flash of light and then --
It was like watching a speeded-up film of a growing tree. A head was
shooting upward from the ground; limbs were sprouting; a moment later, a
man was standing where Scabbers had been, cringing and wringing his
hands. Crookshanks was spitting and snarling on the bed; the hair on his
back was standing up.
He was a very short man, hardly taller than Harry and Hermione. His
thin, colorless hair was unkempt and there was a large bald patch on
top. He had the shrunken appearance of a plump man who has lost a lot of
weight in a short time. His skin looked grubby, almost like Scabbers's
fur, and something of the rat lingered around his pointed nose and his
very small, watery eyes. He looked around at them all, his breathing
fast and shallow. Harry saw his eyes dart to the door and back again.
"Well, hello, Peter," said Lupin pleasantly, as though rats frequently
erupted into old school friends around him. "Long time, no see.
"S -- Sirius... R -- Remus..." Even Pettigrew's voice was squeaky.
Again, his eyes darted toward the door. "My friends... my old
Black's wand arm rose, but Lupin seized him around the wrist, gave him a
warning took, then turned again to Pettigrew, his voice light and
"We've been having a little chat, Peter, about what happened the night
were squeaking around down there on the bed --"
"Remus," gasped Pettigrew, and Harry could see beads of sweat breaking
out over his pasty face, "you don't believe him, do you...? He tried to
kill me, Remus...."
"So we've heard," said Lupin, more coldly. "I'd like to clear up one or
two little matters with you, Peter, if you'll be so --"
"He's come to try and kill me again!" Pettigrew squeaked suddenly,
pointing at Black, and Harry saw that he used his middle finger, because
his index was missing. "He killed Lily and James and now he's going to
kill me too.... You've got to help me, Remus...."
Black's face looked more skull-like than ever as he stared at Pettigrew
with his fathomless eyes.
"No one's going to try and kill you until we've sorted a few things
out," said Lupin.
"Sorted things out?" squealed Pettigrew, looking wildly about him once
more, eyes taking in the boarded windows and, again' the only door. "I
knew he'd come after me! I knew he'd be back for me! I've been waiting
for this for twelve years!"
"You knew Sirius was going to break out of Azkaban?" said Lupin, his
brow furrowed. "When nobody has ever done it before?"
"He's got dark powers the rest of us can only dream of!" Pettigrew
shouted shrilly. "How else did he get out of there? I suppose
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named taught him a few tricks!"
Black started to laugh, a horrible, mirthless laugh that filled the
"Voldemort, teach me tricks?" he said.
Pettigrew flinched as though Black had brandished a whip at him.
"What, scared to hear your old master's name?" said Black. I don't blame
you, Peter. His lot aren't very happy with you, are they?"
"Don't know what you mean, Sirius --" muttered Pettigrew, his breathing
faster than ever. His whole face was shining with sweat now.
"You haven't been hiding from me for twelve years," said Black. "You've
been hiding from Voldemort's old supporters. I heard things in Azkaban,
Peter... They all think you're dead, or you'd have to answer to them....
I've heard them screaming all sorts of things in their sleep. Sounds
like they think the double-crosser double-crossed them. Voldemort went
to the Potters' on your information... and Voldemort met his downfall
there. And not all Voldemort's supporters ended up in Azkaban, did they?
There are still plenty out here, biding their time, pretending they've
seen the error of their ways.
If they ever got wind that you were still alive, Peter --"
"Don't know... what you're talking about...," said Pettigrew again, more
shrilly than ever. He wiped his face on his sleeve and looked up at
Lupin. "You don't believe this -- this madness, Remus --"
"I must admit, Peter, I have difficulty in understanding why an innocent
man would want to spend twelve years as a rat," said Lupin evenly.
"Innocent, but scared!" squealed Pettigrew. "If Voldemort's supporters
were after me, it was because I put one of their best men in Azkaban --
the spy, Sirius Black!"
Black's face contorted.
"How dare you," he growled, sounding suddenly like the bearsized dog he
had been. I, a spy for Voldemort? When did I ever sneak around people
who were stronger and more powerful than myself? But you, Peter -- I'll
never understand why I didn't see you were the spy from the start. You
always liked big friends who'd look after you, didn't you? It used to be
us... me and Remus... and James....
Pettigrew wiped his face again; he was almost panting for breath.
"Me, a spy... must be out of your mind... never... don't know how you
can say such a --"
"Lily and James only made you Secret-Keeper because I suggested it,"
Black hissed, so venomously that Pettigrew took a step backward. "I
thought it was the perfect plan... a bluff... Voldemort would be sure to
come after me, would never dream they'd use a weak, talentless thing
like you.... It must have been the finest moment of your miserable life,
telling Voldemort you could hand him the Potters."
Pettigrew was muttering distractedly; Harry caught words like
"far-fetched" and "lunacy," but he couldn't help paying more attention
to the ashen color of Pettigrew's face and the way his eyes continued to
dart toward the windows and door.
"Professor Lupin?" said Hermione timidly. "Can -- can I say something?"
"Certainly, Hermione," said Lupin courteously.
"Well -- Scabbers -- I mean, this -- this man -- he's been sleeping in
Harry's dormitory for three years. If he's working for You-Know-Who, how
come he never tried to hurt Harry before now?"
"There!" said Pettigrew shrilly, pointing at Ron with his maimed hand.
"Thank you! You see, Remus? I have never hurt a hair of Harry's head!
Why should I?"
"I'll tell you why," said Black. "Because you never did anything for
anyone unless you could see what was in it for you. Voldemort's been in
hiding for fifteen years, they say he's half dead. You weren't about to
commit murder right under Albus Dumbledore's nose, for a wreck of a
wizard who'd lost all of his power, were you? You'd want to be quite
sure he was the biggest bully in the playground before you went back to
him, wouldn't you? Why else did you find a wizard family to take you in?
Keeping an ear out for news, weren't YOU, Peter? Just in case your old
protector regained strength, and it was safe to rejoin him...."
Pettigrew opened his mouth and closed it several times. He seemed to
have lost the ability to talk.
"Er -- Mr. Black -- Sirius?" said Hermione.
Black jumped at being addressed like this and stared at Hermione as
though he had never seen anything quite like her.
"If you don't mind me asking, how -- how did you get out of Azkaban, if
you didn't use Dark Magic?"
"Thank you!" gasped Pettigrew, nodding frantically at her. "Exactly!
Precisely what I --"
But Lupin silenced him with a look. Black was frowning slightly at
Hermione, but not as though he were annoyed with her. He seemed to be
pondering his answer.
"I don't know how I did it," he said slowly. "I think the only reason I
never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn't a happy
thought, so the dementors couldn't suck it out of me... but it kept me
sane and knowing who I am... helped me keep my powers... so when it all
became ... too much... I could transform in my cell... become a dog.
Dementors can't see, you know...." He swallowed. "They feel their way
toward people by feeding off their emotions.... They could tell that my
feelings were less -- less human, less complex when I was a dog... but
they thought, of course, that I was losing my mind like everyone else in
there, so it didn't trouble them. But I was weak, very weak, and I had
no hope of driving them away from me without a wand...."
"But then I saw Peter in that picture... I realized he was at Hogwarts
with Harry... perfectly positioned to act, if one hint reached his ears
that the Dark Side was gathering strength again...."
Pettigrew was shaking his head, mouthing noiselessly, but staring all
the while at Black as though hypnotized.
"... ready to strike at the moment he could be sure of allies... and to
deliver the last Potter to them. if he gave them Harry, who'd dare say
he'd betrayed Lord Voldemort? He'd be welcomed back with honors....
"So you see, I had to do something. I was the only one who knew Peter
was still alive...."
Harry remembered what Mr. Weasley had told Mrs. Wealsey. "The guards say
he's been talking in his sleep... always the same words... 'He's at
"It was as if someone had lit a fire In my head, and the dementors
couldn't destroy it.... It wasn't a happy feeling... it was an
obsession... but it gave me strength, it cleared my mind. So, one night
when they opened my door to bring food, I slipped past them as a dog....
It's so much harder for them to sense animal emotions that they were
confused.... I was thin, very thin... thin enough to slip through the
bars.... I swam as a dog back to the mainland.... I journeyed north and
slipped into the Hogwarts grounds as a dog. I've been living in the
forest ever since, except when I came to watch the Quidditch, of course.
You fly as well as your father did, Harry...."
He looked at Harry, who did not look away.
"Believe me," croaked Black. "Believe me, Harry. I never betrayed James
and Lily. I would have died before I betrayed them."
And at long last, Harry believed him. Throat too tight to speak, he
Pettigrew had fallen to his knees as though Harry's nod had been his own
death sentence. He shuffled forward on his knees, groveling, his hands
clasped in front of him as though praying.
"Sirius -- it's me... it's Peter... your friend... you wouldn't --"
Black kicked out and Pettigrew recoiled.
"There's enough filth on my robes without you touching them," said
imploringly in front of him. "You don't believe this wouldn't Sirius
have told you they'd changed the plan?"
"Not if he thought I was the spy, Peter," said Lupin. "I assume that's
why you didn't tell me, Sirius?" he said casually over Pettigrews head.
"Forgive me, Remus," said Black.
"Not at all, Padfoot, old friend," said Lupin, who was now rolling up
his sleeves. "And will you, in turn, forgive me for believing you were
"Of course," said Black, and the ghost of a grin flitted across his
gaunt face. He, too, began rolling up his sleeves. "Shall we kill him
"Yes, I think so," said Lupin grimly.
"You wouldn't... you won't...," gasped Pettigrew. And he scrambled
around to Ron.
"Ron... haven't I been a good friend... a good pet? You won't let them
kill me, Ron, will you... you're on my side, aren't you.
But Ron was staring at Pettigrew with the utmost revulsion.
"I let you sleep in my bed!" he said.
"Kind boy... kind master..." Pettigrew crawled toward Ron "You won't let
them do it.... I was your rat.... I was a good pet...."
"If you made a better rat than a human, it's not much to boast about,
Peter," said Black harshly. Ron, going still paler with pain, wrenched
his broken leg out of Pettigrew's reach. Pettigrew turned on his knees,
staggered forward, and seized the hem of Hermione's robes.
"Sweet girl... clever girl... you -- you won't let them.... Help me...."
Hermione pulled her robes out of Pettigrew's clutching hands and backed
away against the wall, looking horrified.
Pettigrew knelt, trembling uncontrollably, and-turned his head slowly
"Harry... Harry... you look just like your father... just like him...."
"HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HARRY?" roared Black. "HOW DARE YOU FACE HIM? HOW
DARE YOU TALK ABOUT JAMES IN FRONT OF HIM?"
"Harry," whispered Pettigrew, shuffling toward him, hands outstretched.
"Harry, James wouldn't have wanted me killed.... James would have
understood, Harry... he would have shown me mercy..."
Both Black and Lupin strode forward, seized Pettigrew's shoulders, and
threw him backward onto the floor. He sat there, twitching with terror,
staring up at them.
"You sold Lily and James to Voldemort," said Black, who was shaking too.
"Do you deny it?"
Pettigrew burst into tears. It was horrible to watch, like an oversized,
balding baby, cowering on the floor.
"Sirius, Sirius, what could I have done? The Dark Lord... you have no
idea... he has weapons you can't imagine.... I was scared, Sirius, I was
never brave like you and Remus and James. I never meant it to happen....
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named forced me --"
"DON'T LIE!" bellowed Black. "YOU'D BEEN PASSING INFORMATION TO HIM FOR
A YEAR BEFORE LILY AND JAMES DIED! YOU WERE HIS SPY!"
"He -- he was taking over everywhere!" gasped Pettigrew. "Wh -- what was
there to be gained by refusing him?"
"What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has
ever existed?" said Black, with a terrible fury in his face. "Only
innocent lives, Peter!"
"You don't understand!" whined Pettigrew. "He would have killed me,
FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!"
Black and Lupin stood shoulder to shoulder, wands raised.
"You should have realized," said Lupin quietly, "if Voldemort didn't
kill you, we would. Good-bye, Peter."
Hermione covered her face with her hands and turned to the wall.
"NO!" Harry yelled. He ran forward, placing himself in front Pettigrew,
facing the wands. "You can't kill him," he said breathlessly. "You
Black and Lupin both looked staggered.
snarled. "This cringing bit of filth would have seen you die too,
without turning a hair. You heard him. His own stinking skin meant more
to him than your whole family."
"I know," Harry panted. "We'll take him up to the castle. We'll hand him
over to the dementors.... He can go to Azkaban... but don't kill him."
"Harry!" gasped Pettigrew, and he flung his arms around Harry's knees.
"You -- thank you -- it's more than I deserve -- thank you --"
"Get off me," Harry spat, throwing Pettigrew's hands off him in disgust.
"I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it because -- I don't reckon my
dad would've wanted them to become killers -- just for you."
No one moved or made a sound except Pettigrew, whose breath was coming
in wheezes as he clutched his chest. Black and Lupin were looking at
each other. Then, with one movement, they lowered their wands.
"You're the only person who has the right to decide, Harry," said Black.
"But think... think what he did...."
"He can go to Azkaban," Harry repeated. "If anyone deserves that place,
Pettigrew was still wheezing behind him.
"Very well," said Lupin. "Stand aside, Harry."
"I'm going to tie him up," said Lupin. "That's all, I swear."
Harry stepped out of the way. Thin cords shot from Lupin's wand this
time, and next moment, Pettigrew was wriggling on the floor, bound and
"But if you transform, Peter," growled Black, his own wand pointing at
Harry looked down at the pitiful figure on the floor and nodded so that
Pettigrew could see him.
"Right," said Lupin, suddenly businesslike. "Ron, I can't mend bones
nearly as well as Madam Pomfrey, so I think it's best if we just strap
your leg up until we can get you to the hospital wing."
He hurried over to Ron, bent down, tapped Ron's leg with his wand, and
muttered, "Ferula." Bandages spun up Ron's leg, strapping it tightly to
a splint. Lupin helped him to his feet; Ron put his weight gingerly on
the leg and didn't wince.
"That's better," he said. "Thanks."
"What about Professor Snape?" said Hermione in a small voice, looking
down at Snape's prone figure.
"There's nothing seriously wrong with him," said Lupin, bending over
Snape and checking his pulse. "You were just a little --
overenthusiastic. Still out cold. Er -- perhaps it will be best if we
don't revive him until we're safety back in the castle. We can take him
He muttered, "Mobilicorpus." As though invisible strings were tied to
Snape's wrists, neck, and knees, he was pulled into a standing position,
head still lolling unpleasantly, like a grotesque puppet. He hung a few
inches above the ground, his limp feet dangling. Lupin picked up the
Invisibility Cloak and tucked it safely into his pocket.
"And two of us should be chained to this," said Black, nudging Pettigrew
with his toe. "Just to make sure."
"I'll do it," said Lupin.
"And me," said Ron savagely, limping forward.
Black conjured heavy manacles from thin air; soon Pettigrew was upright
again, left arm chained to Lupin's right, right arm to Ron's left. Ron's
face was set. He seemed to have taken Scabbers's true identity as a
personal insult. Crookshanks leapt lightly off the bed and led the way
out of the room, his bottlebrush tail held jauntily high.
THE DEMENTOR'S KISS
Harry had never been part of a stranger group. Crookshanks led the way
down the stairs; Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron went next, looking like
entrants in a six-legged race. Next came Professor Snape, drifting
creepily along, his toes hitting each stair as they descended, held up
by his own wand, which was being pointed at him by Sirius. Harry and
Hermione brought up the rear.
Getting back into the tunnel was difficult. Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron
had to turn sideways to manage it; Lupin still had Pettigrew covered
with his wand. Harry could see them edging awkwardly along the tunnel in
single file. Crookshanks was still in the lead. Harry went right after
Black, who was still making Snape drift along ahead of them; he kept
bumping his lolling head on the low ceiling. Harry had the impression
Black was making no effort to prevent this.
"You know what this means?" Black said abruptly to Harry as they made
their slow progress along the tunnel. "Turning Pettigrew in?"
"You' re free," said Harry.
"Yes...," said Black. "But I'm also -- I don't know if anyone ever told
you -- I'm your godfather."
"Yeah, I knew that," said Harry.
"Well... your parents appointed me your guardian," said Black stiffly.
"If anything happened to them..."
Harry waited. Did Black mean what he thought he meant?
"I'll understand, of course, if you want to stay with your aunt and
uncle," said Black. "But... well... think about it. Once my name's
cleared... if you wanted a... a different home..."
Some sort of explosion took place in the pit of Harry's stomach.
"What -- live with you?" he said, accidentally cracking his head on a
bit of rock protruding from the ceiling. "Leave the Dursleys?"
"Of course, I thought you wouldn't want to," said Black quickly. "I
understand, I just thought I'd --"
"Are you insane?" said Harry, his voice easily as croaky as Black's.
"Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can
I move in?"
Black turned right around to look at him; Snape's head was scraping the
ceiling but Black didn't seem to care.
"You want to?" he said. "You mean it?"
"Yeah, I mean it!" said Harry.
Black's gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon
it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years
younger were shining through the starved mask; for a moment, he was
recognizable as the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding.
They did not speak again until they had reached the end of the tunnel.
Crookshanks darted up first; he had evidently pressed his paw to the
knot on the trunk, because Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron clambered upward
without any sound of savaging branches.
Black saw Snape up through the hole, then stood back for Harry and
Hermione to pass. At last, all of them were out.
The grounds were very dark now; the only light came from the distant
windows of the castle. Without a word, they set off. Pettigrew was still
wheezing and occasionally whimpering. Harry's mind was buzzing. He was
going to leave the Dursleys. He was going to live with Sirius Black, his
parents' best friend.... He felt dazed.... What would happen when he
told the Dursleys he was going to live with the convict they'd seen on
"One wrong move, Peter," said Lupin threateningly ahead. His wand was
still pointed sideways at Pettigrew's chest.
Silently they tramped through the grounds, the castle lights growing
slowly larger. Snape was still drifting weirdly ahead of Black, his chin
bumping on his chest. And then -
A cloud shifted. There were suddenly dim shadows on the ground. Their
party was bathed in moonlight.
Snape collided with Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron, who had stopped abruptly.
Black froze. He flung out one arm to make Harry and Hermione stop.
Harry could see Lupin's silhouette. He had gone rigid. Then his limbs
began to shake.
"Oh, my --" Hermione gasped. "He didn't take his potion tonight! He's
"Run," Black whispered. "Run. Now."
But Harry couldn't run. Ron was chained to Pettigrew and Lupin. He leapt
forward but Black caught him around the chest and threw him back.
"Leave it to me -- RUN!"
There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin's head was lengthening. So
was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on
his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws. Crookshanks's
hair was on end again; he was backing away --
As the werewolf reared, snapping its long jaws, Sirius disappeared from