“He tried to bring Peter to me, but couldn't... so he stole the passwords
into Gryffindor Tower for me... As I understand it, he took them from a boy's
Harry's brain seemed to be sagging under the weight of what he was hearing.
It was absurd... and yet...
“But Peter got wind of what was going on and ran for it.” croaked Black.
“This cat—Crookshanks, did you call him?—told me Peter had left blood on the
sheets... I supposed he bit himself... Well, faking his own death had worked
These words jolted Harry to his senses.
“And why did he fake his death?” he said furiously. “Because he knew you
were about to kill him like you killed my parents!”
“No,” said Lupin, “Harry-”
“And now you've come to finish him off!”
“Yes, I have,” said Black, with an evil look at Scabbers.
“Then I should've let Snape take you!” Harry shouted.
“Harry,” said Lupin hurriedly, “don't you see? All this time we've thought
Sirius betrayed your parents, and Peter tracked him down—but it was the other
way around, don't you see? Peter betrayed your mother and father—Sirius tracked
Peter down —”
“THAT'S NOT TRUE!” Harry yelled. “HE WAS THEIR SECRET-KEEPER! HE SAID SO
BEFORE YOU TURNED UP. HE SAID HE KILLED THEM!”
He was pointing at Black, who shook his head slowly; the sunken eyes were
suddenly over bright.
“Harry... I as good as killed them,” he croaked. “I persuaded Lily and James
to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as Secret-Keeper
instead of me... I'm to blame, I know it... The night they died, I'd arranged
to check on Peter, make sure he was still safe, but when I arrived at his hiding
place, he'd gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn't feel right.
I was scared. I set out for your parents' house straight away. And when I saw
their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I realized what Peter must've done...
what I'd done...”
His voice broke. He turned away.
“Enough of this,” said Lupin, and there was a steely note in his voice Harry
had never heard before. “There's one certain way to prove what really happened.
Ron, give me that rat.”
“What are you going to do with him if I give him to you?” Ron asked Lupin
“Force him to show himself,” said Lupin. “If he really is a rat, it won't
Ron hesitated. Then at long last, he held out Scabbers and Lupin took him.
Scabbers began to squeak without stopping, twisting and turning, his tiny black
eyes bulging in his head. “Ready, Sirius?” said Lupin.
Black had already retrieved Snape's wand from the bed. He approached Lupin
and the struggling rat, and his wet eyes suddenly seemed to be burning in his
“Together?” he said quietly.
“I think so,,, said Lupin, holding Scabbers tightly in one hand and his wand
in the other. “On the count of three. One—two—THREE!”
A flash of blue-white light erupted from both wands; for a moment, Scabbers
was frozen in midair, his small gray form twisting madly—Ron yelled—the rat
fell and hit the floor. There was another blinding 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 friends...”
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 casual.
“We've been having a little chat, Peter, about what happened the night Lily
and James died. You might have missed the finer points while you 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,
“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,”
“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
“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 whole
“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'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
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
“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
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
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 Hogwarts.
“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 nodded.
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 Black.
“Remus!” Pettigrew squeaked, turning to Lupin instead, writhing 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 the spy?”