November 5, 1981
Albus Dumbledore stood, and faced his wand at Sirius, who couldn't have been more nervous at that moment if it had been a few Death Eaters in his kitchen.
Sirius wasn't a stupid man, he could be reckless and rash, foolish even, but the last, and only, stupid thing he'd even done had been in his sixth year at Hogwarts. He knew that if he took Harry, he wouldn't be able to hide his godson forever, but he wasn't expecting to be found and have his defenses broken so soon. While he knew that Dumbledore would probably hear him out, Sirius had rather hoped (rather foolishly) that, when the time came, he would be hearing Harry out as well. But Sirius was grateful that it was the Hogwart's Headmaster who found them and not the new Minister with half a dozen dementors. Had the latter showed up, Sirius was positive that he'd be soulless before he could think of a happy memory with which to do defend himself; Dumbledore, Sirius believed, wouldn't attack until he found Harry.
"Where is he, Black?" a voice to Sirius's left snarled.
Remus Lupin on the other hand...
"Moony, you gotta believe me," Sirius pleaded. "I would never do anything to betray Lily and James, or hurt Harry-"
"Sirius," Dumbledore intervened, extremely calm considering that he believed he was in a treacherous murder's kitchen looking to find a dead one-year-old child who'd saved the world, "you were the Potters' Secret Keeper, and Voldemort could not have found them unless their Secret Keeper told him where to look-"
"No! Professor, I swear! It wasn't me, they switched. They switched to Peter. He's the one who betrayed them." Sirius could feel the tears building behind his eyes, but he really didn't care. In no more than a whisper, a quiet whisper that everyone heard, he said, "Please don't take my godson from me."
"What, have a change of heart now that your master isn't here to protect you?" Remus accused with an un-Remus-like sneer.
Sirius heard something to his right and spared a glance. Professor McGonagall. He wasn't getting out of this one.
"Remus, I swear, it wasn't me it was Peter-"
"Bullshit!" Remus yelled. "Where's Harry?!"
"He's upstairs," Sirius said quietly. "In his room. I'd never hurt him!"
But Remus's face looked ready to see the worse. He ran up the stairs two at a time, practically diving into Harry's room. When he opened the door, however, he was not met with the sight he expected to greet him. Remus had expected Harry to be nothing more than a bloody mess after spending so long with the likes of Sirius Black, but he wasn't. Harry was sleeping peacefully in his crib, tucked in and holding a stuffed animal. Remus couldn't believe his eyes, Sirius couldn't have been telling the truth about Peter... Could he? Peter had spent these past few days helping him look for Harry.
...And staying close to Dumbledore.
It fit, Remus realized, as that thought hit him like a ton of bricks. If Peter had been the one to betray Lily and James, anyone in league with Voldemort who knew what Peter had been doing would know that Voldemort went to the Potters', to his downfall, on Peter's information. They wouldn't be happy with Peter for that, but with Dumbledore, Peter was safe. With Dumbledore around, Death Eaters couldn't touch him, but he was always nervous. Remus had assumed he was just worried for Harry, but it must have been that he was afraid to get caught. Peter hadn't been looking for Harry, he had been trying to save his own skin. That explained so much more than just Peter's behavior for the past few days, it explained his behavior for the past year. His odd disappearances, his fear at Order meetings. It all made sense. Hadn't James even told him that Sirius was worried about being Secret Keeper? And Peter had been there too; he used Sirius's worry to gain favor with Voldemort, to frame Sirius.
Remus looked up to see that Harry had woken up sometime while he was trapped in his thoughts. He went to Harry's crib, where the smiling son of his best friend looked up at him the emerald eyes of his mother.
"Reemus," Harry said, recognizing the man who had been around him almost as often as his godfather. He rolled off of his back and used the bars on his crib to pull himself up, but fell back down on his bottom. James had been teaching him how to stand...
As he picked Harry up and held him close, hugging the small child tightly (not even taking notice of the lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead), Remus could have laughed and cried for relief and joy. Harry was safe, Sirius wasn't the traitor, Peter... Peter! Remus had left him outside, alone, to guard the front door, but if Sirius was telling the truth... Remus ran into Sirius's room across the hall, still holding Harry. He ignored the messy state the room was in and looked out the front window. The street below him was empty. Pettigrew was gone. Remus swore under his breath so Harry wouldn't hear. Peter Pettigrew was more of a rat than his Animagus Wormtail. He had played off of Remus's fear, just like he had Sirius's.
"Sirius," Professor Dumbledore said, as Remus headed up the stairs to find Harry. "What state will Mr. Lupin find Harry in?" he asked, once Sirius had turned his attention back to the aging Headmaster, the seriousness of the situation and question etched into his face.
"I swear he's fine. I'd never hurt my godson. Sir, please; please don't take him from me."
Albus sighed. He hadn't broken eye contact with Sirius when asking that question, but for Sirius to have been spying on the Order for a year, he'd have to be an accomplished Occlumens. His answer didn't mean anything until Remus came back downstairs.
"I'm going to ask you to relinquish your wand."
Slowly, Sirius looked between his two professors, whose wands were focused on him. He nodded, and, painfully, placed his wand on the table, then sank into a chair.
"Black," McGonagall asked with the same strict tone she had always used when speaking to the Marauders, especially immediately before they were going to receive a week's worth of detentions, "what happened? You say that Pettigrew was responsible. How is this so?"
Sirius took a deep breath. He made eye contact with Dumbledore, he wanted them to know what he was saying was true. Sirius began describing what had really happened; how he had been worried Voldemort would force Lily and James's hiding location from him, how he had thought of, or rather been tricked into, using a decoy, how Wormtail agreed to be that decoy, how he'd felt something was wrong, how Pettigrew wasn't at his hiding spot when he went to check on the rat, how he went to Remus, only to find Moony didn't believe him, how he found his family dead, how he had taken Harry to his home when he heard someone in the Potters' house, how he just wanted his godson to be safe.
"That is quite a story, Sirius," Dumbledore told him once Sirius had finished.
"You don't believe me," Sirius said tonelessly. It didn't matter what he said anymore. If Dumbledore didn't believe him, he was going to lose his godson, everything he had left.
"We're going to have to see what Mr. Pettigrew has to say before I come to that conclusion. Minerva, please tell Peter that he is needed in Mr. Black's kitchen."
McGonagall nodded and went to find Peter.
"What?" Sirius asked in a quiet, to the point of almost silent, voice. "He's here?!"
"He's not," a voice croaked at the foot of the stairs. "Wormtail's gone."
Sirius quickly turned around in his seat to see Remus holding Harry with a look on his face that suggested so many emotions Sirius couldn't determine one.
"And Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
"Harry's... fine, sir. He's fine."
Sirius smiled worriedly at his godson, and indicated he wanted to hold him. Remus was still letting the fact that Harry was alive and well sink in, but the look on Sirius's face suggested that his friend needed to hold the child more than he did. Moony gave a slight nod and handed Harry to his godfather, who hugged him tightly. For the moment, Sirius forgot about Pettigrew being somewhere near.
"It seems," Dumbledore said, a hint of the usual twinkle in his eyes returning, "that all that is left to do is explain to the Ministry an old man's mistake, and call off the search for Sirius and Harry."
Sirius looked at his Headmaster, unable to believe his ears. "You- you mean..."
"Yes, Sirius. From what you have told me and your actions to protect young Mr. Potter, my previous conclusion was incorrect."
Professor McGonagall made her way back to the kitchen after looking up and down a deserted street. "Albus, Pettigrew is gone."
"Yes, Remus recently alerted us to this. And this only adds to the evidence supporting what Sirius has said."
"It's my fault," Remus said, sinking into a chair next to Sirius. "I shouldn't have agreed to letting him 'guard' the door outside-"
"No, it's mine. I'm the one who convinced James to switch."
"Sirius, Remus," Dumbledore said, "at this time, it will be more beneficial to all if we clear Sirius's name and begin a search for Peter Pettigrew than blame ourselves for what has happened." He paused to see agreement from everyone else in the room. "I will speak with the Minister on this matter, and hopefully see you all very soon." With that, Albus went to Sirius's living room, took some Floo Powder out of a small pouch in his robes, threw it into a fire that wasn't there a minute ago, stepped into the green flames, and Flooed to the Ministry of Magic.
About an hour later, the fire lit up green again, and an enraged Bartimus Crouch, followed by Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (in charge of the Auror department), two other Aurors whom Sirius didn't recognize, and Albus Dumbledore stepped out of the fireplace.
Sirius, Remus, Minerva, and Harry had been awaiting Dumbledore's return.
"So, Black," Crouch sneered, advancing on Sirius. "Have a change of heart now that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is destroyed?"
Harry, whom Sirius had picked up and held protectively the moment he saw the Minister come out of the fireplace, clutched his godfather's robes, terrified of the man coming closer to him. Sirius, however, showed no sign of backing down. "Of course I haven't. Why would anyone switch to Voldemort's side once he's been defeated?" Sirius was pleased to see Crouch flinch, however slightly, when he said Voldemort's name.
"A bit bold, wasn't that, Black?" Crouch composed himself.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. If Crouch wanted "bold", he'd show him "bold". "Could you step back, Minister? You're frightening my godson."
The Minister looked down at the fearful baby in Sirius's arms and took a step backwards, with a sneer on his face to rival the ones Severus Snape would send to James Potter when they were all at Hogwarts.
"Sirius Black, you are accused of supporting He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as one of his top Death Eaters and assistance in the murders of James and Lily Potter. Moody, arrest this man," Crouch ordered.
"Hold on, Minister," Mad-Eye said. "What do we have for proof against him?"
Crouch looked rather taken aback. "Well, Dumbledore's testimony against him! That's what! I want Black in Azkaban for Death Eater activity!"
"With all due respect, Minister," Dumbledore said. "The evidence has pointed to Sirius Black's innocence in the crimes he's been accused of, and the mistakes of an old Headmaster."
The look on Crouch's face suggested Dumbledore had shouted what he calmly said and slapped him across the face. "With all due respect, Headmaster, I can't just tell the entire wizarding community that there's been a miscalculation to this magnitude. It's impossible!"
"I assure you, Minister," Moody, whose magical eye was spinning wildly in its socket, said, "that it is entirely possible. I won't put an innocent man in Azkaban."
The two Aurors looked at each other nervously, as if they weren't sure what to do. Alastor Moody was their boss, but Bartimus Crouch was his.
Crouch looked at those around him. He could see no other way out of it. "Then send him to Azkaban to await trial. Let the Wizengamot decide if he's innocent or not!"
"And what about my godson?!" Sirius asked furiously, standing up.
"I'll take care of him," Remus said, also standing up, and glaring at the Minister. "There's no law against it."
"Who are you?" Crouch demanded to know.
"Remus Lupin, and-"
"The Boy Who Lived can't go to you! I remember reading your name on the list of known werewolves. Not to mention the full moon in six days."
Sirius would have liked his wand to be out before Crouch was done talking; he was sick of people putting his friend down because he spouted fur and fangs once a month, but he had to hold onto Harry, and attacking the Minister of Magic would be anything but helpful in the current situation. Although, the latter reason was only thought of after Sirius realized that he couldn't hex Crouch into oblivion with a baby in his arms.
"Then I guess you have a limited time to get Sirius a trial, Minister," Remus said, as though his response were obvious.
"There are laws!" Crouch insisted. "A werewolf cannot get custody of any child other than its own-"
"But Minister," Dumbledore said, as Remus and Sirius glared. "Remus will not be granted custody of Harry. He will merely be watching him in Sirius's absence. He will be doing nothing more than babysitting Mr. Potter, and there are no laws against a werewolf babysitting children with a parent's or guardian's consent. And Mr. Black, by the will of Lily and James Potter, is Harry Potter's legal guardian until he is proven guilty; which I have no doubt he will not be."
The Minister looked at Mad-Eye to rebuke what Dumbledore had said, but Moody only said, "He's right, Minister. If Black wants Lupin to watch the Potter boy while he's waiting for his trial, then, according to law, Lupin gets Potter."
Everyone looked at Sirius (Remus, McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Moody were waiting for him to give Harry to Remus, and Crouch and the two Aurors were waiting to see if he would really put the Boy Who Lived in the hands of a werewolf), and waited for him to say something. "The only way I'll go without a fuss," Sirius said slowly, "is if Remus is watching Harry until I get back." Sirius would have thought Remus to be the best person to leave Harry with even if he wasn't going to Azkaban; not only did he trust his last friend with his godson's life, but Harry knew him and was comfortable around Remus, and Sirius had never been given a better opportunity to make such a bold statement about werewolves and prejudices.
"Now that this is settled, might I suggest that we continue with what needs to be done so that it can be done?" Dumbledore asked calmly.
Sirius nodded, and gently kissed the top of Harry's head, not wanting to let go as he slowly handed his godson to Remus. "I'll see you soon, kiddo," he said quietly.
"I'll take care of him," Remus said.
Sirius only nodded again. "Thanks, Moony."
"Sorry about this, Black," Moody whispered as he arrested Sirius. Mad-Eye had known Sirius through the Order of the Phoenix, and he didn't believe that Sirius was guilty until he heard it from Dumbledore's mouth; and now that Dumbledore said he found evidence pointing to Sirius's innocence and Pettigrew's guilt, Moody believed Dumbledore's final word. What evidence Dumbledore had shown in Sirius's defense was just... believable, especially when compared to what they had all thought Black to be. He had never thought Sirius could be the one who'd gone over to Voldemort. "Take him directly to Azkaban."
The two Aurors nodded and one pulled out a pre-made Portkey, activated it, and all three (the two Aurors and Sirius) were gone.
"Remember, Minister," Remus said, looking down at the child he was holding, as Crouch and Moody began to reach for Floo Powder, "the full moon is in six days. If Sirius isn't back in that time, I have no intention of giving Harry to anyone else."
Crouch only gave a curt nod and Flooed out. Shortly after, Mad-Eye Moody did the same.
Sirius sat alone in his new cell in Azkaban, were a dementor was waiting outside the barred door. He tried to keep his mind as the worst memories of his life kept playing before his eyes. One memory was of the time after the stupid thing he'd done in sixth year, when he told Snape how to get past the Whomping Willow on a full moon, where a full fledged werewolf would be waiting. James hadn't spoken to him for a few weeks after that.
Except to say, "I'm just glad dementors only suck out the happy memories! Then if Moony had done something to Snape and you ended up in Azkaban, you wouldn't forget why Moony was sitting in a cell across from you!"
That was it. The dementors could only take happy thoughts. If Sirius wasn't thinking anything happy, the dementors couldn't take the thought from him, they couldn't force him to remember things like James's dead face, which had just taken over his mind.
Something that's not happy.
I'm innocent... Sirius thought. But I'm still here, and while Pettigrew is out free somewhere. But what could he think of that wasn't so painful as some of the memories he was being forced to relive, but also wasn't happy?
That's not happy...
A/N: Yeah, I really don't know what say here for this chapter. Hope you liked it?
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