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The usually calm and dignified Malfoy household was anything but on the morning of Black’s trial. Lucius was shaken awake by his frantic son a little after five to be given the news that Bosworth the rat had disappeared overnight.

“Potter had something to do with it, I know he did!” Hyrdus said, turning to a sleepy Narcissa. Lucius exchanged a look with his wife and both of them got up and followed Hydrus to his bedroom, where the box that Pettigrew had slept in for the past year sat, empty.

“I don’t think Mr Potter has stolen Bosworth,” Narcissa said, sharing another look with Lucius, who could feel his entire world threatening to crumble. One of three things had happened; Pettigrew had been kidnapped (if that was the case, then Lucius would bet his Gringotts account that it was McKinnon’s fault), Pettigrew had had a rush of conscience in the middle of the night and turned himself in – in which case his name would be all over the Prophet – or Pettigrew had gone into hiding again, just in case. Lucius prayed it was the last option, though he doubted he’d be that lucky.

A flick of his wand confirmed that the only living things in the house were his family, Potter, McKinnon, Dobby, and their owl.

“What if he does, though?” Hydrus asked, glaring at them both. Lucius pinched the bridge of his nose because it was far too early for him to be bothered dealing with his son’s tantrums on top of losing Pettigrew.

“As Mr Potter is responsible for saving Bosworth,” he said, “I find it unlikely that he bears the rat any ill will, or would play any part in his kidnapping.”

“But what-”

“Go back to bed,” Narcissa said, placing a hand on Hydrus’ shoulder. “Perhaps he’s just gone for a walk.”

“If he’s not there when you wake, tell us immediately,” Lucius advised, as Hydrus got back into bed. “Though it’s best not to mention this to Mr Potter, just in case. If he has played some part in this, we don’t want him knowing we suspect him.” Hydrus nodded solemnly and Lucius thanked Merlin that his elder son, at least, took his advice without question. If it had been Draco, there would have been a thousand questions in place of the nod.

“Sleep. You’ll want to be well rested for our visit to Aunt Bella,” Narcissa said, and Hydrus’ face scrunched up.

Yes, Lucius thought, because telling him that will help the boy sleep. Bellatrix was enough to keep him up some nights and he was a grown man. He shook his head and followed his wife out of the room.

“I’ll Floo Severus,” Narcissa said in a low voice. “Have Dobby help you read the wards and see if he’s left magically.”

One hour later, and Lucius was no closer to finding Pettigrew and he’d have been impressed if he wasn’t so furious. The rat knew how to hide, and it was as undeniable as it was frustrating. According to Dobby, he’d used the Floo – Lucius didn’t even want to think about how he’d got his paws on the password – and gone to the Leaky Cauldron. That fireplace was used regularly, at all hours of the day and night so he’d be impossible to track that way, curse him.

And so it was that Lucius was reduced to pouring himself a – very – small glass of brandy at six in the morning. And, if that wasn’t pathetic enough, Narcissa and Severus walked in just as he was taking his first sip.

“Starting early are we, Lucius?” Severus drawled. Lucius spared a glower for his old friend and tossed his drink back.

“It’s not without cause, I assure you.”

“So I’ve been told,” Severus said, glancing at Narcissa. “Might I ask why you’ve called me here, though? Surely you don’t think I have anything to do with it?”

“Of course not,” Lucius snapped. “But as the only other person who knows him-”

“If you’re hoping for character analysis, you’d be better trying Lupin,” Severus said, his lip curling. “I haven’t the faintest idea where the rat might have got to, I’m afraid.” And he did look genuinely infuriated at that. Lucius lifted the bottle of brandy, and Severus smirked and shook his head. Lucius sighed and resisted the temptation to have another glass. “I can, however, assure you that, should he be caught, he will not be able to reveal anything... incriminating... about the three of us.”

“He- truly?” Narcissa inclined her head.

“I was speaking with Severus when he returned Draco yesterday-”

“Those lessons are still happening?” Lucius asked, momentarily distracted. “Draco can be a Slytherin again; we have Potter-”

“For the time being,” Severus said silkily. “Nothing is official yet, and both Narcissa and I felt it was safer to continue the lessons until things are concreted.” Lucius shook his head. He still wasn’t entirely sure what Narcissa thought Draco would gain in his Gryffindor-lessons with Severus – Severus was Head of Slytherin, not Gryffindor, for Merlin’s sake - but he wasn’t about to argue, because he had been noticing changes in Draco’s behaviour.

“Very well. Now, Pettigrew?”

“Narcissa mentioned the Kelpie incident-” Lucius nodded stiffly. “-and I worried that it may have invoked a Life-Debt. Narcissa knows the details,” Severus said, when Lucius opened his mouth to ask what that was, “and is able to explain the rest later. To summarise, I feared that Pettigrew might be... prompted – consciously, or even without him realising it – to turn himself in, and I feared for our safety. I was able to administer a potion, which, combined with Legillimency, prevents the divulgence of particular memories.”

“Thank Merlin,” Lucius breathed, and just like that, his day looked a bit brighter.

Another hour later, Severus was gone, and Lucius thoroughly regretted that he’d let the idea of a brighter day ever pass through his head. Dobby was enlisted by Hydrus to help find Bosworth, and so wasn’t paying proper attention to breakfast. Lucius ordered Dobby down into the kitchen to close his ears in the oven, but it didn’t change the fact that Lucius’ breakfast had been burned and was utterly unpleasant. He’d sipped on his tea – and had not even bothered to add sugar to it – and watched the chaos as it unfolded around him.

Potter was the first one downstairs, and for the first time in days, McKinnon wasn’t with him. He was is his pyjamas, which had become normal for the boy, and Lucius vowed silently that as soon as this day was over, and Potter was officially a Malfoy, he’d put a stop to such lazy behaviour. He also, unfortunately, looked tired – and Rita Skeeter or some other Prophet parasite would likely write an article about his ‘mistreatment’ - but he claimed to have had a whole night’s sleep and Lucius couldn’t muster the energy to argue with him.

Draco, too, looked tired, and while he was both dressed appropriately and more forthcoming with a reason (he had spent half the night reading a book that Severus loaned him the day before) than Potter, he was also in a far stranger mood. If Lucius hadn’t guessed his day was going to be a terrible one, he’d have been tipped off when Draco first opened his mouth.

“I think I might be pro-muggleborns, Father,” he announced, without as much as a good morning. “Hunting them seems like an awful waste of time to me, and I’m not entirely sure it’s fair.” Lucius gaped at him, but Draco was busy staring at the palm of his hand. Eventually, he looked up at Potter, who looked just as stunned as Lucius. “Your mother was muggleborn, wasn’t she, Potter?”

“Er... yeah,” Potter said, and he actually looked at Lucius, as if he thought Lucius might be able to explain what in Merlin’s name had happened. “She was.”

“Pity she’s dead. I’d have liked to ask her a few questions.” Lucius couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, and Potter seemed to be struggling with the same problem. “Urgh.” Draco looked down at the pile of burned toast in front of him, aghast. “What has Dobby done to breakfast? He ought to be punished for this, Father.”

“Already taken care of,” Lucius said faintly. He took a sip of his tea and set it down with a shaking hand.

“Good,” Draco said, and picked a piece of toast that wasn’t quite as blackened as the rest. “Father, can I come to the trial today?”

“Your mother is taking you and Hydrus to see your au-” Lucius froze. He wasn’t certain what was wrong with Draco this morning – it was likely he was just tired – but Lucius wasn’t about to send the supposedly pro-muggleborn Draco to Bellatrix. She’d destroy him. “Actually, it might be best if you do come with me, Draco.”

“Really?” Draco asked, looking pleased.

“Yes, I think that’ll be best,” Lucius said, nodding to himself. “Tell your mother not to expect you. But, Draco?” Draco - who was halfway out of the dining room - looked up. “I’d like to speak with you about your new.. attitude.”

“Really?” Draco asked.

“Yes, very much,” Lucius said, determined to get to the bottom of this if it killed him. He could deal with a Gryffindor for a son – though that probably wouldn’t be necessary – but he wouldn’t tolerate a muggle-lover. Not in his house. The sooner Draco understood that, the better. “Go and find something appropriate to wear to the Ministry. And perhaps help Mr Potter when you’re done.” Lucius eyed Potter’s untidy hair and crumpled pyjamas.

He’ll need all the help he can get.

“Fine,” Draco said, irritably. “Let’s go, Potter.” Draco prodded Potter’s arm – and Lucius blamed his wife for their son’s relatively new, tactile nature - until the other boy moved and followed him out of the room.

“We’ll leave in an hour!” Lucius called after them.

*                              *                              *

“If your father’s willing to take you,” Mrs Malfoy said to Draco, “then by all means go.” Harry didn’t think she looked awfully happy about it. “But be on- Never mind. I’ll see you this afternoon.” She stood suddenly and swept over to Harry. “I expect I’ll see you later too, Mr Potter,” she said with a sad smile. Harry forced himself to smile back, and was so busy trying to keep a polite expression on his face that he was completely caught by surprise when she stepped forward and hugged him. “Good luck,” she whispered, and then let him go.

“Thanks,” Harry said, and she smiled at him again. It was the warmest she’d been to him this whole time, and it was rather disconcerting. “I- er... bye.”

“Mother gives the best hugs, don’t you think?” Draco asked, hauling Harry out of the library.

“I guess,” Harry said, but privately, he thought Mrs Malfoy’s hugs had nothing on Padfoot’s. “Hey, you know about the thing-”

“When’s your birthday, Potter?” Draco asked, cutting him off.

“July. Wh-”

“I’m going to buy you a dictionary,” Draco said decisively. “You are in dire need of a larger vocabulary.”

“Very funny,” Harry snapped, and only when Draco looked mildly insulted did Harry realise that he might not have been joking. “Look, you know the whole Kelpie thing?” Draco’s eyes widened and he dragged Harry into Harry’s room and shut the door.

“I thought we agreed not to talk about-”

“We did,” Harry said, and hoped this wasn’t going to backfire on him. “It’s just... look, you did me a favour by warning me that it’s not something that should be talked about, okay, and I’m trying to return the favour.”

“I’m not stupid enough to do anything like that-”

“You already did,” Harry said. Insults weren’t sliding off him very well; while his disappointment and frustration at not being able to find anything about Peter was more or less cancelled out by his eager anticipation of Padfoot’s trial, there was still the fact that he’d gone to bed at three and been up early. He was tired, but he bit his tongue because Draco already looked confused and offended, and snapping at him wouldn’t help things. “You said you’re pro-muggleborn-”

“I said I might be,” Draco sniffed.

“Yeah, and that’s great,” Harry said, and meant it, “but I don’t think your dad shares your views-”

“I can convince him,” Draco said confidently. He eyed Harry. “I might need your help with that, actually. See, if I cut your hand-”

“Cut my- Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Just take or leave my advice-”

“You haven’t advised me in anything,” Draco said snidely. “So-” Harry growled at him, and both of them were so taken aback that neither said a word. “Do you speak dragon now too?” Draco asked finally.

“I think it was probably wolf,” Harry said, grimacing. Draco stared at him. “And would you just stop interrupting and listen? You can try to convince your dad if you want, but I don’t think it’s going to work. It’s kind of like my Kelpie-talking. It’s- the muggleborn thing... is probably something you should keep to yourself.”

“Is it rare?” Draco’s eyes gleamed.

“Very,” Harry said wryly. “Look, your dad’s going to try to talk you out of it – liking muggleborns, I mean – and he’ll probably be angry if you don’t change your mind. Your dad doesn’t like muggleborns-”

“I know, but he’ll listen-”

“No, he won’t,” Harry said. “I trusted you about the Kelpie, so trust me about this, all right?” Draco looked doubtful. “If you want to keep liking them, do it in secret, at least for now.” Harry didn’t understand all of the social implications of a pureblood expressing non-prejudiced views on people’s bloodlines, but he was pretty sure he understood enough, and certainly more than Draco. “Ask your mum to tell you about the ‘white sheep’,” Harry said finally, remembering something that Padfoot had said to him once. “There were two – she’ll know who they are.”

“The sheep?”

“The white sheep,” Harry said.

“Okay,” Draco said, and he sounded doubtful, but Harry thought he might just be convinced. And if he’s not... well, no one can say I didn’t try.

*                      *                      *

I don’t think I can do this, Marlene thought. It was eight-thirty, the trial was set to start at ten and she hadn’t even worked up the courage to get out of bed yet. The entire Malfoy family and Harry had probably been up for hours, and she’d spent the morning hiding in her bedroom.

She felt sick. She felt scared and nervous and excited and confused and it wasn’t a pleasant thing to wake up to. She just wanted to burrow under the covers and hide until Sirius was back in Azkaban, and if that made her a coward, then so what. Better a coward than a nervous wreck; at this rate, she’d be moving in with Alice and Frank with a severe case of mental trauma. Someone knocked on the door, startling her.

“Yes?” she asked, and wished a second later that she’d just pretended not to be awake. The door swung open to reveal Lucius, glowering at her from the doorway.

“I wondered if you were up,” he said snidely.

“Well, I am,” she said back, and her voice trembled a bit.

“That is debatable.” His cold eyes drifted over her bed-hair and pyjamas and his lip curled in response. “I informed you last night that we’d be leaving at nine-”

“I heard you.”

“Will you be-”

“Yes!” she snapped. “I’ll be ready!”

“Go-” His eyes focused on something outside the room. “Mr Potter, why are you still in your pyjamas?” Marlene didn’t hear the response, but whatever it was made Lucius pinch the bridge of his nose and stalk away shouting, “Draco, I thought I told you to help!”

Marlene flicked her wand at the door, which closed, and sank back into her pillows. Attendance at the trial was compulsory for trainees – there’d probably be questions on it in their exams at the beginning of next month – but she was tempted just to miss it. She wasn’t strong enough. She’d had the chance to kill him herself and hadn’t been able to, because apparently she hadn’t meant it. That part of her was still in there – somewhere in the tangled mess of all of her other parts – and she didn’t think she’d be able to watch what happened. Whether Sirius was convicted or freed, some part of her would lose.

Her Sidekick rattled on her bedside table, and she was brave enough to reach for that, at least. She whispered the passphrase and it snapped open.

“McKinnon,” Gawain said, and of course it was him; Gawain, rather like Dumbledore, had an uncanny ability to knew when he was needed.

“Morning,” she said thickly.

“You sound about as well as I’d expected you to,” he said, sounding almost sympathetic.

“Thanks,” she said, but there wasn’t enough... anything... in her tone to let the word sound as sarcastic as she’d wanted it to. It was pathetic, actually, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. Part of her was impressed that she was still even able to talk. “Gawain, I don’t think I can-”

“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said firmly. “Attendance is compulsory, McKinnon.”

“I- I can’t-” A panicky feeling was rising in Marlene’s chest and her breathing was shaky.

“It’ll be all right. Your friends will be there, and me and Moody, and Dumbledore and Harry’s going to want you there-”

“And when I lose my head halfway through, all of them are going to see it,” she whispered. “I don’t think I can sit there and just... I won’t be able to watch-”

“You can close your eyes,” Gawain said, but he sounded worried. “McKinnon, you need to calm down.”

“I c-can’t,” she said, and then she was crying, but as long as she didn’t start sniffling, Gawain would never know. “Sir, please, don’t make me go- I need to- I- I don’t want- Please, please-”

“McKinnon, listen to me. It’s going to be all right. You need to calm down – take a few deep breaths – and think about this. Sirius is a terrible man-”

“Y-yes, but-”

“None of that,” Gawain said briskly. “He’s done terrible things, and today, he’ll finally be judged for them.”

“What if they Kiss him?”

“They won’t. They still need answers from him,” Gawain said. “He’ll be convicted, and then he’ll spend a few days in questioning, and then he’ll be back in Azkaban.” He was so sure, so calm, that Marlene felt herself calming a little bit in response. “All right?”

“All right,” she said.

“Good girl. Now, you don’t sound like you’re in any state to be guarding anything today, so I’ll be by in about fifteen minutes to collect Potter and Mr Malfoy-”

“But, but I-”

“You’ve got just over an hour before the trial starts, and you’re going to use that time to get yourself ready for what’s going to happen, okay?”

“All right,” she said shakily. Instructions were something she could work with. “So... so get ready to watch Sirius be convicted?”

“Exactly. No surprises, McKinnon – everyone knows what’s coming – and so you get ready, and you let me know when you’re at the Ministry. I’ll be right beside you the whole time, and everything will work out just as I’ve said it will, all right?” Marlene clung to the certainty in his voice. It was nice to have certainty about something, when she’d been so confused lately. It was like finding a rock to sit on in the middle of a stormy ocean.

Like Azkaban? Her mind supplied, rather unhelpfully, and Marlene sniffed.

It was the last things she felt like doing, but she had instructions to follow so she hauled herself out of bed and changed into a pair of clean robes. Red ones. Maybe House pride would give her courage. She ran a brush through her hair and stared at herself in the mirror until her she was convinced that she didn’t look like she was about to crumble into a thousand pieces.

She still felt like it, and it wasn’t as easy to push all of her problems down as it had been six months ago, but hopefully, today was the last day she’d need her mask. She had to believe that after today, everything would be all right, because if it wasn’t, then she would break. She squared her shoulders so she looked brave, even if she didn’t feel it, and felt herself slip into her Auror-trainee role, rather than her Marlene role. Trainee-Marlene was stronger.

“Okay,” she said, snapping her Sidekick shut. “Okay, I’ll be ready.”

She thought she knew how to get ready, too; she was stronger when she knew how she felt about Sirius, and her strongest emotion toward him was also the one that could get her through today. She needed to remind herself how much she hated him, and she needed to do it without using his treatment of her as an excuse. The moment she let her feelings get involved, things got messy.

Luckily, even when she removed herself from the picture, she still had three very good reasons to hate Sirius, and better yet, she could visit all three of them within her hour. She packed her suitcase with a wave of her wand, cast a Shrinking Charm on it, and stuffed it into her pocket.

Then she took a deep breath and strode out of the room, in search of her first reason. He was three bedrooms away, arguing with a frustrated Lucius.

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with green,” she heard as she approached the room.

“Black’s better,” Harry said, and his eyes met Marlene’s the moment she walked into his room. He was seated on his unmade bed, holding a pair of dress robes, while Lucius brandished another. “Morning,” he said, and she thought he sounded nervous. She also thought he looked like he hadn’t slept, and felt her heart break a little, and her hatred flare; Harry’d been losing sleep over Sirius.

“Mr Potter, Sirius Black is-”

“My godfather,” Harry said, “and my legal guardian.” He smiled politely at Lucius, and oddly, it didn’t make Marlene think of James or Lily or even Sirius. No, that smile was entirely Lupin. “And since I can’t imagine he’d have a problem with me wearing black to his trial, I can’t understand why you think there’s anything wrong with it either. Nice robes,” he added, with a grin at Marlene that was far more Sirius-ish. Lucius groaned, and Marlene managed to smile. “Sir, do you think I could wear re-” Lucius tossed the black robes at Harry and stood.

“We’re running late,” he said, and gestured for Marlene to follow him out. “Put those on and I’ll be back in five minutes to help you with your hair.” Harry frowned and reached up to pat his messy hair, as if he couldn’t work out what was wrong with it.

“I see you’re up,” Lucius drawled, shutting Harry’s bedroom door.

“I am,” she said, refusing to let him make her angry; she needed her anger for Sirius. “I’m also leaving. Auror Robards is coming to escort you and Harry to the trial.”

“And where might you be going?”

“I have instructions,” she said, with a twisted smile.

“And they are...?”

“None of your concern, I assure you,” she said politely.

*                       *                       *

“Oh dear,” Remus moaned, and attempted to hide himself behind Matt. Unfortunately, Matt was a few inches too short, and certainly did not want to get in the middle of this confrontation. Besides, as much as Remus was like an uncle, or an older brother to him, Remus had been absolutely ridiculous about this whole situation, and Matt, frankly, thought he thoroughly deserved whatever was about to happen.

“Here,” he said, grabbing Remus’ shoulders, “have him.”

“Traitor,” Remus hissed, as Matt shoved him toward Tock, or Tonks, or whatever her name was.

“It had to happen eventually,” Matt hissed back, and then moved out of the way. What’s-her-name had bright red hair, and eyes that were more yellow than brown. She looked mad – she had her wand out and everything - and more than a little scary.

“Hi, Dora,” Remus said, and Matt could smell his guilt from a few yards away. Dora – Matt decided it was safest to call her whatever Remus did – threw her arms around him, and Matt choked back a laugh. He’d expected her to hex Remus, not hug him.

“You’re all right,” she said, while Remus awkwardly patted her back. Matt gave up on trying to keep a straight face and laughed at them. Remus held up a hand and made a rather rude gesture in Matt’s direction but Matt just smirked. Dora let Remus go, and stared up at him for a moment, and then – with the only warning coming in the form of her hair brightening – punched him.

“Uh oh,” Matt said, and took a step forward, thinking that maybe he should intervene; Remus lifted a hand to his jaw, and Dora had assumed the position of scorned women everywhere. Her hands were on her hips (one of them still holding her wand, one of them still curled in a fist), and her scowl was a little frightening.

“I deserved that,” Remus said weakly, and Dora didn’t look quite as violent anymore, so Matt waited.

“Oh, do you think so?” she demanded. “How hard is it to pick up a quill and write a letter?! I didn’t want a recount of your day-”

“I didn’t know what to write,” Remus said, in that same, rather sheepish voice.

Dora, I’m alive might have been a bloody good way to start!” Remus seemed to shrink, though Matt thought that had more to do with the fact that, as she shouted, Dora was actually growing.

What the-

“Best to leave them to it, lad,” a gruff voice said, and Matt spun to see the Auror who’d sat with him in St Mungo’s until Remus got there. His blue eye was fixed on Remus and Dora, but his dark one was watching Matt.

“It’s you,” Matt said, grinning. “I don’t remember your name, but I remember your... er...”

“Constant vigilance!” Matt remembered him saying that a few times last time they’d seen each other. “Alastor Moody, Rosier.”

“Moody,” Matt said, nodding. He checked his watch. “Do you think we should-”

“She’s been planning this for three days and she’ll probably kill you if you interrupt,” Moody said, in a rather grim voice.

“Right,” Matt said, and smirked.

“-a holiday you were on, Remus-” Dora’s face was almost as red as her hair, and Matt couldn’t help but be impressed. Moody looked morbidly fascinated too. “-and the last time I saw you, you weren’t exactly stable, so can you really blame me for worrying?!”

“I don’t need you to worry about-”

“If you finish that sentence, I swear to Godric I’ll-”

“Come on.” Moody waved a scarred hand and gestured for Matt to follow him. “If we stand here much longer, I’m going to start saying her lines with her.” Matt chuckled and glanced at them again. Remus looked acutely embarrassed and Dora’s expression was a strange mix of confusion and frustration.

“Are you sure they should be left alone?”

“No,” Moody said. “But I’ve made it this long by picking my battles. If you’re brave enough to get between that, go ahead.” Matt stared at them for a moment longer and then shook his head and followed Moody into the already crowded courtroom.

*                     *                    *

Marlene strode into the cemetery feeling near-furious. It was a little scary, actually; she’d always hated Sirius, but she’d never actively tried to force that sort of emotion. Now that she was... well, the results were a little overwhelming. She’d already blown up a muggle streetlamp with a burst of – embarrassing – accidental magic. She hadn’t lost control like that since she was twelve. She felt like her every nerve was on end, and hatred simmered away in her chest, and it scared her, it did, but it was also nice to have something there other than emptiness or confusion.

She travelled the familiar path - between the headstones and monuments - to Lily and James. She’d already been to the statue, and this would be her last stop before the Ministry, because the trial had started ten minutes ago, and her Sidekick had been burning for the last twenty, but she’d ignored it so far.

She was a little surprised to see that there was someone already there, standing in front of the graves in the morning sun, hands shoved deep into the pockets of a shabby coat.

For a moment, she thought it was Lupin – he had the same fair hair, at least – but she quickly discarded that idea. This man’s hair was too neat, and he himself was several inches too short. And, while he wasn’t fat by any means, he was seemed sturdier than Lupin.

“Hello?” she said tentatively, and he jumped and glanced at her over his shoulder. She didn’t recognise his face, but she felt like she should have.

“H-hello,” he said. “Come to see them too, I suppose?”

“Yes, I suppose,” she replied, going to stand beside him. He still wouldn’t look at her, and his eyes were darting around as if he was trying to plan some sort of escape. Pale eyes flicked to her face and then away again just as quickly, and the man’s tongue darted out to wet his lips. “Are you going to the trial?” she asked, staring at the beautiful, lily-like flowers that grew over the grave. She didn’t know who’d planted them, but she was used to seeing the flowers there now.

“N-no. B-best to stay away, I think.” He wrung his hands and finally, Marlene was able to place him.

Pettigrew?” she gasped.

“H-how do you know-”

“It’s me,” she said. “Marlene.”

McKinnon?!” They stared at each other in stunned disbelief. “But- but the Death Eaters got you,” he said timidly.

“Almost,” she said. “I thought Sirius-”

“Almost,” he repeated, looking terrified. It took Marlene a moment to understand the implications; if Pettigrew was alive, then Sirius was innocent of at least one of the crimes he'd been convicted of. Well, that or she'd gone mad and was hallucinating. She wasn't sure which she'd prefer. What if Sirius was telling the truth? What if he was innocent - of everything?

No, she told herself. No, there's got to be a logical explanation... She didn't want to think about what it would mean if she’d been wrong.

“How did you escape - they found a finger-”

“It wasn't mine,” Pettigrew said, holding both hands out to her. His fingers were shaking, but all ten of them were there.

“Everyone thinks you're dead,” she said quietly. Everyone except Sirius, that is.

“That’s the idea,” he said nervously, and she frowned. “N-not everyone, though; I told- a few people know the truth.”


“D-Dumbledore,” he muttered. “And m-my mother. They promised not to tell anyone- you have to promise me too, now that you know!”

“Of course,” Marlene said at once. “Does Lupin know?”

“R-Remus?” Pettigrew hesitated and then shook his head. “I couldn't risk- what if he and Sirius... Always close, those two... I couldn't be sure...” Pettigrew's blue eyes widened. “You're not in league with them, are you? Did Sirius send you to find-”

“Me in league with Sirius?” Marlene asked humourlessly. “I tried to kill him a few weeks ago - I think I might dislike him more than you do.”

“Oh, thank Merlin,” he said, looking relieved. “You understand! Lately it’s seemed like everyone’s out to get me... It’s like nowhere’s safe anymore, and everything’s so confusing... I mean, Sirius was my friend, and I don’t want him to go to Azkaban, but he’s done such terrible, terrible things-”

“It’ll be over by tonight,” Marlene said, borrowing Gawain’s confidence. “He’ll be locked away-”

“I just want to feel safe again,” Pettigrew said, and Marlene hugged him without even having to think about it. Finally someone understood what it was like, how confusing everything was... she thought Pettigrew might be just as damaged as she was, and drew comfort from that. Sirius had hurt them both. “I just want to know that Sirius isn’t going to come after me again-”

“Come after you?” Marlene asked, staring. The feeling of finding someone that understood vanished; the official version of events was that Pettigrew had gone after Sirius to avenge Lily and James... the only person who’d ever said it the same way that Pettigrew was saying it now was Sirius himself. Marlene suddenly felt very cold inside, and her anger shrivelled and was replaced by a horrible, sick feeling.

“That day- the day after...” Pettigrew gestured to the graves in front of them. “He came to find me... he was going to kill us all; first Lily and James and Harry, and then me and Remus, and if he’d known you were still alive... He wanted us all dead!”

Marlene was silent. She was a little confused; Lupin had told her that Sirius had been at his cottage, so why, if what Pettigrew said was true, hadn’t Sirius tried to kill Lupin? It had been a full moon, so a silver rope spell would have done the trick and Sirius wouldn’t even have needed to get close. He’d been right there. And, if she ignored that, there was also the fact that while Pettigrew was a competent wizard, he wasn’t as talented as Sirius. If Sirius had wanted him dead, then Pettigrew would be dead... I wanted Sirius dead and couldn’t kill him, she thought.

Yes, another voice agreed, the one that had wanted her to trust Sirius this whole time. But if Sirius was capable of letting Lily and James die, he wouldn’t have cared about Pettigrew. Usually she ignored the voice, but this time, it was making sense.

“Then how did you survive?” she asked aloud. Pettigrew looked a little offended.

“I got a Shield Charm up in time - my wand was destroyed, but somehow the magic held out - it stopped him k-killing me. I was blasted away and when I came to, Sirius was laughing like a m-mad thing-” Pettigrew quivered. “-and the Hit Wizards and Aurors had come to take him away. I ran straight to Dumbledore to tell him what had happened, and that I was going into hiding.”

“You went to Dumbledore while Sirius was being arrested?” she asked, feeling sick. She thought she might actually throw up; Dumbledore had been with her in St Mungo’s when Sirius had been arrested, because a grimly triumphant Mad-Eye had burst in and startled Marlene into spilling her tea. Pettigrew hadn’t been there, and if he was lying about that, then-

Then I’ve been trying to kill an innocent man.

“Are you all right?” Pettigrew asked. “You sme- look like you’re going to be sick.” Marlene sank to the ground, and Pettigrew crouched down beside her, looking concerned.

“Can you conjure me a glass of water?” she asked.

“I don’t have a wand,” he said. “Thanks to Sirius, I can’t exactly walk into Ollivanders these days. There’s a supermarket in the village, so I could-”

“No, it’s fine,” she said, not about to give him any excuse to get out of her sight. She pulled out her own wand, and he didn’t seem worried about that. He seemed to trust her, and instead of finding that amusing, she felt even worse, because she’d trust her if she was in Pettigrew’s place. She’d tried to kill an innocent man.

Oh, Godric, what if I’d actually managed it? She really did throw up then, and Pettigrew made a revolted noise and jumped back, but he didn’t try to leave. It was clever of him, not giving her a reason to need to chase him. Running away would be suspicious, and Pettigrew was obviously very good at not drawing attention to himself. Marlene rinsed her mouth and vanished the mess with a flick of her wand, and then wondered why in Merlin’s name she hadn’t arrested Pettigrew yet.

“Should you really be out?” Pettigrew asked, sidling closer again.

“Probably not,” she said, hugging her stomach. She felt absolutely revolting. “Would you mind helping me up? I don’t think my legs will hold me.”

She really didn’t. And Pettigrew, the admittedly helpful, but still lying, traitorous, murderous, monster that he was, bent, put an arm around her waist – she was almost sick again at the thought of touching him – and draped her other arm over his shoulders and stood.

It was too easy; Marlene didn’t attempt to help him at all, and she was thin but she was still a tall woman, so while he concentrated on lifting her, she pointed her wand at his neck – without him even noticing – and thought, Dormio.

Peter Pettigrew went out like a light, and Marlene fell down beside him as her fragile sanity shattered into several thousand sharp pieces.

*                     *                      *

Sirius had woken three times a day to eat and use the bathroom, but otherwise, he’d spent every day except two – because it had taken him two horrible days to rebuild Azkaban - sitting in his old cell. Padfoot had been his main source of company, though he’d had brief visits from Harry, James, Remus, Lily and even Peter and Marlene and Reg in his memories.

In a sort of twisted way, it had been like a holiday. He’d had no responsibilities, and no worries – he missed Harry, but knew Marlene would keep him safe – and had spent over a week doing nothing but reliving the best moments of his life and going over what he was going to say in his trial.

He’d picked his words carefully – he knew better than anyone how good the Wizengamot was at picking things apart – and he’d considered the sorts of questions he was going to be asked and the answers he’d give. He was prepared, and it was a nice feeling.

And, this time tomorrow, I’ll be home, he thought, and Padfoot glowed. Maintaining Padfoot was ridiculously easy now – almost second nature – because he’d had a lot of practice lately and because anything was easier than that awful night two weeks ago.

He felt a phantom hand on his shoulder, and saw a Dementor looming over him, held at bay by his Patronus. Since Padfoot was at near-full strength and the Dementors had been keeping their distance lately, he thought it was safe to assume it had been sent. Grinning, Sirius sent Padfoot charging at it, and let himself fall back into his body.

He was still grinning when he opened his eyes, and he saw a Dementor drift – very quickly – out of the cell, as if something was after it. Another floated in, and Sirius held Padfoot ready, but all it did was drop a set of clean robes on the floor and glide out again. Sirius took the hint and showered and changed and then knocked on the door. It opened and four Dementors hovered there, expectantly. Two reached for him.

“Nice try,” he said, feeding Padfoot a memory of the look on Malfoy’s face when Narcissa had suggested Marlene stay with them. Patronuses came so easily to Sirius now that he was fuelling them with memories that, a year ago, wouldn’t even have given him a shield. He still needed to be happy to cast one, but maintenance was simple. The Dementors floated back, and exchanged looks – well, not looks, but Sirius didn’t have a better word for it – and waited. “I can walk.”

And so he did; two Dementors floated about a yard in front of him, and two were a few yards behind him. If Sirius had wanted to, he could have run away. He really, really didn’t want to, though. He was getting his trial.

There was an audible gasp in the room when he walked in, unrestrained, and Sirius’ nose was bombarded with scents of fear, hatred and every now and then, fascination. He sneezed and decided to breathe through his mouth before he ended up with a headache due to sensory overload. Several cameras clicked and flashed from the stands.

“What-” Fudge began, but Sirius ignored him and went and sat down in the chair. He didn’t, however, put his arms down, knowing that that activated the chains. The room went completely silent, and Sirius had a look around. There were hundreds of people crammed into the room, and the majority, oddly, were wearing very brightly coloured robes. Blue – sky blue, not navy – and purple and a mustardy yellow were the most popular, and he realised why when he spied Harry and Remus, who were wearing black robes that made them stand out.

Black for black, he thought, chuckling, and winked at Harry, who beamed. Remus’ mouth twitched, but he was obviously being careful; Harry was between Malfoy and one of the Malfoy boys, who had Snape – wearing green robes instead of his usual black - on his other side, and then it was McGonagall and Hagrid. Behind them was Remus’ friend Matt – who’d opted for navy blue - Remus, Dora, Mad-Eye and several of the Auror trainees Sirius had met during his imprisonment. Yes, Remus would have to be careful; his robes were probably risky enough.

“Hands down, Black,” Fudge snapped, and his voice echoed.

“I like to gesture when I talk,” Sirius said, grinning at Fudge. “I rather think I’ll need my hands.” Scrimgeour strode over and, with a warning look at Sirius, pressed his hands into the chair. They were promptly chained and Sirius sighed. Scrimgeour went to sit down in a bench at the front. The Aurors he was with were all wearing colourful robes, but Scrimgeour’s were grey. Sirius wondered if it meant anything, or if it was simply because Scrimgeour didn’t own bright robes.

“Criminal trial of the tenth of May-” Fudge started to speak and Sirius was paying full attention now too, though he did notice as Umbridge began to take notes with a bright purple quill. “-for offences committed during and immediately following the War against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and again in February of nineteen-eighty nine until the present day, by Sirius Orion Black-” Fudge’s expression soured. “-resident of a currently unknown location.”

“Interrogators,” Fudge continued, “Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Court Scribe, Dolores Jane Umbridge.”

“Witnesses for the offence: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Victoria Marie Knight, Christopher Stanley Clearwater and John Andrew Dawlish.” Sirius was a little surprised that Marlene hadn’t been listed, and had a quick look around. Just because we’re enemies now, he told himself, and it’s good to know where your enemies are.

Liar, said a voice that sounded a bit like his own.

Shut up, he grumbled, and glanced around again, but couldn’t spot her. He could, however, see Robards, by the door, clutching something small and golden – maybe a galleon? – but Marlene wasn’t with him, and he was too far away for Sirius to properly make out his expression. Fudge cleared his throat, apparently noticing Sirius’ distraction. “Witnesses for the defence: Sirius Orion Black... that’s all, I presume?”

“Y-” Sirius’ answer, however, was cut off by another voice, that rang throughout the courtroom.

“No, actually.” People gasped and one elderly witch in the front row squeaked and fainted. Almost simultaneously, every head in the courtroom turned to the speaker, who stood, looking nervous but determined. He smoothed his black robes and lifted his chin. “Second witness for the defence: Remus John Lupin.” 



Happy Birthday, Harry! :D

I thought such a special occasion merited an update. :D The next chapter will be up next week on Wednesday, NOT on Sunday (I'm sorry!) because it won't be finished by then. :S

So, until further notice, Wednesday is the new day for updates. :)



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