Harry drew his wand and advanced on Black. The hate in his chest had grown into fury.
“You filthy traitor!” he screamed. “You killed my mum and dad and now you came to kill me too? How’d that work out for you? I’m going to-”
Black laughed the laugh of the criminally insane. “You’re going to what? Kill me? Your father wouldn’t have.”
“MY FATHER IS DEAD,” he yelled, pressing his wand into Black’s throat. “Because of you!”
Harry’s enraged mind came up with a spell. Incantation on his lips, Harry’s wand flew from his hand. He spun and found a shaking Hermione behind him, looking apologetic. She held her wand on Black.
“I can’t let you kill him, Harry,” she said, voice wavering. “You’ll regret it.”
“I will not!” Harry growled. “Give. Me. My. Wand.”
She shook her head. Black laughed in the background. Hate surging, Harry swiped Draco’s wand from his fist and pointed it at Black.
“Wait! Just listen to what I have to say,” he said, and Harry could see a flicker of fear in his eyes.
“You killed my parents,” he snarled. “What else is there to say?’
“You don’t know the whole story,” Black said.
“You’ll regret it...listen to what I have to say... Give me a chance,” Black said in a last ditch attempt to get Harry to stop.
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “You had your chance,” he said, voice hard and unforgiving. Harry pointed his wand at Black’s chest. He could do it. It would be so easy. One spell and the person who killed his parents would meet the same fate. Black’s eyes showed uncertainty. Harry prepared to kill the man who he hated more than anyone else at the moment but a seed of doubt was planted in his mind. Maybe he should listen to him. No, he would not listen.
Harry stared into Black’s eyes as he uttered a spell. Black saw Harry’s lips move and he paled. “Legilimens,” he said.
Out of practice, Harry saw only general feelings. Hate, desperation, despair. The hate did not seem to be directed at him, however but rather towards-
Draco’s wand flew from Harry’s hand. Again. Harry spun, but this time it was not Hermione. In the doorway stood, of all people, Severus. Harry wondered briefly at why. During the confusion, he had not activated the device; he must have seen him on the map. Severus’s eyes held such a loathing that Harry was chilled to the core.
“Your wands,” he said to Hermione, eyes still on Black. His wand remained pointed at him.
“Severus!” Harry cried. “Give me my wand back.”
“No, Harry,” Severus said. “If anyone, I will be the one to kill him. I had so hoped I would be the one to catch you.” Advancing slowly towards Black, he aimed his wand at his heart. “I will do it, Black. Give me a reason, I beg you,” he said in a voice so low and menacing that Black’s face paled further, though hatred to match Severus’s shined in his eyes.
They stood like that for a long moment, tension tangible in the air.
“Severus, no!” Harry said at last. “Let him talk first.”
A flicker of confusion shone in Black’s eyes at Harry’s address of Severus.
“Harry,” Severus said slowly, carefully, “this is the man who killed your parents.”
“I know,” Harry said, “but before you kill him, I want to hear his side of the story.”
Severus tore his gaze from the criminal and looked over at Harry. “You must be Confunded,” he said dismissively. “There are dementors waiting just outside for you. I hear the kiss is almost unbearable to watch but I will do my best,” he hissed. Black’s jaw clenched in fear.
Harry growled and stepped between Black and the wand. “Severus, stop. I’m not Confunded,” he said firmly. “Let him talk.”
Severus’s face betrayed a very odd mixture of lingering hatred and shock.
“Move, Harry,” he commanded in a voice not to be argued with. “I don’t want you to get hurt over him,” he spat out the word with disgust.
“No,” Harry said. “Give him one chance.”
Severus’s eyes flashed, furious to be deprived of his long sought after revenge. Oddly enough, he did not say anything. Harry took this as leave to let Black speak. Harry studied him for a minute more before turning to face Black.
“You have thirty seconds.”
“It wasn’t me, it was Pettigrew,” he said hurriedly. “Pettigrew betrayed your parents. And he’s here,” he said with a maniacal laugh, “in this very room!”
“Pettigrew is dead,” Severus snapped. “Now start making sense or you are dead.”
“He’s the rat!” Sirius cried, pointing at the squirming figure in Ron’s hand. “An animagus!”
As they all looked towards Ron, Harry heard the mutter of “Expelliarmus”.
Severus’s wand flew to the door where yet another person stood.
“Lupin,” Severus growled. “I told them you were helping him.”
“Moony,” Sirius said, stepping forward for a rough embrace with the teacher.
“Sirius,” Lupin said with incredulity. “It was truly not you?”
“It was Pettigrew,” he spat, shooting another glare at Ron.
“Then forgive me, old friend, for thinking you a traitor,” Lupin said calmly.
“If you forgive me for the same,” Sirius said in his rough voice.
“NO!” Draco yelled, furious for some unknown reason. “You’ve been helping him this whole time! We trusted you!”
Lupin surveyed the others for the first time. “I haven’t been,” he said defensively. He turned to Sirius. “What have you told them?”
“Pettigrew was a filthy traitor,” he said, borrowing Harry’s words from earlier. “Let’s kill him, Remus, let’s do it now!”
“I”VE DONE MY WAITING!” Black screamed.
“They deserve to know why!” Lupin said. “I am unclear on that point myself. How is Pettigrew alive? Are you sure it’s him?”
“It’s him!” Black growled. “He faked his own death, tricked those muggles and blamed the murders on me!”
“The map...” Harry said quietly.
“What’s that, Harry?” Lupin asked.
“Pettigrew was on the map. Severus saw it,” he explained, looking at his guardian.
“You gave Snivellus the map?” Black said, disgust in his voice. “The map never lies!”
“No, it doesn’t,” Lupin said.
“But you were their secret-keeper,” Harry accused of Black. His anger had died down as he tried to figure out what was going on. Adrenaline still pumped through his veins.
Black shook his head impatiently. “It was my fault... I convinced them to change to Peter at the last moment... thought no one would expect it to be him...”
“Why did no one know he was an animagus?” Severus asked, hatred still obvious in his voice.
“Unregistered,” Lupin provided. “Sirius, James and Peter all became animagi to keep me company at the full moon.”
“How touching,” Severus sneered. “An I guess you did not consider it important to tell Dumbledore that Black here could transform as well?”
“I-” he began to explain.
“The full moon,” Draco muttered, looking at Hermione. “We were right. You’re a werewolf, aren’t you?”
He nodded grimly. “I was bitten as a boy. Dumbledore arranged for this house to be built for my use. The Whomping Willow was planted over the tunnel and each month at the full moon I would slip out, come here and transform.” A shiver raked his body. “It was horrible but for the first time, I had three true friends. So loyal, in fact, that they became animagi to help me bear the transformations. Sirius a dog, James a stag, Peter a rat,” Lupin let out a laugh. “The full moons actually became fun, an adventure.”
“Enough talk, Remus!” Sirius yelled, interrupting the story. “Let’s kill him! The tale can wait until later!”
Harry’s brow furrowed, thinking everything through. “But... hang on... how’d you get in here?” he asked Severus.
Severus scowled. “That trick I told you about? They told me all I had to do was press a certain knot on the willow and I could follow Lupin wherever he went on the full moon.”
“He was suspicious of where I went,” Lupin provided.
“That’s when I saw a werewolf,” he nodded at Lupin in disgust, “at the end of the tunnel. I was forbidden to speak of it.”
“If you weren’t so nosy-” Black began.
“Don’t talk to him,” Harry said in a low, dark voice. Surprised, Black stopped. “How’d you get into the castle?”
“I made friends with that ugly orange cat,” he said. “It took a while for it to trust me but then I got him to steal the passwords to the tower. When I learned ‘Scabbers’ had run away, I got him to catch him for me,” he said with a wicked grin.
“If Scabbers is really Pettigrew, show me,” Harry demanded.
“Gladly,” Black said darkly. “Give me the rat.”
“No,” Ron said, clutching Scabbers to his chest. “He can’t be Pettigrew. He’s just... he’s just Scabbers!”
“Lived an awfully long time for a rat, hasn’t he?” Black demanded. “Something like, say, 12 years?”
Ron frowned. “That’s a coincidence.”
“He’s missing a toe!” Black cried.
“Give him the rat!” Harry commanded Ron. Impatient, Black ripped the wriggling figure from his hands.
“Remus,” Black said. When the Lupin nodded that he was ready, Black dropped Scabbers. The moment he touched the ground, Remus fired a spell at him and the rat twisted and grew into a short, fat man. Ron’s face betrayed his horror.
“Remus,” he said in a chittering voice, hands twitching nervously. “Nice to see you my old friend.”
Remus raised his wand. “Stay away from me.”
“It wasn’t me! It was Sirius!” the disheveled man cried. “I stayed a rat to hide from him!” he said, pointing shakily at Sirius.
“You knew he would escape, did you?” Lupin demanded.
“You liar!” Black cried. “You were hiding from Voldemort’s supporters! They’re not happy with you, are they?”
Peter paled and turned to Harry. “Don’t let them kill me, your father, James he-’
“YOU DARE TALK TO HARRY?” Sirius yelled in a rage. “YOU DARE SPEAK OF JAMES?”
Peter backed up from him, towards Severus. “Severus, I was never mean to you, spare me.” He groveled at Severus’s feet.
“Touch my robes with your filthy hands and I will kill you myself,” he said in disgust.
“Please...” he said, looking at the other three students lined up against the wall. “Please, Ron, I am your rat...”
“I don’t know what you are,” Ron said, horrified.
“Let’s get this over with,” Lupin said. He tossed Severus’s wand to Black. “On three?”
Black nodded. “One.”
Harry looked at Severus to see if he would do anything. It seemed as if he hated Pettigrew just as much as he did the other two. He seemed content to watch and not intervene.
“Please, Harry, kind boy,” Pettigrew said, panic and pleading in his voice. Harry looked at the disgusting man.
“Stop!” he said. “Stop,” he repeated moving forward.
“Harry,” Remus said, unmoving. “You know what he did.”
“I know, but...” Harry was at a loss for words. “I don’t think my dad would have wanted you to become killers,” he said. “And now you’ll be free,” he said to Sirius. “Dead, he is worth nothing.”
“Oh, thank you!” Peter said, tears leaking from his bloodshot eyes.
Harry looked at him with loathing. “Don’t thank me. The dementors can have you for all I care.”
Severus, remembering something, dug in his pocket. “Lupin,” he said, pulling out a bottle of murky liquid. “Take this now, the moon is almost out.”
Lupin accepted the bottle gratefully. “Thank you.”
Taking charge, Severus turned to look at Ron. “We need to get him up to the castle. Black, my wand.”
“My wand, Black,” Severus repeated, slower.
In what seemed like an extreme display of will, Sirius placed the piece of wood into Severus’s hand. Severus immediately raised it. Pointing at Pettigrew, he fired a full body bind. Rope then sprung from the end of his wand to totally envelop the man. He levitated him.
“Can you walk?” he asked Ron.
“I think so,” he replied. Severus gave a curt nod and then guided the bundle out of the door. Lupin had disappeared, presumably moving elsewhere in the house. Harry gave Black a long look before following Severus out of the door. Hermione and Draco each took a side and helped Ron stand and walk. Black took up the back. Hoping that he had made the right choice of who to trust, Harry followed Severus through the tunnel and out into the night.