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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 55 : The Witnesses
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 14


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“I’m sorry,” Remus said quietly, as whispers broke out. He wasn’t sure who he was talking to.

He could have been addressing the furious-looking Malfoy, for wasting both of their time for all those months.

He could have been addressing the impassive Snape, who’d suspected Remus was helping Sirius from the beginning. That wasn’t true, but Snape had been told off more times than Remus could count for not trusting him, when he’d been right for a while now.

He could have been addressing McGonagall, or Hagrid or Mad-Eye, who’d all looked out for him over the years, and known him for a long time. Now they knew he’d been lying to them, and he knew it must be hurting them, because now they thought they’d failed with him too.

He could have been addressing Matt, who looked exasperated and more than a little worried. Remus had promised him he’d keep his head down during the trial and not do anything stupid. Oops.

He could have been directing it at Dora, whose hair was white with shock, and looked absolutely shattered. Something twinged inside him and he almost put a comforting hand on her shoulder but he didn’t think she’d take kindly to that.

He could also have been directing it at Harry, because if this went sour, it’d be him and Sirius in Azkaban, and Harry’d be alone again.

“Funny, Lupin,” Sirius said, and everyone fell silent. “All these years later and you’ve still got your sense of humour.” Remus rolled his eyes; Sirius was trying to give him a chance to say it had all been a poor-taste joke. He appreciated the gesture, but he’d made his decision. “I suppose that’s something-”

Remus’s hand brushed Harry’s hair on the way out of the stands. A camera flashed behind him. Scrimgeour and the other Aurors followed his progress with their wands.

Remus stopped a few yards from Sirius – he didn’t want anyone to panic and Stun him – and then said, “I left you to fend for yourself last time and I’m not going to make that mistake again.”

He looked at Dumbledore as he said it, and thought his previous apology might have been directed at his old Headmaster too.

*                        *                         *

“Arrest him-” Babble broke out in the stands over the top of Fudge’s voice. Remus’ eye widened, and a tear trickled down Dumbldore’s cheek. Someone protested from behind him. “-for accessory to Sirius Black’s numerous crimes-”

“No,” Sirius said, as the eagle Patronuse that had been guarding the Dementors faded and let them start toward Remus. He backed his voice up with a burst of happy memories to fuel his Patronus, and was gratified when the Dementors stopped.

“I am the Minister for Magic!” Fudge bellowed. “You answer to me, not to Black! Arrest the traitor-”

“I said no!” Sirius snapped. “Remus’s fate is linked to mine now. He’s not a traitor unless I’m proven guilty.” There was a long pause, during which Fudge’s face grew slowly redder, Umbridge scribbled away, Remus and Dumbledore stared at each other – it was impossible to tell who looked sadder – and Sirius’ heart thudded in his chest.

“Get Mr Lupin a chair,” Amelia called finally, giving Remus a steely look. Her command earned her blank looks from the majority of the Aurors, but Shacklebolt stood, muttered a complex charm, and a chair identical to Sirius’ appeared. Remus sat, looking dignified and gave the chains a rather unimpressed glance. Amelia’s Patronus blocked the Dementors off again, and Sirius glanced in Harry’s direction to make sure he hadn’t been affected.

“How long?” Dumbledore asked gravely, before Fudge could start on the charges. Remus fidgeted beside Sirius.

“August,” Remus mumbled.

“Speak up!” Amelia said.

“August,” Remus said, a defiantly. In the stands, Dora buried her face in her hands, her hair dark green. Dumbledore sighed and closed his eyes briefly.

“And how-”

“Objection,” Sirius said. “Remus’ fate is linked to mine, not mine to his, and so I rather think that this whole line of questioning is counter-productive.” A murmur ran through the Wizengamot, but Sirius knew his point was too valid for them to ignore.

“The charges, then-” Fudge gave Sirius a nasty smile and accepted a rather long piece of parchment from Rattler. “-against the accused are as follows: That he did knowingly, deliberately and in full awareness of the illegality of his actions, having trained as an Auror, personally contribute to the war’s magical and non-magical casualties – more specifically the deaths Peter Pettigrew and thirteen muggles.

"The accused did also partake in the use of dark magic like the Unforgivable curses during his time as a Death Eater, and passed confidential information to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named that resulted in deaths – more specifically, the deaths of the Potters, Boneses, McKinnons, Meadoweses and also of individuals including Caradoc Dearborn, Benjy Fenwick and Gideon and Fabian Prewett.”

Fudge paused for breath then, and looked at Sirius, who met his gaze calmly and waited for him to continue. Remus quirked an eyebrow in Sirius’ direction, and Sirius let one corner of his mouth twitch upward to show that yes, he was all right.

“Mr Black is also accused of escaping the prison fortress, Azkaban-”

“Objection,” Sirius said, with a lazy grin.

“I beg your pardon?” Fudge demanded. “As you are sitting here before us, Black, it is quite obvious that you did, in fact escape-” Sirius knew better than to agree with them; he’d get halfway through yes, and then they’d pounce on that answer and refuse to let him say anything more on the matter. It was best to put them on the defensive.

“A criminal accusation is, by definition,” Sirius said, “something that goes against wizarding law.”

“Yes, and-”

“And, since the Ministry went against procedure after my arrest and denied me a trial-”

“What’s your point, Black-”

“My point, Minister,” Sirius said, “is that I was never officially sentenced.”

“It was official-”

“So you have a document that specifically outlines the location and duration of my imprisonment?” Out of the corner of his eye, Sirius could see Remus struggling to keep a straight face. “Don’t you dare laugh,” Sirius hissed, because if Remus laughed, then it was likely Sirius would too, and he was already having enough trouble getting them to take him... seriously.

Oh, damn it, Sirius thought, choking on a snigger. Remus coughed. Bloody damn it!

“You were sentenced to Azkaban, for life-”

“I asked if you had the document,” Sirius said, fighting desperately not to let his amusement show.

“Well, no, we don’t, but-”

“Exactly. So I’m afraid, Minister, that that accusation is empty. I didn’t break any laws by leaving a place I had no legal obligation to stay in.” Fudge blinked and Umbridge looked up from her frenzied writing. Sirius grinned at them. Another murmur went through the Wizengamot. “Continue with the charges, Minister, but do make sure they apply.”

“I- yes,” Fudge said, flustered. He cleared his throat. “You- that is, the accused, is also charged with two counts of kidnapping of the boy Harry Potter, from his relatives’ home, and later from St Mungo’s-”

“Actually, St Mungo’s was me,” Remus said helpfully. Dumbledore put his head in his hands, and Fudge gaped at them.

“Continue, Minister,” Sirius drawled, before they could try to arrest Remus again.

“One kidnapping, then,” Fudge stammered, “and also physical abuse against Harry Potter, who received a dislocated shoulder, extensive bruising, and spinal damage at the hands of the accused.” That wiped all traces of amusement off of Sirius’ face, and he snarled quietly. “The accused is also charged with breaking and entering and the evasion of justice in early September, and with the possession of a dark artefact on the night of his arrest last month.” Sirius’ breath caught, and he met Remus’ eyes for a moment. Worry flowed between them, and Sirius prayed Keira had kept it safe. “You are Sirius Orion Black?”

“What are you implying about Ministry security, Minister?” Sirius asked, with a sly smile. He let Fudge gape at him for a moment and then said, “Of course I’m Sirius Orion Black.” Idiot.

“And you received an extensive knowledge of wizarding law during your Auror training, did you not?”

“Yes,” Sirius said. He had so many witty responses he could come back with instead, but he thought Fudge deserved a break; the poor man – Sirius didn’t actually feel that sorry for him – was still red faced with embarrassment.

“And yet you still committed numerous crimes-”

“No,” Sirius said.

Amelia and Dumbledore exchanged irritated looks and then Fudge said, “The Chair recognises its first witness, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.”

Dumbledore stood, exited the Wizengamot stand and conjured himself a chair facing Fudge, though his eyes were fixed on Remus and Sirius. He looked almost apologetic, but Sirius knew Dumbledore; once he was convinced something was necessary, very little would shake him.

Dumbledore gave his account of the war, and some things had members of the public gasping, but Sirius knew just how much he was omitting. Dumbledore never once mentioned the words ‘Order’ or ‘secret organisation’, and never named any members that hadn’t died – with the exception of himself, Sirius, Remus and Peter. He’d obviously thought very carefully about what to say. He also didn’t paint Sirius as evil, which was a pleasant surprise; it was a very fair account of the way things had happened, to Dumbledore’s knowledge, anyway.

Fudge and Amelia asked a few questions afterward, mostly about Sirius’ supposed wrongdoings, and then Amelia nodded and instructed the next witness to come forward.

“Actually, I have a few questions,” Sirius said. Fudge rolled his eyes, but no one contested Sirius’ right. Dumbledore gestured for him to continue. “Would you consider yourself to be a reasonably perceptive man?” Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed and Sirius knew he knew exactly where Sirius was trying to take this.

“No more than the average man, I’m sure,” Dumbledore said politely.

“Right,” Sirius said. “But you went into a reasonable amount of detail in your version of events...”

“I did, yes.”

“And your version of events was constructed from a number of conclusions you drew from your perceptions of things going on at the time, yes?”

“Yes.”

“So either you’ve got poor perception, in which case your account is perhaps not as reliable as you’d hoped, or you are actually are reasonably perceptive.” Sirius said. “So which is it?” Dumbledore made a quiet nose of frustration, because he knew as well as Sirius that he was cornered.

“I suppose I’m reasonably perceptive,” Dumbledore sighed.

“You taught Voldemort-” For a moment, the courtroom sounded like a muggle zoo - people squawked, yelped, growled, squeaked and gulped – and then things quietened again. “-yes?”

“I did, yes.”

“Tell me, Headmaster, did he ever make you uneasy? Did you ever suspect that he might actually be evil?”

“I... worried,” Dumbledore admitted.

“And he’s an evil git,” Sirius said, making Remus laugh, “but he was an admittedly talented wizard, wasn’t he? A master Legillimens, and quite good at Occlumency-”

“Other than bragging about your master, Black,” Fudge said, “where is this-”

“I’ll get there,” Sirius said shortly, and turned back to Dumbledore. “So you’d say he was pretty good at hiding things?”

“Yes,” Dumbledore said.

“And yet you worried,” Sirius said. His hands twitched; he wanted to wave them around to make his point, but they remained firmly chained to the chair. “Silly question, you’ve already said you did.” Dumbledore inclined his head, but he looked annoyed. “Did you worry about me, sir? Honestly.” Dumbledore said something that even Sirius, with his excellent hearing, missed. “Pardon?”

“No. I- No,” Dumbledore admitted.

“So, even with all of those perceptive skills - ones that weren’t fooled by the evil git himself - you never suspected me?”

“No,” Dumbledore said clearly. There was no twinkle in his blue eyes.

“Did it ever occur to you that that might be because there was nothing to suspect me of?” Sirius asked, tapping his fingers against the arm of his chair. Dumbledore’s silence was confirmation enough. “One last thing,” Sirius said, and Dumbledore nodded warily. “I know we talked about it, and that it was assumed, but were you ever actually told that I was the Secret Keeper? Was there ever any proof?

“No,” Dumbledore said, “to both, but-”

“Thank you. That’s all I wanted to ask,” Sirius said.

Dumbledore rejoined the Wizengamot members and Knight was brought forward and questioned about the day Sirius had been arrested. Again, it was a reasonably fair account, if a little gory. Hit Wizards weren’t exactly renowned for their censorship; even the smart ones tended to speak and act first, and think later. Rattler was probably the most refined one Sirius had ever met, and he’d been out of the job for two years, according to Remus. He gave Knight an awkward smile; last time they’d met, she’d been holding him to a Portkey.

“You were the first person to Apparate in after the explosion?” Sirius asked.

“Yeah,” she said proudly. “And sweet Slytherin, you made a mess-”

I did?”

“Yeah, there was-”

“You can prove that I was the one that cast the charm?” Knight snorted and pushed her short hair out of her face.

“Anyone with an ounce of common sense could tell it was you,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You were the only one still alive.”

“And you can prove that?”

“I saw you kneeling there-”

“Did you check my wand?” Sirius asked, cutting her off. Knight had been trained to be impulsive, but she wasn’t an idiot; she knew how to avoid questions. “Did you check to see what charm it had last performed?”

“Well-”

“A yes or no answer will be fine,” Sirius said. Knight huffed and crossed her arms.

“No.”

“So you don’t actually have any proof that it was me?”

“No,” she said, pursing her lips.

“Did I seem aware that you’d arrived?” She looked surprised at the sudden change of topic, and then nodded.

“Yes, you looked at me and laughed and said it wasn’t what it looked like.”

“So you’d say I knew I was going to be arrested?”

“Yeah.”

“Did I try to escape?”

“No. You said we had the wrong man, but you came quietly.”

“And did I have my wand?” Knight squinted for a moment, obviously trying to remember.

“Until I pulled it out of your hand, yes,” she said.

“Interesting,” Sirius said, grinning at Remus. “So, you’re saying I had my wand... the same wand, if your version of events is to be believed, that I’d just used to cause mass destruction to a muggle street and its occupants, and that I was also aware that you’d arrived and that it meant I’d be arrested... is that correct?”

“Yes,” Knight said hesitantly.

“So why didn’t I fight? If I’m the violent mass-murderer everyone’s made me out to be, then why did I let you pull my wand out of my hand – your words, not mine.” He shrugged, and nodded, inviting her to answer.

“We had you cornered. You knew there was no way out-”

“But so, supposedly, had Peter, just moments before-”

“There was more than one-”

“There were also those thirteen muggles,” Sirius said. “If they were close enough to have been caught up in the explosion, then arguably they’d ‘cornered’ me too. ”

“We were trained professionals-”

“So was I,” Sirius said. “But I – as you’ve said – came quietly.”

“If I might interrupt, Mr Black,” Amelia said, and Sirius turned his attention to her, “might I ask why you allowed yourself to be arrested?”

Because I was tired, Sirius thought. I’d been outsmarted by stupid bloody Peter, and Lily and James were dead, and Harry was off to Petunia’s, and Remus hated me... Amelia wasn’t really supposed to ask him questions until he was acting as a witness, but everything about this had been unorthodox and answering was a good way to metaphorically slap the Ministry, so he didn’t object.

“I assumed I was being taken off to the holding cells to await my trial. There was no point in fighting; I was – and still am – an innocent man, so I had nothing to fear from a trial.” He barked a humourless laugh. “Joke was on me, wasn’t it?”

“Did you have anything else to ask the witness?”

“No,” Sirius said. “I think I’ve made my point.”

Clearwater – the blond guard who’d been on duty the night Sirius escaped Azkaban – was up next. He wove a rather biased tale about Sirius, and the dark magic marks he’d made on his walls to protect him from Dementors. The only crime his testimony covered was his apparent dark magic use, but he made Sirius sound like a complete git. Sirius sighed, supposing that he’d been spoiled with Dumbledore and Knight.

“Those ‘evil’ marks... what did they look like?”

“Lines,” Clearwater said, sticking his nose in the air. “It was probably some complex Arithmancy spell-”

“Did you take Arithmancy in school?”

“I did, yes. Got a N.E.W.T. in it.” Sirius wondered, absently, what a man who was capable of high level Arithmancy was doing with a job in Azkaban.

“Oh,” Sirius said. “I never did it myself. So tell me: is two-thousand, six-hundred and fifty-two a powerful magical number?”

“No, but what’s that-”

“That’s the number of lines there were on my wall,” Sirius said quietly, and Remus made a small noise in the back of his throat; Sirius hadn’t mentioned the lines before.

“What were the marks, then?” Fudge asked. Sirius hesitated.

“The number of days since James and Lily’s deaths,” he said finally. The stands were silent again.

“Pads...” Remus murmured, looking unhappy. Sirius cleared his throat and looked everywhere but Remus and Harry and fixed his gaze on Clearwater.

“So,” Sirius said loudly, “I’ve discounted your evil carvings on the wall theory, but no doubt you still think dark magic was involved... Could you describe, please, what happened when a Dementor approached me?”

“You’d hide at the back of your cell.” Several people tittered at that, and Clearwater smirked.

“And I’d faint, right?”

“Right,” Clearwater said reluctantly.

“So you’d say I was actually affected by them?” Clearwater made an annoyed noise and folded his arms. “Well?”

“Yes.” Sirius arched an eyebrow at the man’s petulant tone but didn’t comment on that.

“Doesn’t that contradict your earlier statement about me protecting myself?” Clearwater gave him a stony look. “One last question... When the Dementors were near me, and I’d fall unconscious, what would I wake up saying?” Clearwater fiddled with a button on the pocket of his robes and cleared his throat. Then he glanced at Amelia, Fudge, and Dumbledore, as if to ask if he really had to answer. “Answer the question!” Sirius snapped.

“That you were innocent,” Clearwater said, not meeting Sirius’ gaze, or those of the members of the Wizengamot. He scratched the back of his neck and practically sprinted back to his seat when Fudge announced the questioning was over.

“The Chair recognises Auror John Andrew Dawlish,” Fudge said.

*                      *                     *

Dawlish was brought forward and talked about how Padfoot had supposedly abused Harry; he’d apparently spoken to the Healers at St Mungo’s and filed the official report, and he’d also witnessed their interactions during their time in the cell. He covered Harry’s injuries in depth, and spoke a lot about the days immediately following the Dementor attack – where Harry and Padfoot had been quite distant. He turned Harry into a victim, which Harry didn’t like at all , because he’d known what was at stake when he and Padfoot faced the Inferi, and because their distance had been Harry’s fault, not Padfoot’s. Dawlish made Padfoot out to be a monster.

Harry’s eyes burned holes into the back of Dawlish’s head the entire time – and then Padfoot stood and Harry grinned; Padfoot was going to tear the Auror to shreds. He was right; Padfoot started simply, asking whether Dawlish had proof that it had been him who attacked Harry, and had Harry ever said anything to suggest that he was abused, or acted as if he was afraid? Dawlish was forced to say no to all of those questions.

Then, for the first time in nearly an hour, Padfoot hesitated when the topic of their time in the cell came up. He turned to look at Harry – obviously asking for permission – and Harry swallowed, and nodded. Draco and the severe looking witch that Moody had called Professor both glanced at him in askance, but he just shook his head at them. Remus’ friend Matt put a hand on Harry’s shoulder briefly – obviously smelling his unease – and Draco, apparently not appeased by Harry’s headshake leaned over.

“Do you need a hug?” he whispered.

“No, thanks,” Harry muttered back. Draco shrugged and went back to staring at a witch in magenta robes in the front row; he’d been staring at strangers the whole time, and Harry didn’t think he was paying much attention to what was going on at all. Padfoot looked like he’d have liked to be pacing.

“You’ve suggested that I abuse Harry-”

“I have, yes.”

“Implying that I don’t care for him... that I have very little regard for his wellbeing, is that right?”

“That’s the logical explanation, yes.”

“Well,” Padfoot said, smirking at the Wizengamot (Fudge, particularly). “I wasn’t going to bring this into it, but since you already have... well, this is a criminal trial and I’ve been accused of enough crimes without adding lying to the Wizengamot to the list... Tell me, after the Dementor attack down in the holding cells-” One of the trainees near Dora squeaked and a tall man put an arm around her and whispered something, but Harry didn’t hear it over the shocked and indignant sounds of the other people seated in the courtroom. “-what did the Aurors come down to find?”

“I’m afraid I can’t answer that,” Dawlish said. “I wasn’t down there that morning, and while I’ve heard stories, one can never be sure about their credibility...”

“I can provide an accurate account.”

*                        *                      *

All eyes turned to Rufus, who steeled himself and kept his expression calm. Black’s expression was one of hopeful disbelief, and Rufus met his eye for the briefest moment, before glancing at Bones again.

“You?” Fudge asked.

“Me,” Rufus agreed. While Black hadn’t yet told his version of events, Rufus had witnessed enough of his behaviour – the man was by no means a saint, but he was hardly evil, or even dark – and seen enough of the way he treated the Potter boy, to have suspected that there was something not quite right with the whole situation. Black hadn’t yet given his own account, but Rufus was convinced anyway; the Wizengamot wouldn’t be convinced unless Black did something big to prove them wrong, but to Rufus, it was the little things that mattered.

It was the little things, like the fact that Dumbledore hadn’t suspected him, the fact that Black hadn’t reacted violently when the Hit Wizards Apparated in, the fact that he’d been just as vulnerable to Dementors as any other prisoner – even if he was immune now – and that he’d said he was innocent in his sleep. They were the things that made all the difference.

There was also the fact that Rufus had been painted as a Black-supporter already – apparently civility toward prisoners was a crime now - and so he’d probably lose his job if Black was convicted. Rufus wanted justice for Black, but his own self-preservation came above even that. Even better was that he could accomplish both with the same action.

“Are you working with him too?” Fudge demanded. Bones was pale, and looked like her entire world would crumble if Rufus’ answer was affirmative. He didn’t want to crush her; Bones, at least, was competent. Fudge, on the other hand, was a complete waste of space, and so was Dawlish. The fact that helping Black would spite them just made things even sweeter.

“No,” he said. “I’m merely offering my own account since – by his own confession - your witness is unable to do so.”

“The Chair recognises the witness Rufus-”

“Edmond,” Rufus supplied.

*                    *                      *

After Scrimgeour’s testimony, Fudge called a recess in proceedings, with the promise that they’d resume in twenty minutes with the defence’s witnesses. Harry was feeling hopeful. He was pretty sure that most of the legal subtleties had been lost on him, but Padfoot had been clear with most of his points and the people in the stands no longer looked like they wanted to murder Padfoot where he stood, so Harry thought that was a small victory. They didn’t believe him, not yet, but they were listening.

Auror Robards was having a word with Moody. Both of them were talking in low voices and Robards in particular looked worried and made Moody promise to keep an eye on his sidekick – Harry wondered if Robards meant Dora – just in case he needed help. He announced he was going to follow the coordinates, and then hurried toward the exit.

“Is she all right?” Dora asked Moody.

“Probably not,” Moody replied, looking grim. He fiddled with something small and golden, his magical eye tracking Robards’ progress.

“What do you think he was?” Draco asked, staring after Robards too.

“He’s an Auror,” Harry said.

“Obviously, Potter,” Draco snapped. “Merlin, you’re stupid!”

“You asked me a question and I answered,” Harry snapped back. “If you want a better one, then- I dunno, be clearer next time.”

“Fine,” Draco said snottily. “Do you think he’s a muggleborn, or a halfblood?”

“Where in Merlin’s name did that come from?” Harry asked, staring at him, wondering if that was what Draco’d been doing while he was staring at people. He also glanced at Mr Malfoy, but the older wizard didn’t seem to have heard their exchange.

“Questions are generally products of thought,” Draco sneered. “I can understand why you might find that confusing, since you’ve probably never had a thought in your li-” The Professor cleared her throat and gave them both unimpressed looks and Harry and Draco shared a guilty, almost-apologetic grimace and stayed silent until she turned her attention back to the giant man on her right. “Just answer the question, Potter.”

“What if he’s a pureblood?” Harry asked.

“I don’t recognise the name,” Draco said, as if that discounted that possibility. Harry was forced to concede that it probably did. “Sir?” Draco asked, turning to Snape, who looked torn between exasperation and amusement. If Harry didn’t know better, he’d have thought Snape was about to smile. Convinced the world was almost officially backward, Harry fixed his attention on the floor, where Padfoot was drumming his fingers on the sides of his chair and Moony was engaged in a sad staring competition with Dumbledore.

“The trial will resume,” Bones boomed, “in two minutes.” Harry felt his heart rate pick up.

“Calm down,” Matt murmured, putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder again. “You’re making me nervous.”

“Aren’t you worried?” Harry couldn’t help asking.

“Of course I am. So’s everyone else-” Matt tapped the side of his nose and winked. Dora made a noise next to him, and he glanced at her and winked again, but she didn’t even seem to notice. Her eyes were distant, and one of her hands was clamped on Moody’s sleeve, as if for support. “It bloody stinks.”  The Professor cleared her throat again, as if telling him off for his language. Matt shrugged and then the Professor’s beady eyes met Harry’s. She smiled sadly and murmured something to the giant. “-except I can’t really say anything to them,” Matt continued. “You on the other hand, are just here.” Harry smiled reluctantly.

“What does worry smell like?” he asked. Matt arched an eyebrow.

“It’s thick,” he said. “Kind of like breathing smoke, except it doesn’t smell smoky... it’s kind of sickly sweet.”

“That sounds... er...”

“Unpleasant?” Matt offered.

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. If you could smell me, I’d probably stink too.” Harry wondered if he’d be able to smell it when he was a wolf, and if it would smell the same way for him. Matt grinned. “Of-”

“The trial is about to resume: could everyone please be seated and silent,” Fudge called, and the babble stopped immediately. Matt leaned back into his seat and Harry’s eyes went right to Padfoot and Moony.

*                      *                      *

“What are you telling them?” Remus murmured.

“About Wormtail and Padfoot,” Sirius replied in a quiet voice, glancing at the Wizengamot; Fudge was introducing them as witnesses. “About everything-”

“Which of you will be speaking first?” Amelia asked, eyeing Sirius.

“I will,” Remus said, and Sirius gave him a sharp look. “The story starts with me.”

“Moony-” Sirius muttered.

“Exactly,” Remus murmured. “Moony.” Sirius hissed when he realised what Moony was about to do.

“I didn’t mean everything. You don’t-” Remus gave Sirius a sad smile. He was very pale and sweat was beading on his forehead, despite the fact that it was reasonably cool inside the courtroom.

“The Chair recognises Remus John Lupin,” Fudge said, “witness for the defence.”

“In the beginning,” Remus said, “there were four of us. Myself, Sirius, James Potter-” Sirius noticed that Remus didn’t actually look directly at Harry; most people seemed not to have noticed him sitting innocuously in the stands, and Sirius thought he probably liked it that way. “-and Peter Pettigrew.” Anger, hot and smoky burned Sirius’ nose, and he saw Remus’ shoulders stiffen. “We were all Sorted into Gryffindor and were best friends by the end of the first week of our first year. After that, we were more or less inseparable. I won’t go into details – we don’t have the time, I’m afraid – but for you to comprehend any of the rest of Sirius’ story, you must understand that we were all very close.”

There was a trumpeting sound from the stands and Sirius’ eyes found Hagrid, who’d pulled out a large flowery handkerchief. McGonagall, next to him, appeared to be crying too.

“We were the sort of friends that did anything for each other. I helped Sirius, James and Peter with their homework, and partnered with them in class, and lied to get them out of trouble and gave them advice when they needed it. I like to think I was a good friend-”

“Congratulations,” Fudge said. “If you’d get to the point, though-”

“My point,” Remus said, “is despite everything I ever did for them, I never came anywhere close to matching what they did for me.” He took a deep breath and lifted his chin and it was at that moment that Sirius realised just how far Remus was willing to go to help him.

“Moony-”

“It’s all right, Padfoot,” he said calmly. Then, in a defiant voice, he said, “I’m a werewolf.” The response was instant; several people shrieked, several gasped and the Aurors had to Disarm a few people before they could hurt Remus. One man was escorted out by a grim looking Scrimgeour.  

“Continue, Wolf,” Fudge said, and Sirius glared at him until he quailed and hid behind his parchment, and then Remus continued. He spoke, briefly about how his father had upset Greyback – the name, judging from everyone’s reactions, was a familiar one – although he never specified when he’d been bitten. Sirius eventually realised that he was protecting Dumbledore from any potential backlash for allowing a werewolf to go to Hogwarts.

“When my friends found out,” Remus said, nodding at Sirius, “they accepted me.” Several people laughed, and several others muttered rather offensive things to the people next to them. Sirius glowered in their respective directions, though Remus ignored them. It had to be affecting him – his hearing was better than Sirius’, after all – but he didn’t smell upset, and he didn’t look it either. “And they wanted to help-”

“They should have put you down!” someone called, and this time Remus flinched. Sirius snarled under his breath and several other people in the crowd reacted in his defence too; Sirius saw Dora and McGonagall glaring in the speaker’s direction. Dumbledore cleared his throat and uttered a cold warning, and then, a moment later, there was a shriek which cut off with a mooing noise, and then several other people made shocked noises.

Sirius craned his neck, trying to see, and chuckled at what he spotted; a witch in the middle of the stands was sporting black and white ears and a pair of rather impressive horns. Sirius’ gaze went straight to Harry, who’d gone bright red and appeared to be trying to sink into his seat. Behind him, Matt was doubled over with laughter, and the Malfoy boy was whispering to a sour looking Snape.

“What did you do to her?” a man demanded, while the witch made noises that wouldn’t have been out of place on a farm.

“I didn’t do anything,” Sirius said politely. “But it’s reasonably easy to work out what happened; someone decided that if she’s going to act like a cow, she might as well look the part.” Remus chortled next to him, and a few others scattered around the room did as well. Unfortunately, Sirius’ humour didn’t appeal to the Aurors, most of whom had their wands trained on Sirius.

“Sirius is not responsible for this,” Dumbledore said, also watching Harry. He didn’t say anything else, but a wave of his hand had the Aurors lowering their wands, and a nod of his head had McGonagall standing and flicking her wand to reverse Harry’s accidental magic. Harry looked relieved, and also a little disappointed. “Remus, if you’d continue?”

“Of course, sir.” Remus waited until it was quiet again and then said, “My friends wanted to help me, and so they became Animagi.” It seemed Remus had anticipated the outcry this comment would cause, because he paused and glanced at Sirius, who shrugged.

“Animagi?” Dumbledore asked, looking stunned. “But you’re not on the-”

“We never registered,” Sirius said. “Now there’s a crime I’ll admit to being guilty of.” Umbridge beamed and stabbed her quill into the inkwell before scribbling something down, and Rattler – the victim of Umbridge’s enthusiasm - brushed spots of ink off his face. Dumbledore’s eyebrows lifted and he and Sirius stared at each other – Sirius felt like Dumbledore was reassessing him – while everyone talked around them.

“Enough!” Amelia boomed. “We’d like to get through this today, so if the public would kindly be silent!” She waited and then nodded. “Thank you. Mr Lupin, continue, please.”

“Werewolves are only dangerous to humans,” Remus said. “It was still a very risky thing to do, but they weren’t at risk of catching my... condition, at least. Sirius was – sorry, is – a dog. James was a stag-” Sirius saw Dumbledore’s mouth forming the word ‘Prongs’. He was nodding, and Sirius felt a surge of hope. “Peter is a rat.”

“Is?” Fudge stammered. “But, Wol- Lupin, Peter Pettigrew is dead-”

“I thought this was my testimony, Minister, not yours,” Remus said politely. Sirius sniggered.

“But Pettigrew-”

“-will be addressed in my testament,” Sirius said. “I can start now, if you’d like, or did you want to stick to procedure and have Remus questioned first?” Amelia waved a hand, indicating that Sirius could ask whatever he liked.

Sirius thought for a moment; he didn’t really need to question Remus about the credibility of his testament, because the others would probably do that. He didn’t really have much to ask. He thought for a moment and then decided that it probably couldn’t hurt to use this as a sort of character reference, since that, after all, was what he’d be judged on due to his lack of other evidence. He cleared his throat.

“You’ve made it clear that we were – and still are – reasonably close,” Sirius said, feeling foolish for addressing Remus so formally. Remus nodded. “So would you say I was a good friend?”

“I would, yes,” Remus said calmly.

“And I risked my life for you, once a month?” Sirius asked.

“Yes,” Remus replied.

“Until when?”

“You were at my house, with me, on the full moon on the night that Lily and James died,” Remus said.

“I was,” Sirius agreed. “Tell me, Moo- Remus, what did the Death Eaters think of you?”

“They wanted me dead.”

“Did I?” Sirius asked, and Remus’ eyes gleamed.

“Want me dead?” he asked, looking believably stunned. “No, of course you didn’t; you were there on full moons, helping me. If you’d wanted me dead, you could have just left me to deal with things on my own.”

“But I didn’t?”

“No, I don’t think you’d missed a full moon in at least a year. You were always there, even when James and Peter couldn’t make it.”

“So you’d say my behaviour was uncharacteristic of a Death Eater,” Sirius said.

“I would, yes.” The conversation felt unnatural; most of the things Remus was saying were things that they never talked about – some things didn’t need to be said aloud – and to do it here just felt... wrong. Sirius knew he wasn’t an overly modest person, but this ego stoking made him feel like a bit of a prat, particularly since it was Remus he was talking to; usually Remus was the one who tried to deflate his ego. “You risked your life to help me numerous times – me, a werewolf. I can’t imagine many of these people here are Death Eaters, but even they wouldn’t go out of their way for me, the way you did.”

“Oh, Moony, I’m blushing,” Sirius said in a low voice, and smirked.

“Shut up, you prat,” Remus shot back, hardly moving his mouth to do so.

“But you’re my brave defender,” Sirius muttered. Remus rolled his eyes. Sirius took a moment to clear the smirk from his face and then, with a slightly apologetic grimace asked, “Would you say you and I were the closest?”

“We do share certain canine attributes,” Remus said wryly, and a few people – Sirius among them – chuckled. “But frankly, no. We were close – brothers, really, more than friends – but if we were brothers, you and James were twins.” Sirius smiled and Remus smiled back. “Absolutely mental, the pair of you,” he continued, fondly. “The perfect double act.”

“You’ve already made it clear that I did a lot for you, apparently despite the fact that it wasn’t you that I was closest to.” Sirius grimaced – feeling like a complete git again, but Remus just smiled. “So what do you think I would have done for James?”

“Anything,” Remus said simply. Sirius expected the audience to break out talking again but everything was oddly hushed.

Sirius caught Dumbledore’s eye and nodded to show he was finished with his questions. Dumbledore stood – Fudge sank back into his chair looking disappointed - and came to stand in front of them. Dumbledore was tall – taller than Sirius, even when Sirius was standing, and so he positively dwarfed them when they were sitting down. He took his spectacles off, cleaned them on his robes, replaced them, and then surveyed them both through the glass. Sirius shifted, feeling rather like he was in the Headmaster’s office after a prank on Snape, even though it was Remus who was about to be questioned.

“I’m afraid I’m at a loss about where to begin,” Dumbledore murmured, in the kindest tone Sirius had heard from him (excluding the times it had been directed at Harry) since before Halloween. His eyes were also just a bit warmer, and Sirius thought – and hoped – that the older wizard was beginning to change his mind. “Nothing in your story directly relates to Sirius’ guilt – except for the lack of registration, of course...” He paused, his expression a strange mix of curious and calculating. “Your story about Animagi is all you have to offer today?”

“It is,” Remus agreed. “The rest is Sirius’ to tell.” Dumbledore adjusted his hat.

“I could attack you with questions, but I truly think the best way to test the reliability of what you’ve just said, Remus, is to have Sirius transform.”

“Let me go, then,” Sirius said, beaming.

“Oh, no,” Fudge said, waggling a finger. “You can do it from your chair.”

“And break my legs?” Sirius asked, attempting to lift his arms. The chains rattled. “Dogs don’t bend this way, Minister.”

“If you try to run, you will be stopped,” Dumbledore warned, and then the chains recoiled and Sirius shook his hands and rotated his wrists a few times before standing slowly. Remus looked a little put out that he hadn’t been let loose too.

“Don’t attack me,” Sirius said. He hunched and then morphed into Padfoot. It was unpleasant; scents were strong as a human, but as a dog, they were almost overwhelming. He sneezed a few times, and rubbed his nose with a paw, while Remus gave him a sympathetic look, and Dumbledore watched him carefully. Padfoot shook and then sat down, watching the Wizengamot. Umbridge looked particularly sour, and something told Padfoot she was a cat person.

“That will do,” Dumbledore murmured, and Padfoot reared up and became Sirius again. Several wands followed him.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, flopping down in his chair again before anyone could tell him to. He rubbed his wrists once more and then let the chains bind them in place. “Well, I think that proves Remus was telling the truth, so unless there’s anything else you want to ask him...” Fudge, Dumbledore and Amelia exchanged a glance.

“The Chair,” Fudge said slowly, “recognises Sirius Orion Black, witness for the defence.”


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