttered with a mixture of raw grief and disgust. “I lost four of my closest friends during that time and lived through some of the worst days of my life.”
“This may be a most painful question, but please tell the court whom you believe the Secret-keeper to be for Lily and James Potter,” Dumbledore asked.
“I believed the Secret-keeper to be Sirius Black,” Remus stated truthfully.
Crouch and Fudge could scarcely hide their triumphant smirked that the Headmaster had just given them the upper hand.
“I have no further questions for this witness, Madam Bones.”
Barty stood up and prepared to ask one of his own, “Mr Lupin, can you give me a valid reason why you didn’t come forward even after being away on business as you claim, to help your friend?”
Lupin frowned deeply, knowing what Crouch was demanding he reveal about himself. “Because I am a werewolf, and at that time, Lord Voldemort might have been defeated and vanquished, but there was still much mistrust amongst folk. I was accustomed to such treatment and ridicule that others like me are subjected to every day. People have treated me as vicious and dangerous and no better than an animal, who should be hunted down and killed, virtually all of my life.”
“Exactly, so why should we believe you here today?” Crouch punched home that statement.
“Madam Bones, the witness has answered all questions as required. We are not here for mere character assassination as my colleague, Barty over there would have us all conclude today.”
“I disagree,” Crouch argued sharply.
“Well, I don’t Mr Crouch, the witness has already given his testimony. You, on the other hand, have done nothing to disprove anything he has put forward except to have us fear for our lives because of petty innuendo and scaremongering. I will not stand for it in this courtroom.”
“Please call your next witness, Mr Dumbledore,” Madam Bones addressed, “Mr Lupin, you may step down and return the the gallery.”
“Before I can bring out the next two witnesses, Madam Bones, I must asked Mr Crouch a question that I forgot to ask earlier. It is of a most sensitive nature though.”
Crouch turned towards Dumbledore, wondering what the blazes the old fool was up to now, still stinging from his failure to discredit Lupin further.
“Mr Crouch, can you please advise what happened to Peter Pettigrew’s body after Sirius Black was arrested?”
“What happened to his body?” Fudge demanded angrily. “Nothing but a solitary finger was left of the poor fellow, that is what happened to him. I had to present his poor dear mother with that finger and the Order of Merlin for Bravery that was posthumously awarded of course,” he continued to rant.
Black’s face had taken on a particularly darker shade at the Minister’s admission of how Peter had been found. Good Riddance would never be heard from his lips. Though it never did quite seem enough of a punishment.
“I apologise once again, Madam Bones, but in lieu of we have just heard from the Minister, I now call upon my next witness, Dedalus Diggle.
The man made his way to the front of the courtroom where the vacant witness chair sat, nodding politely to Dumbledore as he passed by him. The man was wearing a top hat, which he promptly removed after a gesture from Amelia. He gave her a rue smile and unspoken apology for his lack of manners.
“Would you also remain standing for a moment and give your full name please,” Amelia requested.
“Dedalus Diggle, Madam,” he answered quickly, though his speech sounding a little too rushed. As though he had run a mile before talking.
“Mr Diggle, can you please tell the court, why you felt it necessary to contact me at Hogwarts recently,” Dumbledore asked plainly.
“Right sir, well as you know, I live in Kent now, and I read all those stories years ago in the Daily Prophet with the downfall of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. As well as that fellow which you just mentioned being dead. And like many I believed it for a long time too, thinking it was a terrible way to go.”
“Which fellow do you mean?” Crouch asked the witness.
“Pettigrew. I don’t remember his first name,” he added sheepishly, playing with the brim of his hat to hide his embarrassment. “And all this time, here was everybody thinking he was already dead.”
“Are you saying that you have seen someone resembling Mr Pettigrew,” Barty asked, thinking it was the only logical explanation.
“Not a look-a-like, it was him I saw. A little older now and balding on top and a bit more weight around the middle, but it was definitely him. I don’t do good with names you see, but I remember faces, even after years. Friends think I am barking mad sometimes.”
“You saw Peter Pettigrew?” Fudge said in outright disbelief. There was no way what his man was saying could be true.
“I used to see them quite regular in London, when they were at school you see. Sometimes just that one there,” he pointed to Sirius, “And the other good-looking one with glasses.” They used to come to London and sky-lark about, getting into mischief. Then there were other times though that there was four of them. Those two and two others, the long skinny one who was just sitting here a few moments ago and the much shorter one, Peter Pettigrew.”
“That thin one might have gone a bit greyer on top now, and I haven’t seen that one again before today, and the one always wearing glasses, I haven’t seen him for a long time now. But Pettigrew I have seen twice, just in the last couple of months.”
The testimony from Diggle could scarcely be believed by anyone sitting in the courtroom. Remus had made a point to move to a closer seat, looking over at Sirius, who looked as though someone had just slapped him viciously across the face. Peter alive ;- neither of them wanted to believe it either.
Remus did recall times when they had all travelled to London. Just as Diggle mentioned, sometimes it had been just Sirius and James because a full-moon had been approaching or had just past, and Remus was too exhausted for the journey.
James usually persuaded Sirius to come with him outside of the wizarding world where they could just be themselves, few rules, parents, professors or homework. Even once or twice after they graduated, there had been occasions where they would reminisce and share a rare chance at freedom, trying to quell the fear they had been experiencing with war on their very doorsteps.
Diggle could see the scepticism and tension thickly blanketing the room and decided to speak up for himself, “So that is when I decided to contact Dumbledore at that Hogwarts school. I knew he would know who the boys were, especially since I couldn’t remember all their names. I keep to myself most days now and don’t meet a lot of other wizards, if you know what I mean.”
Crouch and Fudge were still conferring with each other, clearly having quite the heated discussion.
Crouch stood up, thinking how to word a question to the most preposterous idea he had just heard, “When you say you saw Mr Pettigrew in London, what was he doing?”
“Well that is the strange part about it, isn’t it,” the pace of his speech making it difficult. “He wasn’t in the best parts of London. I am not sure if he fell on hard times or such, it looked like he had been living rough for a bit. But I did see him go into a few stores, a package or two tucked under his arm when he left.”
“Did you manage to trail him for any length of time?” Crouch enquired.
“No, but once I did try to. I started following him down the street thinking he might be a bit lost. I know I get like that myself in London sometimes. But by the time I walked around the corner, he had disappeared. Not sure if he knew a back route to where he was going, or if he ducked into one of the other stores, but I didn’t see him after that.”
Crouch was struggling to regather his own composure and any kind of shred or sense of normalcy after such unfathomable testimony was just exposed to everybody. Unsubstantiated no doubt, Peter Pettigrew was dead. But the stunned reactions from everybody in the courtroom in one form or another was enough for a very uneasy feeling to grow.
After a gap of time had elapsed, a subtle throat-clearing sound from Madam Bones brought Barty back out of his own thoughts, “I have no further questions for this witness,” he said discouragingly.
“Thank you for your time today, Mr Diggle, you may step down and leave this courtroom, using the same path you arrived by,” Amelia said, “Mr Bigmore, you will see to it that he returns safely back to the visitor’s entrance.”
“Yes, Madam Bones,” Eugene replied, waiting for the wizard to reach his position in the gallery, and proceeding to lead him out.
Not intending to give Barty or Fudge any chance to relax, Dumbledore started speaking once more, “My next witness, Madam Bones, is Tom,” turning to gesture at an elderly gentleman in the gallery.
With a extra nod of encouragement, the heavy set man stood in front of the chair. Despite his bulky size, the balding man appeared much more out of place in this setting than the previous witness. His gaze kept flitting about between Dumbledore and the two Ministry officials, as though he was very unsure of why he was there in the first place.
“Would you remain standing for a moment and give your full name please,” Amelia requested a third time.
“Tom,” was the soft spoken reply, barely audible.
“Could the witness please speak up a little and repeat his full name to the court?” Crouch requested.
“My name is Tom,” the elderly gent offered a second time, though barely louder than the first time. He gave a pleading look towards Dumbledore.
“The witness is a muggle known as Tom, Madam Bones, and I am not aware of any witch or wizard who has ever come to know his full name.
Fudge gave a raised eyebrow and unappreciative scoff that Albus had dared bring such a person into the wizarding world.
“Surely he must have a second name, Dumbledore,” Amelia questioned, surprised herself that he was introduced as a muggle, but not holding any preconceived ideas about such people.
“Do you have a surname, Tom?”
“Not that I rightly recall, no,” the man said, looking towards the floor. “Nobody ever asked me before now, and I have been around too many years to remember you see,” he added looking up at Amelia.
“Eunice, let the record show that the witness has no known surname,” Bones instructed the court scribe, but muttering under her breath with irritability that she had never known anyone to go by just one name. “You may take your seated, Tom.”
“Perhaps it might be better for Tom to identify what he does for a living,” Dumbledore suggesting, knowing it was of crucial importance.
“What sort of nonsense is that frivolous piece of information?” Crouch challenged.
“Please answer the question, Tom, in your own words,” Dumbledore asked politely, ignoring any glares he was currently receiving from the Ministry.
“I am the inn-keep of the pub that leads to your world,” Tom answered somewhat cryptically. “The Leaky Cauldron” he named, “Located on Charing Cross Road, London,” breathing a sigh on relief that everybody in the room showed some degree of recognition and all had at least heard of the place.
Dumbledore repeated the same question that he had previously asked, “Tom, can you also please tell the court, why you felt it necessary to contact me at recently.”
“Just like you heard, Dedalus there told you before, I saw Pettigrew too. Diggle came along to me before he came to see you, asking if I had seen him in my establishment,” continued as though talking to Dumbledore personally.
“You also claim to have seen Peter Pettigrew alive?” Fudge shouted out of turn again. It was beginning to appear like some convoluted conspiracy that Black had somehow elaborately cooked up. And Dumbledore was helping him orchestrate it by going along with every concocted line of it.
The inn-keep jumped a little at the hostility directed towards him, but answered, trying to raise his voice and appear calm, “Over the years, I have seen him on quite a few occasions.”
“On quite a few occasions,” Crouch parroted back with distrust. “This I am most eager to hear, please continue,” he added with a sarcastic tone.
“Mr Crouch,” Madam Bones scolded, demonstrating her patience was running thin with the way he and the Minister were conducting themselves.
“Well your lot go through my place on a regular basis to reach Diagon Alley don’t they,” Tom began explaining. “When he was just a lad, I used to see him coming through to get his school things. I don’t recall seeing any folks with him back then. But when he was a few years older, I remember seeing him with other boys.”
“Can you name those other boys, Tom?” Dumbledore asked.
“No, I cannot,” the man said knowing it was the truth. “Sometimes I do remember people, and names, but that was too long ago.”
“What about claiming to seeing him recently?” Dumbledore prodded.
“Oh yeah, I remember those times real well. The first time I couldn’t be too sure you see, as he was wearing a dark cloak, and had the hood covering most of his face. The next time, he dropped something on the floor, and the hood of the cloak fell away as he bent down too quickly and then stood up again. I only got to see him briefly, but I swear it was definitely him.”
“I have no further questions from this witness, Madam Bones,” Dumbledore declared, retaking his seat, and satisfied that he had created enough doubt about Peter Pettigrew.
“But I most certainly do,” Crouch stated a-matter-of-factly, standing up and rebuttoning his jacket as he scanned notes he had written on pieces of parchment.
“Let me start by asking something a little simpler for a muggle like yourself to understand,” Crouch began, though there was no mistaking the underlying condescending tone. “How large is this building you refer to as a ‘pub’?”
“Not big at all, quite small some folk would say. Other regular people like me that are not wizards don’t seem to see it.”
Crouch nodded in acknowledgement, not giving away that he had certainly been to the ‘Leaky Cauldron’ on more than one occasion during his lifetime.
“How many rooms does it contain?”
“There is an upstairs and downstairs. The bar and tables are downstairs where I work. Sometimes I have a helper or two to wash the dishes and a maid to serve the patrons. Head up the handsome wooden staircase and that will lead you up to the guest rooms. More than five rooms to choose from. All containing comfortable beds, and a couple that have a fireplace.”
“More than five?” Crouch queried, “You mean you don’t know the exact number of rooms you have?” This revelation was playing into his strategy very nicely if you please.
Tom looked down at the floor again, not sure what to say in admittance to his inability to count. He was certain that at least one of the rooms moved on a regular basis, although he had never been able to pinpoint exactly which one. There was that had a mirror on the inside with the ‘wheezy’ voice. Could be that one. And sometimes the brass numbers on the doors changed in order all by themselves, he had definitely seen this happening himself. But he was not about to public air any of these notions or strange occurrences.
Crouch decided to ignore the unanswered question, the next one should help to clarify just how addled the man was, even for a muggle.
“How would you describe the inside of the bar-room downstairs?”
“Very welcoming to all,” Tom said with conviction. He had few complaints about his service or the food. Misunderstandings were quite uncommon.
“That is not entirely what I meant,” Crouch resumed, “Business is good on a regular basis? Plenty of people inside enjoying your hospitabilty?”
“Yes, very good. Some days it can get quite over-crowded in there, and sometimes folk might have to wait a few minutes for a table if they want to share a meal with friends,” Tom gave with pride.
“At what time of the day do you say you saw the person resembling, Peter Pettigrew?”
“Late evening,” Tom replied.
“At night, in a tiny, two-story building, which could be described at best as ‘dark and shabby’, you claim to have spotted a man who you claim to have seen on no more than a handful of occasions,” Crouch exaggerated.
A usually reserved man, Tom did take offence at the Ministry official’s insult at this house-keeping skills and was about to stand up from the chair and defend his business, but lowered himself back down with a gesture from Dumbledore.
“In such a poorly lit room, did you manage to see what is was that he dropped on the floor?” Crouch asked, continuing his barrage.
“At that time of night, there wasn’t so many folk about ordering drinks. I didn’t get a good look at it, but it sounded like something made of metal when it hit the wooden floor, that is all I can honestly say.”
“Not a resounding or startling piece of deduction is it? And hardly helps give any real identification to the man you say you saw.”
“Plain enough for me,” Tom stated without hesitation.
“Do you have any further questions that you wish to badger this witness with, Mr Crouch?” Madam Bones asked, curbing her dismay at the ill-manners the Ministry was prepared to demonstrate.
“No, Madam Bones, I do not.”
“Thank you for your time today, Tom, you may step down and leave this courtroom, using the same path that Mr Diggle did earlier,” Amelia re-iterated, “Mr Bigmore, you will again see to it that the witness returns safely back to the visitor’s entrance. I am sure he would prefer being back at his business, serving friendly customers.”
“Yes, Madam Bones,” Eugene replied once more, this time allowing a little more time for the elderly muggle to reach his position, and proceeding to lead him out to the staircase.
“Madam Bones, I wish to call my final witness, Sirius Black, the applicant and prisoner himself,” Dumbledore declared.
“I protest,” came from Crouch, and
“I object,” from Fudge simultaneously as they both rose at the same time and carelessly allowed their emotions to show just a little too much.
“Object and protest to what, Minister and Mr Crouch?” Bones demanded sternly. “Dumbledore has the right to call any witness he sees fit, within reason, and upon my approval, not yours gentlemen.”
“Be that as it may, Madam Bones, Dumbledore has just presented three witnesses to this court that together, who collectively hold very little credible weight in my experienced opinion.”
“Explain!” came the one worded direction as Amelia forced herself to remain calm and unbiased standpoint.
“The first witness, Remus Lupin, whose very nature, according to this Ministry, is that of a recognised aggressive and dark creature. Who is unable to control the changes to his body and mind that occur frequently. And is a known long time friend and associate of the prisoner. His testimony is not only a fractured conflict of interest, but also a very flimsy alibi provided for his whereabouts at the time the events took place.”
“The second witness, at least of of the wizarding community, admitted openly to not being able to remember names and prone to becoming lost in the very city he lives in, but apparently is able to match recent faces to those he could recall from years ago.”
“The third, a muggle, not able to remember having a last name, nor how many rooms he has for rent. But by some unknown miracle, also able to identify people he has only seen inside his dimly lit, and over-crowded pub at night.”
“So with those points fresh in mind, I protest against someone like Sirius Black, who comes from a known dark family, being able to give testimony against a persons and group of people who cannot speak for themselves because of his deeds.”
“How are we going to ensure that he will be telling the truth?” Fudge questioned incredulity, tacking and voicing his own objection onto the tail end.
“Mr Black is under the same onerous conditions as you are, Minister, and anybody else giving evidence in this courtroom today,” Madam Bones responded. “Probably even more so when chained in his seat.” She had wanted to suggest that the same could be done to Fudge but refrained from commenting further.
“That is not good enough in my eyes either, Madam Bones,” Crouch broached, but stopped short when he saw Amelia adjusting her robes and trying to appear more formidable.
Before the woman could give Barty the tongue lashing she thought he so richly deserved for demonstrating such disrespect to her position, Dumbledore offered a simple suggestion.
“Madam Bones, three drops of Veritaserum administered to Mr Black correctly should quash any need to doubt the answers he may provide.”
Crouch glanced over at Dumbledore, assessing and looking for any reason to doubt him.
Fudge had that ‘stuffed fat canary’ look about himself again, spluttering as though still trying to find a way to discredit anything Black had to say before he even opened his mouth.
“The use of this potion is managed by very strict guidelines according to the Ministry,” Crouch retorted.
“So there should be no problem with it being administered with the Minister’s approval,” Dumbledore reciprocated.
“And Mr Black is prepared to undergo this drastic measure?” Bones interjected. She had never seen it used before, but knew why the strict controls were in place. Use on those under the age of seventeen was strictly forbidden, but the prisoner was well past that age of being considered a full consenting adult.
“He is, having discussed and explained it with him earlier today,” Dumbledore assured her.
Fudge scowled in Dumbledore’s direction at this statement, somehow the older wizard was always one step ahead, predicting what he thought the Ministry would do. Before Crouch’s arrival in the courtroom, he now knew what the topic of private conversation had been with Black
In the gallery, Remus was surprised Sirius had agreed to swallow and submit to such a vile and powerful truth serum. He knew with his condition, that the poison used to derive the bitter potion would kill him, rather than force him to speak the truth.
“The court awaits your approval, then Minister,” Bones casually motioned, knowing that Fudge’s hands were tied and he had no other option.
Crouch too was aware that his colleague had no choice, sitting down again whilst Fudge spoke, providing written authority to his junior wizard, Eugene Bigmore, and giving instructions on how to procure the required vial of potion.
Twenty minutes later, having doubled his efforts, Eugene returned with the small vial, holding it out at arm’s length, not wanting to place it carelessly in his pocket, or worse have it fall out of his hand and break on the floor, spilling its contents.
“Ordinarily, I would have a potions master administer this, Madam Bones, but seeing as how that would delay proceedings even further today, might I be permitted to give it to Mr Black? I have been correctly trained how to do so.”
“You may, Mr Dumbledore,” Amelia agreed, watching with intent as best she could from her elevated seat.
It was quite an amusing sight to see, Barty Crouch and Cornelius Fudge both clamouring to get behind Dumbledore, but being mindful of just who the prisoner was, and not wanting to get too close.
“I regret that I cannot supply you with any water or other fluids at this time, Sirius,” Dumbledore informed Black, as he removed the stopper from the vial. “I have been told by others that it is definitely not the most palatable potion ever devised,” he added.
Sirius obediently opened his mouth, allowing the two Ministry official’s to see the three precious drops fall onto the tip of his tongue.
The reaction to the overwhelming and unavoidable after-taste, was unavoidable and almost immediate as he turned away and screwed up his face with revulsion.
Fudge was the first to speak, “It looked like the water from that jug and had no smell to it. How will we know when it is working?”
“The effects should be almost instantaneous to anyone who consumes it. The liquid is both colourless and odourless,” Crouch relayed, his voice laced with tediousness, having seen it used successfully before. No sign of remorse on his face at requesting such a harsh method of interrogation.
Black, still shackled, brought his hands up to his face swiftly, the chains clinking noisily, each individual link straining from the exertion. The action had been so sudden and frantic that it had startled both Crouch and Fudge enough to take two defensive steps backwards.
A predatory smile reached his lips, as he slowly scratched at the side of his face with his fingers and then lowered them again.
“His eyes should be bright and clear,” Dumbledore explained, though years of insomnia has caused dark circles to settle under Black’s eyes. “Ask him a simple question if you wish to test it out.”
“What is your full name?” Fudge questioned.
“Sirius Orion Black,” came the hoarse reply through cracked lips, his teeth stained.
“No no, that is too simple,” Crouch insisted. “Something he could normally lie about.”
“Please give your date of birth,” Dumbledore suggested.
Crouch was about to object once more to such a mundane question, but Black answered first.
“3rd November,” Sirius replied quickly and concisely.
“And the year if you please? Sirius Black has his school records recorded with the year 1960, to match the year of most of his friends.”
Giving Dumbledore a scathing look for revealing this piece of information about him, “1959.”
“By my calculations, actually making him older than all of those friends except Peter Pettigrew,” Dumbledore announced too cheerfully for quite a few in the room.
A brief bubble of laughter escape from Lupin, at a memory that just randomly presented itself from one of the happiest times he had ever known in his life. ‘The baby of the group’ he said out loud for only himself, but it had been loud enough for others to hear. Their small band of friends had heard Sirius quote that title many times during their schooling years. He still wasn’t certain now that Lily had ever discovered or found out his correct year of birth.
Black turned his head and gave a small grin and nod of his head towards Remus.
“Can we please get on with this instead of rehashing random facts about the prisoner,” Crouch uttered impatiently, “I believe that the potion is working correctly, but not because Dumbledore chooses to drag up useless piece of trivia,” he added, sitting back down and picking up his quill, preparing to listen to Black’s excuses.
“Sirius Black, I know this will be very painful to recount, but could you please inform all of us here today, who was the secret-keeper for Lily and James Potter,” Dumbledore asked, noting the guilt that immediately spread across Black’s face.
For a moment, Sirius closed his eyes, opening them as before answering. The lack of moisture in his throat making the words sound strained, and clipped, almost catching in his vocal cords, “At first it was me, that is what everybody believed.”
“Two days before that night,” Black began to explain, looking directly over at Lupin, keeping his attention focused, and the tears at losing someone he called ‘brother’ refusing to show. “James came to me on his own, scared for his family and wanting to protect them at any cost.”
“It wasn’t done to hurt you, Remus, please believe that James was just trying to do his best when his family was the most at risk. He never wanted to deliberately leave you out of the small circle we had created, but it was imperative that only a few were aware of the switch. Only James, Lily, and I knew,” Sirius implored, hoping that his friend would understand. Maybe not forgive, but at least accept the truth.
“What did you and James Potter do without Remus Lupin’s knowledge?” Dumbledore questioned.
“Changed the secret-keeper from myself to Peter,” Black answered, and in one short sentence, revealed a secret that had been his burden alone for the past ten years and had cost him more than he could ever have imagined. If he could have moved better without the chains and shackles, he would be on his knees at this point.
Looking over at Crouch and Fudge, Dumbledore could see that this shocking news was hitting home for them as well for the very first time.
“Why was it changed to Peter Pettigrew?” the Headmaster forced to continue, knowing that this dreadful day was becoming way too long for everyone involved.
“Why?” Black gave a hollow, self-depreciating laugh.
Dumbledore nodded sadly, at he could see how much damage was being inflicted upon someone who had once been so full of life and vitality.
Black decided since he was being forced to tell the truth, then he owed Remus a more complete version.
“There had been others, close to Lily and James who offered to be secret-keeper, and whilst they were considered at the time, I convinced James to use someone that very few people who suspect.” Dumbledore knew he had been one of those ‘other’ people.
“When we were at school, Peter was considered the weakest link of Gryffindor House, our graduating class, and even our select group of friends. He was always asking you, Remus, for extra help with homework, and asking James how to answer transfiguration questions that might be on exams. I was always helping him in a futile attempt to try and improve his duelling skills.”
“There was a time when many doubted he would ever be able to cast anything more than basic spells or mediocre magic. Back when professors and classmates thought he was harmless, and just needed a little encouragement. He was our friend. Lily even used to call him ‘little Peter’ and cook extra food for him when he came visiting.”
“We were all so wrong, Remus, so very wrong,” Black admonished, his voice thick with regret. The betrayal ran so deep and wide it had left wounds that may never fully heal, and scars that were a constant reminder of his own selfish overconfidence and pride.
“I was the one to blame! Foolishly trusting Wormtail and suggesting to James who the new secret keeper should be. Here I was thinking that I could take on the whole world. When the threat was right along side us the whole time.”
Without the prior consent of Madam Bones, Dumbledore ignoring protocol, placed a supportive and apologetic hand on the thin shoulder of Black, feeling the shudders and tremors that wracked his body.
“That concludes any questions I have at the moment, Madam,” Dumbledore mumbled quietly, taking in what he had heard himself and sitting heavily back down in his seat.
“Madam, I implore the court to show a little mercy and compassion, and not to have Mr Black recall the events of that night when he found Lily and James Potter. The outcome would prove very little and only cause more pain and anguish,” Dumbledore pleaded on behalf Sirius’ behalf.
“Let us hear what Mr Crouch has to ask of Mr Black first, before I make a final decision,” Amelia compromised. “If such details are not necessary for these proceedings to continue, then I will make a further ruling at that time.”
Crouch, who had appeared quite subdued during Black’s emotional answers, wasn’t about to let up on the man just because everybody else in the room was feeling sorry for him. The court scribe Eunice looked like she had been secretly wiping away tears. The fact that the man was under the effects of the truth potion was not lost on him though and what it could mean for the outcome determined by Madam Bones.
“On the night Lily and James Potter were killed, you went after Peter Pettigrew didn’t you?” he grilled sharply.
Black looked up at the man, the level of hatred and loathing towards him clear to see, “Yes I did.”
“After leaving Godric Hollow and the Potter house, you intended to confront him didn’t you?”
“And kill him?”
“If I had gotten my hands on him that night, yes,” Black admitted with little remorse.
“And did you find him?” Crouch prompted.
“Yes, I found him, and was about to hex him into oblivion.”
Silently, Sirius was surprised that the Ministry official had neglected to ask about what mode of transport he had used that night to leave to chase after Peter. But Crouch hadn’t asked yet, and he wasn’t about to offer any further information about his motorcycle. He knew who he had seen with it at the time, but nothing since that night.
“And why didn’t you?”
Black looked away angrily at the question, but then turned to face Barty once more as he spoke, “Because the little ‘bastard’ had picked up a few tricks from who knows where, and was somehow able to creep up behind me and stun me.”
Amelia Bones frowned at the language released, but because he was under the influence of the truth serum, erred on the side of caution, and chose not to reprimand Black.
“You were telling the court only a short time ago, at how inept he was at even the simplest of spells,” Crouch challenged. “And that you doubted someone like him would even be able to cast a much stronger spell. At least one that would be responsible for the deaths of twelve people.”
“All I can tell you is that there were other people in the street that night. Muggles, so I had to be careful and kept my wand in the back pocket of my jeans, hidden by the back of my long coat,” Black answered matter-of-factly. “I cannot give you an explanation as to how he outwitted and over-powered me.”
“Did you use Peter Pettigrew’s wand that night?”
“No I did not! His wand always felt too thin and brittle to me. Chestnut wood and Dragon Heartstring core, quite short from what I remember.”
“And what happened after that?”
“The next thing I remember, is waking up behind a trash bin, down a deserted side street, with a very large headache, and missing a few hours.”
“You didn’t see Peter Pettigrew?”
“No, he was nowhere to be found when I woke up. My wand laying beside me a few feet away, and out of plain sight.”
“And for curiosity sake,” Crouch trifled, “Why didn’t you ever tell anybody about these details before today?”
“Because you never would have believed me!” he accused Barty, knowing the man had done nothing in all these years to hear his version of events.
“Was Mr Pettigrew’s wand recovered at any time, Mr Crouch?” Madam Bones enquired.
“No, Madam, it was never found, along with the rest of his body. It must have been destroyed in the explosion.”
“I have no further questions to ask of the prisoner,” Crouch spoke with finality, sitting back down beside Fudge.
“Do you have any any further witnesses, Mr Dumbledore?” Amelia enquired.
“No, Madam Bones, but with Mr Black still under the effects of the Veritaserum, I would ask him to identify that the wand still in Mr Crouch’s possession, on the desk in front of him, is indeed his own.”
Crouch stood and used his full height to object strongly, “I refuse to allow any prisoner to have access to a wand of any kind, Madam Bones.”
“For identification purposes only I assure the court,” Dumbledore submitted.
“The Aurors seated in the back may resume their previous positions,” Madam Bones instructed, “Once they have done so, I have no objection to Mr Black being ‘shown’ the wand only. He is not to have it in his hand.”
Fudge signalled the three Aurors to stand behind and on either side of the prisoner. Crouch walked around to the front of the desk and picked up the wand that had been produced earlier.
Crouch positioned himself in front of the prisoner, holding out the long wooden wand, but close enough so that he could determine the detail. Black in colour and quite thick in circumference, signifying that it could be wheeled with immense power by the right wizard or witch.
For a moment, the urge and desire to reach out and grasp it was very real. “It is my wand.” Sirius agreed.
“Let the record show the prisoner identifying the wand as he own property,” Amelia directed the court scribe. “Please pass it into my custody, Mr Crouch.”
Without being able to think of a valid reason, reluctantly, Barty did just that, passing it to Amelia Bones. She looked at it briefly, ready to set it aside beside the growing mound of parchment notes.
“Please, Madam Bones, I believe a strong case that has been conducted for Mr Black today, will be heightened even further if you will allow a very old but reliable charm to be used on that wand.”
“And what charm would that be, Mr Dumbledore?” Amelia asked before Crouch could do so himself.
“Prior Incantato” Dumbledore said plainly, looking over to see if there was any reaction on Barty’s face.
“What will such an incantation do?” Fudge asked, not wanting to admit his lack of knowledge. He had heard it before, but was not aware of the full implication.
“It will force the target wand to demonstrate the last spell that was cast from it, Mr Fudge,” Bones stated, wanting to show her own comprehension. “It is a spell born from ancient magic, Minister. The results will speak for themselves, whatever they may be. Please indicate your consent to such a spell being cast.”
“Well that is settled then, it clearly should show what Black used to cause that explosion, and we can be done with this whole mess,” Fudge blurted out.
The brief flicker of confidence fell when he looked over at Barty and saw that he too fully understood.
“Will one of your Auror’s please step forward please, Mr Crouch,” Amelia requesting, wanting a experienced third-party to carry out the task.
Remus had tried to move forward in his seat to get a better view of what was about to happen. His own stomach was all tied up in knots, he could imagine how his friend was feeling right at this moment. This action by Dumbledore could either assist Sirius or sink any chance, in his quest for the truth to be known.
Sirius was trying to think back at what the last spell would be that he cast all those years ago. He was drawing a blank.
Almost everyone in the courtroom was holding their breath, as Crouch gestured for the tall Auror directly between him and Sirius Black to step forward towards Amelia Bones, and retrieve the wand to perform the spell.
“Prior Incantato”the Auror said clearly and loudly for all to hear.
The wand in his hand started to move about, rising up from the palm of his hand and turning in a complete circle until the spell was complete.
‘Stupefy’ reverberated from the wand. The stunning spell.
Silence echoed throughout the courtroom. Such a simple spell. Shock and surprise was upon every face.
Fudge was the first to splutter any kind of response, “That can’t be true. The spell must have been done wrong.”
“The incantation was correct,” Amelia said sternly, but the ramifications of what it exactly all meant, was hanging heavily in the air.
“If it may be permitted that we be able offer a last comment before you,” Dumbledore said in conclusion, knowing that the spell had done more for Sirius than even he could have anticipated.
“You will have your opportunity to respond afterwards, Mr Crouch,” Madam Bones affirmed. “Following your closing statement, I will leave this courtroom to consider what has been presented by both parties and make a ruling pertaining to the application.”
“I don’t think there is much more that I can add, even after Dumbledore has spoken, Madam Bones,” Barty admitted. “However, can only assume that for someone who has been mere acting as “advisor” during these proceeding, his own personal interest in this whole matter is highly circumspect.”
Crouch resumed his seat, bringing his hand to his mouth and hiding his thoughts behind a calm, but rigid expression.
What once used to be a simple closed case of a mass murderer and madman being caught and put behind bars where he belonged in a place he could never possibly escape from, was quickly turning into a debacle. And his name was caught up in it all. Just like before, the tide of favour was beginning to turn against him.
“Madam Bones, despite the arguments from Mr Crouch and Minister Fudge about the character of my witnesses today, I think it is obvious to all, that some startling information has been put to this court. Mr Black was arrested, sentenced to a place of incarceration, that most of us dare not think about,” Dumbledore proclaimed.
“No less than two people have given evidence that they have seen Peter Pettigrew alive. That fact on its own is shocking enough. He was believed to be dead all this time. They are both respectable people, and would not benefit from any false testimony. Both have had connections with the wizarding community over an extended length of time, even Tom from the Leaky Cauldron.”
“Mr Lupin, who has been a life long friend of Mr Black, and he himself has faced scrutiny about his possible involvement. He is as shocked as anyone else here today, myself included, to learn that Pettigrew may still be alive.”
“A lengthy prison sentence such as the one Mr Black has been forced to serve and endure without a trial, was unwarranted, is unjustifiable and undeserved.”
“By any standard of fairness and decency that can be applied, if Sirius Black was allowed back then, to have his version of events heard. To have to undergo the miserable effects of Veritaserum. And have a spell cast on his wand, like has just been done earlier. Then we may very well have not needed to be here today, ten years later.”
Dumbledore sat down at his desk, his glasses falling forward to the end of his nose as he peered over at the two Ministerial officials, giving a polite smile.
“I thank you all for your time today, I will now take the notes I have made during the proceedings, and make an informed decision. I cannot give you an accurate time frame on how long that might take, but I ask that you be patient and the room remain civil during my deliberations,” Madam Bones concluded.
“Mr Dumbledore, you may provide Mr Black with more water during my absence,” Amelia granted as she rose, with Eunice Parks standing gathering her transcripts, ready to follow her out of the courtroom.
“The Aurors may once again take a position towards the back of the gallery,” she directed as she left the room.
Remus Lupin moved from his position in the gallery to speak quietly with Dumbledore. His presence was no longer a secret.
“You can begin repacking up all of this paperwork, Eugene,” Fudge called out to his junior assistant, fidgeting and scarcely able to sit still.
There wasn’t anything that they could do except to wait for Amelia Bones to return and give judgment.
Sirius Black remained silent, having refused any further water from the enchanted pitcher and cup with a shake of his head. He abhorred that the strength of his character was being based on people who claimed to have known him years before, but were virtual strangers to him. And the one person, Remus, who was known as one of his closest friends, had drawn suspicion to himself, been ridiculed and downright cast as nothing but a foul, dark creature.
What he had heard today had shocked him to the very core, and he didn’t know quite what to do with the mix of emotions that were swirling around inside him. Part of him wanted to scream from the top of his lungs, shout until he lost his voice at those who had allowed this all to happen to him. But the other half of him, wanted to lay down on the floor, crawl into a ball of abject pain and misery from all that he had suffered and lost.
More than two and a quarter hours later, Amelia Bones made a re-appearance, followed by her court scribe, taking her seat once more and looking out over the courtroom at those still gathered within its walls. The expression she wore on her face was one of professionalism and dutifulness. But it masked just how unsettled and dissatisifed she was feeling on the inside.
It was her original intend to give her determination first, but upon sitting down and glancing down at the prisoner still shackled in his chair, she changed her mind.
“Aurors, you may step forward please, and remove all shackles and restraints from Mr Black immediately,” she proclaimed.
Fudge looked ready to jump up and object again, but one swift stern look from Amelia was all it took for him to remain sitting at the desk. Crouch had responded by shielding his face with his hands, as though trying to avoid the impending onslaught that he could detect beginning to boil and overflow. Before she even gave her reasons why, he knew that his efforts to keep Sirius Black behind bars had been completely thwarted.
Remus couldn’t dare to hope what he had just heard Amelia Bones say in open court. He found himself wringing his hands tightly just to prevent himself from showing a completely inappropriate ‘whoop of joy’. He couldn’t even imagine how Sirius was feeling right at this moment.
The Aurors did as they were asked, approaching Sirius, pausing with hesitation for moment, and unsure if he would react and lash out at those who had kept him chained.
In a surprising act of acquiescence, Black held out his hands, palm sides up, waiting for one of the Aurors to produce their wand and complete the spell that would allow them to unlock. A stronger spell was needed for the shackles around his ankles, but they too soon released their grip.
There was a distinct amount of pain that came as blood circulation recommenced from weak muscles. Sirius flexed his fingers and raised one foot at a time, trying to help the process. The skin around his wrists clearly marred by red welts and he could feel deeper ones etched around his ankles.
“You may join Mr Dumbledore at his desk,” Madam Bones informed him, noting the shadows that still plagued his features.
Black turned towards Dumbledore and saw the wizard gesturing at a second chair that had been conjured for his used. The first step, unsteady, shaky and his gait measured, even for such a short distance. Once he did reach the desk, he clung to the armrest, sinking onto the unforgiving wooden seat.
He brushed the long tendrils of shoulder length hair away from his eyes, looking up towards Amelia and gave one word filled with gratitude, “Thank you.”
Madam Bones now focused on the important task at hand and she wasn’t about to allow any further delay or interruption.
“When I first came into this courtroom this morning, there was no way I could be prepared for what I have heard, seen and had demonstrated in front of me. In all my years of being appointed to the Wizengamot, I have never had to determine such a matter. I am dismayed, shocked and appalled at what has witnessed.”
“Mr Fudge, I can see on your faces, the displeasure that you feel towards my letting the prisoner be released before I have given my reasons. Mr Crouch I see the resignation. Both of you have recounted colourful portrayals of his involvement without any real substance or proof.”
“Somewhere, the real possibility exists that Peter Pettigrew may be alive. He must be found and held accountable for his actions against Mr Black and ultimately the Potter family. All attempts to find him must be doubled and the wider wizarding population forewarned of his treacherous character the real danger that he poses until apprehended.”
“Mr Crouch, your actions are inexcusable. They were back when Mr Black was first accused, and they have been up until this point, where you have not only ignored basic rights of someone accused of a crime. But it would seem that you have deliberately turned a blind eye to procedures and practices this Ministry has prided itself on for a personal vendetta that you wanted to see through to fruition, no matter the damage.”
“A lie doesn’t become the truth, just because it is accepted by a majority. Right doesn’t become wrong, and good doesn’t become evil, based on a distortion of the truth, or by the deceit of a few.”
Madam Bones words were damning, scathing and unapologetic.
“Mr Black, any sentence you received due to these prejudices and grossly negligent actions are hereby set aside forthwith.”
“Do you require the services of a healer?” she asked in a softer tone of voice, watching him rubbing at his wrists, and then pulling down the cuffs on the end of his sleeves. Covering them to hide what he was doing so, when Dumbledore took a little too much interest.
Nobody had bothered for the past ten years. Sirius wasn’t ready for people to pity him or feel sorry for him.
A hoarse reply and slight nod of his head in acknowledgement that she had taken the time to ask. “No, thank you.”
“I will not go into the details of what compensation might be forthcoming from the Ministry or any other remuneration here this afternoon. That will be discussed in my office at a time of my choosing. Within a short space of time I assure you. You have been kept waiting for far too long. Nothing that I do here today, or at any other time can ever make up for the hardship after a decade. you have been forced to endure.”
“I hope to never be in the position or have to determine such a matter again during my appointment. What I will ensure is that I will be diligent in my efforts to endeavour to work towards putting safe measures into place that will prevent anything like this from happening. Starting with my own Department, and working with as many others in this building as necessary.”
“New procedures will be recommended to the wizarding community. And for those accused until proven guilty, there will be protections put into place before their freedom is sacrificed because of personal, narrow-minded actions and intolerant views.”
Amelia Bones gathered the pages of parchment that she had prepared, and looked directly at Sirius Black as she gave a closing statement.
“What is being done here today is of little comfort after what you have been force to endure and I can only wish that this all could have happened much sooner. Your liberty should not have been taken away so quickly without the relevant evidence. Today, I am giving you a second chance.”
Sirius wished he could have spoken a few words of gratitude, or shown his appreciation in some other method. Right at this moment, there was no feeling, only numbness and an emptiness that he couldn’t explain.
Dumbledore rose from his seat, and gave a brief bow of thanks. Remus was now standing at the end of the gallery and not wanting to intrude into the centre of the room, but still trying to take everything in.
Crouch and Fudge stood, flabbergasted at what had occurred in the past several hours. Sirius Black had been released from prison. And Peter Pettigrew was assumed to be alive.
“Mr Bigmore,” Amelia called out to the junior wizard, “Is there a way to provide a clean and more suitable set of clothes to Mr Black once he leaves this courtroom?”
Eugene thought for a moment, almost ready to give a negative shake of his head, but then he remembered something. “Madam Bones, there is a few sets of clothes available from the wizard who served the Minister, Mr Fudge before me. I am not certain of their sizing, but I found a bag at the bottom of a disused cabinet a few weeks into my employment. I haven’t had a chance to find an alternative use until now.”
“Splendid,” Madam Bones said with a smile. “I would like for you to locate this bag, and direct Mr Black to a bathroom together with anything else he may want or need.”
Up until this point, Sirius hadn’t even considered things like clean clothes and a chance to wash. He was drawn out of his own thoughts by Amelia speaking to him again. She could see the impact that his newly found freedom was having.
“Madam Bones, there are matters that I would like to discuss with you and Mr Black, in your office,” Dumbledore addressed, noting the confused look on Sirius face at what more there could possibly be to discuss. “These matters are most urgent, but also of a private nature. I do not wish to delay Mr Crouch or the Minister any further today.”
“Please attend my office on the second floor when you and Mr Black are ready to do so,” Amelia commented. And with that, waited for Eunice to gather together her transcripts and notes, before leaving the courtroom.
Fudge’s face turned an interesting colour. How dare the man stand there and declare that anything else was private about Sirius Black. He was the Minister of Magic after all.
Eugene found himself in an awkward and unenviable position, and receiving a scowl from the Minister as he walked towards the door with Barty Crouch. Listening to all the facts today, he couldn’t help but feel that his loyalty to Mr Fudge had been shaken from his foundations. And that maybe he wasn’t so infallible as people believed.
“What do you think that topic of conversation will be?” Crouch asked in frustration. With his reputation being drawn into serious question, he could be assured that Madam Bones would keep her word and insist on an investigation. He was going to have to work hard to regain any ground he had made.
“I have no idea. But I can tell you this,” he said with certainty, “Next time there is a matter involving me and Dumbledore in this courtroom, I will insist on a full Council of Magic with all the members of the Wizengamot court.”
Eugene Bigmore kept his distance for a moment, as the older wizard and Black remained at the table. He couldn’t hear any words being spoken between them, but they were communicating with body language and facial expressions
Sirius turned, looking at Remus, his long time friend. The silence between them deafening until neither could take it any longer. Both taking small unsteady steps towards each other. With one final desperate stride, they embraced each other fiercely.
Sirius let go and pulled back nervously from his friend, unsure of how others around him were going to react to him.
The former prisoner placed his own thin hand on Remus’s jacket, giving the smallest hint of a smile. Not daring to open his mouth at the tide of words that wanted to spill out. A large lump had formed in his throat, and he quickly swiped at the unshed tears.
We will talk later
Remus placed a hand on his trembling upper arm, looking at him with conviction, “Together we will fix this. I will always help you, no matter what.”
The journey back through the dimly lit stone corridor towards the stairway, felt longer for three of them, as they followed the junior assistant. He perceived the poor physical state of Mr Black and tried to slow his pace to match. Climbing the stairs proved more difficult, and soft grunts of discomfort could be made out at various intervals.
“Once you have changed clothes, Sirius, I will wait for you outside Amelia’s office,” Dumbledore informed them, “I want to stop by and talk briefly to Arthur Weasley.”
“We will meet you there,” Remus replied, keeping close to Sirius in case he stumbled, but knowing that he would not want anybody clinging to him and recognising his need for space. During past years, Sirius had developed and then openly displayed a strong sense of independence, and he could only hope to see that begin to emerge as time allowed it to do so.
The two of them watched Dumbledore head in the direction of the elevators. Talking to a number of other people whilst he waited.
“This way gentlemen,” Eugene urged nervously. As he guided them past the waiting elevators, he noted the questioning look from Remus.
“You don’t need to be afraid of us,” Remus said calmly, as the young wizard’s gaze kept switching between them.
Eugene tried his best to relax, thankful that the path he had chosen was not currently clogged with other people. Some parts of the building were busy and intimidating to anyone not used to the constant influx of wizards, witches and visitors.
“I know of some less crowded corridors in this building,” he explained, leading them through a closed door. “I am sure the last thing you are wanting at the moment Mr Black is an audience.”
Sirius opinion of the young assistant went up quite a lot at the consideration being given despite who his boss was.
“Right through this door, there is a private bathroom. It has everything you could need. Hot water, soap, clean towels. I will go and fetch that bag of clothes. Is there anything else I can bring back for you. Some food or refreshments perhaps?” he enquired, opening the door and standing back to allow them access.
Remus and Sirius were a little awe struck with the lavishness of the room that they could see from the door frame. The walls were constructed from slabs of intricately carved marble. The floor decorated with a contrasting but equally grand large tiles.
“There are several of these bathrooms throughout the building. Each has a different colour scheme or theme. They are usually reserved for special guests of the Ministry, or Mr Fudge himself,” Eugene disclosed.
“Thank you, for your kindness and understanding after such a difficult time,” Remus uttered politely. “Some water perhaps when we meet with Madam Bones. But don’t got the trouble of any food at this time.”
“I will be back as soon as I can,” Eugene promised and heading away from them towards his own office.
After the junior wizard was gone, the two friends peered into the bathroom. And then silently back at each other.
“Come on, Padfoot!” Remus encouraged gently. Ensuring the door was closed once they both entered.
Sirius paused at the use of his nickname. Nobody had called him that in a very long time. Such a simple act. He grinned and clapped Remus on the shoulder with genuine friendly affection.
It had been a long time. Too long for either of them. Remus willingly returned the gesture with relish.
Eugene Bigmore had returned shortly thereafter as promised, knocking on the door and handing the bag to Remus as he opened it. “Thank you.”
“I will wait outside until you are ready and escort you to Madam Bones office,” the young man stated.
Their footsteps echoed in the vastness of the large room. The soothing sound of running water came from a cascading waterfall on the right hand wall. In the centre of the room was slightly sunken with a seating area. Large leather and comfortable long settees were the furniture of choice.
On rows of shelving sat neatly stacked and folded towels, mostly white, but other shades mixed in. There were ceramic bowls with candles and sticks of incense spread throughout the room.
The opulence and richness radiated from every surface. The there were four large square pools at the back of the room. A constant plume of steam rising from the heated water. The ceiling was high, allowing an intoxicating and aromatic scent to infuse with the heated air, enticing anyone in side to relax.
Along the left hand side of the room was a row of large basins. The tapware adorning them made from brass and decorated with many different creatures and myths from the wizarding world.
Sirius slowly made his way over to the end basin. When you held your hands under the tap, the water flowed. Enchanted by a spell. He winced out loud as his knuckles stung from where the skin had worn away. Any other skin was cracked, discoloured and marred.
Remus approached, setting the bag aside on the bench. “I doubt even the Slytherin prefect bathroom is so richly decorated,” he jested.
Sirius tried to give a laugh at the comment, but it fell flat and sounded hollow. Like some kind of badly twisted dream, everything that had happened still felt too surreal.
Now that he was much closer to his friend, and close enough to be touch him, Remus couldn’t hide his sadness at the terrible toll confinement and neglect had inflicted. Taking one of the towels and dampening it in the warm water, and gently rubbing it over his friend’s torn hands. Cake dried blood smeared onto the fabric, revealing bruising and a number of shallow cuts which had gone untreated.
When he looked up at Sirius’ face, he saw his friend’s eyes were closed tightly. He didn’t know where to begin trying to help. Being in such a vunerable state and fragile state of mind, it would serve no purpose to go bombarding him with too many questions there wouldn’t be answers for. Explanations, recriminations and anything else could wait a little longer.
Remus was starting to think the offer of a healer might not have been such a bad idea. There were no potions, salves or spells in this bathroom to soothe or tend to any injuries. Somehow he knew Sirius would not agree to most offers of assistance. For now he was content enough that his own help was not being refused.
Putting aside the soiled an bloody towel, Remus reached into the bag and rummaged around the contents, pulling out random articles of clothing. They were covered in dust and smelled musty. “There isn’t much choice,” he gauged with disdain.
Black didn’t answer, but took a pair of trousers and a shirt, and started walking towards one of the heated ponds. Picking up two more towels with him.
Waiting on one of the leather couche, Remus was prepared to give Sirius as much privacy and time a he wanted to soak and remove some of the stench of Azkaban.
After fifteen minutes though, wet footsteps approached from behind, the wet and bedraggled figure of Sirius Black stood beside him. There were no shoes on his feet. His knotted hair had been pulled back away from his face into a makeshift ponytail.
Remus took a minute to look him up and down, almost wanting to hide a bubble of laughter from escaping. It was prevented from doing so from the deep exhaustion and paleness of Sirius’ face. For someone who was tall, the thinness of his body from lack of nutrition and good care made it appear as though he was wearing the clothes of someone much larger. The trousers hung low around his waist and the shirt was tucked in to keep them in place.
The way the fabric sprawled over his shoulders, Remus was able to see his collar-bone jutting out and count every rib down his torso.
Sirius broke the uneasy silence with a self-deprecating grin, “I look almost as thin as you, Mooney.”
Remus ignored the barb at his own lack of weight, taking the prison garb from his friend and shoving it into the bag Eugene had provided.
“Let’s get out of here.”
Sirius nodded in agreement, and the two headed towards the door.
“Oh, sirs, I wasn’t expecting you quite so soon,” Eugene stammered as he took the offending bag that was offered by Remus. He briefly looked inside, and tried to hide the revulsion on his face when the smell wafted up to him.
“What did you want me to do with this?” he asked innocently.
Sirius’ reply was brief and succinct, “Burn it!”
There would always be reminders of his imprisonment, that was a given. But he wasn’t about to keep the rags that he had been forced to wear as some kind of abhorrent souvenir.
The young wizard pulled back slightly at the venom in the man’s voice, but nodded in confirmation that it would be done.
“Allow me,” Remus stated, taking out his wand and pointing it at the bag.
The bag and its contents was quickly reduced to a smouldering mound of ashes.
Sirius gave a nod of thanks to Remus.
Eugene has not been expecting the such a drastic measure to be taken, and scanned the corridor, thankful that it was deserted and there was nobody else around. He had been planning to get rid of the bag in an innocuous manner, but understood why that particular spell had been chosen instead.
“I will now lead you to Madam Bones’ office,” he said. “This too is a much shorter and less used path,” he explained, guiding them.
‘The whole building is one giant rabbit burrow’ Sirius thought to himself. He doubted even the Minister knew all of the different corridors and doorways.
Sure enough, they had soon climbed higher in the building and came to a wide hallway. This is were this lessor known corridor met up with the one that wizards would normally use. The number of employees had now increased, some rushing about their duties, others talking in small groups.
Sirius felt very uncomfortable as they walked, and Remus was certain that at least one person had stopped to look closer at the both of them suspiciously.
Dumbledore was seated outside a large impressive looking door, with a gold name plate that read: Amelia Bones. He rose to meet the two men as they approached. He took a good look at Sirius and the ill-fitting clothes.
“Most unfortunate,” he offered in brief apology.
“This is where I will leave you, gentlemen,” Eugene said in parting.
“Goodbye,” Remus returned, but Sirius remained quiet.
Dumbledore stood in front of the three of them and knocked politely on the door. Opening it when they heard the invitation to enter.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Amelia greeted them. She walked over to an open window behind her desk, bushing away some snow and a beetle from the ledge before pulling it closed and locking it.
She turned and resumed her position on the other side of the desk, facing her visitors, “Please be seated.”
Dumbledore accepted, but Sirius Black remained some distance back, refusing to do and his posture rigid and obstinate.
Amelia Bones sighed at the display, not really expecting the man to come in and wanting to have tea. “I understand your reluctance, Mr Black.”
She paused to take a good look at the man, noting the exhaustion coming from him in waves. She had meant to carry out some further discussion, but saw in all likelihood, that wasn’t going to happen.
“I can offer a healer again, Mr Black, if that is your wish?” she asked with compassion in her voice.”
“I respectfully decline,” Sirius answered sharply, but his hand betraying him and wrapping around his wrist and rubbing at the concealed welts.
“Before we go any further, this belongs to you,” holding out the wand and offering it to the man.
Sirius was almost hesitant for a moment. But then his expression changed to one of determination, and he accepted and reached out his hand
It was released into his grasp. And despite the years that had past, there was an unexplainable familiarity when the wood touched his skin.
Amelia could see that Black was going to be understandably difficult to deal with, and decided to be plain with him. “Mr Black, I made an error earlier when I spoke about having meaningful talks. You are clearly very tired, and in need of good food and much rest. Can I please suggest that we meet again in a couple of days?”
Dumbledore appeared to be disappointed with the suggestion, but failed to voice an objection.
“Madam, there are other matters that I would still like for you and I to discuss,” Albus advocated strongly.
“I will come by tomorrow after you both have had time to rest,” he said with that all knowing smile that they had seen before.
There was something that he wasn’t telling them, that was clear to both of them. Something important. Neither of them were in a mood to play games.
Sirius didn’t verbalise a response, but indicated with a nod of his head that he was willing to comply with her request.
“Do you have a safe and suitable place for him to stay for the immediate future?” she directed at Dumbledore.
It was Remus who spoke up, “Sirius is welcome to stay at my residence for as long as is needed.”
“Any may I ask the location of your home, Mr Lupin?”
“I am afraid not, Madam Bones, for his house is also under the fidelius charm for its whereabouts,” Dumbledore interjected.
“Very well then. Do you require transportation to return to it?”
“No, Madam, I travelled here by use of a portkey this morning. Into the Atrium of the building,” Remus answered, “I would ask that we both be allowed to use it once more from within the confines of this very room?”
“A portkey?” she sounded intrigued and apprehensive, “Highly irregular I must say. And I don’t likethat method of travel myself,” she went on to explain. “I had a bad experience during my senior year at Hogwarts, and have never tried it again. But this is no time to reminisce and you have my permission.”
Remus pulled the small metal box from his pocket, allowing Dumbledore to get a good look at it, and showing it to Sirius.
“Together my friend,” Remus said, holding it out within reach.
Sirius put his own hand over the top. The box glowed blue momentarily, and the two men vanished from the room.
The discussions continued in private between Dumbledore and Amelia Bones.
“Are you sure, Mr Dumbledore?” she demanded, shocked by the revelation he had just made to her.
“Quite sure,” Albus responded.
“I think I have had one too many surprises today,” she said forthrightly. “And this last one is certainly the biggest of them all.”
“Everything must be done to the best of our ability,” Dumbledore foreshadowed. “You now understand the need to act now, and ensure all possible safety measures as put into place.”
“I do understand, completely and agree with you,” Amelia stated firmly.
“Forgive me, but I must return to Hogwarts now and begin to set things into place.”
Once he had left her office, Amelia Bones sat down in her chair heavily, going over everything in her mind that had happened today. She would need a strong calming draught before the end of the night.
Making quite a rough entrance into his own house using the portkey, Remus made sure that he had a steadying hand on Sirius. The landing wasn’t always smooth, even for wizards who used this method of transport on a more regular basis. The sensation was difficult to describe, and could be alarming. He had known others to fall flat on their faces.
Sirius blinked a few times, looking around the room and trying to take in what he could see close by. Not everything he saw was registering with his brain. He felt as if there were large chucks of time missing from his memory.
“This is your place?” Sirius asked, knowing he had not been here before.
“I know it is not much, but it is all I need right now,” Remus conveyed with embarrassment. “I will give you a tour a little later.”
“Would you like to take advantage of a full shower?” Remus asked, not knowing what need Sirius would want to take care of first. The wash he had allowed himself at the Ministry of Magic had been too rushed.
“I have some of your clothes in a box, I will go and find it. I am sure you don’t want to stay in those over-sized garments any longer than you have to.”
Sirius had moved slowly towards the sitting room, and lowered himself into one of the comfortable arm chairs. His brain was working very slowly, feeling like it was stuffed full of cotton wool.
“You kept my old clothes even after all this time, Moony?”
Remus shrugged his shoulders, looking at the floor, and then back up again, “I couldn’t bare to throw them away, Sirius,” his voice thick with emotion. “They gave me hope that one day you come back. I boxed yours up after James and Lily………….” unable to complete the sentence, the realisation that they were dead being very painful to accept.
“I did the same for some things belonging to them, but for different reasons. Deep in my heart I knew they were not coming back. I couldn’t bare to throw anything away, for any of you.”
Sirius was about to pull himself out of his chair, but Remus motioned for him to stay where he was. “I will get some food on the table. But first, I will find that box,” trying to distract them both from the hardships and losses that neither of them were ready to face tonight.
A short time later, Remus returned with the required box, his friend’s upper body was sagging into the corner of the sofa. Lupin was reluctant to wake him, but knew that Sirius needed to eat before he slept. He would need to hurry up.
By the time he managed to move Sirius to the kitchen table, a delicious smell was wafting from the oven. Although he owned a wand and could use it with some skill, sometimes simplicity was best, especially when it came to food. Cooking was something he enjoyed, even though it was just for himself. It allowed him to forget all the troubles about getting a job, or find money when it was difficult to come by.
Putting a piping hot dish of lasagne in the centre of the table, Remus could see that his friend was fighting a losing battle to stay awake. The adrenaline and pure Black stubbornness that had been keeping him going through the day had evaporated, leaving behind only fatigue and dehydration.
Taking a plate and placing a serving of the creamy pasta onto the centre, he then set it in front of Sirius. He repeated the same for himself and poured glasses of cool water. Although they had shared a few sentences with each other, Remus couldn’t help but feel the yawning divide that had been created between them by Azkaban. He wasn’t sure how to cross it, but knew that it wasn’t going to be easy or tonight.
Trying not to watch his friend eat, Remus couldn’t help but mind the tension lines on his forehead and around his eyes. They stood out against his pale waxy skin. Sirius was too tired to think about anything more right now, even eating and drinking.
At first, Sirius had attacked the food with great enthusiasm, his taste buds craving anything with rich flavour and heavy in calories. But all too quickly, his appetite had waned even before he had managed more than a half-dozen fork fulls. He began twirling the fork around in his hand, his eyes darting back and forth around the room and now beginning to droop.
Remus took pity on his friend, and there was no further conversation as he gently pulled Sirius to his feet and placing a secure grip on his upper arm, manoeuvred them both down the hallway to the guest room. Apart from his own small room, it was the only other one in the house that wasn’t cluttered by storage boxes and mix-matched furniture.
The change of clothes would have to wait until the morning. Sirius had barely looked up at entering the room, his eyes already at half mast, and his body growing heavy. He laid on the bed before Remus had a chance to pull back the covers, his bare feet still exposed. The chafed and painful looking welts around his ankles visible.
Sirius was almost asleep, but it was anything but peaceful. His friend had not stirred, and he hoped that he wouldn’t feel any of his administrations. Remus took the opportunity to fetch a jar of healing salve, and tend to the raw, sore marks around his ankles and wrists.
Exiting the room, he left the door slightly ajar in case Sirius awoke during the night or needed anything. Remus returned to the kitchen to finish his own uneaten dinner. His muscles were too tense, and knew it would be many hours before he would be able to relax. It was still difficult to fathom that Sirius was no longer in prison, and was only in the next room, sleeping as he had left him barely ten minutes ago.
In the quiet, perfectly normal suburb of Little Whinging, London, the stillness of the night sky was interrupted by the sound of a motorcycle engine. The residents of this street were all tucked up safely in their beds, and didn’t bother to look out of their large and square houses to see what or who was making all the noise.
The night air was quite cool for this time of the year, and would grow colder in coming weeks.
The Dursley family who lived at Number 4 Privet Drive were sleeping soundly as well, except for one.
A small, thin boy with a crown of messy black hair, wearing glasses. And his name was Harry.
Right at this moment, he was having a battle with himself. There wasn’t anybody else to talk to.
He had really done it this time. He had heeded the warning Uncle Vernon had sternly given him about his meals before getting in the car on Dudley’s birthday. The one time he had been allowed to go with the family.
He still hadn’t worked out why they had agreed to that. Normally he didn’t get to go anywhere. His usual routine was to cook and complete chores for them and get locked away in his cupboard and ignored as though he never existed.
To the zoo, a most unexpected place. Somewhere exciting and full of mystery.
The very long python bred in captivity and with no family had been nice to talk to. Nobody else ever did, unless it was to yell at him for doing something wrong. He had felt sorry that it was locked up behind the enclosure, day after day. He didn’t know how the glass panel had disappeared allowed the snake to escape. But from the moment he had seen Uncle Vernon’s bulging features looking down at his mirth at Dudley’s predicament, he knew it couldn’t end well.
For the longest time, they had been threatening to send him to an orphanage. Telling him that he was worthless and would never amount to anything. They had instilled in him that he was abnormal and not like other children. They used fear to threaten him about such places who took in children, and didn’t have families of their own, or had been abandoned. He didn’t know which category his Aunt and Uncle could be apply to him.
Aunt Petunia had wailed all the way back to the house, about her poor, wet son. Uncle Vernon had parked in the driveway, gripping Harry too tightly as he climbed out of the back seat, demanding to know what had happened.
Harry had pleaded with his uncle that he didn’t know what had happened. But his explanation had not been sufficient, and he found himself being thrown roughly into the cupboard. Almost a week had passed since the 23rd June.
Inside the house, a small amount of light could be detected coming from the cupboard beneath the stairs. A grumble of hunger came from the boy. Wrapping the thin blanket around his shoulders, he huddled in what little warm it offered. He moved about trying to get a little more comfortable within the confines of the closet, but winced as he felt pain from the bruising he could feel on his shoulder. Even his hair still smarted and left him with a dull headache for the majority of a day from being nearly yanked out by the roots.
The dark-haire boy had almost fallen asleep, when he had been startled by someone pounding forcibly on the front door. Who would be calling at the Dursley’s house this time of night?
Heavy footsteps could be heard from Uncle Vernon as he descended the stairs, complaining about waking good honest folk from their beds in the middle of the night.
The door to his cupboard was normally locked most of the day and night, but on this occasion, Aunt Petunia had forgotten to do so when he had finished the dishes. Very slowly he pushed the door open a crack. From here, he could see to the front door. He switched off the small light so that he wasn’t seen.
Uncle Vernon could be heard shouting and demanding to know who was at the door. There was another voice on the outside, but the young boy couldn’t quite hear what was being said.
Harry could see his Aunt Petunia standing behind her husband, and his grossly overweight cousin, Dudley huddled up next to her.
Uncle Vernon continued his unyielding tirade.
“I told you there is nobody living here by that name. Now I must insist you leave at once, Sir!” shouted his Uncle, refusing to open the wooden door to the unannounced visitor.
All of a sudden, the front door was thrust open and was left barely hanging from its hinges. A large dark, figure moved through the door frame, into the house. He was not only tall, but easily twice or thrice as wide as Uncle Vernon. Harry had never seen such a large person before and couldn’t see the man’s face from his concealed position.
“Dry up, Dursley you great prune,” the man snarled back, shoving past him, walking down the narrow hallway towards the sitting room. The floor groaning under his large bulk.
Once in the sitting room, the heated discussion continued, but Harry was only able to work out odd words. Did he dare to move closer out of the cupboard and hear more? If he was caught, the punishment would be most severe. But the appearance of such strange and large person intrigued him.
Being as extra quiet as he could, Harry took a few careful measured footsteps out of his cupboard, keeping out of site. He would have to run back quickly before he was discovered.
“You don’t understand, I have orders from the Headmaster of Hogwarts himself, no less. Telling me to come and take Harry with me,” the large man tried to reason. His accent made it difficult to understand what he was saying.
Harry closed his eyes, knowing that the stinging words about a ‘brat’ were about him.
Cautiously looking back into the room, he could see the large man waving the pointed end of an umbrella at Uncle Vernon, “Never insult ……. in my presence.”
“Didn’t you tell him everything in that letter that came with him from Dumbledore?” the man demanded to know.
“Of course not, we burned all that rubbish,” Petunia stated in a high-pitched voice.
“I will not be listening to anything that crazy old crackpot has to say anymore,” Vernon declared, the cords of his neck standing out. “My family has been out of pocket and a whole lot more ever since the useless brat was left on our door step.”
Harry had missed the name given twice, sounded like, Elvis Dumpling.
The man looked around Uncle Vernon, fixating a smile at Dudley, “I haven’t seen you since you were a baby Harry, but you are much more further along than I would have imagined, especially around the middle.”
Harry’s heart jumped a little in fright when the man mentioned his own name. How did this man know him?
The man’s face was covered in a full thick beard and moustache, but his eyes looked friendly, as the boy dared to take a step around the wall, revealing his presence for the first time.
Dudley edged even closer to his mother, “I…. I’m not Harry,” he stammered, turning body around so that his ample backside was protruding.
“I am. I’m Harry,” the boy, announced with as much courage as he could muster to come forward.
“Well, of course you are,” the large man declared cheerfully. Seemingly genuinely seemed happy to see him.
There was a distinct scowl from Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, the expressions on their faces demanding to know why they could see him out of his cupboard.
“Excuse me, but who are you?” Harry asked.
“Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Hogwarts,” the man gave honesty and with pride. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself proper.”
“What is Hogwarts?” the boy queried innocently.
“That’ll be where you are going to of course, when you get your letter,” the man answered, looking back a little confused at the boy’s lack of knowledge about such an institution.
“I will not pay for some freaks to teach him nothing but magic tricks,” Vernon yelled hotly.
“Tonight, you will be coming with me, Harry,” the large man stated, his tone not about to accept any refusal.
Harry nodded his head, accepting that the Dursleys had made some kind of arrangement with this man was here tonight. He was here to take him to the orphanage. They had chosen a time in the night so that the neighbours wouldn’t see him leave. No doubt some excuse would be given to them by his Aunt and Uncle for his sudden absence.
“Better not stay too long, getting a bit late and all,” Hagrid spoke. “Anything ya wish to be taking?”
Harry thought for a moment about the small number of trinkets back in his cupboard. There wasn’t anything that he wanted to remind him of this place. He carried enough bad memories, but didn’t want to tell that to the man sent from the orphanage.
“No,” came the timid short reply, his face flushing red with embarrassment.
The man must have thought this was rather odd.
The boy looked over at his Aunt, Uncle and cousin. Would there be a last minute reprieve or change of mind? He guessed not by their snobbish expressions down at him with upturned noses.
“Come on then,” he encouraged, leaving through the splintered door.
Outside, Harry shivered from the sudden change in temperature.
Assuming there would be a black sedan or similar car to drive him to the unknown orphanage, the sight of a faded blue motorcycle parked beside the curb was definitely not what he had been expecting.
Harry had never seen a motorcycle so large. Not even in books. The width and breadth of the vehicle matched perfectly with the man’s enormous proportions.
The large man must have thought it might be an impracticable mode of transport as well, looking back at him for a moment before straddling the over-sized leather saddle.
“Ain’t like I can travel any other way,” he offered sheepishly in explanation.
“Sit here in front where I can see yeh,” the man instructed. “Wouldn’t want ya fallin’ off half-way now.”
Harry nodded, and nervously climbed in front and sat down on the seat, having no intentions of disobeying. He was yet to be convinced that this was safe. He wasn’t sure where to put his hands. The handlebars were too far away for him to hold onto.
He didn’t what it was made from, but the fabric of man’s extra large coat was ticking the exposed skin on his arms.
The man seemed to notice his awkwardness, Harry letting out a squeak of fright, as a large arm pulled him backwards against his large bulky chest.
Looking upwards and watched a pair of goggles being put into place. Harry only had his own glasses, and he had no idea how effective they were going to be at shielding him during their trip. A light breeze started blowing onto his face.
The powerful engine roared into action, the boy feeling the thrum of the machine underneath them. Goosebumps appeared on his forearms. Indescribable sensations of trepidation and anticipation assailing him all at once.
Harry was tempted to look back at the only house he had ever known, but focused his attention ahead as the bike lurched suddenly to one side. The kick stand had been released and the tyres were rolling forward.
The bike had only travelled a short distance down the street, the butterflies in Harry’s stomach growing. His heart jumped into his throat, when he felt the rubber wheels leave the surface of the road, lifting the entire motorcycle into the air.
Surely they were about to crash.
But to his utter amazement the bike continued to rise higher and higher into the dark sky. The large man wasn’t panicking or showing any signs that they were in danger.
He had no idea how a motorcycle came to fly.
“Alright there, Harry?”
Fear had robbed him of his voice, and he shook his head vehemently.
The man’s coat offered a crude sanctuary for his much smaller body, protecting him from the worst of the cold wind as they picked up speed and altitude. It was still chilly though being up this high, and another shiver of cold ran through him.
His thoughts were too jumbled and mixed-up. What he was seeing made no sense. Where they were headed, he had no idea. What this new life would bring, he couldn’t say.
Approaching their intended destination, Hagrid looked fondly down at the precious cargo in front of him. Somewhere over Bristol, and halfway through the journey, the boy had drifted asleep, curling into the warm folds of his coat. His position didn’t look very comfortable, but he was loathed to wake him.
“No too long to go now, and yeh be back home where you belong,” he promised.
Ensuring this decent and landing was a little smoother, he kept a protective hand on the boy’s shoulder until the motorcycle to a complete stop.
Just when it looked like he would have to carry the boy as he slept, Harry jerking awake on his own now that the engine was once again silent.
He held onto the seat momentarily as he got off, his legs turning to jelly. The man was patient enough to wait until he was ready to walk again.
The street was too dark for Harry to determine where exactly they were. There was a house in front of them, but he couldn’t distinguish any of the details.
He was about to ask the large man if they were still near London, as they followed a path towards the back door.
Harry stood as close as possible to the large man as he used a large hand to knock loudly.
On the inside of the house, Remus had been dozing off in one of his comfortable arm-chairs when the knocking began.
Sirius let out a startling yell, and came stumbling out of the guest bedroom, his hair wildly sticking up all over the place because of its length. It was clear that he had been asleep.
Remus withdrew his wand, and Sirius retrieved his from the kitchen table where it still laid. Both of them exchanging worried glances at who would be coming here unannounced in the dead of night.
Without warning, and before they could identify their late visitor, the door burst open with force. The wooden structure failing to be much of an obstacle after the pounding from Hagrid’s beefy arm, falling to the floor with a horrendous crash.
“Sorry about that,” came the apology as the large figure leaned down and picked up the door, putting it back into place as best he could.
“Hagrid?” Remus asked, unable to keep the surprise from his voice.
“Dumbledore didn’t want me waitin’ til morning and such. He said he would meet me here to explain it all.”
Black was is no mood to see that man again quite so soon. Sirius was unable to mask his irritability, “Wait for what?”
“It is 3am in the morning,” Remus answered a little bemused. He had not seen the gamekeeper for a number of years, but remembered him fondly. He lowered his wand. It took a little a second or two longer for Sirius to do the same.
Both of them failed to notice the second pair of legs. He lifted up one side of his overflowing coat, reaching for the small figure behind him, “Come on now, where are yeh,”
He urged his young charge forward out of hiding with a gentle hand on the small head. The boy was nervous and frightened about meeting even more strangers.
“He is still a might shy and kinda skittish.”
Remus, feeling like he had just been punched in the stomach, stared in absolute astonishment
The wand in Sirius’s lax grasp, was forgotten as he collapsed on his knees to the floor. Neither of them prepared for the shock or wave of emotion.
A small pale face and bright green eyes beamed back at them……………………..Harry Potter.
To be continued………………….
Description of the Ministry of Magic and Sirius’ memories from the night Lily and James died have been deliberately truncated for later on in the story. As was the newspaper article for the review, I was trying to keep some pieces of information secret from Remus and you as the reader. 🙂
Don’t worry this isnt the last time that the Dursleys will make an appearance. And explanations about the blood protection haven’t happened just yet for a few important reasons. There are enough clues in this chapter to choke a Hippogriff – but many more to come throughout the entire story.
One of the closing speeches by Amelia Bones was derived from a quote by Rick Warren and full credit is given. Words were added and subtracted to make it work for this story.
Whilst I tried to stick true to the characteristics and mannerisms, for some characters, others are merely my own interpretation with a dash of imagination about them.
The “question” to Sirius whilst under Veritaserum is still not to my liking. I wrote a whole different scene with Sirius and a long-winded Dumbledore, but removed that and may us that further on in the story.
Not much of Harry I know in this chapter and I changed where Hagrid took Harry from and have also been deliberately lacking in some details and altering others. And it wasn’t on his birthday. But there will be plenty to come I assure you. If you don’t like an over-protective Sirius and a caring Remus – this may not be the story for you. But it much longer and more complicated from this point.
Of course with Sirius set free this early, this changes a lot of events leading up to the “Prisoner of Azbakan” book and his escape from Azkaban wont happen. Don’t worry plenty of things to occur instead to the characters.
Any grammar or spelling mistakes are unintentional- apologies in advance. Some changes that go against what you may already know of the Wizarding World of course are deliberate.
I hope you have enjoyed it so far and will keep reading.