Yaaaaaaaaaaaay! I'm dooone! Wohoo, I'm finally done book three, and this is the longest chapter I've ever done! There's so much in here, I really hope you guys like it. I admit, it wasn't the best ending I've ever done, but I still love it anyway. I can't believe I have three books done already, this is amazing. I just want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and reviewers. You've told me your opinions, and your encouragement and support are what have made these first three books possible. I am grateful to all of you for sticking with this, putting up with mistakes, and just taking the time to read this and give it a chance.
Well, now that I have this story done, it is time to move on to book four, "The Goblet of Fire." Just as a heads up, don't get your hopes up for seeing the first chapter in the near future, at least for the next couple of weeks. I know some of you may be anxious to start reading the fourth story, but since the semester is almost over, my main priority right now is to get all of my school work and finals done. Once all of that is taken care of, I promise, I will get to work on the next book. I do hope you all enjoy this chapter, and you know the drill, just let me know of any comments or concerns, and pretty please review! I'm so close to three-hundred reviews, I can almost taste it! Let me know what you think, and thanks again! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: All things Harry Potter are not mine.
Chapter Twenty: The Great Escape and a Promising Letter
Of all the things that could have possibly gone wrong, this definitely takes the cake. Mia watched the scene ahead of her, frozen with fear. Lupin was still staring horror-struck at the hovering moon, and before anyone could act, a low moan escaped his mouth, and his limbs started to shake.
"Oh, my—" Hermione gasped. "He didn't take his potion tonight! He's not safe!"
"Run," Sirius whispered. "Run. Now."
"We can't!" Mia said. "Ron's still chained to him and Pettigrew!"
"Leave it to me—RUN!"
But Mia couldn't run—she couldn't leave Ron to be mere feet within the transforming werewolves' path. Lupin's moan quickly turned into a cry of pain as he gripped his head with his hands, his wand falling out of his hands. She, Harry and Hermione watched in terror as Lupin's body started to grow longer and he hunched over, a snarling sound coming from him. His clothes were starting to shred, and they could see hair beginning to sprout of over, and his hands were turning into clawed paws. Lupin was thrashing, his usually frail looking body expanding and growing to two times his normal height. Mia could hear bone cracking as they snapped into place, and at one point he threw his head back, all traces of his human side gone, and the werewolf howled, his voice echoing into the night. Lupin reared back and wrenched the manacle binding it to Pettigrew and Ron, and it was when Hermione screamed that was Mia was snapped back to reality. She looked over to see that Pettigrew, seeing his opportunity, had gone for Lupin's wand on the ground. Before she could blink, there was a bang and a sudden burst of light. Once it was gone, Mia saw Ron lying motionless on the ground, and then Pettigrew sent Crookshanks and Sapphire flying through the air. Harry shouted the disarming spell at Pettigrew and then Lupin's wand went flying as well.
"Stay where you are!" Harry shouted, running towards him.
It was too late—Pettigrew took one frightened look around and then transformed into a rat once more. There was loud squeaking, and then Pettigrew was slipping through the manacle and scurried away through the grass.
"No!" Harry yelled as Mia ran over to Ron, to see if he was all right. However, just as Mia reached him, Lupin turned to face her. She gasped as she stared into the bright amber eyes that used to be brown. Lupin growled, baring his teeth at her, and then he raised his front paw. Mia screamed as it came bearing down and his claws slashed at her leg, ripping her jeans and causing her to fall to the ground.
"Mia!" shrieked Hermione. Before Lupin could attack again, a huge black blur came out of nowhere and tackled the werewolf to the ground. Mia looked up to see that Sirius had transformed into his Animagus form, and he latched his teeth around Lupin's neck, dragging him away from her. The two canines were soon locked in a ferocious fight, claws slashing and teeth biting, their growls drifting across the grounds. She heard Sirius whine as Lupin bit his shoulder, and Mia tried to stand, but then fell back to the ground with a sharp cry of pain, clutching her leg. Looking down, she saw that it was bleeding heavily, soaking through her jeans and oozing into the grass. Lupin's claws cut very deep into the skin, and every time she moved it a stab of pain would follow. The fight between Lupin and Sirius didn't last long, and soon enough, Lupin was fleeing, heading towards the forest. Harry shouted to Sirius that Pettigrew had gotten away, and Sirius, despite bleeding and clearly being injured, dashed off, hoping to find the rat before he could get too far. When Sirius was gone, Harry dashed over to Mia's side while Hermione went over to Ron.
"Mia, are you okay?" Harry asked frantically. He saw her leg and his eyes widened in fear. He immediately bent down and tore off a piece of his robes and tried wrapping it around her leg.
"I'm fine, Harry," Mia said through clenched teeth.
"You're not fine, you're bleeding!" Harry said, tying it into a knot around the cuts. He made it tight, obviously hoping to stop the bleeding, and as soon as he tied it, Mia cried out in pain again. Harry moved closer to her and put his arm around her while Hermione looked over Ron.
"What did he do to him?" Hermione whispered. Ron's eyes were only half-closed, his mouth hung open. He was definitely alive, they could hear him breathing, but he didn't seem to recognize them.
"I don't know…" Harry said. "We'd better get them and Snape up to the castle and tell someone. Come—"
Harry didn't get the chance to finish, because at that moment, they heard a sound coming from near the edge of the lake, a short distance away. It was a yelping, a whining…a dog in pain.
"Sirius," Harry muttered, staring into the darkness.
"Harry, go," Mia said, knowing that Sirius was in trouble.
"Go!" she said, speaking to both him and Hermione. "I'll be fine, I'll keep an eye on Ron, just go!"
Harry looked positively torn—he didn't want to leave her like this, but from the sound of it, Sirius was in trouble. They heard Sirius yelping again, and Harry's mind was made up. Moving quickly, Harry leaned her up against a nearby boulder and put her fallen wand back into her hand.
"Stay here," he said urgently. "Stay safe—I'll be right back."
Mia nodded and then Harry and Hermione ran off into the darkness. Then she was alone, with no one but Ron and Snape, both of whom were unconscious. The silence around her was too much, and Mia's fear was quickly turning into panic. She needed to get help—with Lupin out on the grounds and with Sirius hurt, they were in a very bad situation. But how could she find someone? Everyone was in the castle, either safe in bed or in their common rooms. There was no way anyone would be able to hear her, and with her leg still injured, she wasn't walking anywhere. She spent a couple minutes trying to think and trying not to get too scared, hoping that Harry, Hermione and Sirius were okay. Just as she was considering shooting up red sparks, something else happened. The warm summer air that was around her suddenly became very chilly, and with each passing second, the temperature seemed to be dropping even more. Mia stared around in confusion and after a few seconds she started to shake, her breath coming out in wisps of white smoke. An intense cold came over her, and it was creeping inside her. It was then that Mia realized…the Dementors. They found Sirius. Dread filling her body, Mia looked to the direction of the lake, and her fear intensified as she distantly saw a large group of hooded figures floating towards the water…right where Harry and Hermione had gone.
"No!" Mia yelled, pushing herself off of the boulder, ignoring the pain that shot up her leg. "No! Harry! Hermione! Get out of there, now!"
The cold was getting worse, and Mia shivered as she faintly heard Quirrell's voice in the very back of her mind. Her jaw set, she started crawling through the grass, dragging her leg behind her. She kept shouting for Harry and Hermione, but they didn't answer. Tears sprang to her eyes as she remembered the fate that awaited Sirius if the Dementors were to catch him…she wouldn't be surprised if they did the same thing to her friends, just to get them out of the way.
"Please," she said. "Please…someone save them…"
At that moment, Mia was distracted by a sudden light coming from the lake. A blinding, silvery white light that seemed to spread out across the entire grounds. Mia watched in amazement as the Dementors let out something similar to a scream, and they all fled, flying in different directions, all trying to get away from the brilliant light. She saw them scatter, and when it seemed as if they were all gone, the light surrounding the lake started to fade away, getting smaller and smaller, until it was gone altogether. Mia just laid there on the ground, dumbstruck. What in the world was that?
Mia whipped around to see a furious Snape storming over to her, his wand in hand and his eyes blazing over in rage. It seemed like he finally woke up at last.
"How dare you and your little friends attack me!" he seethed. "I swear when I get my hands on all of you—"
"Professor, please!" Mia said desperately, trying to sit up. "Professor Lupin transformed on the way to the castle! He attacked me and Sirius, Pettigrew attacked Ron and got away! The Dementors were just at the lake, and Harry and Hermione are there with Sirius! You have to help them, please! They could be hurt!"
Snape stopped beside her and took a look at her bleeding leg, as if he only just noticed it. He glanced over his shoulder at Ron, seeing him unconscious, and a scowled came across his face. With a distasteful sneer, he flicked his wand and Mia hissed as proper bandages wrapped themselves around her leg. Snape flicked his wand again and then two stretchers appeared out of thin air, hovering above the ground. He used his wand to place Ron in one, and then he placed Mia in the other. He walked them both towards the lake, with Mia's heart thumping loudly in his chest. Please, please let them be all right. As they continued walking, the lake shore came closer and closer, and as they maneuvered around some trees, it finally came into view. Mia gasped as she saw Harry, Hermione and Sirius all limp on the ground, and she felt the color drain from her face.
"No," she whispered weakly. "Are they…"
"They're alive, stupid girl," Snape said, sounding as though he truly wished they weren't. "It had to be a Patronus. Probably chased off the Dementors before they had a chance to perform the Kiss."
While Snape conjured stretchers for the three unconscious people, Mia let out a breath she didn't know she was holding in. They were okay. Snape lifted Harry and Hermione onto a stretcher but when he got to Sirius, his scowl deepened. With a short flick of his wand, Sirius was bound and gagged, with his hands behind his back.
"What are you doing?!" Mia said. "Let him go!"
"Thatcher, if you know what's good for you, you will be quiet," Snape said in cold fury. The look in his eyes was enough for Mia to stay silent as she watched him place Sirius into the last stretcher. Soon enough, they were all heading up to the castle, and Mia's mind was buzzing. What was going to happen now?
"Miss Thatcher, if you do not sit still—"
"Madame Pomfrey, I have to go! I have to help Sirius!"
"You're confused, child! Merlin, what has Black done to you to cause such behavior?"
"He didn't do anything! They've got the wrong man!"
It has now been about a half hour since the disastrous events out on the school grounds. Snape had brought them up to the castle and had taken them to the hospital wing. Madame Pomfrey nearly fainted at the sight of them all, with Harry, Hermione and Ron unconscious, Snape bleeding from the head, Mia's leg slashed, and Sirius Black bound and gagged. The old matron quickly set to work, putting them all into beds and fussing over them all. Mia tried to speak out when Snape walked back out with Sirius, but Madame Pomfrey silenced her by stuffing chocolate in her mouth while she grabbed some potions to heal Mia's leg. Not too long after, Professor Flitwick came rushing into the ward, telling Madame Pomfrey that Dumbledore as well as the Minister of Magic was informed of Black's capture, that Fudge was on his way now, Sirius was shut up in his office, and that once Fudge gave the order, the Dementors would be performing the Kiss. Needless to say, Mia spat out her chocolate in horror and instantly tried to get up out of bed. Now she was trying to fight off Madame Pomfrey on her still-wounded leg, and failing miserably.
"You are going nowhere," Madame Pomfrey said firmly. "Your leg is not completely healed yet, you're not ready to walk—"
"I don't care!" Mia said. "I need to speak to Dumbledore—Sirius is innocent!"
Despite her efforts, Mia was forced back onto the bed, pleading with Madame Pomfrey to let her go. Meanwhile, just outside the doors to the wing, Mia could also hear Snape talking to Fudge.
"Shocking business…shocking. Miracle none of them died…never heard the like…by thunder, it was lucky you were there, Snape," Fudge said.
"Thank you, Minister," Snape replied.
"Order of Merlin, Second Class, I'd say. First Class, if I can wangle it!"
"Thank you very much indeed, Minister."
"Nasty cut you've got there. Black's work, I suppose?"
"As a matter of fact, it was Potter, Weasley, Thatcher, and Granger, Minister. Black had bewitched them, I saw it immediately. A Confundus Charm, to judge by their behavior. They seemed to think there was a possibility he was innocent. They weren't responsible for their actions. On the other hand, their interference might have permitted Black to escape. They obviously thought they were going to catch Black single-handed. They've got away with a great deal before now…I'm afraid it's given them a rather high opinion of themselves…and of course Potter has always been allowed an extraordinary amount of license by the headmaster—"
"Why that little—" Mia started, but she was cut off by the burning sensation of the potion Madame Pomfrey was delicately putting on her cut. She bit her lip and twisted the bed sheets in a fist.
"Ah, well, Snape…Harry Potter, you know…we've all got a bit of a blind spot where he's concerned."
"And yet—is it good for him to be given so much special treatment? Personally, I try and treat him like any other student—"
"Do not!" Mia hissed under her breath.
"—and any other student would be suspended—at the very least—for leading his friends into such danger. Consider, Minister—against all school rules—after all the precautions put in place for his protection—out-of-bounds, at night, consorting with a werewolf and a murderer—and I have reason to believe he has been visiting Hogsmeade illegally too—"
"Well, well… we shall see, Snape, we shall see… The boy has undoubtedly been foolish. What amazes me most is the behavior of the Dementors. You've really no idea what made them retreat, Snape?"
"No, Minister…I suspect it was a Patronus, but by the time I had come 'round they were heading back to their positions at the entrances."
"Extraordinary. And yet Black, and Harry, and the girl —"
"All unconscious by the time I reached them. I bound and gagged Black, naturally, conjured stretchers, and brought them all straight back to the castle."
Mia clenched her teeth, her anger getting the better of her. Snape was making it out as if he were the big hero, saving them all when he didn't even know the whole story. He was basically signing Sirius' death warrant, and he sounded smug about it. And confounded? That was a downright lie! While Mia sat on her bed fuming, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye, and so she looked over to the bed Hermione was resting in, and her anger was temporarily replaced by joy when she saw that her friend was awake. She was staring at Harry, and when Mia leaned over to get a better look, she saw that he was awake as well. She put a finger to her lips and then pointed at the door, where Snape and Fudge were still talking.
"Harry," Mia said, her tone expressing her relief. Harry quickly looked over at her, squinting slightly because Madame Pomfrey had taken off his glasses.
"Mia," Harry breathed, somewhat groggily. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine," she answered, reassuring him.
"Ah, you're awake!" Madame Pomfrey bristled as she went over to Harry's bed with a huge ball of chocolate that was the size of a small boulder. She placed the chocolate on Harry's bedside table and began breaking it apart with a small hammer.
"How's Ron?" said Harry and Hermione together.
"He'll live," said Madam Pomfrey grimly. "As for you two, you'll be staying here until I'm satisfied you're—Potter, what do you think you're doing?!"
Harry was trying to sit up in bed, and he reached out towards the bedside table for his glasses as well as his wand.
"I need to see the headmaster," he said.
"Potter," said Madam Pomfrey soothingly. "It's all right. They've got Black. He's locked away upstairs. The Dementors will be performing the kiss any moment now—"
"WHAT?" Harry bellowed, jumping out of bed with Hermione.
"It's true," Mia nearly growled. "Mister Bigshot out there brought Sirius to the castle and immediately told Fudge he was here! Now he's going to—"
"Harry, Harry, what's this?" came the voice of Fudge. It looked like Harry's shout had drawn them into the hospital wing. "You should be in bed — has he had any chocolate?"
"Minister, listen!" Harry said. "Sirius Black's innocent! Peter Pettigrew faked his own death! We saw him tonight! You can't let the Dementors do that thing to Sirius, he's—"
"Harry, Harry, you're very confused, you've been through a dreadful ordeal, lie back down, now, we've got everything under control…"
"YOU HAVEN'T!" Harry yelled. "YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG MAN!"
"Minister, listen, please," Hermione said. She had hurried to Harry's side and was gazing imploringly into Fudge's face. "I saw him too. It was Ron's rat, he's an Animagus, Pettigrew, I mean, and—"
"You see, Minister?" said Snape. "Confunded, both of them…Black's done a very good job on them."
"WE'RE NOT CONFUNDED!" Harry roared.
"Minister! Professor!" said Madam Pomfrey angrily. "I must insist that you leave. Potter is my patient, and he should not be distressed!"
"I'm not distressed, I'm trying to tell them what happened!" Harry said furiously. "If they'd just listen—"
Madame Pomfrey didn't give Harry a chance to finish because she chose at that moment to stuff a large piece of chocolate in his mouth and force him back into bed.
"Now, please, Minister, these children need care. Please leave," Madame Pomfrey said. Mia was about to speak, but just then, the doors to the ward opened again, and this time it was Professor Dumbledore who strolled in.
"Professor Dumbledore!" Mia said, trying to get out of bed as well. "Sirius Black—"
"For heaven's sake!" cried Madam Pomfrey hysterically, going over to push Mia back onto her bed too. "Is this a hospital wing or not? Miss Thatcher you stay down this instant or I will force-feed you a Sleeping Potion! Headmaster, I must insist—"
"My apologies, Poppy, but I need a word with Mr. Potter, Miss Thatcher and Miss Granger," said Dumbledore calmly. "I have just been talking to Sirius Black—"
"I suppose he's told you the same fairy tale he's planted in Potter's mind?" spat Snape. "Something about a rat, and Pettigrew being alive—"
"That, indeed, is Black's story," said Dumbledore.
"And does my evidence count for nothing?" snarled Snape. "Peter Pettigrew was not in the Shrieking Shack, nor did I see any sign of him on the grounds."
"That was because you were knocked out, Professor!" said Hermione earnestly. "You didn't arrive in time to hear—"
"Miss Granger, HOLD YOUR TONGUE!"
"Now, Snape," said Fudge, startled. "The young lady is disturbed in her mind, we must make allowances—"
"I would like to speak to Harry, Mia and Hermione alone," said Dumbledore abruptly. "Cornelius, Severus, Poppy—please leave us."
"Headmaster!" sputtered Madam Pomfrey. "They need treatment, they need rest—"
"This cannot wait," said Dumbledore. "I must insist."
Madam Pomfrey looked like she wanted to continue to protest, but after seeing the expression on Dumbledore's face, she knew that she was not going to win this battle. She pursed her lips and strode away into her office at the end of the ward, slamming the door behind her, while Fudge consulted the large gold pocket watch dangling from his waistcoat.
"The Dementors should have arrived by now," he said. "I'll go and meet them. Dumbledore, I'll see you upstairs."
He crossed to the door and held it open for Snape, but Snape hadn't moved.
"You surely don't believe a word of Black's story?" Snape whispered, his eyes fixed on Dumbledore's face.
"I wish to speak to Harry, Mia and Hermione alone," Dumbledore repeated.
"Sirius Black showed he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen," Snape breathed. "You haven't forgotten that, Headmaster? You haven't forgotten that he once tried to kill me?"
"My memory is as good as it ever was, Severus," said Dumbledore quietly. Snape glared at Dumbledore before turning around and marching his way through the doors, with Fudge trailing after him, shutting the doors behind them. Barely two seconds passed before Mia, Harry and Hermione all started speaking at one. They all spoke over one another, their words overlapping, trying to tell Dumbledore about Pettigrew being alive, and how he has been hiding as Ron's pet rat for all these years. There babbling continued until the headmaster held up his hand for them to stop.
"It is your turn to listen, and I beg you will not interrupt me, because there is very little time," he said quietly. "There is not a shred of proof to support Black's story, except your word—and the word of three thirteen-year-old wizards will not convince anybody. A street full of eyewitnesses swore they saw Sirius murder Pettigrew. I myself gave evidence to the Ministry that Sirius had been the Potters' Secret-Keeper."
"Professor Lupin can tell you—" Harry said.
"Professor Lupin is currently deep in the forest, unable to tell anyone anything. By the time he is human again, it will be too late. Sirius will be worse than dead. I might add that werewolves are so mistrusted by most of our kind that his support will count for very little and the fact that he and Sirius are old friends—"
"Listen to me, Harry. It is too late, you understand me? You must see that Professor Snape's version of events is far more convincing than yours."
"He hates Sirius," Hermione said desperately. "All because of some stupid trick Sirius played on him—"
"Sirius has not acted like an innocent man. The attack on the Fat Lady—entering Gryffindor Tower with a knife—without Pettigrew, alive or dead, we have no chance of overturning Sirius's sentence."
"But you believe us," Hermione stated.
"Yes, I do," replied Dumbledore quietly. "But I have no power to make other men see the truth, or to overrule the Minister of Magic…"
Mia sat there on her bed, hopelessness beginning to settle over her, and she slumped against her pillows in defeat.
"So that's it?" she whispered in despair. "Sirius is going to lose his soul?"
"I'm afraid so…but then again, maybe not. What we need," said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from Mia to Hermione, "is more time."
"But—" Hermione began, and then her eyes became very round. "OH!"
It took about three seconds to figure out what Dumbledore meant, and Mia's mouth dropped open in surprise and shock. Was he suggesting what she thought he was suggesting? Was it even possible?
"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: you must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law—you know what is at stake. You—must—not—be—seen."
Hermione swallowed and then nodded slowly, while Harry stood there looking confused. Dumbledore's words rang in Mia's ear and she couldn't help but gape at him. She felt a rush of anxiety and excitement. If Hermione and Harry did this, then they would have a chance to save Sirius! But if not, if they were seen…the consequences would be too horrible to even think about. They would have to be so very careful, and think things through. Dumbledore turned and started walking out of the room. When he reached the door, he looked back over at them, consulting his watch.
"It's five minutes to midnight. I'm going to lock you in. Miss Granger, three turns should do it. Good luck."
"Good luck?" Harry repeated as the door closed behind Dumbledore. "Three turns? What's he talking about? What are we supposed to do?"
Hermione wasn't listening—instead, she was fumbling with the chain underneath her robes, pulling it. She glanced over at Mia with an apologetic expression.
"Mia, I don't think you can—you're not fully healed-it will be difficult already with two people—"
"It's fine Hermione, go!" Mia said hastily. "Just be careful, please."
"What are you two talking about?" asked Harry, staring from one to the other.
"Harry, come here, quick!" Hermione said urgently, pulling out the Time Turner from around her neck. Harry listened to her, although he still looked utterly lost as to what was going on. Mia watched the two of them as Hermione placed the chain around Harry's neck as well, holding the Time Turner out in between them. Taking it carefully into her hands, Hermione turned the hourglass over in her hands three times, and before Mia knew it, Harry and Hermione disappeared into thin air. Then she moved her gaze over to the closed doors of the hospital wing, waiting…
Harry was positive that this was the weirdest and craziest thing that he had ever done in his entire life, and that was saying something, compared to what he and his friends have pulled off before. At this very moment, he was sitting in the shadows of the trees of the Forbidden Forest, watching the Whomping Willow Tree from a distance, with Hermione and Buckbeak the Hippogriff by his side, alive and well.
Harry glanced over at Buckbeak, shaking his head as he remembered everything that has happened within the last couple hours. It was all so ridiculous and strange that even after he and Hermione did it, it was still difficult to wrap his head around. It turns out, that the hourglass Hermione had used was something called a Time Turner—a magical device that allows the wearer to travel back through time, but only by hours. Hermione told him that it was how she was going to so many classes at once. She would use the Time Turner to go back in time so she would be able to do two or even three lessons at once. McGonagall had given it to her at the start of term back in September, and the only other person who knew about it was Mia. Harry suspected that was why Mia was trying so hard to help out Hermione during the second term, because that was when the bushy haired with looked like she was about to have a breakdown at any moment.
Hermione had taken them back in time by three hours, which was the time when they, along with Ron and Mia, were going down to visit Hagrid before Buckbeak was going to be killed. It was then that Harry realized what Dumbledore had said about saving two innocent lives tonight. They were going to save Buckbeak so that Sirius could ride him to freedom! Then they would both be saved! When he told this to Hermione, she looked scared at first, but then she grew determined. However, getting Buckbeak free wasn't easy in the slightest. Hermione kept having to tell Harry that they could not be seen, under any circumstances, because she told him how terrible thing have happened to wizards and witches who were seen or tried to meddle with time. Some of them even ended up being killed. This rule was painfully hard to follow, especially during times when Harry wanted to dart out and grab Pettigrew so there would be no chance of him escaping again. So Harry and Hermione had to wait in the trees behind Hagrid's house until their other selves were gone and the Ministry officials had seen Buckbeak outside before heading into Hagrid's house to sign some documents. That had only given Harry and Hermione a minute to get Buckbeak loose, and it was a close call, but they managed to do it. They took Buckbeak into the forest, making everyone behind them believe that he had pulled himself free and flew away.
After that, the two of them had watched off to the side as their other selves ran into Sirius and how he dragged Ron into the roots of the Whomping Willow, with Mia following almost right after them. A minute later, Harry saw him and Hermione go in too. Then, after a short while, Lupin came running towards the Willow and used a branch to touch the knot that freezes the tree, and he hurried inside. Harry's eyes narrowed as he saw Snape coming as well, picking up his invisibility cloak and draping it over himself before climbing in. Now, everyone was inside, and that brought him to where he was now, sitting with Hermione, and waiting for them all to come back out again. They waited in silence as the warm summer night air blew through the trees, rustling the leaves by their feet.
"Harry," Hermione said suddenly. "There's something I don't understand. Why didn't the Dementors get Sirius? I remember them coming, and then I think I passed out. There were so many of them…"
Harry sat down next to her on the ground, and he explained to her what had happened down at the lake. When they reached Sirius, he was back in his human form, but there were about a hundred Dementors flying over him. Both Harry and Hermione had tried to conjure Patronuses, but Hermione had fainted and Harry was left alone. His weak Patronus had failed, and he thought that the Dementors were going to take Sirius' soul, but they tried to take his first. He remembered the gaping hole on the Dementors face how it had grabbed him and forced his own mouth upwards, with his mother screaming in his ear. But then, to Harry's astonishment, the Dementor released him and that was when he saw the blinding light drive the Dementors away from them.
"But what was it?" Hermione asked as he finished.
"There's only one thing it could have been, to make the Dementors go," said Harry. "A real Patronus. A powerful one."
"But who conjured it?"
Harry didn't say anything at first, remembering what had happened. Before he had passed out he saw a glance of the person who was standing on the other side of the lake, the one who cast the Patronus. He knew who he thought he saw…but it was impossible. How could it have been him?
"Didn't you see what they looked like?" said Hermione eagerly. "Was it one of the teachers?"
"No," said Harry. "He wasn't a teacher."
"But it must have been a really powerful wizard, to drive all those Dementors away. If the Patronus was shining so brightly, didn't it light him up? Couldn't you see—?"
"Yeah, I saw him," said Harry slowly. "But… maybe I imagined it… I wasn't thinking straight… I passed out right afterward…"
"Who did you think it was?"
"I think—I think it was my dad."
Harry glanced up at Hermione and saw that her mouth was fully open. She was gazing at him with a mixture of alarm and pity.
"Harry, your dad's—well—dead," she said quietly.
"I know that," said Harry quickly.
"You think you saw his ghost?"
"I don't know…no…he looked solid…"
"Maybe I was seeing things," said Harry. "But…from what I could see…it looked like him. I've got photos of him…"
Hermione was still looking at him as though worried about his sanity.
"I know it sounds crazy," said Harry flatly, turning back to Buckbeak, who was digging through the dirt on the ground, looking for some worms to eat, probably. Was it possible? Had he really seen his father tonight? But how? James Potter was dead, has been dead for twelve long years. But the person looked so very much like him…how could it not have been him? Harry was so confused and frustrated about the whole thing. Maybe he was crazy. He kept thinking t over in his mind until Hermione tapped his arm to get his attention. They looked out to see that everyone was now emerging from the Whomping Willow. There was Ron, Lupin and Pettigrew chained together, Then Mia and Hermione, followed by an unconscious Snape, and Harry and Sirius bringing up the rear. Harry and Hermione got up and watched as they all started walking up to the castle. Harry looked up at the clouds, knowing that it was going to move aside and show the moon at any moment…oh, how he wanted to go out and grab Pettigrew. He didn't think he could bear seeing the filthy rat escape, knowing that every hopeful and happy thought he had of living with Sirius was going to go with him. Harry clenched his hands into fists. It wasn't fair…
The moon finally slipped out from behind the cloud and the two of them watched helplessly as Lupin transformed and broke away from Ron and Pettigrew. Harry flinched as he heard Mia scream, knowing that she had just been attacked. Just then, Harry realized something that made his stomach drop—any minute now, Lupin was going to take off into the forest…right where they were standing. When he told Hermione this, she quickly went to untie the rope binding Buckbeak to a tree, and then they all made a dash for Hagrid's house, knowing that it was going to be empty by now. Once they made it there, Harry thrust open the door, allowed Hermione and Buckbeak to get inside, and slammed it shut behind him. Hermione bent over, trying to catcher her breath, while Buckbeak, happy to be back in Hagrid's house, made himself comfortable in front of the fire. Harry took the time to look out the window, but it was very difficult to see what was going on from here. He told Hermione that he was going to wait outside so he could see when it was the best time to go and save Sirius. Hermione gave him a look and he assured her that he wasn't going to try and interfere. Reluctantly she gave in, and warned him to be careful, since Lupin was still out there and the Dementors were going to be coming soon.
Harry stepped outside again and edged around the cabin. He could hear yelping in the distance, which meant that the Dementors were closing in on Sirius. He and Hermione would be running to him any moment…and whoever had sent that Patronus would be appearing very soon. For the briefest of moments, Harry hesitated. Hermione told him multiple times that they were not to be seen by anyone. But he wanted to be the one doing the seeing. He had to know if it was really his father who conjured the Patronus. So with that in mind, Harry took off towards the lake, the ground flying out from under him as he went. As he came closer to the lake, he saw tiny glimmers of silver at the opposite end of the shore—his own attempts at a Patronus. When he was close enough, Harry skidded to a stop behind a bush that sat at the very edge of the water, hiding himself from view and peering through the leaves. A strange excitement swelled up inside him as he saw the wisps of silver suddenly vanish—any minute now…
"Come on!" he muttered, staring about. "Where are you? Dad, come on —"
No one came. Harry looked around wildly, hoping beyond hope that he would see his father appear to save the day. But no one was there, only him. He looked back over to the circle of Dementors, and saw that one of them was lowering its hood, showing its wide, gaping mouth. No, no, this can't be right! Why was no one here? He was the only one…
And then it hit him—he understood. He hadn't seen his father across the lake…he had seen himself. With one great leap, Harry jumped out from behind the bush, raised his wand high, and then bellowed, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"
Instead of the usual silvery cloud that came from the end of his wand, this Patronus took the form of a blinding silvery white animal. The animal was huge, with something atop its head, and Harry tried squinting through the light to see what kind of animal it was. Whatever it was, it galloped away, charging headfirst at the swarm of Dementors. The black robed creatures shrieked as they fled, disappearing into the darkness, desperate to get away from the dazzling silver animal. The air once again turned warm, and once every Dementor was gone, the animal started running back over to Harry. This time, Harry was able to get a good look at it. Standing before him was a magnificent Stag, tall and proud, with large antlers on top of its head. The Stag stared at Harry for a moment with its big eyes before slowly bowing its head to him. Harry suddenly realized what he was seeing, and a lump formed in his throat.
"Prongs," he whispered. He raised his hand to pet it, but in the next second, the Stag vanished into thin air. Harry stood transfixed where he stood, hardly able to believe what had just happened. All this time, he thought it was his father he had seen across the lake. But it was him—he saw himself conjure the Patronus. All of a sudden he heard hooves coming from behind him and he looked around to see Hermione running towards him, dragging Buckbeak with her. She demanded to know what had happened, and so Harry told her everything, how he was waiting for his father, but had ended up casting the Patronus himself, and that everything was all right, because his other self had thought that he was James. When he finished, Hermione's mouth was open and her eyes were the size of saucers. She appeared speechless and couldn't find anything to say. However, they didn't have much time to talk about it any further because just then they heard another noise. The two of them looked through the bush to see Snape coming towards the lake, with two stretchers at his side, no doubt carrying Ron and Mia. They watched as Snape put them all onto stretchers and the started walking them all up to the castle. Harry and Hermione knew it was still about another forty-five minutes before Dumbledore would lock them up in the hospital wing, so once again, they were forced to wait. Time seemed to drag on slowly, with Harry checking his watch every now and then. Just when he was going to ask if it was time yet, he saw someone running from the castle. Harry knew who it was immediately, for he saw something shiny glint in his belt.
"Macnair!" said Harry. "The executioner! He's gone to get the Dementors! This is it, Hermione—"
Wasting no time, Harry helped Hermione up onto Buckbeak before climbing on himself. He pulled Buckbeak's rope back over his neck and tied it to the other side of his collar like reins. After warning Hermione to keep a tight hold on him, Harry nudged Buckbeak's side with his heels and instructed the Hippogriff to go up. Within the next instant, they were soaring high above the clouds through the night air, heading for the school. Hermione was whimpering and holing his waist tightly, muttering words of fright. Harry urged Buckbeak forward so they were gliding quietly toward the upper floors of the castle. He pulled hard on the left-hand side of the rope, and Buckbeak turned. Harry was trying to count the windows flashing past until he found the one he was looking for. He pulled on the reins to make Buckbeak to stop in midair just outside of Flitwick's office. He spotted Sirius at once, and when Buckbeak's wings fell, he reached over and tapped sharply on the glass to get his attention. Sirius lifted his head up at the noise, and then his jaw nearly dropped to the floor when he saw what was outside. He leapt from his chair, hurried to the window and tried to open it, but it was locked.
"Stand back!" Hermione called to him, and she took out her wand, still gripping the back of Harry's robes with her left hand. "Alohomora!"
The window instantly sprang open and Sirius leaned out, staring flabbergasted at the Hippogriff.
"How—how—?" said Sirius weakly.
"Get on—there's not much time," said Harry. "You've got to get out of here—the Dementors are coming—Macnair's gone to get them."
Sirius wasted no time as he placed a hand on either side of the window frame and heaved his head and shoulders out of it. It was very lucky he was so thin—in seconds, he had managed to fling one leg over Buckbeak's back and pull himself onto the Hippogriff behind Hermione.
"Okay, Buckbeak, up!" said Harry, shaking the rope. "Up to the tower—come on."
The Hippogriff gave one sweep of its mighty wings and they were soaring upward again, high as the top of the West Tower. Harry managed to land Buckbeak with a clatter on the battlements, and as soon as he stopped, Harry and Hermione slid off him at once.
"Sirius, you'd better go, quick," Harry panted. "They'll reach Flitwick's office any moment, they'll find out you're gone."
"What happened to the other boy? Ron? And what about Mia, is she okay?" asked Sirius.
"They're going to be okay. Ron's still out of it, but Madam Pomfrey says she'll be able to make him better. Quick—go—"
But Sirius was still staring down at Harry.
"How can I ever thank—"
"GO!" Harry and Hermione shouted together. Sirius quickly wheeled Buckbeak around, facing the open sky. Before he left, he shot one last glance at Harry
"We'll see each other again," he said. "You are—truly your father's son, Harry…"
Sirius squeezed Buckbeak's sides with his heels and Harry and Hermione jumped back as the enormous wings rose once more. The Hippogriff took off at a run and the rose into the air. He and his rider became smaller and smaller as Harry gazed after them, and then a cloud drifted across the moon…they were gone. Harry stood there, watching where Buckbeak and his godfather disappeared into the sky until Hermione tore his attention away, saying they only had ten minutes before Dumbledore was supposed to lock them in the hospital wing. Tearing his gaze away from the sky, Harry followed Hermione through the door to the tower and quickly descended the spiral staircase. It was a difficult run back to the hospital wing, with the two of them having to dodge Fudge and Snape, as well as Peeves, who was bouncing in the air along the corridor, cackling madly. Once he was gone, they sprinted the rest of the way, going down many corridors and stairs, both of them panting heavily, when they had less than a minute, they rounded a corner and to Harry's relief, found Dumbledore backing out of the hospital wing doors.
"I am going to lock you in," they heard him saying. "It is five minutes to midnight. Miss Granger, three turns should do it. Good luck."
Dumbledore backed out of the room, closed the door, and took out his wand to magically lock it. Panicking, Harry and Hermione ran forward. Dumbledore looked up, and a wide smile appeared under the long silver mustache.
"Well?" he said quietly.
"We did it!" said Harry breathlessly. "Sirius has gone, on Buckbeak."
"Well done," said Dumbledore, beaming. "I think—yes, I think you've gone too—get inside—I'll lock you in."
Harry and Hermione slipped past Dumbledore and back inside the infirmary as he closed the door after them. The room was empty except for Ron, who was still lying motionless in the end bed, and Mia, who sat up straighter in her bed upon seeing them.
"Did it work?" she asked quickly.
"He's free, both him and Buckbeak," Harry replied as he and Hermione crept back into their beds. Mia's eyes grew wide in excitement, her lips forming a smile of relief, and she was just about to ask more when Madame Pomfrey came striding back out of her office.
"Did I hear the headmaster leaving? Am I allowed to look after my patients now?" she said, quite angrily. All three of them decided it was best not to argue or test the old matron, and accepted their chocolate quietly, with her standing before them, making sure they all ate it. While they ate, Harry kept an ear out, waiting for the bomb to go off. Sure enough, only ten minutes later, did he start to hear shouts and yells of fury coming from somewhere outside the wing.
"What was that?" said Madam Pomfrey in alarm. "Really—they'll wake everybody up! What do they think they're doing?"
Harry was listening as the angry voices drew nearer, and he saw Mia subtly snuggle deeper into her covers, pulling them up so they covered some of her face, her eyes fixed on the door.
"He must have Disapparated, Severus," came Fudge's voice. "We should have left somebody in the room with him. When this gets out—"
"HE DIDN'T DISAPPARATE!" Snape roared, now very close at hand. "YOU CAN'T APPARATE OR DISAPPARATE INSIDE THIS CASTLE! THIS—HAS—SOMETHING—TO—DO—WITH—POTTER!"
"Severus—be reasonable—Harry has been locked up—"
BANG! The hospital wing doors were thrown open, and in trailed Snape, Fudge, and Dumbledore, who was looking as if he were enjoying himself immensely. While Fudge was looking angry, Snape was a different story entirely—he appeared savage, ready to start throwing hexes or punches to anyone in his way, his eyes blazing with a demented fury that would make anyone cringe.
"OUT WITH IT, POTTER!" he bellowed. "WHAT DID YOU DO?"
"Professor Snape!" shrieked Madam Pomfrey. "Control yourself!"
"See here, Snape, be reasonable," said Fudge. "This door's been locked, we just saw—"
"THEY HELPED HIM ESCAPE, I KNOW IT!" Snape howled, pointing at Harry, Mia and Hermione.
"Calm down, man!" Fudge barked. "You're talking nonsense!"
"YOU DON'T KNOW POTTER!" shrieked Snape. "HE DID IT, I KNOW HE DID IT—"
"That will do, Severus," said Dumbledore quietly. "Think about what you are saying. This door has been locked since I left the ward ten minutes ago. Madam Pomfrey, have these students left their beds?"
"Of course not!" said Madam Pomfrey, bristling. "I would have heard them!"
"Well, there you have it, Severus," said Dumbledore calmly. "Unless you are suggesting that Harry and Hermione are able to be in two places at once, I'm afraid I don't see any point in troubling them further."
Snape stood there, seething, staring from Fudge, who looked thoroughly shocked at his behavior, to Dumbledore, whose eyes were twinkling behind his glasses. He then looked over at Harry and it took all he had not to flinch at the murderous glare he gave to him. Then Snape whirled about, robes swishing behind him, and stormed out of the ward.
"Fellow seems quite unbalanced," said Fudge, staring after him. "I'd watch out for him if I were you, Dumbledore."
"Oh, he's not unbalanced," said Dumbledore quietly. "He's just suffered a severe disappointment."
"He's not the only one!" puffed Fudge. "The Daily Prophet's going to have a field day! We had Black cornered and he slipped through our fingers yet again! All it needs now is for the story of that Hippogriff's escape to get out, and I'll be a laughingstock! Well…I'd better go and notify the Ministry."
"And the Dementors?" said Dumbledore. "They'll be removed from the school, I trust?"
"Oh yes, they'll have to go," said Fudge. "Never dreamed they'd attempt to administer the Kiss on an innocent boy. Completely out of control…no, I'll have them packed off back to Azkaban tonight. Perhaps we should think about dragons at the school entrance…"
"Hagrid would like that," said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry, Mia and Hermione. After that, Dumbledore and Fudge left the ward, still talking amongst themselves, while Madame Pomfrey headed back into her office, muttering to herself. Everything was silent once again, and Harry gazed over at Mia, who was shaking terribly on the bed, her face beginning to turn red.
"Mia? Are you all right?" Hermione said.
Mia just nodded, apparently not trusting herself to speak. She lowered the blankets and Harry saw that she was biting her lip, doing her best not to burst out laughing. He was about to say something when they all suddenly heard a low moan coming from Ron's bed. They looked over to see that Ron was waking up at last. The redhead made a face as he slowly sat up, rubbing his head and staring around.
"What—what happened?" he groaned. "Harry? Why are we in here? Where's Sirius? Where's Lupin? What's going on?"
It was too much for Mia—at Ron's words she erupted into fits of laughter, hastily smothering her face into her pillow so as not to alert Madame Pomfrey. Harry smiled as he glanced over at Hermione.
"You explain," said Harry, helping himself to some more chocolate.
It took a long while for Madame Pomfrey to decide to let them all go the next day, especially with Mia. The nurse had poked and prodded, took her temperature, made her take different kinds of potions, and gave her lots of chocolate. She could tell her friends were very worried about her, and she knew they had every right to be. She had been attacked by a werewolf during the full moon, and she could understand why everyone was so cautious. Granted she hadn't been bitten, but Lupin did cut her pretty deep, and they had to be sure that there were no wolfish side effects of her injury. Harry, Ron and Hermione were free to go by noon, but none of them would leave Mia's side until Madame Pomfrey was done with her. Mia kept insisting that she was fine, and that the cut didn't even hurt anymore. For the most part, Madame Pomfrey had done an excellent job with healing it, but there was going to be a permanent scar on her calf, but Mia didn't mind so much. When Madame Pomfrey was positive that Mia was all right, she set her free and Mia happily got off the bed, only wobbling slightly. The four friends decided to take a walk down to their spot by the Willow tree at the lake, to enjoy the hot and beautiful summer day, since everyone else in the school had gone down to Hogsmeade for one last visit. They talked among themselves about the adventures of last night, and they all wondered where Sirius and Buckbeak were at this moment. After a while shadow fell across them and they looked up to see a very bleary-eyed Hagrid, mopping his sweaty face with one of his tablecloth-sized handkerchiefs and beaming down at them.
"Know I shouldn' feel happy, after wha' happened las' night," he said. "I mean, Black escapin' again, an, everythin'—but guess what?"
"What?" they said, pretending to look curious.
"Beaky! He escaped! He's free! Bin celebratin' all night!"
"That's wonderful!" said Hermione, giving Ron a look because he looked as though he was close to laughing. Mia elbowed him in the ribs to shut him up.
"Yeah…can't've tied him up properly," said Hagrid. "I was worried this mornin', mind…thought he mighta met Professor Lupin on the grounds, but Lupin says he never ate anythin' las' night…"
"What?" said Harry and Mia quickly.
"Blimey, haven' yeh heard?" said Hagrid, his smile fading a little. "Er—Snape told all the Slytherins this mornin'…thought everyone'd know by now. Professor Lupin's a werewolf, see. An' he was loose on the grounds las' night. He's packin' now, o' course."
"He's packing?" said Harry, alarmed. "Why?"
"Leavin', isn' he?" said Hagrid, looking surprised that Harry had to ask. "Resigned firs' thing this mornin'. Says he can't risk it happenin again."
"I'm going to see him," Harry said, scrambling to his feet.
"But if he's resigned—"
" —doesn't sound like there's anything we can do—"
"I don't care. I still want to see him. I'll meet you back here," Harry stated. Without another word, Harry set off towards the castle.
"Wats got into 'im?" Hagrid asked.
"I don't think he wants to see Lupin go," Mia answered softly. "None of us do."
"Well, I know them werewolves are supposed ter be dangerous," Hagrid said. "But I've known tha' Lupin since he was a boy 'ere. It's a shame."
Mia, Ron and Hermione talked with Hagrid for a while, and she was glad to see him so happy about Buckbeak being free, even though she could tell he was a little sad about not being able to see him anymore. After a while Hagrid went back to his house, and Mia stayed outside with her friends for a while longer, just savoring the warmth of the sun. Ron skipped a few rocks into the lake while Hermione watched him, fiddling with the chain that held the Time Turner. Seeing this, a though occurred to Mia.
"Hey Hermione?" she said.
"Last night, when Harry did the Patronus…what animal was it? He never said," Mia asked curiously.
"Oh, he said it was a Stag," Hermione replied. "A big silver one."
Mia just stared at her, her mind going blank for a moment. A Stag? Harry's Patronus was a stag? No way, this had to be a coincidence—Mia has dreamt of a silver Stag more than once, but she has always thought it was her imagination getting carried away. There is no possible way that her dream and Harry's Patronus are connected…is there? If so, what is it? These confusing thoughts kept swirling around in Mia's head as they continued sitting by the lake, and after just a few more minutes, Hermione suggested that they all go up to the castle. So the three of them left the lake and wandered through the grounds back up to the entrance hall, where they found a school carriage sitting at the base of the steps, and Professor Lupin loading all of his things into it. The sight saddened Mia immediately—he really was leaving. She told Hermione and Ron to go on without her, and she approached Lupin.
"Why are you leaving?" she asked. Lupin turned around and stopped his movements upon seeing her. She saw a flicker of pain and regret flash through his eyes and quickly understood.
"It wasn't your fault sir," she said softly.
"Mia," he said slowly. "There is no one to blame but myself. I was a fool, forgetting to take my potion, and because of that, I almost killed you!"
"It's just a scratch," Mia protested.
"It could have been worse," Lupin said sharply. "I don't even know how you can stand to look at me."
"Professor, you can't blame yourself! You made a mistake, everyone does. I don't blame you one bit for what had happened, that was the wolf, it wasn't you. Last night was an accident."
"An accident that never should have happened," Lupin muttered. "Last night I could have bitten any of you—that must never happen again. Besides, by this time tomorrow, all the owls will start arriving, and parents will not want a—well, someone like me teaching their children."
"But you're the best defense teacher we've ever had!" Mia said. "You can't leave!"
Lupin's lips twitched into a smile.
"Harry said the exact same thing," he said. "You will all be fine without me. I've grown used to it by now."
"But what will you do?" Mia asked. "What will you do for a job? I can ask my parents, maybe—"
She was cut short by Lupin smiling even more and chuckling.
"You do remind me so much of Lily sometimes Mia," he told her. "She was always thinking of others and their needs before her own. That's something that you and Harry both have in common. He is very lucky to have you. I will be fine, I have managed before, and I can manage now."
Mia stared at him. There really was nothing she could do to make him stay.
"Will we see you again professor?" she said.
"I'm sure you will," he replied. "And it's Remus now, Mia. Goodbye."
Mia watched as Lupin put the last of his things into the carriage and then climbed in himself before it set off down the path, heading towards the front gates and out of sight. When it was finally gone, Mia sighed before turning around and going inside to try and find her friends.
It was a couple days later that Mia found herself all packed and ready to head home on the Hogwarts Express. She took a look around her dorm room, glumly thinking that it would be a while before she saw it again. The past couple days have been long and tiring. They got their exam results back the day before, and she, Harry, Ron and Hermione had all passed, which shocked her to no end, because with the way Snape has been acting she though he was going to fail them all on purpose. His hatred for Harry seemed to increase ten-fold, if that was even possible. Every time he looked at Harry, he flexed his fingers, as if he wanted nothing more than to place them around his throat. So Mia made sure to sit next to him in class so she would be able to throw acid in the potions master's face if she needed to.
Everyone was sad to see Professor Lupin go, and they all started spreading ridiculous rumors about what kind of teacher they were going to have next year. Mia hoped that whoever it was, they would be at least half as good as Lupin was. Now, it was time for everyone to head home for the summer holidays, and Mia was excited to see her parents and brother. She and the others made a silent agreement not to mention anything about what had happened this year, at least not the dangerous stuff. Catherine would throw a fit and Ben would most likely ground her for the entire summer for putting herself in danger so many times. What with confronting a mass murderer, being attacked by a werewolf, nearly getting killed by a tree, and blasting her teacher into a wall, Mia strongly felt that her best bet was leaving out all the details.
The End of Year Feast was marvelous, and Gryffindor won the House Cup for the third year in a row, much to Mia's delight. Now, the exciting year had come to an end. She sighed heavily as she grabbed her trunk, along with Sapphire's cage, and went downstairs to join her friends in the common room. They all walked together down to the entrance hall, where they waited in line for the carriages to take them down to the train station in Hogsmeade. It took a bit of time for them to find an empty compartment and to load all of their luggage in, but once they did, they sat back and relaxed for a while until the train started to move, and they started pulling out of Hogsmeade. Mia sat up straighter and waved to Hagrid, who was on the platform, until he was out of sight. She turned her attention to Harry, who was staring out of the window with a gloomy expression on his face. Mia felt sorry for him—she knew he was thinking about how he had to go back to the Dursleys, despite everything that happened last summer. He was so close to being able to live with Sirius, to have a real home, and a father figure to take care of him. Now that was impossible, and until Pettigrew was caught it didn't look like it was ever going to happen. Mia swore if she ever saw that rat again she would blast him to bits. It wasn't until sometime into the train ride that Hermione gave them a bit of surprising news.
"I went to see Professor McGonagall this morning, just before breakfast. I've decided to drop Muggle Studies," she said.
"But you passed your exam with three hundred and twenty percent!" said Ron.
"I know," sighed Hermione. "But I can't stand another year like this one. That Time-Turner, it was driving me mad. I've handed it in. Without Muggle Studies and Divination, I'll be able to have a normal schedule again."
"Thank goodness," Mia said. "I've been telling you to hand it in for months."
"I still can't believe you didn't tell me and Harry about it," said Ron grumpily. "We're supposed to be your friends."
"I promised I wouldn't tell anyone," said Hermione severely. "And I only told Mia because she walked in on me and found it."
Ron still continued to grumble and Mia laughed as Hermione looked around at Harry, who was staring out the window again.
"Oh, cheer up, Harry!" said Hermione sadly.
"I'm okay," said Harry quickly. "Just thinking about the holidays."
"Yeah, I've been thinking about them too," said Ron. "Harry, you've got to come and stay with us. I'll fix it up with Mum and Dad, then I'll call you. I know how to use a fellytone now—"
"A telephone, Ron," said Hermione. "Honestly, you should take Muggle Studies next year…"
"It's the Quidditch World Cup this summer!" Ron said, clearly ignoring her. "How about it, Harry? Come and stay, and we'll go and see it! Dad can usually get tickets from work."
"Yeah…I bet the Dursleys'd be pleased to let me come…especially after what I did to Aunt Marge," Harry said, grinning. Soon the four of them got into a game of Exploding Snap and Harry laughed when the cards blew up in Mia's face, smoking up her cheeks. They played until the elderly witch came with the food cart and they all eagerly helped themselves to some treats. The pleasant ride continued well into the morning and afternoon, and after a long while, Hermione looked over and said, "Harry, what's that thing outside your window?"
Harry turned to look outside. Something very small and gray was bobbing in and out of sight beyond the glass and so Mia stood up for a better look. She saw that it was a tiny owl, carrying a letter that was much too big for it. The owl was so small, in fact, that it kept tumbling over in the air, buffeted this way and that in the train's slipstream. Mia quickly pulled down the window, stretched out her arm, and caught it., bringing it to her chest as she carried it back inside. The owl dropped its letter onto Harry's lap and began zooming around their compartment, apparently very pleased with itself for accomplishing its task. Hedwig clicked her beak with a sort of dignified disapproval while Crookshanks and Sapphire sat up in their seats, following the owl with their eyes. Ron, noticing this, snatched the owl safely out of harm's way. Mia sat back down as Harry picked up the letter, ripped it open, and shouted, "It's from Sirius!"
"What?" said Mia, Ron and Hermione exclaimed excitedly. "Read it aloud!"
I hope this finds you before you reach your aunt and uncle. I don't know whether they're used to owl post. Buckbeak and I are in hiding. I won't tell you where, in case this owl falls into the wrong hands. I have some doubt about his reliability, but he is the best I could find, and he did seem eager for the job.
I believe the Dementors are still searching for me, but they haven't a hope of finding me here. I am planning to allow some Muggles to glimpse me soon, a long way from Hogwarts, so that the security on the castle will be lifted.
There is something I never got around to telling you during our brief meeting. It was I who sent you the Firebolt—
"Ha!" said Hermione triumphantly. "See! We told you it was from him!"
"Yes, but he hadn't jinxed it, had he?" said Ron. "Ouch!"
The tiny owl now hooting happily in his hand, had nibbled one of his fingers in what it seemed to think was an affectionate way. Mia giggled at this as Harry continued reading.
—Crookshanks took the order to the Owl Office for me. I used your name but told them to take the gold from my own Gringotts vault. Please consider it as thirteen birthdays' worth of presents from your godfather.
I would also like to apologize for the fright I think I gave you that night last year when you left your uncle's house. I had only hoped to get a glimpse of you before starting my journey north, but I think the sight of me alarmed you. I am enclosing something else for you, which I think will make your next year at Hogwarts more enjoyable.
If ever you need me, send word. Your owl will find me.
I'll write again soon.
Harry looked eagerly inside the envelope and then pulled out another slip of parchment. Mia peered over his shoulder so she could read it as well.
I, Sirius Black, Harry Potter's godfather, hereby give him permission to visit Hogsmeade on weekends.
"That'll be good enough for Dumbledore!" said Harry happily. "Hang on, there's a PS…"
I thought your friend Ron might like to keep this owl, as it's my fault he no longer has a rat.
Ron's eyes widened, while the minute owl was still hooting excitedly.
"Keep him?" he said uncertainly. He looked closely at the owl for a moment and then, to Harry's, Mia's and Hermione's great surprise, he held him out for Crookshanks and Sapphire to sniff.
"What do you two reckon?" Ron asked the cat. "Definitely an owl?"
Both cats purred.
"That's good enough for me," said Ron happily. "He's mine."
Mia couldn't help the cheerful grin that stretched across her face as she leaned back into her seat. Sirius was safe, Harry would be able to go to Hogsmeade next year, Ron's got himself a new pet, and they were probably going to the Quidditch World Cup. Maybe this summer wouldn't be so bad after all.
Note: I'm only putting this in case this is on anyone's mind. It has been a while since I read the sixth Harry Potter book, but if I remember correctly, Bill had only one side effect from Greyback attacking him, and that was a taste for rare meat, right? I know I had Lupin scratch Mia, I didn't think of Bill's attack until after I wrote that scene. But I love it so much, it fits in well, and so my philosophy is this: Bill was basically almost mauled by Greyback and it wasn't the full moon, right? I know that Lupin was transformed in this chapter, but there was only one or two scratchs on Mia's leg, so I made it that she had no side effects. I'm sorry if that doesn't tie in very well with the original story, but hey, this is fanfiction.
Anyway, thank you all for reading, please review and let me know what you think. And keep an eye out for "You Were Always There: Part Four."