Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 23 :: Unwilling Confessions

23 • Unwilling Confessions

They stayed to watch Mark fly around until the sky began to darken, at which point Heru called the boy down after he caught the snitch one last time. Once inside the castle Mark was sent off to their rooms to clean up while Heru and Severus headed for Albus’s office with their prize. Albus was delighted at how quickly Peter had been captured, though there was some discussion as to how exactly they would deal with the situation.

They could have delivered Peter immediately to the Ministry, but it was possible that Cornelius would interfere, so Albus went directly to the next best source, as he had stated he might earlier, and invited Amelia Bones to the castle. Peter waited on Albus’s desk during lunch, guarded by a rather curious Fawkes, though Heru had no doubts as to the soundness of the cage he had wrought. Amelia arrived shortly thereafter and Albus, she, Heru, and Severus repaired to a more secure room in the castle. They were joined by Minerva and Remus within a few minutes, and then by Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Tonks.

In that space Heru was able to create a much larger cage. That one had a fine, strong mesh between the bars that would shock anyone who tried to touch it, so even if Peter transformed back into a rat once inside, he would have no way to get past it or climb it. Inside the cage he placed a simple chair with arms. After stunning the rat a second time—he had long since woken up and had been squeaking incessantly—Peter was forced to transform back to human and planted in the chair.

Severus went ahead and administered veritaserum, then backed out and sealed the door. When Peter came around Albus began his questions, mainly designed to establish for Amelia the severity of the situation. His name, participation in the events of the first war, and his current knowledge of Voldemort. Amelia agreed that a trial should be called for as quickly as possible by Albus in his capacity as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Unfortunately, as they would want the testimony of at least three of the professors, it would have to wait until the next weekend, with the call to the members of the Wizengamot going out on fairly short notice.

It would, on the other hand, provide Albus and Amelia plenty of time to prepare a list of questions to be asked during the trial. Peter was stunned and returned to the original cage, where he would reside for the next week and be fed grain and water as befit his appearance. Classes went on, and Heru used palmistry for his example with the OWL-level students, hoping to get through at least one per week up through where they should have stopped at the end of the prior year so he could begin moving ahead. One thing he had agreed with was the keeping of a dream diary for all students who took Divination, even for those with no ability.

A notice went out late Thursday night from Albus to every member of the Wizengamot, and on Saturday morning the trial commenced. It had given Fudge very little time to take any action, though it was obvious he had talked, as Lucius was sitting in the stands as a spectator. Severus had remained at the castle to not only watch over Mark, but to keep an eye on the school as well. And, as Mark could communicate with the castle, she could let him know if there was anything to pass on to Severus. Peter was brought in, still in his cage, and deposited in front of Albus for the time being. The first witness up was Heru.

“Please state your full name,” said the official.

“Heru Servius Tychon Anselm Slytherin,” replied Heru.

“Please state your profession.”

“Divination professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

The official stepped back and nodded to Albus.

“Mr Slytherin, could you please tell us the circumstances under which you captured this specimen?”

“I was on the quidditch pitch watching my son play. On my way back to sit down after giving him some pointers I noticed something odd, a rat with a silver paw. I stunned it, then conjured up a cage to hold it in to bring to the headmaster.”

“You did not think it was simply someone’s familiar?”

“I thought it would be exceedingly peculiar for a familiar to have a metal body part. I believed it would be wise to investigate such an oddity, rather than simply let it pass.”

“And after you had delivered the rat?”

“There was some speculation that it might be an animagus, and when tested, that proved to be correct.”

“Were you aware of the identity of the animagus?”

“No, I was not.”

“You are excused, Mr Slytherin.”

The official opened the gate and Heru rose and stepped out, crossing the floor to take a seat in the lower ranks of the spectator area. Before he actually turned so he could sit, he noted that Lucius had a very thoughtful look on his face. Heru unobtrusively set up a watch on the man. The official opened a door off to the side and admitted Minerva, seated her in the box, then ran through the same two questions.

“Ms McGonagall, are you able to identify the person Mr Slytherin captured?”

“Yes, his name is Peter Pettigrew.”

A loud murmur of disbelief rose from the spectators, causing Albus to bang his gavel and call for order. “Are you absolutely certain of this?”

“Yes. I taught him for seven years. Though I do not understand how it is that he’s alive, that is definitely him.”

After a few minutes she was dismissed as well, and Remus was called in and run through the same kind of questions as Minerva had been.

When he was dismissed, the rat was stunned in its cage, then released. After being forced to transform—another loud disturbance rose from the crowd—he was placed in the chair at the center of the room and strapped in, then given veritaserum. Before he was ennervated an anti-animagi field was brought into play.

“Please state your full name.”

“Peter Charles Pettigrew.”

Albus banged his gavel several times at the noise and said, “If you cannot remain quiet, the silencing field will be used.” Then he looked back at the official and nodded.

“Please state your profession.”

“Death Eater.”

Albus employed the silencing field, not even bothering to call for quiet. Flash bulbs started going off from the media’s portion of the spectator seating. “When did you become a Death Eater, Mr Pettigrew?”

“Shortly after I left Hogwarts.”

“Why, Mr Pettigrew?”

“I was being heavily pressured. The Dark Lord was threatening to kill me if I did not submit to him.”

“Are you aware of the reason why?”

“He said that I was very close to important people on the other side and that as meek and unassuming as I was, they would never suspect I could betray them.”

“And what primary duties did you perform for Voldemort?”

“I passed on information to him from the organization created to oppose him.”

“Were you involved in the deaths of James and Lily Potter?”

“Yes.”

“In what way, Mr Pettigrew?”

“I was their Secret Keeper and used that position to betray their location to my master so he could deal with them.”

“The wizarding world has always understood that it was Sirius Black who was the Potter’s Secret Keeper. But it was you?”

“Yes.”

“How did that come to pass?”

“Everyone was suspicious of everyone else as someone—me—was leaking information to the Dark Lord. James and Lily wanted to use Sirius, but Sirius thought that was too obvious and convinced them to use me instead. He said no one would believe it to be me, and Sirius could draw off anyone seeking to make him talk so that I and they would be safe. So I became their Secret Keeper, and immediately informed my master of their location.”

“Who else knew you were the Potter’s Secret Keeper?”

“No one. Just me, Sirius, James and Lily, and my master.”

“Were you present when Voldemort went to kill the Potters?”

“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“I didn’t see much. My master told me to wait downstairs. I heard James die, and Lily’s scream. Then I heard Harry’s crying. After a few minutes, when my master had not returned, I crept upstairs to see Harry alive with an odd cut on his forehead and my master’s wand on the floor. He was nowhere to be seen, so I grabbed the wand and fled.”

Heru could see off to the side that Lucius’s face was a cold mask of indifference. The people around him weren’t even bothering to try and speak any more; their faces expressed everything they felt and thought.

“Everyone has believed that Sirius Black killed you the next day. What actually happened when he confronted you?”

“I knew he wanted revenge for what I had done and I needed to escape. I cast a spell that killed the muggles nearby and severed my finger while Sirius was distracted. Then I transformed into my animagus form and escaped through a nearby grate and into the sewers.”

“So, you are the reason James and Lily Potter died, not Sirius Black. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

Heru could just hear a faint surprised mutter from Fudge of, “I’ll be damned.”

“Let us clarify something a little more recent, then. Were you able to reunite with Voldemort?”

“Yes.”

“How is that possible—it was thought that Voldemort was defeated, destroyed, the night he tried to kill Harry Potter as a baby.”

“He did not die, he lost his physical body. I helped him to regain it.”

“Please explain how, Mr Pettigrew.”

“When Harry was transported to the graveyard I—”

“Stop. Let us back up. How was Harry Potter transported to this graveyard you speak of?”

“Barty Crouch Jr had been posing as Alastor Moody all year for our master, using his position to help Harry win the tournament indirectly. He made the Triwizard Cup into a portkey to transport Harry to the graveyard at Little Hangleton when he won so that my master could be reborn.”

“How is it possible that Barty Crouch Jr was even still alive? He supposedly died in Azkaban.”

“That was his mother. She was already ill and dying, so they switched places on a visit using polyjuice potion at her insistence. Barty Crouch Sr could not deny her request. My master eventually found out he was still alive and being controlled with the imperius curse by his father, and took care of things, releasing his servant and giving him his instructions to impersonate the ex-auror.”

“What happened to Barty Crouch Sr?”

“He is dead, killed by his son when he attempted to gain the grounds of Hogwarts to warn people.”

“All right. What happened in the graveyard the—this was the night of the third task of the Triwizard Tournament?”

“Yes.”

“What happened that night in the graveyard?”

“When Harry and the Diggory boy were transported in, my master had me kill the spare with his wand, and Harry was captured and tied to a headstone. My master had unearthed an obscure ritual to give him back his body, and we did so.”

“What did that entail?”

“The bones of his father, the flesh of his servant, and the blood of his enemy. My hand was sacrificed, and some of Harry’s blood. Thus was my master reborn, in all his glory.”

Heru noted that many of the faces around Lucius had become paper white.

“Is this how you came to have the silver hand?”

“Yes. My master was generous enough to give it to me for my service to him.”

“Why Harry’s blood specifically?”

“My master thought that whatever blood protection the boy had against him would pass on to him in the process, rendering Harry more vulnerable.”

“Where was Harry Potter taken?”

“To my master’s estate in—”

“Stop. How did Cedric Diggory return to Hogwarts?”

“My master bade me make sure he did, so I laid his wand on his chest and levitated his hand back onto the portkey cup to force his return.”

“Do you know who killed Harry Potter?”

“No.”

“Does Voldemort know who killed Harry Potter?”

“I don’t know. My master is confused about that.”

“Voldemort is now alive, correct?”

“Yes, but my master was never dead.”

“Voldemort now has corporeal form, correct?”

“Yes.”

Albus turned away. “Amelia, do you have anything to add?”

“Not in a public forum, no,” she replied calmly.

“Then as I see it, we have several decisions to make here. Guard, please administer the antidote, but leave Mr Pettigrew where he is. We will resume our questioning at a later time.”

A minute later Albus said, “Based on the testimony you have heard today, specifically that of one Peter Charles Pettigrew under the influence of veritaserum, members of the Wizengamot will now vote on his innocence or guilt on the charges of the betrayal of the Potters and ultimately causing their deaths, the deaths of thirteen innocent muggles during his escape from Sirius Black, the death of Cedric Diggory, and various other questionable activities under the leadership of Voldemort. What say you?”

A resounding cry of guilty rang out from that side of the auditorium. Peter’s eyes bulged and his face took on a look of desperation and abject fear. Lucius sneered.

“Based on the same testimony, members of the Wizengamot will now vote on the innocence or guilt of Sirius Black for the same charges. What say you?”

A resounding cry of innocent arose and Heru’s breath hitched in his chest.

“Will the members of the Wizengamot vote to pardon Sirius Black for his crime of escaping the fortress prison Azkaban based on the years already served? Yea or nay?”

“Yea!”

“I am sure we can work out some form of reparation for his wrongful imprisonment. A statement will be issued shortly as to the exact disposition of Peter Pettigrew. For the time being, this courtroom is to be cleared of all media and spectators.” Albus banged his gavel three times sharply.

*

No one had actually told Sirius that Peter had been captured. But, that evening a special edition of The Daily Prophet had been issued. The front page was splashed with a number of article lead-ins, among them the trial of Peter Pettigrew (giving credit to Heru for his capture), the innocence and pardon of Sirius Black, and the second rise of Voldemort (though they used ‘You Know Who’). As soon as Remus had his hands on a copy he disappeared, presumably to headquarters to show Sirius the good news.

All in all, it felt like a very good day. Perhaps best was the fact that Albus reported via Fawkes that Cornelius had become an avid supporter of his once again and had left everything in Albus’s hands once the courtroom had been cleared, taking himself off so he could devise a speech to give to the press. That also meant that Fudge heard nothing of any additional interest that he could pass on to his friend Lucius, such as the second round of questions Peter endured from a much smaller section of the Wizengamot. Heru had the feeling that Fudge would stop making such ridiculous attempts to take control at Hogwarts now that Albus had established his credibility beyond question.

Severus, of course, wasn’t quite so pleased with the news. His reaction was mixed. But, as Mark had developed a slight fondness for both Sirius and Remus, he tempered his responses—around the boy, at least. They had just finished dinner—Severus had disdained the Great Hall for once, especially as Albus was not yet back from the Ministry—when a knock sounded at the door. Confused, Severus got up to see who it was, and shortly thereafter admitted Ron and Hermione. How they knew where Severus’s living quarters were was beyond anyone.

“We’re so sorry to bother you,” said Hermione breathlessly, “but we simply had to come and thank you, Professor Slytherin!”

Heru gave them a blank look.

“You caught Peter!” she cried while Ron nodded. “Sirius is our friend, and he’s free now because of you.”

Severus rolled his eyes out of their line of vision. Heru shifted uncomfortably—not that he really felt that way—and said, “You’re welcome, but a note would have been fine, really.”

“Oh no, sir,” Hermione protested. “We had to come personally. A note would have been horribly rude.”

Heru shifted again. “How did you know where to find me, anyway?”

Hermione bit her lip as Ron gave her a slightly resigned look. Then he looked back at Heru and said, “She convinced Professor Lupin to tell us, sir. He said Sirius would be along in a few minutes, so we were just headed back after we came here.”

Mark crawled halfway over the back of the couch and said, “May I go, too, father?”

Heru’s brows rose. “Only if these two don’t mind.”

“That’s fine, sir,” said Ron.

Heru’s brows rose higher. The next thing he knew Mark would be sitting at the Gryffindor table. “All right, but don’t stay too late, and don’t outstay your welcome.”

“Of course, father!” Mark slid back down and bounced to his feet, then raced around the side of the couch toward the door.

Ron and Hermione followed a moment later after she said, “Thank you, sir, again. And thank you, Professor Snape, for letting us come in.”

Once they were out the door Heru looked at Severus and said, “Well. Remind me to think up a prank to play on Remus for letting those two know where we live.”

They discussed the trial, and more importantly, Heru’s brief testimony and Lucius’s reaction to it.

“I think you managed to strike the right balance,” said Severus after some thought. “If Lucius reacted as you say, he will not know if it was simply coincidence that you captured Peter, owing to his exceptionally poor skills at spying, one presumes. Voldemort may still think he has a chance to sway you to his side. But, do you really want that? You did say you wished for nothing that would put you directly in harm’s way.”

“Yes, I did. But there is a difference between being ordered or asked to do something, and coming up with my own ideas. No, I don’t want to die and leave Mark alone, or you. But as a Slytherin, I may have no choice but to be the one to handle my little black sheep.”

“And that prophecy?”

“I have no idea.” Heru wound his hair around his fingers absently. “But I’ll do what I think is right. Even if I had been the one to speak it, I doubt I would know exactly what it meant aside from the obvious. Prophecies don’t work that way. They only tend to make sense after the fact, or just prior to an event they reference. For all I know, I am the other it speaks of.”

He paused, frowned, then said, “Well, except that makes it sound like I killed the boy, and that isn’t possible. Not unless I’m damn good at sleepwalking my way to a place I can’t even find, past Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and get back here without you or anyone else noticing.”

Severus chuckled. “I hardly think that is what occurred.”

“I wonder, though. . . .”

“Yes?”

“If Voldemort still can’t tell which side I’m actually on, he might approach me through a proxy, like Lucius.”

“What of it? And that’s assuming that the Wizengamot didn’t interrogate Peter as to the names of all Death Eaters currently in Voldemort’s control. For all we know, there could be notices of arrest in the morning paper. Lucius took a huge chance showing up at the trial.”

“Well, true. Though, he was probably ordered to go after Fudge leaked the information to him. I assume that’s how he found out. Then again, it may not matter. They may prefer to catch people in the act and bring them to trial then rather than haul them in for questioning on the word of another Death Eater, veritaserum or not. Speaking of which, I’m sure by now that Lucius has informed Voldemort that Peter was about to reveal where their headquarters is. I expect they’ve moved, or are in the process right now, assuming that is their main location.”

“We never really knew to begin with. We simply went where we were summoned to,” Severus offered.

Heru flipped his hair back over his shoulder and sighed. “Anyway, if Lucius were to approach me, perhaps I could work that to my advantage.”

“How so?”

“Part of it is my personal quirk. I badly want to know what rock Voldemort sprung up from under. Don’t you think it would be a reasonable delaying tactic to request proof of his heritage?”

“Being a parselmouth isn’t enough?”

“Harry Potter wasn’t a Slytherin and he was a parselmouth. In fact, sappy romantics would have you believe he was only able to use Godric’s sword because he was from that bloodline.”

Severus raised his eyes heavenward for a moment.

“I’m not saying it’s logical, Severus. I should think I’m being properly suspicious.”

“And let’s say you get what you want—what then? You play a dangerous and twisted game of cat and mouse with him?”

“I’m sorry, Severus. I just don’t know. But there must be a way to get rid of him, and his people.”

“I could pretend to go back to him,” Severus said slowly.