All Harry's pupils had been overjoyed to see him return to classes on the Monday, apparently some of those who had stood in were not stellar flying teachers. Given that, after the first day, he was only too aware why Madam Pomfrey had made him promise not to overtax himself, at least his ego was doing well.
That night he'd eaten then fallen straight to sleep, so after that he paced himself better. Every day he was more back to his normal self, but he knew he had really done a number on his system with raising Sirius. However, he did very little with his spare time for the next four days, other than practice projecting with Ron. He wanted it perfected before he and Sirius tried it. Or rather Draco was adamant about that and he kind of agreed.
However, by Friday they both deemed him ready.
They set up in the same way as with Ron, and Harry explained everything. It was only him, Sirius and Draco, so as not to create any distractions. Over his time practicing with Ron, Harry had realised that the more times he made contact with a certain mind the easier it became. However the first few times it was very easy for something to break his concentration.
"So it really does work then?" Sirius asked.
"It really works," Harry replied and nodded. "When we use the Veritaserum I have to project the truth and something about the way it all works means that I can only see what you really remember, even if you're trying to embellish it. We tried it with Ron."
"You're saying I have to really believe what I'm remembering for you to project it?" Sirius checked.
Harry nodded, not sure what his godfather was getting at.
"Amazing," Sirius said, "even a powerful Legilimens can have problems seeing through well put together lies."
He hadn't thought of it that way.
"I really don't know how it works," he admitted, "just that it does."
"Makes me really glad you're on our side," Sirius replied with a grin.
It was bravado, they were both nervous about this, Harry could tell without any of his extra abilities, but he let Sirius have it.
"Aren't we all," Draco agreed. "He'd make a really bad Dark Lord though," Draco carried on, "he has this really irritating nice streak."
That made Sirius grin for real.
[Thanks,] Harry sent to his soulmate.
"Okay," Sirius said, "so what shall I remember?"
"Something happy," Harry said as if it was simply an offhand suggestion and they didn't both know that Sirius sometimes had trouble with that.
Sirius' body had been greatly restored by his death and return to life, but his mind still held the scars of Azkaban.
"I know just the thing," Sirius said, "whenever you're ready."
Harry prepared himself as best he could, placed his hands on Sirius' shoulders and let the presence of his godfather into his awareness. He immediately stepped back.
"Sorry," he apologised.
"Did I do something wrong?" Sirius asked.
"No," Harry replied, "your presence is just a lot stronger than Ron's. It was a bit of a shock, that all. You're very there, if you see what I mean."
The small frown said that Sirius most likely didn't.
"Probably to do with having to stand up to Dementors for so many years," Draco said and made Harry look over, "that and dying. You must have a very clear sense of self to have survived."
"If you say so," Sirius replied.
"Okay, let's try this again," Harry said and moved back into position.
This time he was better prepared and everything went smoothly. It was a lot harder than with Ron because he was so familiar with his best friend now, but it worked and a picture appeared in the mirror. Rose petals were dancing in the air and it was only belatedly that Harry realised he was witnessing part of his parents' wedding from Sirius' perspective. He felt Sirius' joy as the happy couple kissed and he couldn't help smiling as well.
Then suddenly the memory shifted to darkness, a feeling of desolation and the ruins of a house. The pure pain of the emotion behind the memory made Harry gasp. It was Sirius who broke the connection by leaning back and away.
"Sorry," Sirius apologised immediately, "I didn't mean for that to happen. I wasn't thinking of that at all."
It was only then that Harry realised what he had seen: Godric's Hollow. Sooner or later he was going to have to see all of that and more and he realised it was going to be even harder than he had thought.
* * *
The Wizengamot was full; it seemed every single member wanted to be there for Sirius' trial. The fact that Dumbledore had been reinstated and would be leading the proceedings made Harry feel a little better, but that there had to be a trial at all still galled him.
Everything Harry had ever said about Voldemort had proved to be true, but they still wouldn't take him at his word about Wormtail. It was just another reason Fudge had to go as soon as possible. How the man had clung on after everything that had happened was a mystery to everyone.
The chair with its chains was exactly how he remembered it. He knew without a doubt Fudge would demand their use on Sirius and that annoyed him even more. Sirius was no more dangerous to the court than he had been. He lowered his barriers just a little and the room lit up. It appeared that there was more magic in the court than he had ever realised.
What had most of his attention, however, was the knot of magic on the back of the chair that flowed into the chains like a spider web. It had to be the control mechanism. It wasn't exactly a complex charm by the looks of it, in fact it looked rather precarious, as if it had been left too long without maintenance. On impulse he lowered his barriers just a little more and called to the magic.
For a moment he felt resistance, like pulling on a string, and then it gave. The knot unravelled and slithered to the floor. Since no one reacted, Harry had to assume he was the only one who could see it. It moved towards him, but he let it go and it shimmered and dissolved into the floor.
[What did you do?] Draco asked immediately.
Harry just showed him.
[Good,] was Draco's opinion, [those things are archaic, barbaric and humiliating. Now they'll have to think of something not out of the Dark Ages if they want to contain a prisoner.]
[My thoughts exactly,] Harry replied, [well not that eloquent, but, definitely.]
He could tell when the members of the Wizengamot noticed him, because a buzz of noise started. Fudge, who was on the other side of the room in the front row with his lackeys also realised something was going on.
"Point of order," the man said standing up, "this is a closed session of the Wizengamot, all witnesses must wait outside."
"Mr Potter is not simply a witness, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied from where he was taking his seat, "Mr Potter will be assisting with Mr Black's testimony, and of course where Mr Potter goes so does Mr Malfoy."
"This is most irregular," Fudge protested.
"Please would you explain, Professor Dumbledore," Amelia Bones interrupted.
"Of course," Dumbledore replied, as if he was not the Chief Warlock and technically in charge anyway. "Since this case is such a controversial matter, and words can be so problematic in such instances, Sirius Black's testimony will be given via mental projection. Mr Potter had volunteered to be the instrument of this projection."
"Mental projections can be altered," Fudge interrupted right on cue.
[It's like we gave him a script,] Harry commented silently to Draco.
"Not when a Hecatemus has taken Veritaserum they cannot," Dumbledore replied with his illusion of perfect calm. "There is precedent for such testimony based on the work of Hecatema Jennifer Cotton."
"How can we be sure this woman's work is accurate?" Fudge blustered. "I demand proof."
"Are you saying, Minister, that you wish to bring into question the validity of the life's work of Jennifer Cotton," Dumbledore paused just momentarily to give Fudge enough time to start to say yes, "the Hecatema on whose investigations much of the modern regulations on the use of Legilimency and other such techniques in law enforcement are based?"
Fudge slammed his mouth shut as the ramifications of that particular statement slid home. Harry was pretty sure that was one legal quagmire even their idiot of a Minister did not want to fall into.
"The precedent stands," Madam Bones said in a very authoritative voice when Fudge did not speak up, "the court recognises Harry Potter as a conduit for legal testimony from willing participants while under the influence of Veritaserum."
And that was that.
"I'm so glad we're in agreement," Dumbledore said. "Please bring in the defendant Sirius Black and the means for him to testify."
There was a loud muttering throughout the chamber as the Aurors escorted Sirius into the room. The fact he looked every inch the pureblood wizard that he was, rather than an escapee from Azkaban, seemed to have surprised a few people. The moment they had all stepped into the Ministry, the Auror's had taken Sirius into custody, but they had only taken his wand, not restrained him.
Fudge looked almost gleeful as Sirius sat down. Of course the chains didn't so much as chink.
"What is going on here?" Fudge demanded. "The defendant is a dangerous wizard and must be contained."
"It appears that the chains do not agree, Cornelius," Dumbledore said as if he was talking about the weather. "I would also remind the court that Sirius Black is here today of his own free will because he wishes to see this matter resolved. No one could have removed him from Hogwarts against his wishes."
"Your doing as well," Fudge accused.
"I can honestly say I have had nothing to do with Sirius' sanctuary at Hogwarts, nor the deactivation of the restrains on the defendant's chair," Dumbledore said and looked at Fudge, daring the man to challenge his word. "These are ancient magics, Cornelius, not always comprehendible to our modern minds."
Ever since the acknowledged return of Voldemort, very few people doubted Dumbledore's word. While all that was going on, two other men were carrying what Harry knew to be a six foot by five foot mirror to the far end of the courtroom. When they uncovered it there was yet more muttering.
"If there are no more objections, shall we begin?" Dumbledore asked, looking around the room.
No one spoke up.
"Are you Sirius Black, son of Orion and Walburga Black?" Dumbledore asked.
"I am," Sirius replied.
"You stand accused of the betrayal of Lily and James Potter to Lord Voldemort, the murder of twelve Muggles, and the murder of Peter Pettigrew," Dumbledore continued, "how do you plead?"
"Not guilty on all counts," Sirius said, clearly and evenly, looking around the whole room as he spoke.
It was a very pointed display and Harry felt the air in the room shift.
"You have agreed to share your memories of these events with the court with the assistance of Harry James Potter, have you not?" Dumbledore asked.
"I have," Sirius acknowledge.
"Please step forward, Mr Potter," the headmaster said.
Harry moved from his seat and walked to where Sirius was sitting.
"Please bring out the Veritaserum," Dumbledore ordered.
The door at the back of the room opened and a woman walked in wearing very official robes. Harry didn't know who she was, but she was carrying a vial.
"If the court pleases, this is three drops of Veritaserum mixed with water by members of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," Dumbledore told everyone.
"I can attest to this," Madam Bones added before Fudge could so much as twitch.
"At this juncture I would like to remind the court that Veritaserum does not have the same effect on Hecatemae, in that they are not compelled to speak the truth, however, it does render all projections of a mental nature perfectly accurate," Dumbledore explained. "There can be no alteration of the memory be it on Mr Potter's part and what we will see it a true representation of the events as Mr Black recalls them."
There were murmurings at that, but no objections.
"Mr Potter, if you would be so good as to take the Veritaserum."
Harry took the vial and knocked it back instantly so there could be no doubt that he had done exactly as asked.
"When you are ready, if you will begin."
He stepped round in front of Sirius, meeting his godfather's eyes. They were both resolute, but neither of them was looking forward to this. Harry took out his wand, holding it in his right hand, and then placed his hands on Sirius' shoulders. Steeling himself for what was to come, he pushed all his emotions way down deep using the Oclumency training which had kept him sane through his sixth year. In this he was a vessel, he could not afford to react.
It took him only moments to connect with Sirius' mind. He half turned, cast the reveal spell on the mirror and what Sirius was remembering appeared for everyone to see. Sirius was flying.
As Sirius came in to land near the ruins of Godric's Hollow Harry did his best not to think at all.
Sirius showed the court everything from that night including wanting to take baby Harry, giving Hagrid his bike, tracking down Pettigrew, and especially the fight with Peter in vivid detail. Everyone saw Pettigrew shout at Sirius and how Sirius barely had a chance to raise his wand as Pettigrew exploded. He even showed his arrest and the presence of Cornelius Fudge.
"If he is so innocent, why was he laughing at the death of those Muggles?" Fudge demanded and Harry's concentration snapped.
He blinked and stepped back. There were tears in Sirius' eyes.
"I was laughing because I thought Pettigrew had killed himself," Sirius said, "and I was more than a little hysterical. I had just seen two of my best friends betrayed and killed by someone I trusted implicitly. I was not in my right mind."
"When did you realised Peter Pettigrew was not dead?" Dumbledore asked.
"When I saw him in rat form in a picture in the Daily Prophet while I was in Azkaban," Sirius replied.
"Mr Pettigrew is an Animgus?"
"What did you do?"
"I escaped and went to Hogwarts to protect Harry."
Harry was still reeling from experiencing Sirius' memories, but he stood tall and nodded in acknowledgement to that.
"Mr Pettigrew is not registered as an Animagus," Fudge interrupted. "Where is the proof?"
"Mr Potter," Dumbledore said.
Harry pulled up the memory of the Shrieking Shack and threw it at the mirror. There is all its glory was Pettigrew's transformation from rat to man. He cut it off before Sirius and Remus discussed murdering their one time friend.
"He had been hiding as Ron's pet the entire time," Harry said, his voice entirely flat as he tried to keep himself under control. "If you want I can show you how he helped bring Voldemort back after the Triwizard Tournament."
Harry's legs were beginning to shake, but for Sirius he would do anything.
"Mr Potter's testimony on the subject is on record," Madam Bones stepped in before Fudge could say anything, "I believe that will be unnecessary."
Harry looked to Draco who was sitting in his seat, back ramrod straight, face blank.
[Just say the word,] Draco told him.
They had agreed that Draco would remain out of things unless absolutely necessary. It never did to remind wizards that a Malfoy was involved at any level in something like this.
[Thanks,] he said, [but I'll be okay.]
"Perhaps if we could speed things up," Dumbledore suggested. "The Veritaserum has a debilitating affect on the Hecatemus system."
Of course Fudge was not going to let it go there. What followed were more questions, a few more projections from Sirius and from Harry, until eventually Harry's system had just had enough. He sagged against the side of the chair and Draco was out of his seat like a shot.
"Antidote now!" was all Draco said.
The court official who had brought the potion in knew not to argue and passed Draco another vial. Harry drank it without resistance and let Draco help him back to his seat.
"Thank you, Mr Potter, for your assistance," Dumbledore said. "It appears we must continue with more mundane methods."
Fudge still wasn't about to give up though and the questions continued to fly.
[He's already lost and he knows it,] Draco said as he held Harry up beside him.
[He should have already lost without this charade,] Harry replied, letting annoyance rule over some of the other things he was trying not to feel.
[Of course, but he should have lost his job when it was revealed Voldemort was back as well, but he clung on,] Draco said. [He has some very powerful friends. They'll start deserting him after this.]
[They better,] was all Harry said.
Fudge fought to the bitter end, until finally Madam Bones had had enough.
"All for acquitting Sirius Black of all charges," she stood up and announced loudly.
"Aye," came from all directions.
"Sirius Black," Dumbledore said before Fudge could try anything else, "we the Wizengamot find you not guilty of all crimes with which you are charged. You are free to go."
Fudge's expression was somewhere between amazed and confused as the verdict was passed. It was as if he couldn't believe it had just happened. Harry hoped it gave the Minister nightmares.