Disclaimer: I would like to express my regrets for not owning Harry in any way. Better luck next time.
Feathers, Fangs and Flames
A pair of yellow eyes, feverish with hunger, gleamed brightly from the darkness. Harry stopped dead, his heart banging against his ribs, his wand held before him in a trembling grip as he tried to calm himself down. That was not the first time that he had started at shadows, and he was beginning to feel embarrassed. It had to be the chill in the air, the uncomfortable dankness, the eerie silence that was setting his alarms ringing. Or, just the nervousness of the upcoming match.
"What's the matter?" said Ron. "Why are you so jumpy?"
Harry pointed ahead, trying to keep the shaking hand steady. "Eyes," he muttered.
"I don't see anything, mate. You sure?" Ron asked, before he reached for his wand. "Might as well check. Lumos!"
The narrow beam of light darted across the grass, moved across the bottom of a tall tree, and then illuminated its ghostly branches. There, crouching among the budding leaves, was Crookshanks, Hermione's cat.
Harry had been sure, for a moment that felt endless, that those eyes had belonged to the Grim.
It was both unsettling and even painful to admit that a part of him feared the black dog, the omen of death. He sometimes even dreamt of it, a great beast with glittering fangs and eyes ablaze with a hidden flame, with deep malevolence. Was there any chance the Grim was after him, as Trelawney had said? It seemed preposterous, since she was an old crank, but even stopped clocks were right twice a day.
With a measured breath, he forced himself to relax. He tried distancing himself from the fear, but it was not easy. He knew the dreams would come to haunt him once again.
Harry cleared his thoughts as he considered Quidditch, and his new broom. He was going to use his brand new Firebolt in a match for the first time, and he could barely wait. Every Gryffindor seemed fired up about the new acquisition, certain that it would be the reason for a swift victory, and Harry did not dissuade them of the idea. He definitely intended to push it to its limits. The Ravenclaws were already in the middle of the field, and he quickly darted in.
As he soared around the stadium, barely ten minutes later, he did not really listen to Lee's enthusiastic commentary, instead staring intensely around the ring, searching for the gleam of gold.
His first dive was intercepted by a speeding Bludger, and he could only barely scoot aside at the last moment; the second time he thought he spotted his target, he failed outright, getting blocked quite effectively by Chang, who grinned as she rocketed away. Harry shook his head as he slowly rose into the sky again, and noticed Wood waving at him with both arms.
"HARRY, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE A GENTLEMAN!" Wood roared as Harry swerved to avoid yet another collision. "KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!"
Cho grinned again as the Snitch vanished from sight, and Harry sighed. After a few seconds a plan formed in Harry's mind, a way to get around Chang, who seemed to think that sticking close to him was a surefire way to win. She had been tailing him for the whole game, and he could live with that as a base for the idea. Suddenly, he glanced sideways and forced his Firebolt to its limits, diving down as if he had seen the Snitch. Chang, hot on his heels, fell for it and followed him. As soon as Harry was sure she was close, he pulled out of the dive. Sharply. Cho tried to match him, but was a few seconds late and on an inferior broom; she almost crashed into the ground, skittering across the field, even having to kick back from it to pull up properly.
"Potter!" She cried out, waving a fist at him.
"Bite me," was Harry's jovial response, as he rose up like a speeding bullet, gaining height again, quickly manoeuvring himself around one of the Ravenclaw Beaters.
There, a few dozen meters away, a glint of gold suddenly appeared. Harry accelerated once more, much calmer than before, sure of his victory; his broom was faster and he was the one closer - no contest at all.
But, something went wrong - Cho screamed in warning - Harry saw three tall Dementors approaching in their black, billowing cloaks.
He didn't stop to think. Plunging a hand down the neck of his robes, he whipped out his wand and roared, "Expecto patronum!"
That time, they won, but he still remembered the dreams of the black hound that haunted him that night. |Harry recalled how the dream was broken by the scream of frightened Ron Weasley, on that very same night, when Sirius Black had broken into their dormitory. Harry shook his head and forced himself to ignore it.
Today, he had more important things to worry about. The Gryffindor team was preparing for the final game for the Quidditch Cup, and he was going to have to win it. After what happened in all of the year's games, he could not help being a bit nervous about the whole thing.
The entrance of the team into the Great Hall was met with a round of applause, and even though the Slytherin table, as usual, just hissed at them, Harry's spirits were high. The entire breakfast period was spent listening to Wood, who had taken it onto himself to make sure everybody ate well, especially his star players. The fact that Wood himself declined any food was soon forgotten; Harry felt like he ate something wriggly for breakfast, and hoped it would not get him into trouble, later. It didn't help when the three tables cheered and applauded them once more, and he felt the expectations of everyone making him more than a little nervous.
"Good luck, Harry!" called Cho. Harry felt himself blushing.
Maybe, after all, it would all work out in the end, he thought, steeling himself.
"Are you insane?" said Harry, his voice easily as haggard as Sirius Black's. "Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can I move in?"
Sirius turned right around to look at him, a peculiar glint of hope in his eyes as he took in his godson's sudden enthusiasm. Snape's head was scraping the ceiling but Black didn't seem to care, staring at the teen beside him.
"You want to?" he said. "You mean it?"
"Yeah, I mean it!" said Harry, nodding.
Black's gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years younger were shining through that starved mask; for a moment, he was recognizable as the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding.
They did not speak again for some time, but the silence was comfortable. Harry was deep in thought, considering the prospects of having a family, of sorts, and of leaving the Dursleys behind forever. He could barely wait.
"One wrong move, Peter," said Lupin threateningly, his wand still pointed sideways at Pettigrew's chest. He seemed to have noticed the interplay between Sirius and Harry, and his occasional glances bore a strange mixture of justified paranoia and calm acceptance.
Silently, they tramped through the grounds, as the castle lights slowly grew brighter and larger in the distance, promising them safety. Snape was still drifting weirdly ahead of Black, his chin bumping on his chest. And then, suddenly, everything went terribly wrong.
A cloud shifted. Dim shadows ran along the ground, hiding in the darkest corners. Their party was bathed in moonlight.
The enormous, bearlike dog bounded forward, its vicious teeth snapping at its target with determination and purpose - to attract the full creature's attention. As the werewolf was wrenching itself free of the manacle binding it, the dog seized the changing wolf about the neck and pulled it backward, away from Ron and Pettigrew. The two beasts were locked, jaw to jaw, claws ripping at each other. Both tumbled and rolled, their cries and growls piercing the night. Hermione screamed, but she was too late - Harry had just tumbled a step, and was snagged away, falling into the chaos, dragged under into their struggle.
Panic engulfed him as the snarling bodies, far more powerful than he could hope to fight against, came so close to him he could practically feel the spittle from their fight. He got kicked in the ribs by one, leaving a dark welt, and something had carved a burning scratch on his face. His robes took even more punishment, getting ripped apart when Harry attempted to worm his way out, to flee in panic. He tried and tried again to get out from under Sirius, and for the briefest glimpses, saw his own fear reflected back from the dark abyss in the glimmering eyes of the Grim.
Black threw any semblance of caution to the wind and tried to drag the wolf away with his full weight. Padfoot got in the way of bites and rending claws, without a measure of self preservation, and soon Harry found himself drenched in the blood of the black dog. Harry could only watch, mesmerized with the grotesque sight and frozen with deep, primal fear. It seemed an eternity had passed till he got away, when he shook himself up and half crawled - half rolled out of the battlefield. For briefest of seconds, Harry allowed himself to think that he had gotten to safety, but was quickly proven wrong, when something snagged his left arm, the sudden and sharp pain taking his breath away.
Sirius had given it his all, and he hadn't much of anything left to give. He was bleeding from multiple wounds, trembling on his padded, blood drenched feet. He was sure his godson had not been bitten - perhaps, he could hold out for a few more moments... Suddenly, the wolf lashed out at Harry's arm, swatting all his hopes away. Sirius was closer, but he knew that there was no chance to push Remus out of the way - no strength left to drag the werewolf back. He did the only thing his tired mind could think of - he bit Harry first, as lightly as dog bites go, and tried to tug him further from the raging werewolf.
Harry was lighter and it should have been possible to push him away rather than stop Remus, but it turned out to be even more difficult than he feared. Werewolf jaws caught onto his muzzle - Lupin hadn't shifted his target, thus biting them both at the same time. Sirius could only shifted, putting his flesh in the way of fangs, hanging onto that one, last impossible chance. He tried to let the teen go, but the werewolf had enough force to its fangs dig deep into Sirius muzzle, forcing Black to hold his own bite.
Harry let out a scream out of the seething pain. His godfather had almost torn his limb of. The arm just wouldn't break free, wouldn't even twitch - the pain was immobilizing, unbearable, even as the hound gave its all to forge him a chance to slip away. Screaming in both pain and frustration, Harry tugged his arm forcefully away, but not before two sets of fangs raked his skin, blood spraying everywhere.
He got free! His left arm was a bloody mess. With the inhuman strength of the bites, Harry was lucky that it wasn't completely torn off.
For a second, the werewolf hesitated. As if Lupin suddenly woke, his eyes displaying a bout of sudden clarity. It was as if he was fighting inside as fiercely as Black was outside, as if the horror of the moment had finally seeped through to the remnants of the human mind.. The hound used the second to grab another bite of werewolf fur, and this time, the wolf whimpered and fled.
Sirius shifted back to his normal self, locked eyes with his godson, and fell to the ground, incapable of keeping himself upright on only two feet. Blood seeped into his eyes from his scalp, poured onto the ground from countless wounds, and he looked barely hanging onto his life.
Harry stared blankly as some silence returned, as the din finally quieted. Ron and Hermione were on the ground, and the latter was trying to get up. Ron looked to be unconscious; Peter was gone. Snape was unresponsive, dropped unceremoniously into a position that would be hell on the man's neck in the morning.
He felt weak, pain searing through his every nerve. Every movement hurt, even breathing was a daunting task, sending waves of pain though his battered and bruised body. The grass field was red with sticky blood, and there was no saying how much was his own.
It was cold, unnaturally so. Something was coming, and Harry knew it wasn't the winter. Not in the first weeks of the summer.
He gripped his wand, which had miraculously survived the ordeal, and gazed at Hermione. She would not be of much help. He still tried.
The Dementors came, then. Gliding softly across the ground, freezing the blood in a grotesque patterns of red frost, their dark bodies approaching in complete silence, billowing in the night. They had homed onto Sirius, and Harry was the only one out of them all, able to at least try something. And he did.
""Expecto –– Hermione, help me! Expecto patronum!"
She barely managed to mutter something. They were heading towards Sirius. It was no use.
"No — no —" Harry gasped. "He's innocent… Expecto Expecto Patronum —"
White fog was blinding him. He had to fight… Expecto Patronum…
He couldn't see… In the distance, he heard the familiar screaming… Expecto Patronum…
He groped in the mist for Sirius, crying out in pain as his wounded arm moved, touched something… The hand felt like it was frozen deep, the pain etching itself into his mind, the cold was unbearable, so cold even, that it felt like his hand was on fire.
They weren't going to take him down, they wouldn't take Sirius-
A pair of strong, clammy hands suddenly attached themselves around Harry's neck. They were forcing his face upward… He could feel its breath - it was going to get rid of him first… He could feel its putrid breath- His mother was screaming in his ears. She was going to be the last thing he ever heard —
And then, through the fog that was drowning him, he thought he saw a silvery light growing brighter and brighter… He felt himself fall forward onto the grass… His eyes barely opened, the world was fading around him. Something was driving the Dementors back - but it could not possibly be…
He came to in a hospital wing, lying in a painfully familiar bed. Madam Pomfrey was holding his left hand and tracing it with her wand, nodding distractedly to herself as she hummed a couple of healing spells. Hermione was sitting nearby, just on the next bed, eating a chocolate bar. Ron was out of it, sleeping in yet another hospital bed, further back.
Harry winced as he felt some scratches along his knuckles closing up - there already were quite a few new patches of light, pink skin along his whole arm, the magic forcing his limb through the long process of recovery in a manner of seconds. Most of the blood already had been cleaned up, but for a couple more bite marks, glistening with few drops of slowly clotting blood. When Pomfrey finished her spell, she muttered something about minister and Black-
The minister? It took Harry a moment to realise what she was going on about. It all came back to him - there were Dementors attacking then, trying to Kiss Sirius. Was it too late now? Fear making his heart beat faster, Harry tried to sit up. "I need to see the Headmaster. Now."
The door opened, and Professor Albus Dumbledore entered, as if summoned by the loud demands of his injured student. Pomfrey looked tiredly at the Headmaster, shaking her head.
"Professor Dumbledore, Sirius Black —" Harry tried to explain.
"For heaven's sake!" cried Madam Pomfrey. "Is this a hospital wing or not? Stop your yelling! Headmaster, I must insist —"
Albus nodded apologetically, giving Harry a short glance with an inscrutable expression. " You have my sincerest apologies, Poppy, but I am very much in need for talk with both Mr. Potter and Miss Granger," he said. "Alone. Poppy – if you may..."
"Headmaster!" sputtered Madam Pomfrey. "They need treatment, they need rest —"
"And they will receive such, after some matters have been elucidated," Dumbledore agreed." But I have some promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. Before we all can rest. I must insist."
Madam Pomfrey pursed her lips and strode away into her office at the end of the ward, slamming the door behind her without saying another word.
"Robert Frost, sir?" Hermione asked, still somewhat fazed by the rather rude departure of Madam Pomfrey.
"Quite," Dumbledore said. "Now, I should very much like to know what happened yesterday, as you can imagine."
Harry and Hermione both got out of their beds and started to explain at the same time. It was a messy retelling, where they tried to tell the tale of the Grim, about fake Secret-Keepers and the messy fight between Lupin and Black... The Headmaster raised his hand after a few confusing seconds.
"It is too late, if you understand me?" Dumbledore explained calmly, his eyes twinkling. "You must see that Professor Snape's version of events is far more convincing than yours. What we need is little simply more time."
Hermione's eyes widened.
"Now, pay attention," said Dumbledore, speaking very low, and very clearly. "Sirius is locked in Professor Flitwick's office on the seventh floor. Thirteenth window from the right of the West Tower. If all goes well, you will be able to save more than one innocent life tonight. But remember this, both of you: you must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law — you know what is at stake… You – must – not – be – seen. I am going to lock you in. It is –" He consulted his watch, "five minutes to midnight. Miss Granger, three turns should do it. Good luck."
Dumbledore had turned on his heel and left. Harry didn't have a clue what was going on, but when he turned to Hermione, he saw that she held a small golden hourglass.
Harry stood next to Hermione in the wand-lit broom closet, still trying to figure out what happened. She was trying her best to explain.
"...and then Fudge and Snape barged in, Pomfrey was trying to heal your arm and yelled at them for disturbing peace, and they left to argue in the corridor. I tried to tell them that Sirius is innocent, but they wouldn't hear it. Snape accused me of being confunded and Fudge called me a silly girl. Pomfrey told me to stay and gave me the chocolate. I overheard them telling to Headmaster Dumbledore that Sirius is going to be kissed. Headmaster tried to reason, but the Minister didn't listen. They left somewhere and I was thinking what to do, but then you woke up..."
"But it's light outside, what..."
"This is a Time-Turner." She held out the small hourglass. "It's how I took all those subjects this year."
"I don't understand..."
"Look, Harry, we are now in the past. We should be able to find ourselves going to Hagrid..." She trailed off for a second, deep in thought. Harry waited impatiently, until she finally continued. "It's most important that we are not seen. Harry, I don't understand what Dumbledore wants us to do. Why did he tell us to go back three hours? How is that going to help Sirius?"
"There must be something that happened around now he wants us to change," he said slowly. "What happened? We were walking down to Hagrid's three hours ago-"
"Harry?" she interrupted him, looking at his arm. "You are bleeding."
He glanced down and saw a few drops of blood pooling on the ground. "I'm fine, it's just a scratch. Pomfrey must have missed a spot."
She pointer her wand at his hand.
Nothing happened. She tried again. And again.
"Perhaps you are doing it wrong?" he suggested quietly.
"Maybe..." Hermione paled a little, shaking her head in disbelief. "I might have been pronouncing it wrong. I'd have to check in the library... We can't just waltz into the Hospital Wing too, there would be questions-"
"You are bleeding."
She gave him a hard stare and transfigured the first old rag she could find in the closet into a piece of soft white cloth. After a few moments his scratch was bandaged tightly.
"Thank you." Harry smiled contently, running fingers over the slowly reddening bandage. It was not painful, more like an unpleasant sensation, restricting his movements of the hand. Other than that - he felt perfectly fine. "Can we go now? I think I have an idea whose innocent life we have to save. Buckbeak's."
Harry bowed. Buckbeak was staring at him with orange eyes. There was something in the air he could almost smell. Was there a glint of fear in the eyes? Perhaps the Hippogriff had understood who was waiting for him in the shed, realised what his fate would be. Why was Buckbeak not bowing back? They both stood still for a few more seconds, the tension rising.
Hermione was muttering something under her breath. He could hear her reciting a quote from some book as to what happened when a Hippogriff does not respond to a bow. It probably was a good idea to run when that happened.
"Buckbeak, please." Harry was desperate, he could hear footsteps echoing in the cabin. "We have to go."
The Hippogriff sank to his knees, at last, and then stood again. Harry grabbed the rope and tore it from the fence, quickly untying the knot. When he started to drag Buckbeak away, he half expected to feel resistance, but he was proven otherwise - the Hippogriff had gotten over his reticence and followed obediently. They quickly made way to the trees.
Harry felt relieved for a moment. It was going alright. He caught a whiff of Hagrid's strong drinks, and turned around to see him walk out of the cabin, with Macnair trailing right behind him. The man cursed aloud when he realised that Buckbeak was gone, and Harry frowned. He could practically smell the anger radiating from the executioner - a rather unpleasant, spice sensation tickling his nose. It hung there like a cloud of dark foreboding.
"What is that?" he whispered, as he found something else in that scent. However, he did not want to dally, and started leading them further away before hearing a response.
"Harry?" Hermione looked around. "Did you see something?"
"Don't you smell it?"
She sniffed around. "Unless you mean the trees and the Buckbeack's reeking breath of its last meal, no."
"Not, that is not it - it's like a hint of..." he tried to find a word and failed for a few seconds, finishing rather awkwardly, "I don't know, pure malice and darkness? Malevolence?"
"What do you mean? Those aren't even smells, Harry, are you alright?"
"You always say that."
"No, really, I never felt better." Harry blinked as he realized that it was true - there was a certain springiness in his step, a lightness to his movements. Some sort of pronounced sense of quickness he would have never expected to feel so soon after being mauled as badly as he had been. "I think Madam Pomfrey must have outdone herself this time."
She eyed him carefully as if to weight his words, but didn't comment - he didn't look any different, after all.
Suddenly, he snickered, for no apparent reason, earning another worried look from Hermione. "I wish we could see his face, you know. Dumbledore just told him to search the skies for us..."
Hermione smiled, but as she tried to listen she could hear nothing. They were simply too far away along the forest. They moved to watch the Whomping Willow for a few minutes, letting the events unfold as they did before, then, slowly and carefully, they moved in.
"We must not be seen?" Harry asked her as if to make sure. "Does that mean I cannot snatch the cloak?"
"Yes, we can't. We are already threading the thin line..."
He hushed her. "You are too loud, Hagrid will hear you," he whispered, crouching back and pushing Buckbeak further back.
He was right as but a few seconds later they had to hold the Hippogriff close; Buckbeak wanted to reach Hagrid, but Harry held the rope, and, thankfully, the creature did not call out.
When Snape went down, Hermione turned at Harry to ask him about Dementors. Her eyes widened as Harry jumped at her sudden movement. Somehow, that startled her too, and she tripped over her own feat; she grabbed Harry's arm for support, almost sending them both tumbling down.
"Harry!" she cried out, as he helped her adjust their balance.
He smiled, sweat running down his neck. He had his nose crunched, as if there was a foul smell emanating from somewhere just under his nose. "I'm sorry - just - you startled me," he tried a quick, hushed explanation. "I felt - strange - for a second there," he suddenly added, breathing heavily.
As if to prove his words he tried straightening himself up, and ended up leaning at Buckbeak to even stand straight. His legs were barely holding him, like a heavy weight had just fallen onto his shoulders. They were trembling, even - his previous great feeling replaced by some sort of nausea. What was going on?
She placed her hand on his forehead. "You are burning up. What did Pomfrey say? You should have stayed in the hospital wing..."
He winced, speaking slowly; it was hard for him to speak clearly, but he tried as much as possible. "She... told me nothing. She wasn't finished when... the Headmaster... entered..."
"What happened to your arm, them? Was it Peter? He hit me with some sort of spell, and when I came to it it was already cold, and you were covered in blood..."
"It... was Sirius." He managed a weak smile. It didn't help any. He was swaying to the sides, even, the repulsive taste of blood in his mouth, an annoying scent in his nose.
"He dragged me- Away from Lupin. And. He overdid... a little." He winced. "Or a lot."
She eyed his left arm suspiciously. The cloth was completely red, drenched in Harry's blood. Her eyes widened in pure terror.
"You're lying, aren't you? Professor Lupin bit you." Hermione's words were heavy with concern, her eyes where misting up, panic was rising somewhere deep in her heart. "You were bitten by a werewolf and didn't say it?"
"No. I was not," Harry said with conviction he did not truly have. He could not be sure if Sirius had defended him from everything, but he wouldn't admit anything even if he did not, though. Not now.
"Let me look at your arm." Hermione said, matter-of-factly. "Immediately."
He tried resisting, but it was pointless. She unwrapped the cloth. It was completely soaked in crimson blood, and reeked something awful. Harry had noticed that particular stink a while ago, but now it became almost unbearable - he felt bile rising deep in his throat. At least, his arm looked perfectly fine, surprisingly so, even.
"Please... throw that away. It stinks," he pleaded, eyeing the cloth with revulsion.
She did as he said, and leaned forward, to examine his arm more thoroughly. "It seems to be alright..." she finally admitted. "It couldn't have been a werewolf bite - those are impossible to healed in such a short time." She dragged her fingers on a tiny scar on his hand. "This looks like it was mended near-perfectly. I guess that means I did mispronounce the healing spell, but it might have been the incompatibility with the spells Pomfrey had used. I don't know why your temperature has risen, though."
Harry stood up straight, breathing heavily, but looking better than before. The cloth being further away did wonders for his nausea. "We... I need to go. I just realised - I need to do this."
He pointed at fight, where a hound was trying to keep the wolf from biting another Harry. She gasped, seeing him get trampled under the snarling masses of fur and teeth. She almost screamed as she saw Sirius getting in the way of the last bite. She did cringe when the other Harry tore his arm away from the beasts, at the fountain of blood that was launched up in the cold night.
"Dementors will come in a minute. I can - feel them - already. No, I can hear... them coming."
"They don't make any sound, Harry."
"They do." His voice was stronger, suddenly, with a hint of angry growl. His eyes glittered radiant green. It seemed that the worst of his sudden ailment was over. He tilted his head to look from above the glasses. "Weird."
"Harry, don't do anything stupid. We must not be seen, you are sick with something and you can't..."
"Hermione. It's fine. I remember it happening."
He jumped forward and drew his wand. The Dementors were already circling the other him. Harry smiled as if remembering an old joke. "Expecto Patronum!"
"He's there!" Harry said, spotting Sirius, locked in the small room, as they rose up beside the right window. He reached out, and as Buckbeak's wings were flapping downwards, managed to tap sharply on the glass.
Sirius looked up. His face was scarred, one of his eyes closed shut, and from the looks of it, it had been all but gauged out. It was swollen, and held shut by the coagulated blood. The look in his intact eye made Harry shudder.
Hermione took out her wand, still gripping the back of Harry's robes with her left hand.
The window sprang open.
"How — how —?" said Black weakly, staring at the Hippogriff.
"Get up, quick, we have no time — Dementors are coming."
Sirius tried to do as he was said. His movements were heavy and he winced in pain with each step, but he managed, somehow. With the first chance, Sirius' uninjured eye focused onto Harry's left arm. Noticing it without a scratch, he exhaled, and his lone open eye twinkled for a second. "Thank merlin..."
"Thank you." Both Harry and Sirius spoke at the same time. Sirius tried to laugh, but had to grab his side in pain.
"Your father would be proud..."
"He would thank you for saving me."
"I still hurt you," Sirius was trying to steady himself, climbing onto the Hippogriff with great difficulty. "You saved me, though. Thank you."
"Let's go," Harry urged once more.
Sirius smiled a bright smile, ignoring the pain it caused him. Quickly, they reached the West Tower.
"Sirius, you'd better go, quickly." Harry panted. "They'll reach Flitwick's office any moment, they'll find out you're gone."
Sirius nodded, and with a short blink - or was that a wink - he set off.
On the ride home in Hogwarts Express, Harry was fumbling with his glasses in his hands, wiping them with the hem of his shirt. He looked around and sniffed the air silently. It wasn't the first nor the last time he did so, but so far no one had said anything - Ron was following the tiny owl with his eyes, and Hermione, of course, was reading a book, Crookshanks sleeping next to her. Harry's friends let him focus on Sirius' letter in peace, one he had open on his lap and had read at least a hundred times by now. The compartment silent but for the flapping wings of the owl and the quiet rustling of pages being turned. However, all he could think of was a strange feeling he had while speaking with Lupin.
It was eerie, chilling sensation. Not quite a smell or a sound, but perhaps more of a distant echo of something else entirely, a primal instinct of the wilderness. Lupin had been highly uncomfortable speaking with Harry; the Professor had apologised at least a hundred times and only when Harry repeatedly told him he did not blame the man, and that everyone said that he could not have been bitten, Lupin allowed himself a small smile.
Lupin did ask to look at the arm himself, and even sniffed it carefully. There is still something wrong, he had said then. Harry had felt it himself, and Remus had confirmed it. But they both could not tell what the problem was exactly. The straight explanation was that there had been a bite after all - but then, the wound would not have closed so soon - all cursed wounds had a tendency to persist. Remus did not know what to think. Promise you'll write to me in the summer, he had asked with his parting words. And Harry would, as soon as he got... to the Dursleys.
His eyes moved down on the letter. I'll write again soon. Harry hoped that Sirius would.
He dropped his glasses and jumped up in surprise.
"Harry?" Ron stared at him, eyebrow raised.
Harry stared somewhere else - directly at the letter that had fallen onto the floor of the compartment, right next to his old glasses. He could see everything too clearly, clearer even than with his glasses on. He could even read every single word, a feat that could not have been possible with his vision, Sirius' handwriting silently playing with him.
Harry shifted his gaze to Ron, inhaling a smell of food from the Leaving Feast. He could almost taste everything Ron had eaten. The Weasley shuddered uncomfortably under Harry's hungry gaze. Hermione, meanwhile, had picked up his glasses and the letter and was extending them to him. He took both, drawing in the smell of parchment and ink that wafted off her hands.
"I'm sorry. I kind of dozed a bit there. It's alright." He sat down. "There is nothing to worry about," he lied.
He had to write both to Lupin and Black.
The chapter was revised on 2012-12-19, with a tremendous help from Morta's Priest, who rewrote half of the mess I had left in the first version of the chapter.
The chapter has a couple of quotes taken directly from Rowling's Prisoner of Azkaban. I didn't mark them as not to break the form and flow.