Warnings: This chapter includes discussions of murder and violence.
The Great Hall was ablaze with excitement as Charlie Weasley entered. He was later than usual getting to breakfast, having waited for Tonks outside the Hufflepuff common room for half an hour before remembering where she was. She had told him about how her mother wanted her to come to Sirius Black's trial, due to their relation. Tonks wasn't very happy about it. She had expressed her nervousness to Charlie that people would connect her to the famed mass murderer, and she had made him promise not to tell anyone where she was.
So, that morning found him walking to breakfast alone, coming up with some excuse off the top of his head as to why he was doing so for the first time since he had met Tonks on the first day of Potions.
"Charlie, where's your girlfriend?"
Bill Weasley, seventh year Gryffindor and Head Boy, had appeared by him right as he entered, slinging an arm over his shoulder and smirking teasingly at him.
"Oi. I told you a million times. She's not my girlfriend," Charlie said, blushing lightly and shaking his head. He had never thought of her in that way. He had never thought of anybody in that way, "She's ill. Madam Pomfrey has her cooped up in the Hospital Wing."
"Ah, that's a shame," Bill said, shaking his head. He grabbed Charlie's arm, though, and began to drag him towards where their younger brother, Percy, was seated at the table, buried in a book, "Have you heard from dad yet?"
Percy looked up curiously. Charlie took a seat beside the second year, noticing Scabbers slumbering in his lap.
"About what?" Percy asked, curious.
Charlie wondered if he had missed the mail coming in, since his letter from his parents the day before had not mentioned anything significant, but he was almost immediately reassured when owls suddenly began flying overhead. Bill ducked his head closer to them to talk to over the sound.
"Dad told me yesterday in his letter. I've been asking him a lot about Sirius Black lately, but he hasn't been giving me many answers. However, he let me know yesterday that he is going to be testifying at Sirius Black's trial today."
Movement on Percy's lap caught his eyes. Scabbers had woken up as Bill was speaking and was squeaking.
"Oh, quiet, Scabbers," Percy admonished him before looking back up at Bill, "Why is he testifying? He didn't know him. Did he?"
Bill grinned lightly, like a child with a secret, "But he did," he said, "Mum and dad were involved in something very secretive during the war in an effort to take down You-Know-Who, and apparently so were the Potters, Black, and Pettigrew. Dad said that they weren't close, but he worked with them. Not only that, but-" he leaned in closer so that no one else could hear, "We're apparently related to him."
Charlie blinked, backing away from his brother slightly, "What?"
Scabbers was squeaking a lot now. Percy gripped the rat to keep him from running off and he was struggling in his hands, "Scabbers. Oi, calm down," Percy said, looking at Bill, "What do you mean we're related?"
"He's our third cousin, apparently. Grandmother Cedrella was a Black, though she was disowned for marrying grandfather Septimus. She had nothing to do with her family after she got married," Bill explained, "but it means that we're related to Black."
Charlie blinked. That meant that he and Tonks were related, too. He couldn't wait to tell her that.
"Is dad defending him?" Percy asked, still struggling with the squirming rat.
Bill nodded, "He thinks he's innocent. He said that he's been talking to Dumbledore a lot lately, and Dumbledore has been in contact with the Potters. Apparently, Pettigrew framed Black."
Scabbers squealed loudly and then Percy let out a shout.
"He bit me!"
Charlie jumped back as the rat ran across the table and leaped off, darting out of the Great Hall.
"Wait! Scabbers! Scabbers, come back!"
Percy went chasing after the rat, clutching his bleeding hand.
Charlie glanced over at Bill, who shook his head and laughed, "Bloody rat."
Sirius was standing up and staring at himself in a mirror that had been given to him when the Aurors came.
His hair had been cut for the first time in seven years. Two feet of matted black hair had been chopped away, leaving it short and clean and soft. The dirt that had accumulated on his skin had been washed away and his beard had been shaved away. He'd been given fresh dress robes to put on.
If it had been seven years prior, he would have looked like a dashing young man, ready to charm all the girls around him. Now, however, he found himself staring at an image of a man that he didn't recognize.
Despite his clean-shaven appearance, he looked sickly. His cheeks were sunken in and his eyes looked dead. He was incredibly skinny and bony, making his robes fall off his shoulders awkwardly. When he lifted his robes up, he could see each of his ribs. His skin was pasty and pale. The confidence that he used to portray had died sometime in Azkaban and try as he might to square his shoulders and lift up his chin, it just wouldn't come back.
He turned from the mirror, noticing the Auror that had stepped in the room. A man in his early thirties stood in the doorway, brown hair slicked back, and wand held firmly in his hand. Sirius recognized him from his time as an Auror, but he couldn't remember his name.
"Hold out your hands," the man said, "You will need magic-blocking chains put on before we go in."
Sirius grimaced, but didn't fight him on it. He knew the law and he didn't need anything else brought up against him, even if the chains were useless. He had never learned how to do any kind of wandless magic.
He held out his hands and watched as the man waved his wand and black chains twisted their way around his wrists and ankles.
"Follow me," the man spoke stiffly. He grabbed one end of the chain to be sure that Sirius wouldn't try to run, and then he led him out of his cell.
Sirius had seen the Wizengamot's court room several times. As a child, he had attended his Aunt Lycoris' trial after she murdered a muggle man who hit on her. He remembered his parents desperately trying to get her out of it, but to no avail. After the trail, when they got home, his mother sat him and Regulus down and lectured them on not getting caught.
When he had become an Auror, he often found himself in the court room, used as a witness for someone that he'd caught. Despite only being an Auror for a little over two years, he'd been there more times than he could count.
It was something that had plagued him in Azkaban, where he waited for seven years for a trial.
Now, however, that trial had finally come.
Several other Aurors met them before they entered and walked him to the middle of the Wizengemot, magically binding him to the chair. Flashes of lights nearly blinded him as people snapped photographs of him, and he found his eyes roaming the room.
He had been in lots of court cases before, but none so… big.
It felt like everyone and their mother had come. He could see the jury, and the members of the Wizengemot, and there was about the same number as he could remember, but there was also a great number of people watching, and several reporters in the front row.
His eyes darted around the room. He could see Dumbledore sitting with the members of the Wizengemot, and Amelia Bones, and Cornelius Fudge, and Dolores Umbridge. The latter was watching with her nose scrunched up, as if he was a filthy animal.
He turned his head to the crowd of people watching.
He recognized several people. There were dozens of Aurors that he had worked with, and a few that had been the ones to arrest him. Lucius Malfoy was sitting near the front, eyes hard and disdainful, but leaning forward with interest. His eyes found his cousin, Narcissa Malfoy, next to him, watching the scene with a guarded expression, but there was something behind her eyes that he was surprised so see. Was it hope? A young child sat beside her, squirming in his seat impatiently and nervously. He watched as she put a hand on his shoulder to still him.
Andromeda was there as well. His eyes found her next, sitting just far enough away from her sister that they weren't interacting at all. Her husband sat beside her, and to the side of him sat a pink-haired teenager. He knew who the girl was, but it didn't stop him from blinking in surprise. She was much older than the last time he had seen her.
Several Hogwarts professors were scattered throughout, and he kept himself from scoffing as he saw Severus Snape towards the back, watching impassively as it went on. He seemed to be staring at someone in the crowd, though, with agony in his eyes.
Sirius followed his gaze to the front of the room and felt all of the air leave his lungs.
Lily Potter was seated front and center, red hair pulled back into an elegant braid and wearing a simple, royal blue muggle dress. James Potter was near her. Sirius could tell that Lily had tried to tame his hair, but it stayed messy as always. He was dressed in a muggle suit that Sirius knew was intentional. Between them was a young boy, dressed in a suit that matched his father's and watching Sirius with curious eyes.
Next to them sat Remus, who was in nice dress robes and watching the scene sorrowfully and hopefully.
Fudge was speaking. Sirius wasn't listening, too amazed by the sight of his friends, alive and whole, to pay attention to anything else.
His head snapped to Fudge at the sound of his name spoken sharply.
"You are being convicted of 13 counts of murder, giving information about the Potter's whereabouts which lead to their attack, and service to the Dark Lord. What do you plead?"
"Innocent," he spoke out harshly, the sound scraping his mind. He'd used that word for so long to stay sane, "I'm innocent."
James Potter had known that Sirius would have changed in the seven years that he had been in Azkaban. After all, Remus had seemed to age twenty years in those seven, and Sirius had been locked away and tormented by dementors. There was no doubt that it would cause come damage.
Still, the sight of his best mate being led to the chair in chains, gaunt and subdued, was definitely one that would haunt his nightmares.
It felt like just recently that he had seen Sirius smiling and laughing, bouncing Harry up and down and cracking jokes. Now, here he was, staring at the crowd with wide, overwhelmed eyes.
James missed the first part of court, too stunned to by the sight of Sirius, but he was drawn back in when the man spoke for the first time, proclaiming his innocence and stunning the crowd.
Whispers erupted around him, but they were quickly silenced with Dumbledore held up his hand.
Harry squirmed next to James and looked up at him, whispering softly, "What's happening?"
James looked down, noticing the boy staring wide-eyed at the scene in front of him, dawning a pair of circular glasses that they had gotten for him.
He was glad that the child was asking questions, but they needed to stay as quiet as possible, per Wizengamot's rules.
"Sirius pleaded innocent. Now, they are going to question him. Then, they'll move on to witnesses," he responded, keeping it short and simple.
Ainsworth came up first, walking so that she was standing in front of Sirius, just out of his reach if he was free, per Wizengemot rules.
"Mr. Black," she said with a light nod to him, "I'm going to ask you a series of yes or no questions. Please limit your responses to yes or no for now. You will be permitted time later to explain. Now, where you the Potter's secret keeper?"
A flurry of whispers erupted, but they were quickly silenced.
"Did you and the Potters change secret keepers without anyone else knowing?"
"Is it correct that Peter Pettigrew was the actual secret keeper."'
The whispers were louder this time and took longer to diminish. People didn't seem to expect that.
"Were or are you a Death Eater?"
"No. I would never-"
Ainsworth interrupted him with another question, "Did you ever serve Lord Voldemort?"
James noticed several people nearby flinch, including several members of the jury.
"Did you approach Peter Pettigrew on a muggle street on November 1st, 1981?"
Sirius hesitated, "Yes."
"Did you cast a blasting curse on the street?"
The whispers were back. James' eyes flickered around, noticing people's eyes widening, leaning over to express their astonishment with those around them.
"Did you kill any of the twelve muggles who died?"
"Did you kill Peter Pettigrew?"
Ainsworth nodded shortly, "Okay. Now, these questions aren't yes or no. Answer these to the best of your ability. Who was the Potter's secret keeper?"
"Pettigrew," Sirius spat out.
"Who killed the Muggles?"
"Who killed Peter Pettigrew?"
Sirius paused, eyebrows furrowed, "No one," he answered, "He didn't die."
The whispers could no longer be considered whispers. Harry jumped as a dull roar exploded from all around them, and Remus flinched at the sudden noise.
"Please stay quiet while court is in session," Dumbledore's voice was amplified, easily heard over the loud rambling.
Ainsworth waited until the courtroom fell silent again before continuing, "Can you explain how that is possible?"
Sirius swallowed an answered, "Pettigrew is an unregistered Animagus. A brown rat. He shouted that I had betrayed them, cut off his finger, blew up the street, and then escaped into the sewers."
The roar threatened to resurface but didn't as Dumbledore fixed the crowd with a sharp look. James found his eyes drawn to a nearby, red-haired man who had suddenly grown very pale. His hands had begun to shake. It took a moment for James to recognize him as Arthur Weasley, a man who had been in the Order of the Phoenix with him.
"Why did the Potter's switch secret keepers?"
"I told them to," Sirius said bitterly, "I thought it would make sense. No one would suspect Pettigrew. Everyone would suspect me."
Ainsworth nodded sharply and backed away, "I am finished with questioning Sirius Black."
A man stood up as she went and sat down. He was tall, and his brown hair was pulled back in a tight pony tail. His dress robes were impeccable, and he regarded the man in front of him for a short moment before speaking.
"Did you or did you not laugh when Aurors arrested you?"
"Well… yes- but-"
The man did not let him continue, "You laughed after twelve muggles were just murdered, and two people whom you had regarded as your best friends had been attacked and left comatose in St. Mungo's?"
He interrupted again, "Were you the one that the Potters approached to be the Secret Keeper?"
"So, the Potters wanted you to be the Secret Keeper?"
James sighed to himself as Sirius was interrupted again, fury rising in his chest.
"Were you or were you not brought up learning the Dark Arts from your parents?"
Sirius was quiet for a moment, thrown off by the question. His expression crumpled, "Yes, but I never-"
"Was your brother, Regulus Black, a Death Eater?"
Sirius sighed, looking down, "Yes."
"And your cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange?"
"So, it is safe to say that you grew up surrounded in the Dark Arts and people who supported the Dark Lord?"
"I suppose so."
The man smirked lightly, "It is also safe to assume that, if you were the Dark Lord's right-hand man and friends with the Potters, then you would have been able to confund the Potters before they were attacked?"
"Of course not."
"And why not?"
Sirius was silent for a moment. He was breathing heavily, eyes twitching around the room. They landed on James again and he squared his shoulders, looking back at the man, "Why would I confund them if I thought they would die? Voldemort," he spat, "didn't leave people alive."
The crowd flinched again at the sound.
The man seemed a bit thrown off guard by the response.
"I have no further questions, your honor."
Court was long. Harry didn't like it.
There must have been a dozen witnesses. At some point during the trial, both of his parents and Remus had been at the stand, answering a long list of questions that Harry felt was pointless. The three of them all said pretty much the same thing. A red-headed man gave a character witness about Sirius, claiming that he was always a hard worker and cared deeply about muggles and Muggleborns. A dark-haired woman named Andromeda discussed how Sirius was the only one in her family who did not hate her when she married a Muggleborn. A blond-haired man who introduced himself as Lucius Malfoy and sneered at Andromeda when she spoke, had testified as well, but his answers were much different than his parents, claiming Sirius to have been a bully and reckless during Hogwarts, and to have participated in the Dark Arts with his family. Aurors who said they showed up at the scene when Sirius presumably killed twelve muggles and Pettigrew stayed firm in their belief that he had been the perpetrator and that Pettigrew was dead.
Then, it got really confusing, and Harry wasn't really sure what was going on.
A woman who introduced herself as a Mind Healer took the stand, arguing that she had examined the Potters and that they hadn't been confunded and their memories hadn't been tampered with in any way (whatever that meant). Another man came in with Sirius' wand and cast a spell with it, and everyone gasped as it showed that the last spell that had been cast with it had been apparition.
That last piece of evidence seemed especially convincing. James whispered to Harry an explanation as to why.
"If the last spell that he cast was apparition," he explained quietly, "then that means that he didn't cast the blasting curse that killed the Muggles."
After what felt like forever, Fudge stood up, "Sirius Black has been charged with the murder of twelve muggles. All in favor of upholding this charge, please raise your hand."
Half a dozen hands raised, but Harry could tell that it was much less than majority.
"The charges of the murder of twelve muggles has been dropped. Sirius Black has also been charged with conspiring with You-Know-Who to kill the Potters. All in favor of upholding this charge, please raise your hand."
A few more hands raised this time, but it was still nowhere close to half.
"The charges of conspiring with You-Know-Who have been dropped. Sirius Black has also been charged in the murder of Peter Pettigrew. All in favor of upholding this charge, please raise your hand."
More hands rose than before. People seemed to be more inclined to believe that Sirius had killed him after realizing that Pettigrew had tried to have the Potters killed. This time, Harry couldn't tell if it was half or not. Fudge took a moment to count the hands.
"The charges of the murder of Peter Pettigrew has been dropped. Sirius Black has been cleared of all charges."
Harry wondered if he was hearing things, or if Fudge really did sound upset by that.
His eyes flickered over to Sirius, who seemed stun. The chains around him dissolved at the proclamation and his mouth fell open in surprise. Harry glanced at his parents, noticing that they were both grinning from ear to ear.
"We did it!" James cheered, reaching over to hug Lily, then Remus, "He's free!"
Several others had joined in on the celebration, but Harry could see others who did not seem so happy. The red-headed man who had spoken earlier looked incredibly pale, even if he had testified in Sirius' defense, and was quickly making his way over to Dumbledore. Lucius Malfoy was looked stern and angry, while his wife seemed to be hiding a smile.
His eyes flickered to the back of the room. A man with incredibly greasy hair and a hooked nose was watching them. He caught Harry's eyes and quickly looked away, standing and leaving the courtroom almost immediately.
Lily smiled as she watched James wrap his arms around Sirius as they were allowed to come up. Sirius seemed surprised for a moment, not responding, but then he returned the hug, burying his face in James' shoulder.
"James," he rasped, "Oh Merlin, you're alive."
James smiled, patting him on the back, "You can't get rid of me that easily, mate."
Remus stood to the side awkwardly, watching the reunion. Sirius looked up and gave a dopey smile, "Moony, get in here."
That was all Remus needed. He came in, wrapping his arms around both of them, "Sirius. I'm so, so, so sorry."
"Hey, don't be. It's fine. I'm free," Sirius said, smiling from ear to ear.
"I should have known," Remus shook his head, "I should have known."
Sirius pulled away and leveled a look at him, "No one did, Remus. It isn't your fault."
Remus just gave a watery smile and hugged him again.
When they pulled away, Sirius looked at Lily, "Come on, Lils. I promise I'm clean."
Lily laughed at the man. Seven years in Azkaban and he could still crack jokes. She hugged him tightly, "Glad to see you, Padfoot. James was going mad with worry."
"You too, Lils. Merlin, it feels so much longer than seven years."
Lily pulled away. She turned to Harry, noticing him slinking behind her nervously. She put her hand on his back and gently pushed him forward, "Say hello to your godfather, Harry."
Sirius flickered his eyes down to Harry. His grin seemed to widen even more. He knelt down so that he was eye level with Harry, grey eyes searching his face.
"Hello," Harry said shyly, "I'm Harry."
"I'm Sirius," he responded, "But you can call me Padfoot. Or Uncle Padfoot. Whichever you prefer," he paused for a moment, "Merlin. Last time I saw you, you could barely talk. But look at you! You're practically grown."
"Oi, not yet he's not," James said jokingly, ruffling Harry's hair, "He's still got time to grow."
Harry ducked his head lightly as James ruffled his head by reflex. Lily winced lightly, knowing why, but Sirius only grinned, "You've got that Potter hair, but your mother's eyes. I-"
Sirius froze in surprise, quickly standing and turning around. Amelia Bones was approaching.
"I apologize for interrupting this reunion," she said, "However, I just wanted to formally apologize for the wrongs dealt to you by the Wizengemot these past seven years. You will be compensated for your time in Azkaban."
Sirius shuffled a bit awkwardly, smiling politely, "Oh, that's not neces-"
"You will be compensated," Amelia Bones repeated sternly, leaving no room for arguments. She glanced at the adults, "Now, if you may, can you give us a full description of Pettigrew's Animagus form?"
Lily's eyes flickered down the hall, noticing Arthur Weasley in a hurried discussion with Dumbledore. His eyes flickered over to them, and there was fear in his eyes.
Amelia Bones continued to explain, "We think we may know where he is."
Author's Note: Hope you guys enjoyed! Sorry that this is up a week late. I got super busy with school.
Next chapter (Sunday, 02/17/19): Scabbers is missing, which means Pettigrew is on the run. Sirius gets settled into his new life. James and Lily discuss Harry's schooling. Harry meets a new friend during a checkup.