Half an hour before the trial was due to commence, Harry, Professor Lupin and Tonks arrived at the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Ray Harker - the red-haired keen-eyed new recruit who had been driving them - and his girlfriend, Sandra Troy, an athletic raven-haired woman, led the way to the telephone box. Harry didn't know much about them, only that neither of them worked for the Ministry, and that Troy was the sister of the Head of the Office of International Magical Law. For a moment, Troy and Harker scanned the street for Muggle and non-Muggle observers, then Harker nodded and they moved forward quickly. Tonks stepped forward and picked up the handset, the others crammed in behind her, and she dialled quickly and spoke into the mouthpiece. "Nymphadora Tonks, Auror, escorting Remus Lupin and Harry Potter to witness a trial on Level Ten, also present are Raymond Harker and Sandra Troy."
Four badges dropped into the coin slot, Harry handed three of them back to the others and pinned one on his jacket. The operator reminded them that they would have to submit to a security check, and then the box began to sink into the ground. When they arrived at the Atrium they swept through it. As they did, Harry noted idly that the statues atop the fountain had not been replaced and that the security desk was manned by the same wizard who had been there almost a year ago, Eric, Harry thought his name was. Harry, Lupin, Harker and Troy handed over their wands to be inspected — Lupin's was thirteen inches long and made of oak and unicorn hair, Harker's was fifteen inches long and made of yew and dragon heartstring, and Troy carried an eleven and a half inch olive and phoenix feather wand — then took them back and entered the golden lift.
Two minutes later, they arrived at the entrance to the Department of Mysteries. Harry paused at the threshold, neither of his previous visits to this level of the Ministry had been pleasant, but after a minute or two, Professor Lupin took him by the arm and guided him forward. "Everything will be okay Harry, trust me."
Harry smiled slightly. "It's just… difficult, that's all."
Lupin nodded. "I understand. It's not easy for me either."
They walked in silence for a few minutes until they caught up with another large group of people, heading the same way: seven redheads, a young woman with platinum blond hair, a girl with dirty blonde hair and a distracted air, and another girl of Harry's age with bushy hair who carried a large, leather satchel.
"Hi guys!" said Harry, beaming. It had been over a month since he'd seen any of the Weasleys, Luna or Hermione, and about two years since he'd seen Bill's girlfriend, Fleur Delacour.
"How are you, Harry?" Hermione asked immediately. Ginny, Ron and the twins turned to listen. Luna might have too, with her distracted air it was hard to tell.
"I'm fine," Harry assured her. "At least I have been since… since…"
"Sirius returned." Ginny finished for him.
Harry nodded, "I've been staying with Professor Lupin and some of the Order since my birthday, and the Dursleys were almost human while I was with them."
"Aren't you going to introduce us, Harry?" asked Troy.
"Sorry, these are my friends, the Weasleys… Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, Ron, Ginny, and their father, Arthur… and Fleur Delacour, Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood."
He took a deep breath. "Hermione, Luna, Fleur, Weasleys... this is Ray Harker and Sandra Troy, they both work for the Order."
After the younger Weasleys, Luna and Hermione had greeted the two Order agents, Mr Weasley suggested they move inside. Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Tonks, followed him immediately, but Hermione, Ron, Ginny, the twins and Luna held back to stand with Harry. Harker and Troy took flanking positions as they moved inside and sat down on the gallery facing the judges' benches. Other than Harry's group, and the jury, only four other people were present: Rita Skeeter, a middle-aged woman who strongly resembled Sirius, Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange and two tall, broad-shouldered men Harry didn't recognise. He turned to Tonks. "I know Rita, but who the others?"
"Kenneth Clarke, a journalist for the Daily Prophet and Barty Williams, an announcer of the Wizarding Wireless Network, they'll be working with Rita to get the word out after Sirius is cleared," Tonks replied in a whisper. "And the woman's my mother, Andromeda."
Harry almost asked Tonks to introduce them, but decided now wasn't the time.
"All rise for the Wizengamot," ordered the same cold, male voice that had spoken the last time Harry appeared before the wizard's court. Everyone rose to their feet and stood as the fifty witches and wizards clad in plum-coloured robes strode in. As they took their seats, Harry was pleased to see that three faces from last time were missing. "Bring in the prisoners."
The door on the opposite side from the ones that the Wizengamot had entered through creaked open. First to come through the door was a small, bald man in grey Ministry-issue robes, flanked by five Hit-Wizards - Harry recognised two of them, Jason Draper and Josef Phobus, a brawny, and rather sinister and intimidating man, who were both new recruits to the Order of the Phoenix. Wormtail won't be able to slip away this time, Harry thought to himself with a certain amount of satisfaction. Wormtail was escorted to one of the two chairs in the centre of the room, and sat down. The chains attached to the edge of the chair promptly snaked up to ensnare him. Contrastingly, when Kingsley and two Ministry Inquisitors loyal to Dumbledore, escorted Sirius in a few moments later; his chair did not imprison him.
"There's a spell on the chains that senses feelings of guilt," Tonks explained. "If you believe you're innocent, they don't imprison you."
"Now that everyone who needs to be here, is here, let us begin," announced Dumbledore from his seat at the centre of the bench. "We are here today to determine the facts of the events of 1st November 1981, and to determine if Sirius Lee Black of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, London, is guilty or innocent of the charge of wilfully killing thirteen Muggles with a single curse, filed on 2nd November of the same year. The concurrent charge of wilful murder in the case of Peter Pettigrew, is summarily dismissed due to the presence of the individual concerned in the courtroom at this time."
"Interrogators: Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Hestia Veritas, Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol. Court Scribe: Adolphus Waffling."
Madame Bones spoke up next. "Could you please tell us the events which led to the death of thirteen Muggles and your incarceration in Azkaban?"
"Yes, Your Honour," Sirius replied. "On October 24th 1981, James and Lily Potter were told that Voldemort intended to make a move against them, after a Seer foretold that their son, Harry, would destroy him. After discussing the situation with Professor Dumbledore, the Potters decided to go into hiding under the Fidelius Charm."
"And you were their Secret Keeper?" asked Madame Bones.
Sirius shook his head, "That was the original plan, as I intended to go into hiding myself, but I persuaded them to change to Peter - that is Peter Pettigrew - at the last minute, as a misdirection ploy."
"So you are saying that you were not directly involved in the deaths of Lily and James Potter?" clarified Madame Bones.
"Yes, I am Your Honour," confirmed Sirius. "I only heard about the attack after it happened. I rushed to Godric's Hollow, which was the last place I saw them, and found Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, retrieving Harry from the ruins of their house. I tried to persuade him to let me take Harry — I was his godfather, you see — but Hagrid insisted on taking Harry to a safe house that Dumbledore had arranged. Which I later discovered was the house of his Muggle relatives, the Dursleys."
Dumbledore nodded confirmation of this when Madame Bones looked at him.
Madame Bones nodded, "Continue, Mr Black."
"The next day, Peter caught up with me in London. In front of Muggle witnesses, he accused me of betraying my friends and then killed a group of Muggles behind him with his own wand, which he had hidden behind his back."
"I see, and can you explain why Mr Pettigrew would try and frame you? And how, and why, he was believed to be dead?"
"Yes Your Honour, I can," Sirius answered. "He is a coward, more interested in saving his own skin than doing what is right. He fled because the Death Eaters knew that Voldemort had been told where James and Lily were hiding by Peter; and some of them thought he lured Him to his destruction deliberately. Everyone believed that he was dead, because he chopped off his own finger and escaped into the sewers as a rat."
"He transformed?" blurted out Madam Veritas. "How did he do this?"
"He is an Animagus, Your Honour," Sirius explained. "During our fifth year, James Potter, Peter Pettigrew and I became Animagi. We never registered ourselves, although I believe James may have told one or two of his superiors in the Dark Force Defence League."
"Can anyone else verify that Peter Pettigrew is indeed an Animagus?" asked Veritas. "Other than Pettigrew himself, of course."
"Yes, Your Honour."
"Are any of them present here today?"
"Yes, Your Honour."
"And they are…?"
"Remus Lupin, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger."
Veritas scanned the audience until she spotted Harry. "Mr Potter, please stand and address the court."
Harry stood immediately. "Yes, Your Honour?"
"On your honour as a wizard, can you verify that Peter Pettigrew is indeed an Animagus… a rat Animagus to be precise?"
"I can, Your Honour."
"Have you witnessed this transformation?"
"Yes, Your Honour," Harry replied. "During my third year in the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade Village during the evening of the June full moon I saw Worm- Peter Pettigrew return to human form from that of a rat…"
"What were you doing in Hogsmeade?" asked Madam Bones.
"That matter is outside the purview of this hearing and has already been dealt with," Dumbledore told her. "Please continue Harry."
"Thank you, Professor. About an hour later, in the grounds of Hogwarts, I saw him transform again, this time back into a rat. That's when he escaped."
"Thank you, Mr Potter, you may be seated," Madam Bones told him. "Mr Black, do you have anything more to add?"
"No, Your Honour."
"Very well," said Veritas. "Mr Pettigrew, please tell us your version of the events outlined by Mr Black."
After a little, none too gentle, prodding from Draper, Wormtail spoke and naturally confirmed everything that Sirius and Harry had said was true. When he had finished speaking, Dumbledore spoke up again. "The preceding facts being established, it would seem to be appropriate to introduce the supplementary charges?"
After receiving nods from Madam Bones and Madam Veritas, Dumbledore continued. "Peter Pettigrew, did you aid and abet the kidnapping and illegal imprisonment of Bartemis Crouch Sr; brew illegal necromantic potions with the intention of restoring Lord Voldemort to full power; and inflict actual bodily harm on Harry Potter as part of this process?"
"The case is now complete, I ask that the jury deliver its verdict," said Dumbledore, looking at them over his half-moon spectacles. "Raise your hands if you believe that Sirius Lee Black is guilty of the charges levied against him?" Harry held his breath. Not a single hand was raised. "I therefore find Mr Black, innocent of all charges. Does the jury believe, as I do, that a sum of three and a half million Galleons would be suitable compensation for his treatment in the past?" This time every hand was raised.
Dumbledore waited until Kingsley and the Inquisitors had escorted Sirius out of the room before he continued. "In the case of Peter Pettigrew, also known as Wormtail, does the jury feel that he is guilty of the crimes of which he stands accused?" Again every hand was raised. "Does the jury feel that such crimes deserve the maximum possible sanction?" For a third time, every hand was raised. "Peter Pettigrew, I hereby sentence you to imprisonment in Azkaban Prison for the rest of your natural life." He turned Wormtail's escort. "Take him away."
Dumbledore waited until Wormtail had been taken from the room and then spoke again. "Court dismissed."
"I hope he rots in there," muttered Harry as they moved out of the courtroom, Ron and Hermione and Lupin were on his left, with Andromeda, Tonks, and Moody on his right. Ginny, Luna and the other Weasleys walked behind them and Harker and Troy stood in flanking positions outside the group. Ron nodded grimly; he still took Wormtail's betrayal of them as personally as he ever had. As they passed the seat where Rita was sitting she opened her mouth to speak, but a scowl from both Harry and Hermione made her change her mind.
They were just about to leave, when Moody reached over to Harry and stopped him. "Wait, something's wrong," he growled, nodding towards the paper plane that was floating towards the clerk's desk. Mr Waffling unfolded the parchment and frowned. He looked up at the Wizengamot, who had also stopped at the sight of the message. "It is from Lieutenant Phobus, Your Honour."
"What is it?" asked Dumbledore.
"Apparently there was an accident with the lift," Waffling replied. "The prisoner was killed. Apparently there is no doubt."
Dumbledore sighed. "That is… unfortunate. Hestia, your Inquisitors will investigate?"
"I look forward to hearing your report," said Dumbledore and swept out.
"Harry, are you alright?" asked Tonks.
Harry nodded. "He got what he deserved. Let's go find Sirius."
Sirius was waiting for them when they reached the Atrium, the two Inquisitors were nowhere to be seen, but Kingsley stood slightly behind Sirius. Harry knew he shouldn't, but he couldn't restrain himself, he ran forward and embraced Sirius with so much violence that the former convict almost fell over. "You're free."
"Yep," confirmed Sirius. "My offer still stands if you're interested…?"
"When can I move in?"
"Immediately, Harry," Sirius told him. "I don't want you to ever return to those Muggles, I hope you don't mind if we make it Remus' house, at least until I can get a few things sorted out? I've had enough of Grimmauld Place to last me a lifetime."
"No problem," Harry assured him. He had no particular wish to return to Grimmauld Place either.
Harry said his goodbyes to the Weasleys, Hermione and Luna, and followed Sirius, Professor Lupin, Tonks and their escort back up to the street. Harker's car was exactly where he had left it, all that was required was a quick Expanding Charm so they could all fit in.
Neither Harry nor Sirius got much sleep that night, as they were too busy enjoying each other's company in a place that felt like home.
A/N: I hope you like what I've written so far. It's been fairly light so far but it may get darker later. Please review following the link below or by e-mailing me at email@example.com. More will be coming soon.