The anxiety I was suddenly experiencing at the match was unlike anything that I had ever known before. Certainly, I had associated similar feelings with the start of exams and visits to the Ministry due to my condition. Before a Quidditch game however, I had never experienced even slight levels of nervousness. During my schooldays, I'd usually taken along a book to read until the very start of the match, disliking the long and often cold wait in the stands.
Today, was different. Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw and Harry was playing Seeker. I shouldn't have been worried because from what I'd heard, he was an excellent Quidditch player. The only problem was, the Dementors were still circling the castle and could decide to search the pitch again, without warning. I wasn't lacking faith in Harry's abilities but even James would have found it difficult to win the match, cast a Patronus Charm and stay upright on his broom all at once.
It was also the first Quidditch match I'd watched Gryffindor play in since the cup final during my last year at Hogwarts. In that match, James had been the best Chaser, scoring all of Gryffindor's goals, aside from two. I'd seen how nervous he was to win and he didn't have to add the threat of Dementors to the challenge. Harry had already been injured once thanks to the Azkaban guards and I desperately didn't want to see that happen. Hearing about how he'd fallen fifty feet from his broom had been difficult enough but actually sitting in the stands and watching it firsthand? I felt sick at the thought.
Yes, I was scared that the Dementors would interrupt the match and succeed in harming Harry. I was the only Marauder around to watch out for him. I owed it to my friends not to fail.
The captains were soon shaking hands and I turned my attention to the pitch. The match was certainly going to be interesting to watch but I just hoped that it ended well. Even if Gryffindor lost, as long as Harry made it back to the ground safely, I would consider it a victory. Despite that, I doubted that Harry would feel the same way unless he caught the Snitch.
The Firebolt, which I still had some suspicions about, shot into the air faster than any of the other brooms, to numerous gasps and cheers from the crowd. From a distance, Harry could easily have been his father, aside from the fact that no broom in existence could have flown so quickly when we were at Hogwarts. He flew with the same casual elegance as James had always done, the elegance that the latter had always been so aware of. I doubted that Harry knew how many witches in the crowd were pointing up at him in awe. As he circled the pitch, I noticed the familiar urgency in his movements, the longing to win the match, even more so for a Seeker than it could be for a Chaser. I felt a lump in my throat as I watched, suddenly transported back to my own days at Hogwarts, scanning the skies for my best friend and the Quaffle which, for the majority of the match, was in his possession.
The Ravenclaw Seeker, a girl in the year above Harry, was following him very closely. I admired her determination but privately wondered if she really imagined that she could out-perform the Firebolt if the Snitch suddenly appeared. I heard cheers erupt from the Gryffindor stand and as I glanced around, I realised that one of the Chasers had scored. I'd been so distracted keeping an eye on Harry that I hadn't even been watching the rest of the game.
By the time Ravenclaw managed to score, Gryffindor were well ahead with regards to points. If Harry failed to catch the Snitch now, Gryffindor could lose the match but with his superior broom, it would have been practically impossible for that to happen, under normal circumstances at least. Considering that at least half an hour had passed without any incidents, I was inclined to wonder if this match would run smoothly.
Gasps and shrieks came from the stands and Harry suddenly swerved, turning his broom towards the Gryffindor end. I whipped my head around to follow the game and saw a tiny glint of gold zooming away from the two Chasers. Observing Harry again, I had the feeling that had the Ravenclaw Seeker been male, Harry wouldn't have hesitated before knocking him out of the way. I smiled slightly. The one time that James and Lily had played Quidditch, he had hardly played with a tenth of his usual enthusiasm, in case he caused Lily to dislike the game more than she already did.
I saw Harry swerve downwards but as he pulled out of the dive, there was a shrill scream. My gaze shot across the pitch to where the majority of the players were staring, horror-stricken. My stomach churned as I spotted the three Dementors at the side of the Quidditch field, heads angled towards the sky. Towards Harry.
As Dumbledore rose sharply and I struggled out of my seat, eyes still on Harry, I suddenly noticed the absence of the feelings of dread and doom that the Dementors' presence generally caused me. They were definitely near enough to be affecting the entire crowd and yet people seemed worried and shocked instead of gloomy and morose. Some Gryffindors were even standing up and yelling at Madam Hooch to temporarily pause the match. Harry still hadn't hesitated as I shot a puzzled glance at the three cloaked figures. With one hand still outstretched towards the fluttering Snitch, he pulled out his wand.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry bellowed, his voice audible to me, and the majority of the other teachers who were also rushing down to the pitch. I stopped dead when I saw the spell take shape in front of me. The silvery vapour that I had expected to see did not appear. Instead, Harry's Patronus began to take a physical shape, exactly as fully-fledged Patronuses did, something I had never imagined that Harry would be able to achieve so soon. That however, was not the only surprise. When I saw the form of Harry's Patronus, I felt a sharp pain in my chest and I stopped dead in my tracks.
A large, silver stag cantered across the pitch. Heart hammering, I watched as it swept past the stunned cloaked figure, which stumbled backwards. The fact that Dementors did not generally stumble was lost in my mind as the silver stag trotted towards me. Almost fading, it blinked twice at me, a familiar expression on the animal's face.
"Prongs," I whispered, inaudible to anyone else. I could have sworn that the stag blinked once more before it vanished into a silvery haze.
I had never imagined that Harry's Patronus would take the form of Prongs. I hadn't seen that stag for years and now, at a Quidditch match over a decade later, a stag of exactly the same height and proportions as Prongs was conjured up by Harry to shield him from the Dementors. My mind was flooded with memories of the real Prongs cantering through the forest, just a few metres from the stands and of a stag wandering past the Quidditch pitch in the dead of night, only to transform into a teenage boy with untidy black hair and glasses and his broomstick concealed behind a tree. I forced myself to appear composed after I remembered the huge black dog which would sit on the ground, watching the midnight Quidditch practice with an amused expression.
Harry had caught the Snitch it seemed, as everyone in sight was hugging and congratulating him. I did my best to look delighted instead of shaken and wandered over to James's son.
"That was quite some Patronus," I murmured, smiling slightly in spite of myself. Harry spun around, grinning happily.
"The Dementors didn't affect me at all!" he laughed. "I didn't feel a thing." I nodded, suddenly realising what must have happened with the cloaked creatures. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Minerva walking swiftly away from the crowds and towards where the 'Dementors' had been standing.
"That would be because they- er- weren't Dementors," I admitted, not wanting Harry to imagine that he could be permanently prevented from feeling the affects of the Azkaban guards. "Come and see." I signalled towards the side of the pitch and he followed me. I saw a group of Slytherins in a heap on the ground and laughed quietly as I saw that my theory had been confirmed.
"You gave Mr Malfoy quite a fright," I nodded to the boys on the ground. Presumably, they had sought to sabotage Gryffindor's success by significantly distracting Harry from the match. Quite aside from amusement at their failed attempt, I suppressed a smirk at the thought of James. No doubt the real Prongs would have been just as eager to startle a gang of Slytherins as Harry's Patronus had been.
Wishing that Lily and James had been there to witness their son's achievements firsthand, I made my way slowly back up towards the castle. A large part of me was disappointed that the Patronus didn't last longer as the sight of the stag, although initially painful, was a reminder of my happier past.
As I walked past the edge of the forest, I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched.