Dumbledore demanded that Sirius' trial take place immediately, and this time none of Fudge's blustering could convince anyone else it should be otherwise. The Ministry had no grounds for refusal now that they had Pettigrew.
If the strain of the last few days had taken their toll on Remus, the trial nearly broke him. Obviously they would use Veritaserum on Peter, and the truth about Remus and Marauders was very likely to come spilling out if the right questions were asked. Dumbledore had left the choice to Remus, but Remus hadn't even hesitated. Anything was worth saving Sirius, even if the entire Wizarding world learned he was a werewolf.
The hell of it was, the recipient was only forced to answer direct questions, so everything would depend on the turn of phrase the Ministry used. "Where did you hide" would save Remus; "how did you hide" would destroy him.
Mercifully, the Ministry was not imaginative enough to think that it mattered HOW Peter had escaped, the most important thing to them was that Pettigrew was the traitor. By the time they led Peter out, Remus was mentally and emotionally exhausted, slumped in a pile on his bench.
Nothing could have prepared him for the sight of Sirius being led out.
It was much worse than he had dreaded. Sirius looked disoriented, he shuffled forth nervously and jumped at any sudden sound. His gaze slid over Remus without recognizing him and continued roaming aimlessly. His voice was hollow when he answered questions and he looked as though he might simply disintegrate to dust before their eyes if somebody gave him a good poke.
Remus wanted to cover his eyes, but knew it wouldn't do any good. The image of Sirius, empty and damaged, would be seared across the back of his eyelids.
I'm here, he screamed at Sirius silently. I'm going to get you out of this.
Silence fell as the Ministry was making its decision, leaving Sirius alone in his chair. He seemed to have become slightly more aware during his questioning, and when his gaze brushed over Remus this time, it stuck. Remus stared back, desperate to relay any sort of mental message to Sirius, one of hope or comfort or just that he was there. He moved as if to stand, but Moody was sitting beside him and jerked him back down.
"Soon enough," he growled softly. "Don't cause trouble."
I'm taking you home, Remus mouthed instead, but he had no way of knowing whether Sirius had understood or not.
The judges settled back in to give the verdict. Fudge looked angrier than Remus had ever seen him, and for the first time since Halloween thought that things must just turn out right.
The actual verdict was lost in a roar that was partly in Remus' ears and partly the people around him rushing to their feet, all members of the Order and Remus dimly realized they were there to keep him from doing anything stupid, but he didn't care because he could finally run to Sirius, who was standing unsteadily as they removed his shackles. He was glancing around uncertainly, and homed in on Remus with obvious relief.
"Moony," he sighed, gripping Remus' forearms with fingers that felt brittle. Remus shook off Sirius' hands to throw his arms around Sirius' neck, and Sirius clung to him desperately.
"I'm taking you home," Remus said. He repeated the words over several times more until he was sure they had gained reality with Sirius.
Someone tapped on Remus' back and he reluctantly pulled away from Sirius to look. Sirius refused to let go and clung to Remus' arm tightly.
"You and Sirius should go," Dumbledore said. "We have set up somewhere safe for you."
"I don't want to go someplace safe!" Remus snapped. "I want to go home!"
"I can't argue with you here," Dumbledore cut him off quietly. "If Harry is to stay with you, he must be kept safe."
Remus closed his eyes and fought down the hysterical laughter that rose in his throat, now knowing exactly why Sirius had laughed when they'd taken him away. It was simply too much to bear.
After a moment, he opened his eyes and gave Sirius a good look. Sirius needed to sleep and heal, they both did, and maybe it didn't matter where for now.
"Fine," he said. "What about Harry?"
"Frank will bring him when it's safe enough," Dumbledore answered. Every time Dumbledore used the word 'safe' Remus wanted to break his nose.
Nothing is safe, you ancient fool, Remus thought bitterly to himself, hands clenched into fists as he followed Dumbledore out of the trial room. Sirius was still holding onto him, walking close enough that they tripped over each other's feet more than once. Remus didn't ask him to move further away.
Arthur was waiting for them in his office, toying with a roll of parchment. In front of him, Sirius' wand lay on the desk. He stood up when they arrived and held out Sirius wand. Sirius took it tentatively, but then clutched it as tight as he was clutching Remus.
"Moody'll be back with the Portkey in a moment," he said. He held the parchment out to Remus. "This is from Molly. She thought you might need help with Harry."
"Thank Merlin for that woman," Remus breathed in relief, one of the weights that was crushing him lifting slightly. Arthur smiled tiredly at the comment.
"If anything happens, Floo us right away," Arthur told Remus firmly, shooting a defiant glance over to Dumbledore. His mouth set in grim line, but he didn't reply. "Anything, Remus, we'll help."
"I can't thank you enough, Arthur." Remus shook Arthur's hand warmly. "Tell Molly I'm sorry about the cookie jar."
"I daresay she's enchanting a new one as we speak," Arthur chuckled, and just then Moody returned, clutching a brown paper package in his hand. He handed it to Remus, who nodded his thanks.
"We'll send Frank along directly," Dumbledore reassured them, but Remus didn't respond. He unwrapped the brown paper to reveal a set of shackles. Sirius cringed.
"It was what we had on hand," Arthur apologized.
"The irony isn't lost on me," Remus replied, wondering where all this energy to be angry was coming from all of the sudden.
"Destroy the Portkey after you arrive," Dumbledore ordered.
Remus touched the shackles without another word to anyone and felt the familiar jerk at his navel. When he could see again, he dropped the whole package on the floor and fumbled in his pocket for his wand.
"Finite Incantum!" Sirius suddenly shouted, making Remus jump. The shackles imploded in on themselves and disintegrated. Remus turned to Sirius to see him still holding out his wand and trembling all over. Remus reached over and pushed Sirius' arm down gently.
They stared at each other silently. Remus' hand was still in his pocket, and he felt something crinkle under his fingertips. He pulled his hand out and looked down at the Chocolate Frog for a moment before unwrapping it and offering it to Sirius. Sirius ate it slowly, some of the tense lines leaving his face.
"Helps," he thanked Remus.
"How do you feel?" Remus asked, hating what a stupid question it was. Sirius furrowed his brow for a long moment, considering.
"Hurts," he finally whispered. Before Remus could reply, it was Padfoot in front of him instead of Sirius, staring up at him with wide brown eyes full of sadness.
"This is home for a while," Remus sighed, scratching Padfoot's ears. "I'm going to sleep for a few hours before Harry comes."
Remus walked slowly to the end of the sitting room they had appeared in, where there were two doorways. One led to a small kitchen, the other to a bedroom. Dumbledore had evidently managed to find the one place in England smaller than their flat, but Remus didn't even care as he sank down on the bed. He felt Padfoot crawl up onto the bed laboriously and curl up over his feet, then he lost consciousness.