(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
The Servant of Lord Voldemort
“Priorities are always subjective.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
“George!?” Erica gasped.
George blushed as red as his hair, but smiled. “Yeah, it’s me,” he replied, his wand still trained on Black.
Black meanwhile was paying George no mind. He was too busy trying to free Professor Lupin.
“My knife,” Sirius asked holding out a hand to Erica and Hermione.
Harriet expected George to protest, but he lowered his wand. Hermione nervously handed over the knife. Black took it and promptly cut Professor Lupin loose.
Professor Lupin rubbed his wrists and face. “Thank you, George,” Professor Lupin said.
“Nah, I’ve wanted to get one over on that git for ages,” George said. “Fred’ll never believe me though.” George suddenly looked awkward. “Though, I’d be rather obliged if, uh… no one told Snape it was me.”
“The secret’s safe with me,” Erica said, smiling at George with mixed warmth and disbelief.
Professor Lupin got to his feet and looked at Daniel. “Might I have my wand back now, Harriet? So I might revive him?”
Harriet held out Professor Lupin’s wand to him. Professor Lupin took it and turned back to Daniel. “Enervate.”
Daniel twitched and gasped as he regained consciousness immediately.
“Welcome back,” Professor Lupin said.
“Thanks,” Daniel said rubbing his head. “What happened?”
“Snivellus hit you with a stunning spell,” Black explained.
“Been a long time since that’s happened,” Daniel said. “Old times after all.”
Erica was paying no attention to them. Her eyes were only for George. “How did you find me?” she asked.
Harriet raised her eyebrows at this question, but George simply shrugged and replied. “Fred and I were coming back from Honeydukes, getting some supplies for the end of exams party tonight. We saw Snape running past us down a corridor, moving like hell. Well, if Snape was in such a hurry he wasn’t even going to try and find out what we were up to, in his campaign to get us in trouble, there must have been something big going on. And well… I thought, or hoped, or… I dunno… was afraid… it was something about you… so I just dropped what I was carrying and ran after him.”
George paused to study Professor Snape. “He got kinda awkward to follow after he put on the cloak… which is seriously cool by the way, Harriet. Didn’t know where this tunnel went, Fred and I’ve never been in it before because of the Willow. But I kept going cuz well… if they’d finally found you and were doing a rescue, there was no way I wasn’t going to be a part of it…”
Erica took a step towards George who was blushing brighter. “You ran after a professor who hates you… down a dark tunnel you’d never been in before… knowing you were probably going to encounter Sirius Black at the end… to save me?”
If George could have blushed anymore, his freckles would have become the lightest parts of his face. He ran a hand through his hair.
“Well, yeah,” he said. “I mean… of course I was gonna. I mean, you’re you.”
Erica was standing very close to him now, smiling up at him. A mischievous smile swept over her face and Harriet was sure she was about to say something cheeky, but she apparently decided against it. “My hero,” she said softly, instead.
“Nah,” George said awkwardly. “I mean… looks like you already kinda got saved.”
“Oh shut up and take the compliment,” she said and without another moment’s hesitation, leaned up and kissed him.
George froze for only a moment before he gently placed his hands on Erica’s waist.
“You can’t be serious,” Black muttered, watching with raised eyebrows.
Erica broke off the kiss just long enough to give Sirius a very dirty look before she resumed kissing George. Harriet glanced around the room. Ronnie was looking as dumbstruck as Harriet. Dora’s expression was unreadable. Hermione had her hands over her mouth, her eyes bright and twinkling as she watched. Daniel and Professor Lupin both exchanged a look and slowly shrugged.
Finally, Erica broke the kiss and George slowly fluttered his eyes open.
“Wow,” he said.
Erica smiled. “All you gotta say?”
George blushed. “Well, I suppose if I’ve got the courage to do all this, I should finally have the courage to ask you out?”
“Probably,” Erica said, smiling up at him expectantly.
“So, um… would you like to… you know—”
“Yes,” Erica said.
“Hogsmeade trip this Saturday?”
“It’s a date.”
George beamed and kissed Erica again. Dora finally cleared her throat a bit loudly and they broke off.
“Right, well, now the important business is out of the way,” George said, looking over the room again. “Back to you guys explaining what the hell’s going on.”
“You… you mean you just believe them?” Dora asked. “How much did you overhear?”
George shrugged. “As much as Snape did, really. I was right behind him most of the way. Followed the sound of his footsteps through the tunnel then his footprints in the dust once we got in the Shack. So… yeah. I mean, listening to you three talking,” he said gesturing to the three grown men, “it was kinda obvious nothing really bad was happening. Though, none of that really explains why you’re all, you know, here?”
“Well then… it’s time we revealed that once and for all,” Black said and held out a hand to Ronnie. “Girl. Give me Peter. Now.”
Ronnie clutched Scabbers’ cage tighter. “Why? You really expect us all to believe you broke out of Azkaban just to get Scabbers?”
“Wait, Scabbers is alive?” George asked, looking at the rat. “But the blood, and the toe?”
“He’s pulled that stunt before,” Black growled.
“What do you mean?” Daniel asked when his eyes widened with dawning comprehension and he and Professor Lupin exchanged a look.
Harriet’s memory hanks sprang into action once more. It was another crazy coincidence or whatever it was, and yet it fit. Black, Daniel, and Professor Lupin were all calling Scabbers, Peter Pettigrew. And the biggest bit of Peter Pettigrew found, after Black blew him up along with the rest of the street, was his finger. But there was something odd about that which Harriet couldn’t figure out.
“Okay, just lemme get this straight,” Ronnie said, still sounding very sceptical. “Let’s say Pettigrew can turn into a rat. There are bajillions of rats in the world. How the hell did he know, from Azkaban, that Scabbers is Pettigrew? How could you possibly know this is the right one?”
“That’s… actually a very fair question,” Professor Lupin said. “How did you find out?”
Black put a hand inside his cloak pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He opened it up and held it out to Professor Lupin. Professor Lupin took it and unfolded it so he and Daniel could see. Harriet leaned over to look as well. It was the photograph from the Daily Prophet of Ronnie and her family in Egypt. At once, Harriet spotted Scabbers sitting on Ronnie’s shoulder.
“How… where…” Professor Lupin spluttered.
“How did you get this?” Daniel asked.
“Fudge,” Black said simply. “Well… kind of…”
“Kind of?” Professor Lupin asked.
“Yes. He told me that it was a gift from Sherrod,” Black said. “In exchange for a favour or something, or else he wouldn’t have done it.”
“Sherrod?” Professor Lupin asked.
“That… crafty… sunuvabitch,” Daniel muttered, leaning in closer to look at the photograph. “Of course he recognized him.”
“My god,” Professor Lupin said. “His front paw…"
“What about it?” Ronnie asked.
“He’s got a missing front toe…” Black growled.
“He cut it off himself then?” Daniel asked.
“Just before he transformed,” Black said. “I cornered him and he yelled for the whole street to hear that I betrayed Lily and James. Just as I was about to curse him, he blew the street apart behind his back with his wand. Killed everyone within twenty feet of himself, then as I was getting back to my feet, he cut off his finger, transformed, and ran down the sewers.”
“Oh god…” Dora gasped.
“That’s so… so…” Hermione stammered.
“Like an animal…” Daniel said, his eyes burning as he looked at the caged rat in Ronnie’s hands.
“Didn’t you ever hear, Ronnie?” Professor Lupin asked. “The biggest bit of Peter ever found was his finger.”
“Well, he is an old rat!” Ronnie argued. “He coulda lost it in a fight with another rat.”
“And just how long did you have this rat?” Black asked. “Let me guess? Twelve years?”
“Well…” Ronnie furrowed her head in thought. “Yeah…”
“That’s a long time for a rat, don’t you think?” Daniel asked. “Even a magical one.”
“We’ve… we’ve been taking good care of him!” Ronnie said, though even Harriet could tell Ronnie’s uncertainty was growing.
“Doesn’t look too well at the moment though, does he?” Professor Lupin asked.
“It’s that mad cat’s fault,” Ronnie said glaring at Crookshanks. The cat however kept purring on the bed without a care in the world, his bushy tail flipping about.
“He’s not mad,” Black said. “He’s the smartest of his kind I’ve ever met… even if I told him not to let anyone in after us…”
“He’s my cat,” Hermione said, reaching down to stroke Crookshank’s shaggy head. “We were so desperate to get into the Willow I just… called out for help and he pressed the knot right away.”
“Ah, well, that would explain it,” Black said. “Suppose helping me would have been the more traitorous act then, wouldn’t it?”
Crookshanks continued to purr.
“Anyway, he recognized Peter for what he was straight-away, and me as well. It wasn’t until my first break-in on Halloween that he came around… he came and told me that I’d frightened little Emma… and I promised I would do my best to make it up to her…”
“So… it wasn’t Emma giving you the secrets of how to get in?” Dora asked. “It was Crookshanks…”
“Yes,” Black said. “Once I told him who I was, and what I was after, he tried to bring Peter to me, but couldn’t. I thought we had our chance when he was moved to the boys’ dormitory instead. Crookshanks stole a list of the passwords off a boy’s bedside table and brought them to me.”
Harriet slowly sat in the chair again. It was all making sense. And yet her brain kept telling her it shouldn’t. But it did.
“Unfortunately, it seemed Peter got wind of what we were up to and ran for it. Crookshanks here told me that he left some blood and another toe behind. I suppose if the trick worked well enough once, it would work a second time.”
“Poor Scott,” Dora said and actually laughed. “He’s been driving himself mad all year trying to figure out what the hell you’ve been up to,” she went on. “Because it was pretty obvious to him that whatever you were after, it couldn’t have been Harriet.”
“No… I wasn’t after Harriet… I was after the one person in that school I knew was a threat to her… the traitor, Peter Pettigrew…” Black said, his eyes burning once more.
“But how?” Harriet asked. “You were our secret-keeper, not Peter!” Her temper was rising once again. “You were my father’s best friend! You protected us! How could Peter have told Lord Voldemort if you hadn’t told him!?”
Black’s eyes became over-bright. He hung his head and sank back onto the bed. “I know it’s my fault… all my fault…” Black said, and Harriet was surprised to hear his voice about to break. “I thought it was the perfect plan… a bluff…”
Black turned pained eyes on Harriet. “When we were getting the Fidelius Charm ready, your father insisted on using me. Dumbledore offered, but we thought he was too obvious… and I thought the same of myself. But… we decided on a trick… we would pretend I was the secret keeper, we’d tell everyone. And in reality, we would use—”
“Peter.” It was Daniel who spoke this time. His voice was bitter and his fists clenched.
“Yes,” Black said. “The night your parents died, Harriet… I’d arranged to check on Peter. But when I got to his house; he was gone. There was no sign of a struggle… no Dark Mark in the sky… I knew something was wrong. I flew to your parents’ house straightaway and… I saw it destroyed…and their bodies… and Hagrid there… holding you in his arms… this precious… tiny little thing… with that horrible cut on your head…”
Black paused and buried his face in his hands, choking back a sob. Professor Lupin put a hand on Black’s shoulder. Black took a deep breath and continued.
“And I knew… I knew what I’d done… I didn’t save you… I handed you over to the spy… right into Voldemort’s hands…”
Ronnie, Dora, Hermione, and George all shuddered at the mention of Voldemort’s name. Erica, who grew up in a different country gave no reaction. Neither did Professor Lupin or Daniel. However, the word hit Harriet like a kick in the gut. Not out of fear, but because of what it meant to her to hear Sirius Black say Voldemort’s name out loud. Only the people she trusted the most in the world said that name out loud: Professor Dumbledore, Professor Howe, Professor Lupin, and Daniel.
“It’s time now,” Daniel said, getting to his feet. “We’ve explained enough, there’s only one last thing to do to prove what happened once and for all.”
“Yes,” Professor Lupin agreed. He turned and held a hand out to Ronnie. “Ronnie, give me that rat.”
Harriet had never heard Professor Lupin use that tone before. It was full of determined anger.
“Wh-what are you gonna do to him if I do?” Ronnie asked.
“Force him to reveal himself,” Professor Lupin explained. “If he is just a rat, it won’t hurt him.”
Ronnie looked down at Scabbers, squeaking and gnawing on the bars, still clearly panicking. Finally, Ronnie hesitantly held out the cage and Professor Lupin took it. Daniel held out a hand to Hermione and she returned his wand. Daniel stepped up next to Professor Lupin. Black stood on Professor Lupin’s other side, brandishing Professor Snape’s wand. They pointed their wands at the cage.
“I’ll get the cage, you two get Peter,” Daniel said.
Professor Lupin and Black nodded. Daniel jabbed his wand at the cage and it vanished. Scabbers spun to make for the door but Professor Lupin and Black were quicker. A bright flash of blue light shot from the wands and connected with the balding, rail-thin rat before he’d even taken two steps. The rat was lifted into the air, spinning and twisting madly.
Ronnie yelled and the little rat fell to the floor. A blinding flash of light lit the room and it happened. Scabbers began to grow.
First a head shot upwards, then shoulders and arms. These were followed by a torso, waist, and finally legs. There, in the middle of the room, what had once been Scabbers, was now a short, balding man, wringing his hands anxiously. Crookshanks hissed and spit at the man from the bed. Black raised his wand and took a step forward but Daniel and Professor Lupin both put a hand on his arm and forced it down.
The man was short, and what remained of his hair was colourless and sparse. He looked to have once been plump but now was very thin, his skin hanging loosely from his short neck. Harriet couldn’t help but notice that despite being returned to human, his eyes were small and watery, as Scabbers’ had been, and his upturned little nose put Harriet in mind of Scabbers still more strongly.
“Hello, Peter,” Professor Lupin said. His voice sounded pleasant. “Long time, no see.”
“R-Remus, S-S-Sirius, Daniel,” Pettigrew stuttered. Even his voice was squeaky and high-pitched. His eyes darted towards the door. “M-my… my good… friends…”
“Yes, well, we’d like to talk to you about that, Peter,” Professor Lupin said, his voice still polite and calm.
“Yes… we were just talking about the night Lily and James died…” Daniel chimed in. “Might have missed most of it with the fit you were throwing in your cage…”
Harriet could see beads of sweat starting to glint on Pettigrew’s forehead. “Remus… Daniel… you can’t believe him… you don’t… do you? He tried to kill me!”
“Yes…” Daniel said, his voice getting an edge to it.
“We heard,” Professor Lupin added.
“And now he’s going to try and kill me again!” Pettigrew wailed. “You two have to help me! He killed Lily and James and now he’s going to kill me too! He’ll kill you two too if he gets the chance! Stop him!”
Pettigrew was pointing at black, terror showing in every line of his face. Harriet couldn’t help but notice that Pettigrew used his middle finger to point, as his index was missing. He also had a distinct limp as he moved back a couple steps towards the door, undoubtedly from where he’d cut off his toe.
Daniel raised his wand and Pettigrew stopped backing up.
“No one’s going to kill you until we’ve had a little chat, Peter,” Professor Lupin said.
“A chat? About what?” Pettigrew said, looking around wildly. “I knew this would happen! I knew he’d come after me! I knew he’d find me!”
“You knew Sirius was going to break out of the most secure prison in the world when no one else has ever done so?” Daniel asked, sceptically.
“He’s got terrible dark powers!” Pettigrew squealed. “How else did he get out of there?! Tricks the Dark Lord taught him no doubt!”
Black laughed, a mirthless, terrible laugh. “Voldemort! Teach me tricks?” he asked, wickedly.
Pettigrew flinched at the name.
“What’s that? Scared to hear your old master’s name? And if he taught me how to escape that place, why would I just decided to sit on my arse in the most horrible prison for twelve years? Shits and grins? No, Peter… it wasn’t me you were hiding from… you were hiding from them… hiding from his old supporters… because not all of them made it into Azkaban, did they?”
Black’s face was getting more menacing by the moment. “I heard things in Azkaban, Peter… I heard lots of things while spending twelve years in prison for your crimes… they scream all sorts of things in their sleep at night… and wouldn’t you know it… but your name comes up quite often… seems as though they think you double-crossed them… It was your information that sent Voldemort to the Potters’ that night, wasn’t it? But like I said… plenty are still out there… biding their time… just imagine if they ever found out you were alive…”
“Lunacy,” Pettigrew stammered. “Don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“What I’d like to know is why an innocent man would spend twelve years pretending to be a rat?” Daniel asked, his voice gravelly with suppressed anger.
“Innocent and scared!” Pettigrew cried. “If Voldemort’s supporters were after me it was because I put their best spy, Sirius Black, in Azkaban!”
“Why you…” Black snarled, sounding a bit like the dog he had been. “When did I ever cower before bullies? When did I ever look around for people stronger than me to cower behind? Unlike you… you who used to hide behind me and Remus and Daniel and James…. I should have known you were the spy from the start…”
“Me!” Pettigrew spluttered. “A spy! Never! I don’t know how—”
“DON’T LIE!” Daniel bellowed, staring down Pettigrew looking quite unlike himself. Pettigrew cowered as Daniel loomed over him. “I thought it was you all along! I wished they’d told me because I would have talked them out of it! Insisted they use me or anyone instead of you! Sniveling little coward! I never believed it was Sirius! I got reprimands for speaking out at the Auror office against Sirius’ sentencing to Azkaban without trial! I got demoted! Finally I quit and started up my shop! Having to live with it for years!”
Daniel was panting. Harriet got the impression Daniel had never told anyone about this. “And you know what? The worst part? The nail in the coffin of any dignity I had left? I CHANGED MY MIND!!” he bellowed. “I finally convinced myself I was wrong! I shifted the blame onto Sirius and accepted that I’d made a mistake! That he must have really been the spy! That he must have been the traitor all along! All the while you were hiding getting fat and lazy with a wizard family, just waiting for your chance!”
Pettigrew sank to the floor, whimpering as Daniel raised a clenched fist. He didn’t strike, but he clearly wanted to. Professor Lupin put a hand on Daniel’s shoulder but he shrugged it off, walking away and sitting on the edge of the bed, staring into his hands.
Everyone turned. It was Ronnie who had spoken. The look of rage Daniel and Black wore when looking at Pettigrew was mirrored on her face. Pettigrew whimpered and crawled towards her.
“Ronnie? Please, haven’t I been a good pet? Please, don’t let them… please help—”
“You… sick… bastard!” Ronnie cried out and she kicked Pettigrew hard in the face as he neared her. Pettigrew cried out and rolled away, cowering as Ronnie moved forward and kicked him hard again before anyone could react.
“I let you sleep in my bed!” she shouted and kicked him again. “You’ve seen me naked you sick—you evil!”
Words failed Ronnie. Erica and George both grabbed Ronnie’s arms and pulled her back before she could kick him again.
Pettigrew was sobbing, pitifully, on the floor, curled up. Ronnie gave out a little sob too, clutching her arms tight around her chest, trembling. Her rage it seemed had given over to disgust and shame. George was hugging her tight, looking down at Pettigrew with murder in his eyes. Harriet was feeling violated too. Pettigrew had to have seen her naked as well during the times she stayed at the Burrow. Her urge to draw her wand and curse him into something horrible was growing by the second.
There was a silence thereafter, which Hermione finally broke while changing the subject. “M-Mr Black… Sirius…”
Black looked down at Hermione with an incredulous look on his face. Harriet wondered if he’d ever been spoken to politely since her parents’ deaths. “Please, if you don’t mind my asking, and... and I don’t mean to sound accusatory... but I’d just like to know, if you didn’t use any dark magic… how did you escape Azkaban?”
Black frowned as he looked at Hermione. He didn’t seem upset. Instead it looked as though he was thinking hard. “Well, to be honest, I don’t know exactly. I think the only reason I never lost my mind or my powers is because I knew I was innocent. It wasn’t a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn’t suck it out of me… but it kept me focused, and it kept me sane. It was like a fire the Dementors couldn’t snuff out. But it still left me very weak, and I couldn’t hope to drive them off without a wand.”
Black took a breath, struggling to find words. “I… well, the only power I had left to me was my ability to transform. So that’s what I did. Dementors can’t see, they feel their way towards their victims through emotions. So when I was a dog, I think my mind was less complex, so… they must have thought it meant I was losing my mind as well.”
“Clever,” Daniel said.
“Desperate,” Black corrected. “But then I got that paper from Howe… and I spotted Peter in it right away… and I knew that was the real reason he’d sent it. And I knew that I was the only one who could do something about it.”
“But, if Professor Howe knew it was Pettigrew, why didn’t he do something?” Hermione asked.
Black shrugged. “Could be anything. Most likely, he knew the Ministry wouldn’t believe him.”
“Probably not,” Daniel said. “He resigned from the Auror office right after you went to Azkaban.”
“Professor Howe was an Auror?” Harriet asked.
“Not as such. More like a detective… he solved the crimes; the aurors cleaned up. The office has been a mess since he left and Scrimgeour took over,” Daniel replied. “Equally likely… he wanted Sirius to conduct some mayhem. Howe… doesn’t like the Ministry much, in case you didn’t notice.”
“Anyway,” Black went on. “I knew only I could do something. Howe sent it to me as a message. He knows we’re animagi—”
“How did he know, if you’ve kept it secret from Professor Dumbledore?” Harriet asked.
Black waved a dismissive hand. “It’s Howe. Nothing’s secret from him. But we were part of a… well… a secret order, under Dumbledore during the last war. He figured us out straightaway. So after thinking about it for a week, I realized the only way I could do anything about it was to escape. I waited for dinner, and slipped past the Dementors as a dog. They can’t detect animals as well as humans and they were confused. I swam to the mainland, nearly drown a couple times, and began making my way to Hogwarts.”
More and more pieces of the puzzle were clicking together in Harriet’s mind. Save Harriet, kill the traitor, the words Professor Howe had told her Black had been muttering in his sleep. And then the dog after escaping Privet Drive.
“It was you,” Harriet said, taking a step towards Black. “That night… the dog in the streetlight… the dog Professor Howe told wasn’t needed, but didn’t seem to want to leave…”
Black’s eyes were over-bright. He nodded and his lip trembled and his voice cracked as he spoke. “Yes… I just… wanted a glimpse of you, just to make sure you were okay. I heard the fight inside and almost burst in myself, but I saw Howe and Watkins run up to the door. Howe turned their robes into Accidental Magic Reversal Squad robes and they burst inside. I knew if Howe was on the case you were perfectly safe but… I was still scared… so I followed when I heard you run out the back door… I got careless though and you spotted me. I heard Howe explain that I was a Gurt Dog, and tell me to leave. I didn’t want to… but I knew it was most likely for the best. So I continued on towards Hogwarts on foot.”
“So Professor Howe knew it was you, even then?” Harriet asked.
“Of course he did,” Black said.
Harriet crossed her arms. Professor Howe had never lied to her before. He admitted he couldn’t tell her some things, but not lied.
“Now, now, Harriet,” Daniel said as if reading her mind. “If Howe had told you the truth, would you have believed him?”
Harriet slowly uncrossed her arms. “No…” she admitted.
Black spoke up again. “I’ve been living in the forest ever since… until Erica discovered me in the little alcove where Emma was bringing me food. I changed back into human form so I could better, well, enjoy the flavour of the food just as Erica stepped around the corner. I knew I couldn’t hide her in the forest as well, and I couldn’t let her tell everyone I was an animagus, so I was forced to take her with me.”
“That was a bit of a shock,” Erica said.
Sirius managed a snort that might have been a laugh. “Well… so we moved in here… I cleaned it up a bit to make it liveable… have been helping Erica with her lessons when not hunting for Peter… other than that, I only came into the grounds to watch the Quidditch matches…”
Black looked up at Harriet, his thin lips curled into a passable smile and his eyes still wet with tears. “You fly better than your father did, Harriet…”
Harriet didn’t respond. She kept looking at Black with new eyes. She was looking past the skull now. Following the lines of the face, and slowly, before her very eyes, the face of the laughing young man in her parents’ wedding photo became recognizable.
“You’re telling the truth… aren’t you…?” Harriet asked, breathless.
Black opened his mouth to respond. He paused, his words failing him, and he simply nodded instead. Without another word herself, Harriet took another step forward and wrapped her arms around Black in a hug.
Black was taken aback at first, but after a moment’s pause, he too hugged Harriet back.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry,” Black was muttering. “It’s still my fault… all my fault…”
Harriet shook her head and kept hugging Black tight. “I believe you,” was all she said in reply.
“No!” Pettigrew was scrambling to his knees. He crawled towards Harriet and Sirius but in his haste he tripped over Professor Snape’s fallen form, landing on his face. He kept crawling forward.
“Sirius, please, it’s me, Peter! You wouldn’t!”
Sirius kicked out at Pettigrew and he pulled back. “Don’t you dare touch me,” Sirius spat. “There’s enough filth on my robes without you touching them!”
“Remus, Daniel,” Pettigrew said turning to them. “Wouldn’t he have told you if they’d changed the plan? You can’t believe this! You can’t!”
“Well… he wouldn’t have told,” Professor Lupin said. “Not if they thought I was the spy.”
Sirius sighed. “I… I thought it was you… Remus… I’m sorry… and Daniel… James…”
Sirius’ words caught in his throat.
“Not at all, Padfoot, old friend,” Remus said. “If you’ll forgive me in turn for believing it was you?”
“Of course,” Sirius said.
Daniel’s jaw clenched and he slowly nodded. “I… I understand, old friend… it could have been any of us…”
“But, in the end it was only one of us,” Professor Lupin said, his voice becoming dangerous again. “And now… it is time…”
“All three of us?” Sirius said, rolling up his sleeves.
“Yes… I think so…” Daniel said. He sounded reluctant, but he too rolled up his sleeves and the three stood as a line once more, facing down Pettigrew like a firing squad.
Pettigrew went into a panic. It was pitiful to watch. He crawled towards Ronnie once more. “Ronnie, please, wasn’t I such a good pet? Such a good rat!”
“Get away from her,” George spat pulling Ronnie away and kicking out at Pettigrew.
“Sweet girl, clever girl,” Pettigrew said, turning to Hermione now. “You won’t let them… you who fought so hard to save the hippogriff… help me!”
Hermione backed away too, actually sliding onto the bed to pull her feet out of Pettigrew’s reach. Finally, Pettigrew turned to Harriet. Harriet couldn’t help but notice that he had passed over Dora. Harriet supposed he knew her well enough over the past three years to know that he would find no sympathy there.
“Harriet… oh Harriet… you look so much like them both… James’ hair but Lily’s eyes—”
“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HARRIET!” Sirius roared. “HOW DARE YOU FACE HER!? HOW DARE YOU SPEAK OF LILY AND JAMES IN FRONT OF HER!?”
“Harriet,” Pettigrew whimpered, his hands held up in front of him as if in prayer. “James would have understood… James wouldn’t have wanted me killed…”
“You sold Lily and James to Lord Voldemort,” Daniel said, working himself up. “Do you deny it?”
“Daniel! Remus! Sirius! What was I to do?!” Pettigrew wailed. “He had weapons you couldn’t imagine! I was scared! I was never brave like you four! The Dark Lord forced me!”
“You know what gives you away, Peter?” Daniel asked. He knelt beside Pettigrew, looking him in the face menacingly. “Only Death Eaters ever called him the Dark Lord… and only Death Eaters ever bore this.”
He grabbed Pettigrew’s left arm and yanked up the sleeve. There, on Pettigrew’s inner forearm, was a horrible tattoo. It was barely visible, but even in the dim light, Harriet could make it out. It was a skull, and circling around it, passing through the eye sockets, was a green snake.
“You’d been passing information to Voldemort for a year before Lily and James died,” Black snarled. “Don’t lie… you were his spy!”
“He was taking over everywhere!” Pettigrew wheezed. “What was to be gained by refusing him!?”
“Maybe some innocent lives, Peter!?” Sirius said.
“But he would have killed me!” Pettigrew whined.
“THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!” Sirius roared now. “DIED INSTEAD OF BERTRAYING YOUR FRIENDS!”
“As we would have done for you…” Daniel said, his voice chillingly calm now.
Daniel retook his place in the line with Professor Lupin and Sirius.
“You should have realized, Peter,” Professor Lupin said. “If Voldemort and his followers didn’t kill you, we would.”
“Goodbye, Peter,” Daniel said.
Hermione turned away. Ronnie, Erica and George were watching with blank stares. Dora’s eyes were burning as she looked upon the cowering man. Harriet looked at the three men as their arms raised. The three men who represented so much of what she’d lost, and now was on the verge of regaining. About to lose them again if they committed this act. Her legs and mouth worked on their own.
“NO!” Harriet shoved between the men and stood in front of Pettigrew, holding her arms out to block them. “You can’t kill him! You can’t!”
The three men looked stunned.
“Harriet… this vermin is the reason you have no parents!” Sirius said. “He would have seen you dead too without turning a hair! His own stinking skin meant more to him than your whole family! Than the entire world!”
“He can go to Azkaban,” Harriet said. “We’ll take him to the castle. We’ll clear your name, Sirius,” she went on. “Killing him won’t fix that!”
Sirius looked staggered, though Harriet wasn’t sure if it was her argument, or that she had called him Sirius.
“Harriet!” Pettigrew squealed and hugged her around the waist. “Thank you! It’s more than I deserve! Thank you!”
“Get off!” Harriet said and she backhanded Pettigrew hard across the face. He fell to the floor again, cringing. “I’m not doing it for you… I’m doing it for them! And you know what? I’m doing it for me! I don’t want my father’s best friends to become killers for you, and I’m not going to give up people who I should have always known who I’ve just got back now!”
The room went very quiet. Harriet looked at the three armed men. Daniel was first. He lowered his wand, and gave sideways glances to Professor Lupin and Sirius, who both lowered theirs as well.
“That’s very noble of you, Harriet,” Professor Lupin said.
“Yes…” Daniel agreed. “Exactly like James. And your mother…”
“You’re… you’re the only one who has the right to decide… Harriet…” Sirius finished.
Daniel put away his wand and Sirius stuck Professor Snape’s in his belt.
Professor Lupin stepped forward, pointing his at Pettigrew again. Harriet made to move between them but Professor Lupin held up a hand. “I’m just going to restrain him, Harriet,” he said, reassuringly. “I swear.”
Harriet nodded and stepped aside. This time, thin cords shot from Lupin’s wand and bound Pettigrew instead.
“But if you try and escape Peter… one hint of trying to transform… and we will kill you…” Sirius said menacingly. “You agree, Harriet?”
Harriet nodded so Pettigrew could see her.
“Right then,” Daniel said clapping his hands together. “I think this will work best if I head back to the school first to act as a buffer. And I should probably take Erica with me.”
“A capital idea, old friend,” Remus said.
Daniel smiled at Harriet, gave her a tiny wink and suddenly, as if watching Pettigrew’s transformation in reverse, Daniel began shrinking downwards. He bent over and his clothes vanished, becoming black fur instead. His hands and feet became giant paws, long claws drawing out and then retracting. His face morphed into that of a cats. His eyes grew larger and round, almost blending in with his coat. A long tail sprouted and a thin, mane-like trail of brushy hair sprouted along his back, putting Harriet in mind of Daniel’s ponytail. When finished, he was easily the same size as Sirius was when transformed.
“Wicked…” Ronnie muttered. She had apparently recovered from the shock and shame.
“I might have to ask Professor McGonagall about how to do that…” Dora muttered.
Erica nervously stepped towards the massive cat. Daniel crouched low.
“Climb on and hold onto the mane,” Professor Lupin said. “He’s a tough old thing.”
The cat-Daniel blinked one of its deep blue eyes and Harriet was struck by the odd impression that it must have been a wink. Erica nervously swung a leg over Daniel’s middle, and took hold of the thin mane. Daniel took a step towards Harriet, his great cat head nuzzling her hand. Harriet gave him a soft scratch behind the ears and Daniel turned, rapidly disappearing out the door, Erica clinging to his back, eyes wide.
“Now, for the rest of us,” Professor Lupin said.
“What about Professor Snape?” Hermione asked.
Professor Snape was still slumped on the floor, unconscious.
“Well… it’s probably best we don’t wake him just yet. We can take him like this,” Professor Lupin said and raised his wand. “Mobilicorpus.”
Professor Snape sprang up in the air, his limbs and head suspended as if a marionette, his toes dangling a few inches off the floor.
“Two of us should be chained to this,” Sirius said nudging Pettigrew with his toe. “Just to be sure…”
“I’ll do it,” Professor Lupin said.
“And me,” George said stepping forward.
Sirius conjured heavy manacles and they pulled Pettigrew to his feet. They cuffed Pettigrew’s right arm to Professor Lupin’s left and Pettigrew’s left arm to George’s right. They awkwardly left the room and Crookshanks hopped off the bed, darting past them to lead the way, his bushy tail held in the air like a victory banner.
Harriet followed with Sirius, Dora, Ronnie, and Hermione. Sirius was making Professor Snape drift along ahead of them with Professor Snape’s own wand. Getting into the tunnel was the most difficult part. They followed the light of Professor Lupin’s wand as they made their way back down the tunnel.
“You know what this means, of course?” Sirius said to Harriet. “Turning him in?”
“You’ll be free,” Harriet said. She couldn’t help but smile as she said it.
“Yes, well… I don’t know if anyone ever told you this, but… I’m your godfather.”
“Yeah, I did know that,” Harriet said.
“Well, I’m also your guardian…” he went on. Professor Snape’s scrapped his head on the ceiling but Sirius paid him no mind. “If anything should happen to them…”
Harriet’s stomach leapt. “Are… are you asking what I think you’re asking?”
Sirius paused. “Well, I-I guess I am… just… if you wanted another home… instead of the Dursleys… I didn’t get the impression you left there under all that happy of terms…”
“Of course!” Harriet shouted and let up, hugging Sirius tight around the neck.
Sirius staggered but hugged her back again. “Just like that?” he asked.
“Just like that,” Harriet said, beaming up at him as she let go and slid back down to her feet. “Do you have a house? Where is it? When could I move in?”
“Omigosh, then I’d be able to visit you in the summers!” Dora exclaimed.
Sirius’ smile was obvious even in the dim light of Professor Lupin’s distant wand. Once more, Harriet recognized the face of the young man in the wedding picture. They resumed walking along in silence and climbed up out of the tunnel back into the grounds. The tree did not attack, Crookshanks had most likely pressed the knot.
Harriet felt as though her heart was doing a tap-dance. She was going to leave the Dursleys. She was going to live with Sirius Black, her father’s best friend. She could go visit her friends in the summers with no trouble from the Dursleys. She could probably see Daniel and Professor Lupin whenever she wanted, too. She smirked wondering what the Dursleys would make of this revelation.
They started across the grounds toward the castle. Professor Lupin and George both had their wands trained on Pettigrew. Professor Snape was still drifting along like a puppet when it happened.
A cloud moved, and the grounds were bathed in moonlight. Professor Lupin froze and the unconscious floating form of Professor Snape bumped into him. Sirius flung out his arms stopping the four girls in their tracks. Professor Lupin was beginning to shake from head to foot.
“Oh no!” Hermione gasped. “He forgot to take the Wolfsbane!”
“Run!” Sirius said, “Run now! I’ll hold him off!”
“But George!” Ronnie shouted.
George was fumbling frantically with the manacle binding him to Pettigrew’s arm. There was a terrible scream that turned into a snarl. Harriet watched in horror as Professor Lupin’s face began to transform. It was nothing like how Daniel had transformed so smoothly into a cat. His face began to lengthen, awkwardly, bits of it jutting out at random. His chest was expanding and his ribs were visible as his robes and shirt were torn off. Hair was sprouting all over his body and his hands and feet were turning into clawed paws. A brushy tail sprouted from his trousers and he collapsed on all fours, panting heavily.
George was pointing his wand at werewolf-Lupin, trembling as violently as Professor Lupin had been. Sirius vanished from Harriet’s side and she saw him bounding towards Professor Lupin in dog form. Professor Lupin wrenched the manacle off his arm as easily as if it was paper. He was just about to take a swipe at George and Pettigrew when Sirius caught up with them. His jaws clamped hard on Professor Lupin’s arm and dragged him sideways away.
Sirius yelped as Professor Lupin swatted him with his other, terrible hand, knocking him to the ground. Sirius didn’t miss a beat, springing back at the werewolf and grabbing hard on his shoulder with his jaws. Professor Lupin howled with pain trying to throw the dog off.
Just then, Ronnie screamed. Harriet turned to see that Pettigrew had dived for Professor Lupin’s discarded wand. George was knocked off balance by Pettigrew’s dive, too distracted by the spectacle before him to notice right away. There was a bright flash and a loud bang and George crumpled the rest of the way. Crookshanks darted forwards but there was another flash and bang and the cat was actually thrown in the air, landing in a crumpled heap.
Harriet pointed her wand at Pettigrew and cried “EXPELLIARMUS!”
It was too late. The spell missed as Pettigrew shrank back down to the size of a rat and shot off through the grass like a bullet. Ronnie ran forward now, but not towards the rat. Instead, she skidded on her knees to George’s side. Dora was right behind her, both girls kneeling at his side trying to rouse him.
Harriet was distracted again by the sound of a yelping dog in pain. She spun around to see Professor Lupin throwing Sirius to the ground. He snarled and was about to pounce for the kill when Harriet shouted out. “NO!”
The werewolf paused and turned to look at them.
“Oh no, oh no oh no oh no,” Hermione gasped.
The werewolf snarled and took a long-legged step towards them when—
The werewolf seemed to vanish before their eyes and there was the sound of skittering claws digging up dirt and yelps and thumps of something large rolling across the ground in pain. Harriet watched as the body of the werewolf skidded to a half a few yards away, apparently knocked aside by something of terrible force.
And then, she saw it. Standing right where Professor Werewolf-Lupin had been standing was another werewolf, but even more terrible looking. It was taller, much taller, with great broad shoulders, long arms that brushed the ground, and a long, wolfish face but with thicker jaws. Its eyes, as it turned and looked at them, were a bright, piercing, silvery-yellow.
Harriet was breathless at the sight. She expected the new werewolf to attack, but it did not. It stood there surveying them, making Harriet feel very, very small.
“Prof… Professor… Stratton…?” Hermione asked.
The great werewolf gave no response. It returned its attention to Professor Lupin and snarled. Professor Lupin was getting to his feet, shakily. He took one look at the jet-black werewolf and at once turned and bolted for the forest. The new werewolf looked back at the girls and its mouth opened.
“Rrrrrrrrrrrrun,” it growled.
Without another word, at least Harriet thought it was a word, the new werewolf tore off into the Forbidden Forest. Harriet saw Sirius getting to his four feet, wobbling. He had clearly taken a beating. Harriet now fully understood why it had taken three of them to keep a werewolf in check. And she also appreciated exactly why Professor Lupin had felt so guilty over how dangerous it had been.
There wasn’t time to dwell on that. “Sirius!” Harriet called and pointed in the direction Pettigrew had run. “Pettigrew transformed and ran for it! He went that way!”
Sirius growled and charged past Harriet, his nose low to the ground. As he passed, Harriet gasped. He had great gashes on his muzzle and back. It must have hurt terribly, but Sirius shrugged it off and went off after Pettigrew.
Harriet and Hermione moved to George’s side. His eyes were half-open, his mouth slack. If his chest wasn’t slowly rising and falling, Harriet would have thought him dead.
Hermione picked up the fallen form of Crookshanks, cuddling the fluffy cat like a baby. Her voice cracked. “Crookshanks… wake up…” She looked up at Harriet, her eyes full of tears even in the dim light of the moon.
“George…?” Ronnie was asking, shaking her brother’s shoulders.
“What did he do to them?” Dora asked.
Harriet shook her head. She looked up at Professor Snape’s unconscious form, still hanging in mid-air.
“We should get them to the castle,” Harriet said. “Get Professor Dumbledore and Daniel, they’ll know what to—”
There was a high-pitched yelping and whimpering in the distance that cut Harriet off. It was the sound of a dog in pain.
“Sirius,” Harriet said and jumped to her feet.
Ronnie and Dora were taking care of George. Hermione had Crookshanks. Sirius needed her now.
“Wait, Harriet!” Hermione cried.
Harriet heard the sound of Hermione’s feet running behind her but didn’t slow down. By the sound of it, the yelping was coming from the lake. As they approached, Harriet was too distracted to notice the growing chill.
Then the yelps and whines stopped. They reached the lakeshore and Harriet spotted Sirius. He had returned to human form, and was down on his elbows and knees, his hands over his head.
“Nooooo,” Sirus moaned. “Noooo please!”
Harriet saw them. At least a hundred of them. Cloaked and hooded, gliding towards them silently. Dementors.
Harriet drew her wand. She circled, pointing it at them, realizing the Dementors were closing in from all sides. They were surrounded. Harriet began to feel the cold taking over her. Her vision was growing foggy.
“Hermione, quick, think of something happy!” Harriet said, trying to clear her vision.
I’m going to live with Sirius, I’m going to live with my father’s best friend! I’m leaving the Dursleys! Harriet thought, forcing herself to focus on Sirius as she began to chant the incantation.
“Expecto Patronum! Expecto Patronum!”
Sirius gasped and coughed, clutching his throat. He rolled over onto his back, limp and pale-faced.
No! Harriet thought and focused harder.
“Expecto Patronum! Hermione! Help! Expecto Patronum!”
Hermione’s voice was barely a whisper as she gave the incantation. Then Harriet remembered. Hermione had not taken most of Professor Lupin’s patronus lessons with them.
The dementors were only ten feet away now. They were a solid wall all the way around them, shoulder to shoulder, impenetrable.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” Harriet shouted. She could hear the screaming now, distant but getting louder and louder. “EXPECTO PATRONUM!”
Harriet finally managed some silver-mist from the tip of her wand. There was a thumping noise and Harriet realized that Hermione had collapsed. Now she was alone, all alone against a hundred dementors.
Harriet fell to her knees. She could barely see. She put all her effort into keeping the bit of mist she had conjured going, repeating the incantation over and over and over again. The closest dementor halted at the edge of the mist. It raised one scabbed and rotted hand. It waved the hand back and forth, as if trying to wave the mist away.
Harriet could hear their terrible, rattling breathing, even through the screaming in her mind. Even if dementors couldn’t see, she felt as though they were all staring her down. The nearest dementor tilted its head, as if thinking, and finally lifted its hands, removing its hood.
It was the most horrible sight Harriet had ever seen. Thin, grey, scabbed skin stretched over what should have been the dementor’s eyes. More horrible than that, however, was its mouth. It was a wide, gaping maw, blacker than the dementor’s robes. With its hood down, the dementor’s breathing seemed louder, a blood-curdling death rattle.
Terror swept over Harriet, and finally, her patronus vanished. Harriet couldn’t think. She dropped her wand, useless. Instead she grabbed the only two things in reach that really mattered, Hermione and Sirius. She gripped their wrists hard but gasped and let go when a pair of strong, clammy hands gripped her neck tight and forced her head back, her mouth open.
It was going to finish her first. The dementors putrid breath washed over her face as it neared. Her mother’s screams filled her mind. It was going to be the last thing she ever heard.
Then, the dementor stopped. It let go of Harriet and she fell over on her side. The dementors were moving away, to the other side of the lake. Harriet looked in the direction they were moving. There was a faint glow of silver-white in the distance.
The dementors parted just enough. Harriet’s mind was a haze yet somehow she perceived. There were six people standing there, trying their best to keep a cloud of a patronus going around them. Three boys, two girls, and a werewolf. They looked to be young, and yet, familiar. There was a dark-haired boy standing next to a red-headed girl. Another boy with long black hair, another with short, lighter hair, a girl with blond, shoulder length hair and finally the light-furred werewolf. It put her in mind of Lupin, yet much younger, and somehow holding a wand. She looked at the dark haired boy and the red-haired girl.
“No…” Harriet managed to croak. “Mum… dad… run…” she moaned. “Sirius… Daniel… please don’t…”
The dementors were closing in. The patronus mist around the six was beginning to dissipate. The dementors were going to remove the greater threat. She was going to watch her parents and their best friends be kissed… worse than dead.
Harriet shut her eyes tight. Not from the horror of the sight, but from a blinding silver light that filled the clearing, bathing the scene in brightness. Harriet felt the darkness and the fog in her mind wash away. She was still weak, and she barely managed to open her eyes again. A great form, silver-white and radiating light was flashing through the dementors. The dementors were flailing their arms, pushing each other out of the way in attempts to escape the onslaught. Around and round the massive form went, tossing dementors aside with sweeps of its great head, or kicking them hard and sending them hurtling with its rear legs.
Finally, the dementors were gone. Harriet’s vision was hazy again, but not from the dementors. A great tiredness had swept over her, like warm relief, and Harriet could barely keep her head up and eyes open. The form moved to the middle of the lake. It was an animal of some kind, four legged and large. It reared up on its back legs, kicking its front ones in the air as if in triumph, and then it ran off into the darkness of the patch of trees along the lake between Harriet and the group that had first attempted to come to her aid.
Harriet couldn’t comprehend it anymore. She didn’t understand any of what happened. Her head fell back to the grass, her eyes closing, and her mind going blank as she fainted.