A Light in the Dark: Part 2
Christmas Day was a dismal affair for the most part, though Harry and Hermione tried to make the best of things. Ron shot them both dirty looks all through breakfast, and they noticed that he barely touched his food.
Harry was furious at Ron for scaring Hermione out of her wits and unfairly blaming her cat, but he couldn’t help feeling twinges of guilt about the possible role of Hedwig in Scabbers apparent demise. Despite Ron’s frequent complaints about Scabbers being boring and useless, Harry knew that he had been very attached to the rodent.
Harry kept trying to tell himself that Hedwig had nothing to do with Scabbers disappearance, and anyway, there was something very weird about that rat being so ancient, but his doubts kept niggling. Though judging from the vicious glares Ron kept giving Hermione, it was obvious that he continued to believe that Crookshanks was the most likely culprit to have eaten Scabbers.
Or was it because Hermione agreed with Harry that the Firebolt should be turned over to McGonagall for a thorough inspection? Harry was still shocked that Ron had taken the whole thing so personally. Ron had been furious even before Scabbers had gone missing.
“I don’t understand Hermione, why is Ron so cross with me about the Firebolt?” asked Harry as they carried the sleek glossy new broomstick, not a twig out of place, to McGonagall’s office.
“I... I’m really not sure Harry - it might be because he’s jealous,” Hermione replied, biting her lip pensively. “He’s never had a new broom all of his own... and... and I think he was at least hoping to get a ride on yours.”
“Yeah... I bet he’d love being hurled to his death from 50 feet up by a cursed broom like I almost was in First Year!” Harry muttered darkly as he knocked on McGonagall’s office door.
“Well Potter - this is a surprise!” said McGonagall when she answered. “You’re lucky I was still here. I was just about to pop down to the Three Broomsticks... Speaking of broomsticks, shouldn’t you be giving that new one in your hand a spin? The match against Ravenclaw isn’t that far off...”
“That’s just it Professor...” Harry nervously began as Hermione shuffled beside him. “This broom - I didn’t buy it! I couldn’t really afford this one even if I wanted to... it’s the Firebolt! And someone sent it to me with no card or note... nothing. I... er... I think it might have been sent by...”
“...Sirius Black!” gasped the professor, her face paling in immediate understanding.
McGonagall gingerly took the shiny world-class racing-broom from Harry’s grasp and examined it with an almost loving caress. With Potter on this broom, she and Wood were almost guaranteed another trophy - anyone would be tempted to take it for an immediate ride. And given Potter’s own love of flying, she was very fortunate that he was still standing...
“I... I must say... I’m very impressed with you Mr Potter! Bringing this straight to me like this - if you hadn’t...” McGonagall swallowed uncomfortably.
“Well... let me just say that I’m very pleased that you’re sensible enough to know that some things simply aren’t worth risking your life for!” McGonagall peered at Harry knowingly, then slid her eyes over for a sidelong look at Hermione. “Though I suppose other things are!” she concluded.
Harry gulped and Hermione turned crimson. Professor McGonagall’s lips curled up at the corner slightly.
“Go on then you two,” the oft strict professor said gently, her features softening. “It’s Christmas - loosen up a bit - let your hair down - have some fun. I’ll take this broom to Madam Hooch and Flitwick - and with any luck we’ll have this back in time for you to flatten Ravenclaw on it, Potter!”
Neither Harry or Hermione were eager to return to the Gryffindor Common Room, where Ron was likely to be sulking. And not even Hermione was inclined to spend Christmas Day in the library. They decided to take a walk outside, and were glad that they had when they both felt their moods lift.
Despite the cold, Hogwarts at Christmas truly was a proverbial winter wonderland. Their breath drifted through the air like little clouds among the lightly falling snowflakes. Glistening icicles hung from the parapets, eaves, and windowsills of the castle, and blankets of snow covered the roofs of the towers.
The evergreens in the forest stood tall, dusted with white amidst the frosty snow covered branches of oaks, sycamores, and yews. Ice stretched out further across the surface of the lake than it had when they had walked by it last, and the mountains reared like glaciers against the sky.
Hermione curled her arms around Harry’s middle, leaning into him as he put his own arm over her shoulders and kissed her forehead.
Time seemed to stop, and Harry didn’t know how long they stood there like that, drinking in the beauty of the wintry landscape as they held each other. But they must have been outside for a while, he thought when they spied a snowman near the entrance which hadn’t been there on their way out, presumably built by the two First Years who had stayed on for Christmas.
Hermione was glowing when they got back to the Common Room. She ran up to her dorm to change and get ready for Christmas Dinner.
Harry’s stomach clenched as he pushed open the door to the boys dorm. Ron’s curtains were drawn around his bed, and Harry wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or angry. But as he changed, he decided that he felt relieved that he didn’t have to see the prat for the time-being - he was sure things would be awkward enough around the dinner table.
On his way back to the Common Room, Harry dragged his cover and pillows off his bed, grabbing his pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers while he was at it, prepared to sleep on the sofa by the Common Room fire for the rest of the holidays.
Shortly after New Year, Gryffindor Tower was bustling again, and Harry returned to his own bed with a sigh. Harry was going to miss sleeping in the Common Room, as Hermione had snuck down to cuddle him by the fire every night after she was sure that Ron was asleep and unlikely to burst in on them.
Harry was still torn between feeling bad for Ron, and angry at him, but at least Ron would be less inclined to try and have another row as he had several times over the week since the fateful Christmas Day.
Harry tried to avoid looking at Ron, but that proved to be difficult the night before term started. The other person whom Harry was trying to avoid, waylaid him in the Gryffindor Common Room before he could escape.
“Had a good Christmas Potter?” asked Oliver Wood.
“Er... I suppose,” said Harry awkwardly.
“Right...” Wood seemed almost as anxious as Harry. “Er, so how’s things going... er... with learning how to ward off Dementors then? After that last match... we really can’t afford to lose you!”
“Oh! Well that’s going brilliantly!” Harry replied, hoping Wood was going to leave it there. But no such luck.
“Excellent!” Wood nodded, looking slightly cheered. “What about your broom? Ordered a new one yet?”
“No!” muttered Harry, his eyes inadvertently darting towards the redhead sitting in an armchair nearby.
“What? ” gasped Wood, looking panic-stricken. “You’d better get a move on Potter! You can’t ride that Shooting Star against Ravenclaw...”
“He got a Firebolt for Christmas!” snapped Ron, glowering at Harry.
“Don’t get too excited just yet Oliver,” Harry sighed, trying to ignore Ron. “I handed it over to McGonagall in case it’s cursed!”
“What? How could it be cursed?”
“Sirius Black,” said Harry wearily. “Someone sent it to me anonymously...”
“That’s ridiculous Potter!” Wood moaned. “Black couldn’t have bought a Firebolt. He’s on the run!”
“SEE! Even Wood thinks you’re mental,” Ron added savagely.
Harry rolled his eyes, wondering if all Quidditch fanatics were this thick! But he thought about McGonagall, and supposed not.
“LOOK...” Harry snapped back, “If Black sent it to me, he probably stole it and then cursed it. If he didn’t, then it ought to be fine. But either way, Flitwick and Hooch are stripping it down, and making sure that it’s not going to KILL ME! ...”
“McGonagall agreed with me straightaway that Black probably sent it - and she said that with a bit of luck, I’ll hopefully have it back CURSE FREE before the match!” Harry concluded vehemently.
Still fuming, Harry turned on his heel and stalked away leaving a stunned Oliver Wood and a slightly ashamed looking Ron Weasley in his wake.
Classes began again the next day. Nobody was looking forward to Care of Magical Creatures in the frigid January snow, but Hagrid had moved on to salamanders and had a blazing bonfire going, and it turned out to be a really fun lesson. Arithmancy was far less enjoyable, but Professor Vector had at least given Harry’s holiday homework assignment a passing mark, and Hermione had given Harry an encouraging smile.
“You’re doing really well, Harry,” she whispered. “Eventually you’ll get the hang of it.”
Harry and Hermione continued their Anti-Dementor lessons on Thursday, and though they were both doing splendidly according to Lupin, neither of them had yet produced a Corporeal Patronus.
Ravenclaw was narrowly defeated by Slytherin a week after term had started. Oliver Wood had indicated that was a good thing, asserting that if Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw, they would move up to second place. Harry stared Wood down when the team captain insisted that practices would be increased to five a week, leaving only one night a week to do homework, when Harry knew that he needed at least four to properly keep up.
“...except for Potter!” Wood snapped, knowing that Harry had McGonagall convinced that his studies were more important. Wood had also tried to get the Firebolt back from McGonagall, and she had dressed him down thoroughly for being more concerned about winning than Harry Potter’s life.
Ron continued to give Harry and Hermione the cold shoulder, spending most of his time with Seamus and Dean. Fred, George, and Ginny had tried cheering him up about Scabbers, to little avail. Ron continued to furiously maintain that it was all Hermione’s fault for not keeping her cat locked up. He seemed to have given up on presenting the possibility that Hedwig might be to blame.
“Buck up Ron,” said Fred heartily. “You always said Scabbers was boring. He was ancient and practically on death’s door anyway - it’s probably better that he snuffed it quickly!”
“Fred!” gasped Ginny in an aggrieved tone.
“All he did was eat and sleep anyway Ron,” George added pointedly. “Weren’t you the one who was always going on about how pathetic and useless he was?”
Ron narrowed his eyes, growing flustered at Fred and George’s suspicious attempts at “cheering him up.”
“He bit Goyle for us once,” Ron indignantly told George.
“His finest hour,” snorted Fred, rolling his eyes.
“Bit me too - twice...” muttered Harry darkly, who was sitting nearby in the Common Room, unable to help himself when he overheard.
Hermione kept her face hidden behind one of the books Harry had given her for Christmas. Ginny tried to distract Ron by telling him to get a new pet in Hogsmeade. Fed up, Ron went over to sit with Seamus and Dean, where he knew he’d find a bit more sympathy.
“That cat was bang out of order mate,” Seamus whispered at Ron.
Despite everything, Harry continued to feel a pang of guilt at the possibility that Hedwig might have made off with Scabbers. But as Harry and Hermione were both being kept very busy with studying for all of their classes, Anti-Dementor lessons, helping Hagrid prepare for Buckbeak’s hearing, and Harry with his two Quidditch practices a week, Harry tried his best to just let it go. Though every so often, Harry would catch Ron glancing at him with an almost wistful expression.
Harry shook his head and sighed. If Ron wanted to be friends again, Ron would have to make a bit more of an effort with Hermione. Harry was willing if Ron was, but he didn’t have time to waste on someone who wasn’t ready to apologise for frightening Hermione and admit that he didn’t actually have any proof that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers.
On their one clear day a week, Harry and Hermione spent time with whomever was most available: Neville or Ginny, or Parvati and Lavender, or Luna, or Fred and George.
January turned into February, and the winter showed no signs of abating. But Harry was thrilled when in Ancient Runes they began learning a rune set which warded against freezing to death. It wouldn’t necessarily stop him from feeling cold, but it would prevent the worst effects of cold weather - such as frostbite, chillblains, or hypothermia - when painted on the skin with a special magical ink which could only be removed with a wand.
Finally, a week before Saturday’s match against Ravenclaw, McGonagall found Harry and Hermione in the corridor just after a Patronus lesson. Professor McGonagall looked the happiest that Harry could ever remember seeing her. Her eyes were gleaming as she held out the Firebolt.
“Well Potter...” she began. “You’ve got a very good friend out there somewhere - a very rich friend I might add. We’ve all given it our best - even Dumbledore - and have determined it utterly curse-free.”
“Really?” gasped Hermione.
“Yes... really!” retorted McGonagall brightly.
Harry was speechless - he had been so sure it was cursed! He was still concerned that he had no idea who his mysterious benefactor was, but as long as the broom wasn’t going to kill him, he supposed that he could try not to worry about it too much. In the meantime, he was the proud owner of the best broomstick in the world. He couldn’t wait to clobber Slytherin with it.
“Er...” was the best Harry could manage as his excitement overtook him. He couldn’t believe he was actually going to be able to ride the Firebolt.
“Oh... and Potter, do try and win won’t you?” Professor McGonagall finished with an uncharacteristically impish smirk.
Harry grinned as they made their way back to the Common Room as Hermione practically skipped beside him.
“You should let Ron know!” Hermione told Harry with a hopeful expression.
Harry peered at her quizzically, then it dawned on him that Hermione might think cheering up Ron about the broomstick would help him get over Scabbers. Harry wasn’t so sure about that. And in any case, there was only one thing Harry really cared about.
“If Ron apologises to you, I’ll even let him have first go on it Hermione,” said Harry firmly. “Otherwise, this broom is off-limits to him until he does! I told Ron very clearly that Crookshanks was in the Common Room all Christmas morning, and he didn’t believe me.”
“This isn’t about my pride Hermione!” Harry interjected. “It’s about Ron treating you fairly! If Ron was still blaming Hedwig, I’d give him a go on this broom in heartbeat, because it could be true. But he’s still accusing Crookshanks when I know for a fact that it wasn’t your cat...”
“I can’t necessarily make Ron agree with that completely... but Ron needs to at least admit that it might not have been Crookshanks, and he needs to apologise to you for being so horrible to you.”
Hermione looked at Harry anxiously, feeling torn. She really wanted Harry to have his first-ever-friend back, because she knew how much Harry missed Ron. But Hermione couldn’t help feeling a thrill of happiness that Harry was so adamant about standing up for her... which also made her feel guilty for feeling happy.
Harry peered at Hermione and stopped walking, even though they weren’t at their floor yet. He could see everything she was feeling written all over her face. Harry set the Firebolt next to the restored portrait of the Fat Lady - who was excitedly watching the drama unfold, eager to have some juicy gossip to share with her friend Violet - and he wrapped his arms around Hermione.
Very tentatively, Harry pressed his lips against Hermione’s and quickly pulled back, hoping that it would have a similar effect on her as the kiss she’d given him at Christmas - and hoping that he hadn’t overstepped. When Harry saw Hermione’s cheeks turning pink and a little smile creeping to her lips, and her lashes fluttering shyly as her eyes glazed ever-so-slightly, he felt a swooping sensation of success.
Hermione was stunned when Harry kissed her on the lips. It was completely unexpected. But all of a sudden she felt a shivery tingling sensation of joy rush through her as her heart began to race, and her doubts vanished. Hermione still hoped that Harry and Ron could be friends again, but now she felt that it was alright to be happy that Harry was sticking by her.
“Thank you Harry!” she whispered, feeling a bit giddy.
They continued on to their corridor, where they found Neville begging Sir Cadogan to let him in. The slightly demented Knight was still guarding the entrance to Gryffindor Common Room as the Fat Lady was too frightened to return, and he kept changing the passwords on a daily basis.
“I wrote them all down,” moaned Neville. “But I lost them.”
“It’s Oddsbodikins today, I think...” said Hermione, giving the Knight a glare.
The disappointed Knight opened, revealing the entrance, and Harry let Neville and Hermione enter the Common Room first. When Harry followed holding the shining new broom, people’s heads began to swivel as they gawked in admiration.
“Blimey, so tha’s it then!” said Seamus in a hushed tone of reverence.
“The Firebolt!” squealed Lavender.
As a number of students swarmed Harry, Oliver Wood leapt out of his seat, tears of joy in his eyes. Fred and George grinned at Harry and flashed him thumbs-up gestures. Ron, who had been having a game of Exploding Snap with Seamus and Dean whirled around to goggle at Harry and the Firebolt.
“She gave it back to you!” gasped Ron, an eager gleam in his eyes.
Harry’s grin faded, and the crowd of Gryffindors congregating around him awkwardly fell back. Lavender and Parvati sidled near Hermione protectively, and Neville gulped, but stood his ground next to Harry.
“Well...?” said Harry, raising his eyebrows after an awkward moment of silence.
Ron began to flush, knowing exactly what it was that Harry wanted, as Harry had made it perfectly plain since Christmas. Ron’s eyes darted towards Hermione and narrowed. Ron spun around in his seat, turning his back to Harry and Hermione as Seamus and Dean peered at him questioningly. Ron just shrugged sulkily, and they returned to their game of Exploding Snap.
“I’m sorry Harry!” said Hermione quietly, giving Harry’s hand a comforting squeeze.
“Me too,” Harry sighed.
Gradually the noise level in the Common Room returned to normal as people relaxed and began admiring the Firebolt again.
The Gryffindor team’s practice sessions went brilliantly over the week leading up the match against Ravenclaw. Everyone was performing to their top levels, inspired by the presence of the Firebolt in their midst. Harry grinned when even Hermione encouraged him to go to all of the extra practices.
“You’ll need to get used to the feel of the Firebolt Harry,” said Hermione when he clambered off his broom glowing with exhilaration and ran his fingers through his windswept hair at the end of his first practice with it. “...It’s got a much faster acceleration than your Nimbus. And it won’t hurt you academically to focus most of your attention on Quidditch for one week...”
After practicing their Patronus Charms on Thursday, Harry felt a bit more unsettled than he usually did afterwards. He and Hermione were still doing well, but Lupin had been filling him and Hermione in a bit at the end of each session of his own time at Hogwarts with Harry’s parents, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew. Something niggled in the back of Harry’s mind about the way Pettigrew had died at the hand of Black, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
Harry scrambled over a boulder in the middle of a forest he didn’t recognise, sweaty and out of breath. He pushed through the thorny underbrush on the other side and emerged, scratched and bleeding near a burbling creek in the moonlight. Gasping for air as he splashed through the shallow water, Harry whirled around in a panic to see if the enormous snake was still following him.
A hissing noseless face emerged from the bush, but remained at the edge of the water spitting venom angrily, as if unable to cross. Harry began to hope, but then he stiffened, his breath catching as he saw a man-sized rodent grinning malevolently at him with sharp yellowing teeth and beady black eyes.
The gigantic rat appeared diseased; holes in its fur revealed patches of bare, scabbing skin; it was missing one of its hands, and half of its wormy wriggling tail was also gone. But for all of its apparent sickliness, the giant rat seemed even more deadly as it slipped into the stream after Harry, as if ordered to by the snake.
But just as Harry thought that he was a goner for sure, bright light flared in the darkness on the other side of the stream. A glowing etheric doe emerged, and Harry caught the comforting scent of mint as it beckoned him to safety.
Harry bolted upright in his bed with a start, breathless and sweating as he had been in the dream. Hands shaking, Harry put on his glasses to look at the time and saw that it was after two am. Grateful that the match against Ravenclaw had been set for later in the morning, rather than first thing, Harry poured himself a glass of water from the jug beside his bed. Something caught his eye down on the lawn in the moonlight.
Harry slipped out of his bed quietly and padded over to the window for a better look. He felt a flicker of relief when he saw that it was just Crookshanks prowling across the lawn near some bushes. But was it just Crookshanks that he saw in the silvery moonlight reflecting from the hard-packed snow on the ground?
A large white owl lit upon the ground next to the cat. Harry drew a sharp intake of breath when he spotted the enormous shaggy black dog again, emerging from the bushes to join the cat and the owl. What did it mean?
Harry hadn’t given the idea of the Grim much credence, but he couldn’t pretend that the idea wasn’t unnerving after having seen the dog twice before. Harry glanced at the snoring Ron wildly for a moment, wondering if he should wake him, then decided against it.
Harry peered out of the window again and began to relax. If Crookshanks and Hedwig could see the dog also, it seemed highly unlikely to be a ‘Dark Beast of the Underworld.’ Harry shook his head with a wry little smile as he sipped his water and watched the animals playing together under the moonlight, thinking about what Hermione would say about his brief fit of nerves. Feeling much better, Harry slipped back into bed and was soon dreaming of snuggling with Hermione and kissing her minty lips instead.
Hermione frowned when she spied the pretty, black haired Ravenclaw Seeker batting her eyelashes flirtatiously at Harry as the two Quidditch teams waited for Madam Hooch’s starting whistle to blow. Harry smiled at the other Seeker and Hermione was overcome with a strong urge to hex the girl, though she wasn’t entirely certain why. Cho Chang wasn’t Malfoy after all. Lavender and Parvati giggled when they saw the expression on Hermione’s face.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about Hermione,” Lavender whispered in her ear.
“Lavender’s right,” Parvati murmured in Hermione’s other ear. “Harry loves you too much to ever let another girl come between you two, even if he does think she’s pretty.”
Hermione turned crimson when she realised that Parvati and Lavender seemed to have understood what she was feeling better than she had herself.
Harry smiled at Cho, wondering why the pretty Fourth Year Seeker on the opposing team would be interested in him. Then it struck Harry that she was probably hoping to distract him, as his Firebolt easily outclassed her Comet 260 by miles. It was true that she was quite pretty, but she had another think coming if she thought Harry was that easy to mess with.
Harry glanced back at the stands and beamed at Hermione when he spied her anxious face in between Lavender’s and Parvati’s. He knew how scared she was for him. But he was confident today that he would have no trouble dealing with any Dementors with all of the nice memories which Hermione had given him. Harry’s own residual anxiety vanished when he saw Hermione’s face light up happily as he continued to beam at her.
His eyes caught Ron’s in the stands, and he was heartened to see that Ron was grinning at him and cheering. That was a positive sign that Ron might be starting to finally get over things. Harry also spotted Luna in the Ravenclaw section, looking torn between rooting for her own House, and rooting for Harry.
Then Madam Hooch’s whistle blew and the match began.
“And they’re off,” called out Lee Jordan’s voice through the megaphone as he began announcing the match. “Potter’s flying for Gryffindor on the Firebolt of course, a spectacular world-class model which is the broomstick of choice for all of the National Teams vying for the World Cup this year...”
“Jordan, the match!” snapped McGonagall.
“Just providing a bit of background for the audience Professor - the Firebolt has an amazing autobrake system giving it unsurpassed handling for a broomstick which can go from 0 to 240 km in 10 seconds flat, which is double the acceleration of the Comet...”
“JORDAN!” McGonagall glowered at Lee and he grinned.
“Alright, alright, keep your hair on Professor! Gryffindor in possession - Katie Bell heading for the goal...”
The wind whooshed past Harry as he zoomed around keeping an eagle eye out for the fluttering Golden Snitch. Despite the chill of winter still in the air, the sun was out and it was a bright, clear day. Cho seemed to realise that her broomstick was no match, and was marking him, cutting him off at every opportunity.
Gryffindor was up by 80 points when Harry thought he saw the Snitch. Cho suddenly appeared in his path again, giggling coquettishly.
“And Cho looks like she’s trying to distract the Gryffindor Seeker with her admittedly quite distracting feminine charms,” shouted Jordan gleefully into the megaphone. “She’ll need every advantage on the Comet 260 of course - but Fat Chance of that - everyone knows that Potter and Granger are attached at the hip...”
“JORDAN,” bellowed Professor McGonagall. “This is a Quidditch match, not Skeeter’s Gossip Column...”
Harry shook his head and grinned, taking the opportunity for a quick glance at Hermione who had her scarlet face buried in her hands.
“See!” hissed Lavender in Hermione’s ear, “Everybody knows it’s true.”
The match continued apace, with Ravenclaw managing to score three goals. Harry saw it - the Snitch, glittering in the sun down the other end of the field. Harry swooped towards it when he heard a scream. Cho looked terrified and pointed, and for a moment Harry thought she was trying to trick him, but he realised that she must really actually like him a bit to try and warn him of the three Dementors on the field.
Something seemed a bit off about them, and he wondered why the wraiths weren’t soaring up towards him, but Harry didn’t waste any time thinking about it. He whipped out his wand and with his recent memory of kissing Hermione he roared, “Expecto Patronum! ”
Something enormous and silvery erupted from his wand, shooting at the tall hooded figures on the field. Harry didn’t pause to watch; he kept his eye on the gleaming Snitch as he dove for it. His fingers clasped around the Snitch as the stands burst into cheers.
The Gryffindor team all clamoured around Harry, hugging him and slapping him on the back. Harry smiled radiantly as Hermione ran onto the field. Oliver Wood almost didn’t want to let go of Harry but thought better of it when he saw the determination in Hermione’s eyes.
“That was amazing Harry!” shouted Hermione as she pounced on him, flinging her arms around his waist. Then, whispering in Harry‘s ear, “It was hard to make out exactly what it was in the daylight, but I think you managed a Corporeal Patronus.”
Harry’s eyes widened and he returned Hermione’s embrace delightedly.
“I was thinking of you,” he whispered in her ear.
Even Ron was shouting and grinning, “YES! You did it Harry!”
“Good for you Harry!” yelled Seamus.
Luna tried to get close to congratulate Harry, but she was having a difficult time fighting her way through the crowd of Gryffindors gathered around him. Harry spotted Percy Weasley on the field with his Ravenclaw girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater, and rolled his eyes when he heard their exchange. Hermione, still clinging to Harry, overheard it as well and her eyes narrowed in distaste.
“Ten Galleons to me!” chortled Percy. “Pay up Penelope!”
“Ruddy brilliant Harry!” boomed out Hagrid.
“That was quite the Patronus,” said a quiet voice behind Harry.
Harry spun around with Hermione still in his arms, grinning at Professor Lupin, who appeared to be a bit unnerved as well as pleased.
“What happened to the Dementors? I was too busy catching the Snitch to pay attention!” said Harry excitedly.
“Ah, well see for yourself,” Lupin smirked, gesturing at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who all lay in a collapsed pile on the ground, struggling to extricate themselves from long black robes.
“HAH!” Harry snorted mirthfully as Hermione giggled. “So that’s why they looked a bit odd. I suppose they used a bit of magic to make themselves look taller.”
“Well, I never!” shrieked an infuriated Professor McGonagall at the three Slytherins. “A despicable attempt to sabotage the Seeker. Detention for the lot of you, and fifty points apiece from Slytherin - and mark my words Dumbledore shall hear of this - ah, yes, there he is now.”
Grinning happily, Hermione clutched Harry all the way back the Common Room, as tightly as he was still grasping the struggling Snitch. The celebration that Fred and George threw went on all through the day, and picked up again after dinner, lasting well into the night.
Harry was absolutely one hundred percent certain now that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the big black dog which he had now seen three times. Though he was beginning to suspect that he must have some sort of connection with the canine.
The only thing which could have made the day perfect, would be if Ron apologised to Hermione. Every time he came near to try and congratulate Harry, Harry raised his eyebrows expectantly at him. Ron turned pink, and appeared slightly abashed. Harry could see the struggle going on inside of Ron, but Ron still seemed too stubbornly attached to his anger at Hermione to take the next step.
The next couple of weeks passed by quickly and the snow began melting as the end of February drew near. Lupin was too busy for Patronus lessons, and in any case, the full moon was approaching on the last week of February. Harry and Hermione knew Lupin would be feeling too ill that week to do lessons with them.
Another Hogsmeade Day occurred the weekend following the match, but Hermione had been too focused on schoolwork and helping Harry catch up from his previous week of intensive Quidditch practice to remember to ask her mother for a permission slip. So they both put it out of their minds and spent the day researching together to help Hagrid instead.
On the morning of the last Thursday in February, Hedwig brought Harry a note from Hagrid at breakfast. Harry grimaced when he spotted Ron's name on it, in between his and Hermione’s names. He stiffly passed the note to Ron when he’d read it.
Dear Harry, Ron, and Hermione,
How about some tea with me this afternoon after classes let out. I’d really like to see the lot of you!
Together that afternoon, the three of them made their way down to Hagrid’s hut in awkward silence as they trod across the soggy lawn, carefully picking their way through the patches of melting snow.
“Righ’ then, got summat ter discuss with you three - particularly you Ron!” began Hagrid when he’d sat them all down and poured everyone some tea.
“Er... what?” said Ron, his ears turning pink, wondering if this had something to do with the fact that he hadn’t been helping Harry and Hermione research for Buckbeak’s hearing since Christmas. But to his dismay, it turned out to be even worse than that.
“Well, fer one thing Ron - I reckon yeh owe Hermione an apology! An’ fer another, yeh oughter take better care o’ your pet.”
Hagrid stood up and reached for an enormous milk jug covered with wire mesh. He removed the mesh and tipped a squealing Scabbers into Ron’s hands. Ron’s face turned white with shock as he glanced at Hermione and Harry. Hermione narrowed her eyes and glared angrily at Ron as Harry breathed a sigh of relief that Hedwig hadn’t eaten Scabbers.
“I’ve spotted the way yeh’ve been behavin’ towards Hermione an’ Harry,” Hagrid continued. “I figured yeh fer better than tha’ Ron. Jus’ thought yeh might care more about yer friends than Rats and Broomsticks!”
Ron stuffed Scabbers into his pocket, his face reddening again. The silence on the way back to the castle after the visit to Hagrid’s was even more uncomfortable than the one on the way down. Before they made it to the massive oak front doors, Ron halted and turned around to face Harry and Hermione, tears streaking his burning cheeks.
“I’m sorry Hermione!” he croaked hoarsely. “I... I was horrid to you! And all for nothing! I... I was totally wrong about Crookshanks eating Scabbers... and... and even if he had, I shouldn’t’ve been so horrible to you about it. Fred and George were right... he is really old.”
“And I’m sorry to you as well Harry!” Ron continued, shuffling nervously and looking at the ground. “I didn’t mean to act like that towards you about the Firebolt... It’s your broom! You can do what you like with it... I dunno what came over me really!”
Harry felt a weight lift from him and smiled at Ron for the first time since Christmas Day. Hermione bit her lip and nodded her acceptance of Ron’s apology, feeling too overwhelmed to trust herself to speak. Harry spoke instead, and Hermione pulled closer to him, giving Ron a little smile.
“Honestly Ron, I’m not that fussed about the broom business,” said Harry cheerfully. “I’m just happy that you finally apologised to Hermione. Come on then - let’s get the Firebolt and you can have a go on it...”
When Harry’s head hit his pillow on the last Thursday of February, he thought that things definitely appeared to be looking up.
Harry was dreaming again, following the silvery white doe and its minty aroma through the forest, his Firebolt slung over his shoulder. A piercing scream wrenched Harry from his peaceful slumber.
Harry heard the dormitory door slam and saw Ron’s face, white with terror as he clutched the squealing Scabbers tightly.
“It was Black! I swear!” Ron gasped. “He was standing over me with a knife! OOOOW!!! SCABBERS, NO!”
Scabbers ran across the floor and darted under a chest of drawers as Ron held his bleeding finger.
The entire school was buzzing again the next morning as the castle was searched from top to bottom for Sirius Black. Classes had been canceled for the day, and Neville had received an earful from McGonagall for losing his list of passwords. Sir Cadogan had been sacked, and the Fat Lady had reluctantly returned to her post.
Harry dredged the map which Fred and George had given him from the bottom of his trunk after breakfast.
“I don’t understand though,” Harry muttered as he and Hermione pored over it looking for Black. “If Black was after me, why go after Ron...?”
“And why would he stop attacking just because Ron shouted...?” pondered Hermione, frowning. “Even if he’d got the wrong bed, he could have murdered Ron and then got you and everyone else in the dorm...”
“Exactly Hermione!” Harry nodded. “It doesn’t make any sense... What’s Black really after? And he must still be in the castle or on the grounds somewhere, because Honeydukes wasn’t broken into last night... I asked Percy if he’d heard, and he said Dumbledore had already checked if there had been any break-ins in the village last night!”
“Well Black’s obviously not in this part of the castle,” Hermione sighed. “We’re near the Divination classroom. Maybe we should leave before...”
But it was too late; a tall insect-like figure festooned with beads and shawls was already approaching them in the dimly lit corridor.
“Oh no!” groaned Harry. “Trelawney!”
“Is she alright?” whispered Hermione. “She looks completely out of it...”
“Maybe we should get someone to help her,” said Harry with a shudder when Trelawney’s eyes rolled up into the back of her head. But before they could go for help, a low harsh voice emerged from Trelawney’s mouth, unlike anything they had ever heard from the Divination professor.
“IT WILL HAPPEN TONIGHT! ... THE DARK LORD LIES ALONE AND FRIENDLESS, ABANDONED BY HIS FOLLOWERS. HIS SERVANT HAS BEEN CHAINED THESE TWELVE YEARS. TONIGHT, BEFORE MIDNIGHT… THE SERVANT WILL BREAK FREE AND SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS MASTER.
THE DARK LORD WILL RISE AGAIN WITH HIS SERVANT’S AID, GREATER AND MORE TERRIBLE THAN EVER HE WAS. TONIGHT… BEFORE MIDNIGHT… THE SERVANT… WILL SET OUT… TO REJOIN… HIS MASTER…”
Hermione and Harry stood there petrified, rooted to the ground. Then Trelawney trembled, her head fell forward as if asleep. With a snap, her head bobbed up again, her eyes clear as she blinked, peering around the passage in confusion.
“How did I get here?” she muttered. Trelawney suddenly realised that she wasn’t alone in the corridor.
“Oh... Mr Potter! It’s you...” she began. “And Granger,” she concluded coldly, her eyes narrowing. Trelawney’s nostrils flared, then she turned around and stalked away.
“Blimey, that was scary,” said Harry.
“I can’t believe it Harry,” Hermione murmured, her face still a picture of shock. “I think that was a real prophecy!”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I think too. But who is Voldemort’s ‘servant’? For some reason, I don’t think she meant Black! Nothing adds up about him. Like you said, he had every opportunity to kill me last night, and he didn’t!”
They spent the rest of the day mulling over things, into the early evening while Ron regaled everyone who would listen with his harrowing tale. Ron was reveling in his newfound fame when he came across Harry sitting on his bed with Hermione, poring over a map.
“Bloody Hell!” Ron heard Harry gasp. “Look Hermione... look whose name it is!”
“Peter Pettigrew?” squeaked Hermione. “But that’s impossible! He’s supposed to be...”
“Dead... yeah I know!” Harry muttered as the puzzle pieces began to rearrange themselves in his mind.
“Lupin!” said Hermione firmly. “We should tell Lupin! He’ll be able to help sort this all out.”
Harry nodded in agreement.
“Sort what out?” Ron asked in bewilderment, wondering where the map had come from. “What’s going on?”
“No time to explain,” gasped Harry. “Come with us, and we’ll work it out together.”
Lupin was feeling very ill indeed when he opened the door of his private quarters for his three students. He was stunned beyond belief when he saw the Marauder’s Map, and Harry told him that he’d seen Pettigrew on it. Lupin wondered if he should tell Dumbledore yet. But there were too many uncertainties - everything he had believed for 12 years was turned upside down. The only thing Lupin was fairly certain of now, was that he had a good idea where Black was hiding.
“Come quickly! Follow me...” said Lupin. “I may need your help yet. But I think we can get some things sorted and then go to Dumbledore with it.”
Curious and excited, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, followed Lupin out of the castle and onto the grounds. The sky was dark, thick with clouds covering the moon, and the black silhouettes of the trees swayed ominously in the breeze as they made their way towards the Whomping Willow.
“It’s Scabbers,” gasped Ron, when he saw his rat scampering down the hillside.
“RON, NO!” Lupin shouted as Ron ran and dove for Scabbers.
Ron beamed happily as he stood up, covered in mud, shoving his squealing Rat into his pocket. His features dropped when a large black dog bounded towards him.
“The Grim!” Ron moaned.
Before anyone could do anything, the massive hound leapt onto Ron and dragged him towards the Whomping Willow. Lupin groaned when he saw the dog disappear with Ron into a hollow at the bottom of the tree. Already in shock, Harry and Hermione were further confounded to see Crookshanks and Hedwig follow in after Ron and the dog.
“Come on then,” Lupin sighed. “If what I surmise is correct, Ron should be alright. But we should still go in after them.”
As Lupin led Harry and Hermione into the cavernous hollow at the base of the Whomping Willow, and into the dank tunnel beyond, he began to explain, and everything began to fall into place in Harry’s brain.
“Scabbers - HE’S Wormtail, isn’t he!” Harry growled, interrupting Lupin. “He’s Pettigrew, and he’s been in hiding as first Percy’s, then Ron’s pet. No WONDER Crookshanks hates Scabbers... The shop owner told us...”
“...that he’s part Kneazle,” continued Hermione. “He’s supposed to be a very good judge of character. He must have known all along that Scabbers wasn’t a real rat...”
“...and that means that Pettigrew is the real traitor! HE’S the one that betrayed my parents!” Harry snarled. “Sirius Black is innocent...”
“...and Pettigrew framed him!” Hermione said furiously as the injustice of it all hit her. “He cut off his own finger to make it look like Black killed him...”
“...and then he tried to frame Crookshanks in exactly the same way!” Harry fumed. “He bit off a piece of his own tail and sprinkled around a few of Crookshanks’ cat hairs...”
Professor Lupin gaped in awe at his two students as they worked everything out between themselves. He had only barely finished telling them about how James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew had all become animagi when they were still friends with Lupin at Hogwarts, to keep him company as a werewolf, when Harry and Hermione had interrupted him and begun extrapolating from that point.
Lupin had already been quite impressed that Harry and Hermione had both managed to work out that he was a werewolf after the essay that Snape had assigned the DADA class. An eerie feeling of deja vu came over Lupin as the hairs rose on the back of his neck. If Harry’s Patronus at the match against Ravenclaw hadn’t been enough to convince Lupin, it was more apparent than ever that Harry was truly James and Lily’s son - and Hermione, she would have given Lily a run for her money.
“This is the Shrieking Shack,” said Lupin quietly when they reached an opening at the end of the tunnel. “Be careful... Sirius won’t know that we’re on his side yet - that we've worked out who the real traitor was!”
Lupin cautiously led Harry and Hermione through the decrepit house, where they spied the wreckage of the furniture long ago destroyed during Lupin’s many painful transformations. They crept up a set of stairs, wands in hand, but a creaking floorboard gave them away as they pushed open the door.
“Expelliarmus!” Black croaked, pointing Ron’s wand at the three of them.
Black caught all three wands in his hand, peering at the newcomers in trepidation. Harry spied Crookshanks, purring as he perched on the top of a four poster bed, curled around Hedwig. The two animals kept a watchful eye as the scene unfolded. Ron was lying on the floor, his leg jutting at an odd angle, clearly broken. Ron had groaned when Black disarmed his friends and Lupin, hoping for a rescue which now seemed unlikely.
“Harry, Hermione - Black - He’s the dog - he’s an animagus...” Ron gasped, wincing in pain as he tried to sit up properly.
“We know!” said Harry, “But it’s okay Ron! It’s not what you think...”
“Sirius - it’s alright!” Lupin said hoarsely. “You can put the wand down! We know you’re not the traitor. We know that Ron’s rat is really Peter Pettigrew!”
Black’s eyes widened and his gaunt features broke into a grin. Ron looked on in horror.
“You’re barking! ” Ron moaned. “Scabbers has been in my family for...”
“Twelve years,” said Lupin gently.
“Too long for any rat to live!” snarled Harry, bitterly kicking himself for not working it out sooner.
He’d known all along that something was weird about Scabbers and done nothing. Harry wished that Crookshanks or Hedwig really had eaten the cretinous little vermin.
“It’s alright Harry,” said Hermione, seeing the look on his face and knowing exactly what he was thinking. “There’s no way we could have known that Scabbers was really Pettigrew before. We didn’t have enough information th...”
“HE’S NOT PETTIGREW!” Ron roared angrily, staggering to his feet.
Ron surprised Black and briefly overpowered him, slugging the older wizard on the jaw. Black crumpled to the floor and all of the wands he was holding fell, rolling under the bed as Ron collapsed on top of him.
Scabbers began squealing and tried to escape from Ron’s pocket, but Ron managed to grab him as Hedwig and Crookshanks both made themselves ready to pounce.
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” said a new voice in the room, thin and icy. Ron felt a wave of relief, never happier to see Snape in his life.
“I was bringing you your potion Lupin, when I saw you leaving the castle...” Snape trailed off, examining the scene coldly.
This was the last thing Snape had expected to find - Lupin apparently delivering Potter to Sirius Black. He and Lupin were supposed to be on the same team - protecting Potter. As far as Snape knew, Lupin had been horrified when Black had turned traitor all those years ago.
Not that there had ever been any love lost between Severus Snape and Sirius Black - but it had been as big of a surprise to Snape as it had been to everyone else when it turned out that Black had been the one who had sold out the Potters to the Dark Lord.
And now, there he stood with the Granger girl - the boy that Severus had sworn an oath to protect in an effort to pay back a blood debt for his own role in the Potters’ deaths - blocking his path to Black and Lupin. It was time to finish this!
“Stand aside Potter!” snapped the Potions Master as he glowered at Harry and the Granger girl.
“No sir! Please! You don’t understand...” the boy peered anxiously at Snape with those all-too familiar green eyes. “It’s not what you...”
“I understand very well indeed Potter...” Snape interjected forcefully, shooting Black and Lupin a cold glare before returning his gaze to Harry. Something about those green eyes caught in his throat, as they often had since the incident with the troll in the castle.
“...Harry...” Snape almost choked on the name. “...Black... he’s manipulating you. Just like he’s convinced Lupin! And when he’s convinced you - you’ll be...” Severus could barely bring himself to say it.
“Severus... I beg of you! Please listen...” Lupin pleaded.
“SILENCE!” roared Snape as a vein throbbed in his temple, “After all this time... You... of all people! How can you possibly believe anything Black...?”
“It’s Pettigrew!” the Granger girl interrupted shrilly, her face ablaze with fiery determination. “Ron’s rat... He’s Peter Pettigrew!”
Severus Snape halted, his pallid demeanor becoming even paler as his eyes widened in shock! Pettigrew, here? Alive? Snape’s world tilted, and he felt unsteady on his feet.
“Rubbish!” howled Ron as he gripped his squealing rodent tightly, his joyful hope that Snape would rescue him beginning to fade. “Professor... don’t listen to them - they’re all completely mental...”
Severus ignored the dunderheaded Weasley boy. Of all the people in the shack, there were only two whom Severus was reasonably certain of. Remus Lupin could have been compromised by his sentimentality - all too ready to see the best in an old friend.
Severus Snape peered at the boy with the messy black hair and green eyes again - the boy whom Snape could only see as his old arrogant, strutting arch-rival when the boy had first arrived at Hogwarts. But Severus had seen someone else the night that Quirrell had let the troll into the castle. Severus had seen someone he’d never expected to see in the boy who looked so much like James Potter.
Severus had seen someone that he owed everything to - someone he owed his life to. He had seen the person that he had driven away when he needed her most - someone that Snape knew he’d lost forever when he’d lashed out in his own pain and anger.
When Snape had looked in Harry’s eyes as Harry had comforted the Granger girl and faced down the Weasley boy - when Harry had held out kindness to Granger as the price of forgiveness to the Dunderhead - Severus had seen her. Severus had seen Lily!
Snape couldn’t help but continue to see James Potter in Harry, but since that night, he’d seen additional glimpses of Lily in Harry’s eyes. In hopes of seeing even more of her, Severus had restrained himself, tamping down on his long-standing bitterness and hate for James, not always as successfully as he would have liked.
But Severus had been rewarded for his efforts, and Harry had shown the same talent in Potions as his mother when left to his own devices. And Severus had seen Harry’s valiant attempts to restrain himself with the oafish son of Lucius Malfoy.
Severus had witnessed Harry’s protectiveness and kindness towards Granger - a girl whose intellect and spirit were easily a match for Lily’s. It was uncanny that they should have found each other. Seeing the two of them together had stirred something in Severus which he’d not felt since the day that Lily had been murdered - Hope.
The shame that Severus felt for having heaped abuse on Harry and Granger for much of their first year at Hogwarts was almost unbearable. Severus knew he didn’t deserve Lily’s forgiveness, but he hoped that he could yet earn some small measure of it.
Snape continued to stare at Harry with his own glittering dark eyes as the rat continued squealing in the Dunderhead’s grubby little paws.
“Potte... Harry - What Granger said...?”
“It’s true sir...” Harry gasped hopefully as his heart thudded against the wall of his chest so hard that he was sure everyone could hear it. He couldn’t believe that Snape had called him Harry - not once, but twice. “Professor, I swear! It’s true...”
Sirius and Remus glanced at each other uncertainly! Did they dare hope? Snape’s cloak billowed as he whirled around to face Ron again.
“Weasley!” barked Snape, his eyes full of cold fury. “Show me the Rat.... NOW!”
“B...but sir...” Ron whimpered.
“Just do it!”
With shaking hands, Ron held out Scabbers as Snape pointed his wand. The Potion Master’s nostrils flared as he uttered the incantation.
Ron moaned, certain that something horrible was going to happen to Scabbers. His face fell in horror as the rat grew heavy and flung itself out of his hand in a vain attempt to scurry away. The rodent grew larger and changed shape.
“Hello, Wormtail!” Severus snarled. “So it was you after all... I had heard rumours from the others that you had approached the Dark Lord - But then, after Black... I began to doubt!”
“S....S...Snape!” stammered the balding, slovenly wizard with the long pointy nose and yellowing teeth. “You m...must believe me....” Pettigrew fell into silence when Snape’s cold, glittering dark eyes bored into his own.
“No! I don’t think I do...” hissed Snape quietly after a few moments had passed. He had seen more than enough. “Death is too good for you. Perhaps the Dementor’s kiss...”
Sirius Black and Lupin grinned at each other, both of them feeling a sense of elation as the last person in the world they had ever expected to side with them on anything took them at Harry’s word.
Harry retrieved everyone’s wands from under the bed, his hands shaking. He and Hermione picked up Ron - who winced in pain, still horrified and slightly disbelieving that his pet rat was really a creepy wizard. Together they followed Lupin and Black, as they in turn followed Snape, who was leading them all out through the tunnel with his wand-tip pressed under Peter Pettigrew's double-chin.
“Just make me do it - I dare you!” Snape hissed at Wormtail. Snape caught Black grinning at him.
“I still hate you!” Severus muttered.
“Of course you do!” beamed Sirius.
“But... given the circumstances, I suppose I can see my way to supporting your full pardon!” Severus concluded with a weary sigh.
The full moon peeked from behind a cloud when everyone emerged from under the Whomping Willow. Snape groaned, as did Lupin and Black! Harry and Hermione peered at each other anxiously - if Lupin hadn’t taken his potion tonight...
Ron gawked, not sure what was going on. All he knew was that he was in bloody pain.
“Lupin’s a werewolf?” he squeaked miserably when Lupin began to transform.
“Get Weasley to the castle!” Snape shouted at Harry and Hermione. “Black and I shall deal with this...”
Pettigrew slipped out of Snape’s grasp, taking advantage of the distraction, and began to shrink as he cackled gleefully.
“NO! ” Snape roared, firing a green bolt of lightning at the fleeing rat. The spell missed, turning a boulder into rubble instead.
Lupin howled in agony, his body only half-transformed as he still had some potion coursing through him from the previous night’s dose. He lashed out blindly, briefly unable to distinguish friend from foe, knocking Snape and Black to the ground. Horrified when he realised what he had done, Lupin bounded into the woods. Ron fainted, collapsing next to Snape and Sirius Black.
As Snape began to regain consciousness, he felt the freezing chill in his bones and he knew they were here - Dementors!
Harry began to panic and Hermione shook with fright. There appeared to be nearly two hundred Dementors swarming above them, and the moonlight was swallowed whole as the icy blackness closed in.
The wraiths dove towards the wizards, taking deep rattling breaths. Several lowered their hoods as they glided like smoke towards Sirius and Harry, hungry for the feast they had been promised. Fear clutched at Snape’s heart as his Worst Memory began to replay itself. Not again! He couldn’t bear to see Lily’s cold corpse again!
“Hermione,” Harry managed to gasp when he saw Black and Ron, both still unconscious, and Snape, who was apparently too lost in some past terror to do anything, “We’re the only ones who can do this... Together, now!”
Hermione nodded tearfully, and they both shakily pointed their wands at the wraiths swirling around them as they held their best memories at the forefront of their minds.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” Harry and Hermione bellowed as one as they held onto each other tightly.
Luminous pulses of silvery light flooded the night sky as two fully formed Corporeal Patronuses erupted from their wands, driving away the darkness and charging down the horde of shrieking wraiths. The pulses of light continued to throb as the Dementors all fled, soaring away from the grounds of Hogwarts.
Their work completed, the ethereal glowing entities trotted back towards Harry and Hermione, pawing at the ground with their ghostly hooves. Harry recognised one from his dreams - the other one with antlers, he presumed to be his own. Slowly their Patronuses faded away as Harry and Hermione lowered their wands.
Both still trembling, clinging to one another, overwhelmed with emotion, their lips met.
The kiss was deep and long, fingers caressing messy black and bushy tawny-brown hair, hands pressed into the small of their backs. Hermione lost herself to the kiss, and Harry never wanted it to end, but after some time, their lips gradually - wetly - parted.
They both blushed furiously when they realised that Snape was staring at them with shock on his glistening face.
Severus was stunned beyond belief at what he had witnessed - the power of those Patroni - driving away nearly two hundred Dementors. And he was mortified to find his own face wet with tears when Potter - Harry - and the Granger girl turned around to look at him. But Severus couldn’t help himself and the tears continued to leak. He’d seen her again - not just in Harry’s green eyes - but in Granger’s Patronus - the Silver Doe.
“Yes... yes of course!” gasped Cornelius Fudge after hearing Severus Snape’s recounting of events, and bearing witness to a Veritaserum questioning of Sirius Black. “Amelia, issue a full pardon of Black immediately...”
“Already done Cornelius,” said Amelia Bones as she stamped the Ministry Seal on the Pardon form sitting on her desk.
“And what of my Care of Magical Creatures Professor’s Hippogriff - the one known as Buckbeak?” asked Dumbledore politely.
“The charges shall be vacated immediately,” Fudge replied as he dabbed the sweat from his brow with a pinstriped hanky. Three Dementor attacks on Harry Potter, and Dementors disobeying direct orders from the Ministry! It was simply too horrifying to contemplate what that might signify!
“Lucius can go to hell as far as I’m concerned!” Fudge muttered darkly.
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