There was a silence. Harry leaned still closer to the door, desperate to hear more.
"Well, Arthur, you must do what you think is right. But you're forgetting Albus Dumbledore. I don't think anything could hurt Harry at Hogwarts while Dumbledore's headmaster. I suppose he knows about all this?"
"Of course he knows. We had to ask him if he minds the Azkaban guards stationing themselves around the entrances to the school grounds. He wasn't happy about it, but he agreed."
"Not happy? Why shouldn't he be happy, if they're there to catch Black?"
"Dumbledore isn't fond of the Azkaban guards," said Mr. Weasley heavily. "Nor am 1, if it comes to that... but when you're dealing with a wizard like Black, you sometimes have to join forces with those you'd rather avoid."
Harry lay listening to the muffled shouting next door and wondered why he didn't feel more scared. Sirius Black had murdered thirteen people with one curse; Mr. and Mrs, Weasley obviously thought Harry would be panic-stricken if he knew the truth. But Harry happened to agree wholeheartedly with Mrs. Weasley that the safest place on earth was wherever Albus Dumbledore happened to be. Didn't people always say that Dumbledore was the only person Lord Voldemort had ever been afraid of? Surely Black, as Voldemort's right-hand man, would be just as frightened of him?
Harry started to explain in a whisper, but at that moment the headmaster stood up to speak, and he broke off.
Professor Dumbledore, though very old, always gave an impression of great energy. He had several feet of long silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles, and an extremely crooked nose. He was often described as the greatest wizard of the age, but that wasn't why Harry respected him. You couldn't help trusting Albus Dumbledore, and as Harry watched him beaming around at the students, he felt really calm for the first time since the dementor had entered the train compartment.
"Welcome!" said Dumbledore, the candlelight shimmering on his beard. "Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast...."
Dumbledore cleared his throat and continued, "As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the dementors of Azkaban, who are here on Ministry of Magic business."
He paused, and Harry remembered what Mr. Weasley had said about Dumbledore not being happy with the dementors guarding the school.
"They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds," Dumbledore continued, "and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises -- or even Invisibility Cloaks," he added blandly, and Harry and Ron glanced at each other. "It is not in the nature of a dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs afoul of the dementors," he said.
Percy, who was sitting a few seats down from Harry, puffed out his chest again and stared around impressively. Dumbledore paused again; he looked very seriously around the hall, and nobody moved or made a sound.
"On a happier note," he continued, I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year.
"First, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"As to our second new appointment," Dumbledore continued as the lukewarm applause for Professor Lupin died away. "Well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his gamekeeping duties."
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were the last to stop clapping, and as Professor Dumbledore started speaking again, they saw that Hagrid was wiping his eyes on the tablecloth.
"Well, I think that's everything of importance," said Dumbledore. "Let the feast begin!"
The golden plates and goblets before them filled suddenly with food and drink. Harry, suddenly ravenous, helped himself to everything he could reach and began to eat.
At long last, when the last morsels of pumpkin tart had melted from the golden platters, Dumbledore gave the word that it was time for them all to go to bed, and they got their chance.
"Congratulations, Hagrid!" Hermione squealed as they reached the teachers' table.
"All down ter you three," said Hagrid, wiping his shining face on his napkin as he looked up at them., "Can' believe it... great man, Dumbledore... came straight down to me hut after Professor Kettleburn said he'd had enough.... It's what I always wanted. --"
"We're witnesses," said Harry. "You said hippogriffs attack if you insult them. It's Malfoy's problem that he wasn't listening. We'll tell Dumbledore what really happened."
The Halloween feast was always good, but it would taste a lot better if he was coming to it after a day in Hogsmeade with everyone else. Nothing anyone said made him feel any better about being left behind. Dean Thomas, who was good with a quill, had offered to forge Uncle Vernon's signature on the form, but as Harry had already told Professor McGonagall he hadn't had it signed, that was no good. Ron halfheartedly suggested the Invisibility Cloak, but Hermione stamped on that one, reminding Ron what Dumbledore had told them about the dementors being able to see through them. Percy had what were possibly the least helpful words of comfort.
Harry stared. Not only was this the last answer he'd expected, but Lupin had said Voldemort's name. The only person Harry had ever heard say the name aloud (apart from himself) was Professor Dumbledore.
And then a silence fell over the crowd, from the front first, so that a chill seemed to spread down the corridor. They heard Percy say, in a suddenly sharp voice, "Somebody get Professor Dumbledore. Quick."
People's heads turned; those at the back were standing on tiptoe.
"What's going on?" said Ginny, who had just arrived.
A moment later, Professor Dumbledore was there, sweeping toward the portrait; the Gryffindors squeezed together to let him through, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione moved closer to see what the trouble was.
Dumbledore took one quick look at the ruined painting and turned, his eyes somber, to see Professors McGonagall, Lupin, and Snape hurrying toward him.
"We need to find her," said Dumbledore. "Professor McGonagall, please go to Mr. Filch at once and tell him to search every painting in the castle for the Fat Lady."
"You'll be lucky!" said a cackling voice.
It was Peeves the Poltergeist, bobbing over the crowd and looking delighted, as he always did, at the sight of wreckage or worry.
"What do you mean, Peeves?" said Dumbledore calmly, and Peeves's grin faded a little. He didn't dare taunt Dumbledore. Instead he adopted an oily voice that was no better than his cackle. "Ashamed, Your Headship, sit. Doesn't want to be seen. She's a horrible mess. Saw her running through the landscape up on the fourth floor, sir, dodging between the trees. Crying something dreadful," he said happily. "Poor thing," he added unconvincingly.
"Did she say who did it?" said Dumbledore quietly.
"Oh yes, Professorhead," said Peeves, with the air of one cradling a large bombshell in his arms. "He got very angry when she wouldn't let him in, you see." Peeves flipped over and grinned at Dumbledore from between his own legs. "Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black."
Professor Dumbledore sent all the Gryffindors back to the Great Hall, where they were joined ten minutes later by the students from Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin, who all looked extremely confused.
"The teachers and I need to conduct a thorough search of the castle," Professor Dumbledore told them as Professors McGonagall and Flitwick closed all doors into the hall. "I'm afraid that, for your own safety, you will have to spend the night here. I want the prefects to stand guard over the entrances to the hall and I am leaving the Head Boy and Girl in charge. Any disturbance should be reported to me immediately," he added to Percy, who was looking immensely proud and important. "Send word with one of the ghosts."
Professor Dumbledore paused, about to leave the hall, and said, "Oh, yes, you'll be needing..."
One casual wave of his wand and the long tables flew to the edges of the hall and stood themselves against the walls; another wave, and the floor was covered with hundreds of squashy purple sleeping bags.
"Sleep well," said Professor Dumbledore, closing the door behind him.
"Do you think Black's still in the castle?" Hermione whispered anxiously.
"Dumbledore obviously thinks he might be," said Ron.
Once every hour, a teacher would reappear in the hall to check that everything was quiet. Around three in the morning, when many students had finally fallen asleep, Professor Dumbledore came in. Harry watched him looking around for Percy, who had been prowling between the sleeping bags, telling people off for talking. Percy was only a short way away from Harry, Ron, and Hermlone, who quickly pretended to be asleep as Dumbledore's footsteps drew nearer.
"Any sign of him, Professor?" asked Percy in a whisper.
"No. All well here?"
"Everything under control, sir."
"Good. There's no point moving them all now. I've found a temporary guardian for the Gryffindor portrait hole. You'll be able to move them back in tomorrow."
"And the Fat Lady, sir?"
"Hiding in a map of Argyllshire on the second floor. Apparently she refused to let Black in without the password, so he attacked. She's still very distressed, but once she's calmed down, I'll have Mr. Filch restore her."
Harry heard the door of the hall creak open again, and more footsteps.
"Headmaster?" It was Snape. Harry kept quite still, listening hard. "The whole of the third floor has been searched. He's not there. And Filch has done the dungeons; nothing there either."
"What about the Astronomy tower? Professor Trelawney's room? The Owlery?"
"Very well, Severus. I didn't really expect Black to linger."
"Have you any theory as to how he got in, Professor?" asked Snape.
Harry raised his head very slightly off his arms to free his other ear,
"Many, Severus, each of them as unlikely as the next."
Harry opened his eyes a fraction and squinted up to where they stood; Dumbledore's back was to him, but he could see Percy's face, rapt with attention, and Snape's profile, which looked angry.
"You remember the conversation we had, Headmaster, just before -- ah -- the start of term?" said Snape, who was barely opening his lips, as though trying to block Percy out of the conversation.
"I do, Severus," said Dumbledore, and there was something like warning in his voice.
"It seems -- almost impossible -- that Black could have entered the school without inside help. I did express my concerns whet, you appointed --"
"I do not believe a single person inside this castle would have helped Black enter it," said Dumbledore, and his tone made it so clear that the subject was closed that Snape didn't reply. "I must go down to the dementors," said Dumbledore. I said I would inform them when our search was complete."
"Didn't they want to help, sit?" said Percy.
"Oh yes," said Dumbledore coldly. "But I'm afraid no dementor will cross the threshold of this castle while I am headmaster."
Percy looked slightly abashed. Dumbledore left the hall, walking quickly and quietly. Snape stood for a moment, watching the headmaster with an expression of deep resentment on his face; then he too left.
"Silence!" snarled Snape. "Well, well, well, I never thought I'd meet a third-year class who wouldn't even recognize a werewolf when they saw one. I shall make a point of informing Professor Dumbledore how very behind you all are...."
"Dumbledore was really angry," Hermione said in a quaking voice. "I've never seen him like that before. He ran onto the field as You fell, waved his wand, and you sort of slowed down before you hit the ground. Then he whirled his wand at the dementors. Shot silver stuff at them. They left the stadium right away... He was furious they'd come onto the grounds. We heard him --"
"Then he magicked you onto a stretcher," said Ron. "And walked up to school with you floating on it. Everyone thought you were --"
"Did you hear about the dementors too?" said Harry with difficulty.
Lupin looked at him quickly.
"Yes, I did. I don't think any of us have seen Professor Dumbledore that angry. They have been growing restless for some time -- furious at his refusal to let them inside the grounds.... I suppose they were the reason you fell?"
"They're getting hungry," said Lupin coolly, shutting his briefcase with a snap. "Dumbledore won't let them into the school, so their supply of human prey has dried up.... I don't think they could resist the large crowd around the Quidditch field. All that excitement ... emotions running high... it was their idea of a feast."
What with the promise of anti-dementor lessons from Lupin, the thought that he might never have to hear his mother's death again, and the fact that Ravenclaw flattened Hufflepuff in their Quidditch match at the end of November, Harry's mood took a definite upturn. Gryffindor were not out of the running after all, although they could not afford to lose another match. Wood became repossessed of his manic energy, and worked his team as hard as ever in the chilly haze of rain that persisted into December. Harry saw no hint of a dementor within the grounds. Dumbledore's anger seemed to be keeping them at their stations at the entrances.
It was a map showing every detail of the Hogwarts castle and grounds. But the truly remarkable thing were the tiny ink dots moving around it, each labeled with a name in minuscule writing. Astounded, Harry bent over it. A labeled dot in the top left corner showed that Professor Dumbledore was pacing his study; the caretaker's cat, Mrs. Norris, was prowling the second floor; and Peeves the Poltergeist was currently bouncing around the trophy room. And as Harry's eyes traveled up and down the familiar corridors, he noticed something else.
"Rosmerta, dear, I don't like them any more than you do," said Fudge uncomfortably. "Necessary precaution... unfortunate, but there YOU are.... I've just met some of them. They're in a fury against Dumbledore -- he won't let them inside the castle grounds."
"I should think not," said Professor McGonagall sharply. "How are we supposed to teach with those horrors floating around?"
"Worse even than that, rn'dear...." Fudge dropped his voice and proceeded in a sort of low rumble. "Not many people are aware that the Potters knew You-Know-Who was after them. Dumbledore, who was of course working tirelessly against You-Know-Who, had a number of useful spies. One of them tipped him off, and he alerted James and Lily at once. He advised them to go into hiding. Well, of course, You-Know-Who wasn't an easy person to hide from. Dumbledore told them that their best chance was the Fidelius Charm."
"How does that work?" said Madam Rosmerta, breathless with interest. Professor Flitwick cleared his throat.
"An immensely complex spell," he said squeakily, "involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find -- unless, of course, the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it. As long as the Secret-Keeper refused to speak, You-Know-Who could search the village where Lily and James were staying for years and never find them, not even if he had his nose pressed against their sitting room window!"
"So Black was the Potters' Secret-Keeper?" whispered Madam Rosmerta.
"Naturally," said Professor McGonagall. "James Potter told Dumbledore that Black would die rather than tell where they were, that Black was planning to go into hiding himself... and yet, Dumbledore remained worried. I remember him offering to be the Potters' Secret-Keeper himself."
"He suspected Black?" gasped Madam Rosmerta.
"He was sure that somebody close to the Potters had been keeping You-Know-Who informed of their movements," said Professor McGonagall darkly. "Indeed, he had suspected for some time that someone on our side had turned traitor and was passing a lot of information to You-Know-Who."
"How was I ter know he wasn' upset abou' Lily an' James? It was You-Know-Who he cared abou'! An' then he says, 'Give Harry ter me, Hagrid, I'm his godfather, I'll look after him --' Ha! But I'd had me orders from Dumbledore, an' I told Black no, Dumbledore said Harry was ter go ter his aunt an' uncle's. Black argued, but in the end he gave in. Told me ter take his motorbike ter get Harry there. 'I won't need it anymore,' he says.
"I shoulda known there was somethin' fishy goin' on then. He loved that motorbike, what was he givin' it ter me for? Why wouldn' he need it anymore? Fact was, it was too easy ter trace. Dumbledore knew he'd bin the Potters' Secret-Keeper. Black knew he was goin' ter have ter run fer it that night, knew it was a matter o' hours before the Ministry was after him.
Why had nobody ever told him? Dumbledore, Hagrid, Mr. Weasley, Cornelius Fudge... why hadn't anyone ever mentioned the fact that Harry's parents had died because their best friend had betrayed them?
Dear Mr. Hagrid,
Further to our inquiry into the attack by a hippogriff on a student in your class, we have accepted the assurances of Professor Dumbledore that you bear no responsibility for the regrettable incident.
"What about Dumbledore, Hagrid?" said Harry.
"He's done more'n enough fer me already," groaned Hagrid. "Got enough on his plate what with keepin' them dementors outta the castle, an' Sirius Black lurkin' around --"
"I bet it was Dumbledore," said Ron, now walking around and around the Firebolt, taking in every glorious inch. "He sent you the Invisibility Cloak anonymously...."
"That was my dad's, though," said Harry. "Dumbledore was just Passing it on to me. He wouldn't spend hundreds of Galleons on me. He can't go giving students stuff like this --"
"That's why he wouldn't say it was from him!" said Ron. "In case some git like Malfoy said it was favoritism. Hey, Harry" -- Ron gave a great whoop of laughter -- "Malfoy! Wait till he sees you on this! He'll be sick as a pig! This is an international standard broom, this is!"
At lunchtime they went down to the Great Hall, to find that the House tables had been moved against the walls again, and that a single table, set for twelve, stood in the middle of the room. Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Sprout, and Flitwick were there, along with Filch, the caretaker, who had taken off his usual brown coat and was wearing a very old and rather moldy- looking tailcoat. There were only three other students, two extremely nervous-looking first years and a sullen-faced Slytherin fifth year.
"Merry Christmas!" said Dumbledore as Harry, Ron, and Hermione approached the table. "As there are so few of us, it seemed foolish to use the House tables.... Sit down, sit down!"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down side by side at the end of the table.
"Crackers!" said Dumbledore enthusiastically, offering the end of a large silver noisemaker to Snape, who took it reluctantly and tugged. With a bang like a gunshot, the cracker flew apart to reveal a large, pointed witchs hat topped with a stuffed vulture.
Harry, remembering the boggart, caught Ron's eye and they both grinned; Snape's mouth thinned and he pushed the hat toward Dumbledore, who swapped it for his wizard's hat at once.
"Dig in!" he advised the table, beaming around.
As Harry was helping himself to roast potatoes, the doors of the Great Hall opened again. It was Professor Trelawney, gliding toward them as though on wheels. She had put on a green sequined dress in honor of the occasion, making her look more than ever like a glittering, oversized dragonfly.
"Sibyll, this is a pleasant surprise!" said Dumbledore, standing up.
"I have been crystal gazing, Headmaster," said Professor Trelawney in her mistiest, most faraway voice, "and to my astonishment, I saw myself abandoning my solitary luncheon and coming to join you. Who am I to refuse the promptings of fate? I at once hastened from my tower, and I do beg you to forgive my lateness...."
"Certainly, certainly," said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. "Let me draw you up a chair --"
And he did indeed draw a chair in midair with his wand, which revolved for a few seconds before falling with a thud between Professors Snape and McGonagall. Professor Trelawney, however, did not sit down; her enormous eyes had been roving around the table, and she suddenly uttered a kind of soft scream.
I dare not, Headmaster! If I join the table, we shall be thirteen! Nothing could be more unlucky! Never forget that when thirteen dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die!"
Professor Trelawney ignored her. Eyes open again, she looked around once more and said, "But where is dear Professor Lupin?"
"I'm afraid the poor fellow is ill again," said Dumbledore, indicating that everybody should start serving themselves. "Most unfortunate that it should happen on Christmas Day."
"I doubt," said Dumbledore, in a cheerful but slightly raised voice, which put an end to Professor McGonagall and Professor Trelawney's conversation, "that Professor Lupin is in any immediate danger. Severus, you've made the potion for him again?"
"The dementors won't turn up again, Oliver. Dumbledore'd go ballistic," said Fred confidently.
"An unworthy trick!" she was shouting. "A low and cowardly attempt to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker! Detention for all of you, and fifty points from Slytherin! I shall be speaking to Professor Dumbledore about this, make no mistake! Ah, here he comes now!"
Would Malfoy believe what he had seen? Would anyone believe Malfoy? Nobody knew about the Invisibility Cloak -- nobody except Dumbledore. Harry's stomach turned over -- Dumbledore would know exactly what had happened, if Malfoy said anything --
"What did you say to me, Potter?"
"I told you to shut up about my dad!" Harry yelled. I know the truth, all right? He saved your life! Dumbledore told me! You wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for my dad!"
Snape's sallow skin had gone the color of sour milk.
"And did the headmaster tell you the circumstances in which your father saved my life?" he whispered. "Or did he consider the details too unpleasant for precious Potter's delicate ears?"
Wait till I tell Buckbeak!" There was Percy, jumping up and down like a maniac, all dignity forgotten. Professor McGonagall was sobbing harder even than Wood, wiping her eyes with an enormous Gryffindor flag; and there, fighting their way toward Harry, were Ron and Hermione. Words failed them. They simply beamed as Harry was borne toward the stands, where Dumbledore stood waiting with the enormous Quidditch Cup.
"Isn't there anything anyone can do, Hagrid?" Harry asked fiercely, sitting down next to him. "Dumbledore --"
"He's tried," said Hagrid. "He's got no power ter overrule the Committee. He told 'em Buckbeak's all right, but they're scared.... Yeh know what Lucius Malfoy's like... threatened 'em, I expect... an' the executioner, Macnair, he's an old pal o' Malfoy's... but it'll be quick an' clean... an' I'll be beside him.... "
Hagrid swallowed. His eyes were darting all over the cabin as though looking for some shred of hope or comfort.
"Dumbledore's gonna come down while it -- while it happens. Wrote me this mornin'. Said he wants ter -- ter be with me. Great man, Dumbledore...."
"Yeh're ter go back up ter the castle. I told yeh, I don' wan' yeh watchin'. An' yeh shouldn' be down here anyway... If Fudge an' Dumbledore catch yeh out without permission, Harry, yeh'll be in big trouble."
Harry, Ron, and Hermione whipped around. A group of men was walking down the distant castle steps. In front was Albus Dumbledore, his silver beard gleaming in the dying sun. Next to him trotted Cornelius Fudge. Behind them came the feeble old Committee member and the executioner, Macnair.
"Ron -- come on back under the cloak --" Hermione panted. "Dumbledore the Minister -- they'll be coming back out in a minute --"
"But they already know," said Lupin. "At least, the staff do."
"Dumbledore hired you when he knew you were a werewolf. Ron gasped. "Is he mad?"
"Some of the staff thought so," said Lupin. "He had to work very hard to convince certain teachers that I'm trustworthy --"
"AND HE WAS WRONG!" Harry yelled. "YOUVE BEEN HELPING HIM ALL THE TIME!" He was pointing at Black, who suddenly crossed to the four-poster bed and sank onto it, his face hidden in one shaking hand. Crookshanks leapt up beside him and stepped onto his lap, purring. Ron edged away from both of them, dragging his leg.
"But then Dumbledore became Headmaster, and he was sympathetic. He said that as long as we took certain precautions, there was no reason I shouldn't come to school...." Lupin sighed, and looked directly at Harry. "I told you, months ago, that the Whomping Willow was planted the year I came to Hogwarts. The truth is that it was planted because I came to Hogwarts. This house" -- Lupin looked miserably around the room, -- "the tunnel that leads to it -- they were built for my use. Once a month, I was smuggled out of the castle, into this place, to transform. The tree was placed at the tunnel mouth to stop anyone coming across me while I was dangerous."
Harry couldn't see where this story was going, but he was listening raptly all the same. The only sound apart from Lupin's voice was Scabbers's frightened squeaking.
"My transformations in those days were -- were terrible. It is very painful to turn into a werewolf. I was separated from humans to bite, so I bit and scratched myself instead. The villagers heard the noise and the screaming and thought they were hearing particularly violent spirits. Dumbledore encouraged the rumor.... Even now, when the house has been silent for years, the villagers don't dare approach it...."
"That was still really dangerous! Running around in the dark with a werewolf! What if you'd given the others the slip, and bitten somebody?"
"A thought that still haunts me," said Lupin heavily. "And there were near misses, many of them. We laughed about them afterwards. We were young, thoughtless -- carried away with our own cleverness."
"I sometimes felt guilty about betraying Dumbledore's trust, of course... he had admitted me to Hogwarts when no other headmaster would have done so, and he had no idea I was breaking the rules he had set down for my own and others' safety. He never knew I had led three fellow students into becoming Animagi illegally. But I always managed to forget my guilty feelings every time we sat down to plan our next month's adventure. And I haven't changed..."
Lupin's face had hardened, and there was self-disgust in his voice. "All this year, I have been battling with myself, wondering whether I should tell Dumbledore that Sirius was an Animagus. But I didn't do it. Why? Because I was too cowardly. It would have meant admitting that I'd betrayed his trust while I was at school, admitting that I'd led others along with me... and Dumbledore's trust has meant everything to me. He let me into Hogwarts as a boy, and he gave me a job when I have been shunned all my adult life, unable to find paid work because of what I am. And so I convinced myself that Sirius was getting into the school using dark arts he learned from Voldemort, that being an Animagus had nothing to do with it... so, in a way, Snape's been right about me all along."
"Professor Snape was at school with us. He fought very hard against my appointment to the Defense Against the Dark Arts job. He has been telling Dumbledore A year that I am not to be trusted. He has his reasons... you see, Sirius here played a trick on him which nearly killed him, a trick which involved me --"
"Severus was very interested in where I went every month." Lupin told Harry, Ron, and Hermione. "We were in the same year, you know, and we -- er -- didn't like each other very much. He especially disliked James. Jealous, I think, of James's talent on the Quidditch field... anyway Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey one evening as she led me toward the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be -- er -- amusing, to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree trunk with a long stick, and he'd be able to get in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it -- if he'd got as far as this house, he'd have met a fully grown werewolf -- but your father, who'd heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at great risk to his life... Snape glimpsed me, though, at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden by Dumbledore to tell anybody, but from that time on he knew what I was...."
"Two more for Azkaban tonight," said Snape, his eyes now gleaming fanatically. "I shall be interested to see how Dumbledore takes this.... He was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin... a tame werewolf --"
"I'll tell you why," said Black. "Because you never did anything for anyone unless you could see what was in it for you. Voldemort's been in hiding for fifteen years, they say he's half dead. You weren't about to commit murder right under Albus Dumbledore's nose, for a wreck of a wizard who'd lost all of his power, were you? You'd want to be quite sure he was the biggest bully in the playground before you went back to him, wouldn't you? Why else did you find a wizard family to take you in? Keeping an ear out for news, weren't YOU, Peter? Just in case your old protector regained strength, and it was safe to rejoin him...."
The door opened again. It was Dumbledore. Harry swallowed his mouthful of chocolate with great difficulty and got up again.
"Professor Dumbledore, Sirius Black --"
"For heaven's sake!" said Madam Pomfrey hysterically. "Is this a hospital wing or not? Headmaster, I must insist --"
"My apologies, Poppy, but I need a word with Mr. Potter 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, surveying Snape closely through his half-moon spectacles.
"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."
"I would like to speak to Harry 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 pursed her lips and strode away into her office at the end of the ward, slamming the door behind her. 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 and Hermione alone," Dumbledore repeated.
Snape took a step toward Dumbledore.
"Sirius Black showed he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen," he 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 turned on his heel and marched through the door Fudge was still holding. It closed behind them, and Dumbledore turned to Harry and Hermione. They both burst into speech at the same time.
"Professor, Black's telling the truth -- we saw Pettigrew "-- he escaped when Professor Lupin turned into a werewolf --"
"-- he's a rat --"
"-- Pettigrew's front paw, I mean, finger, he cut it off --"
"-- Pettigrew attacked Ron, it wasn't Sirius --"
But Dumbledore held up his hand to stem the flood of explanations.
"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 two 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, unable to stop himself
"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."
"Yes, I do," said Dumbledore quietly. "But I have no power to make other men see the truth, or to overrule the Minister of Magic...."
Harry stared up into the grave face and felt as though the ground beneath him were falling sharply away. He had grown used to the idea that Dumbledore could solve anything. He had expected Dumbledore to pull some amazing solution out of the air. But no ... their last hope was gone.
"What we need," said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from Harry to Hermione, "is more time."
"But --" Hermione began. And then her eyes became very round. "OH!"
"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."
Harry didn't have a clue what was going on. Dumbledore had turned on his heel and looked back as he reached the door.
"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."
"Good luck?" Harry repeated as the door closed behind Dumbledore. "Three turns? What's he talking about? What are we supposed to do?"
"Harry, I don't understand what Dumbledore wants us to do. Why did he tell us to go back three hours? How's that going to help Sirius?"
Harry frowned; he felt as though he were screwing up his whole brain in concentration.
"Dumbledore just said -- just said we could save more than one innocent life...." And then it hit him. "Hermione, we're going to save Buckbeak!"
"But -- how will that help Sirius?"
"Dumbledore said -- he just told us where the window is -- the window of Flitwick's office! Where they've got Sirius locked up! We've got to fly Buckbeak up to the window and rescue Sirius! Sirius can escape on Buckbeak -- they can escape together!"
"No!" said Hermione in a terrified whisper. "Don't you understand? We're breaking one of the most important wizarding laws! Nobody's supposed to change time, nobody! You heard Dumbledore, if we're seen --"
But Hermione nudged him and pointed toward the castle. Harry moved his head a few inches to get a clear view of the distant front doors. Dumbledore, Fudge, the old Committee member, and Macnair the executioner were coming down the steps.
Harry tugged harder on the rope around Buckbeak's neck. The hippogriff began to walk, rustling its wings irritably. They were still ten feet away from the forest, in plain view of Hagrid's back door. "One moment, please, Macnair," came Dumbledore's voice. "You need to sign too." The footsteps stopped. Harry heaved on the rope. Buckbeak snapped his beak and walked a little faster.
Harry could still hear Dumbledore's voice talking from within the cabin. He gave the rope another wrench. Buckbeak broke into a grudging trot. They had reached the trees....
"It was tied here!" said the executioner furiously. I saw it! just here!"
"How extraordinary," said Dumbledore. There was a note of amusement in his voice.
"Macnair, if Buckbeak has indeed been stolen, do you really think the thief will have led him away on foot?" said Dumbledore, still sounding amused. "Search the skies, if you will.... Hagrid, I could do with a cup of tea. Or a large brandy."
"O' -- o' course, Professor," said Hagrid, who sounded weak with happiness. "Come in, come in...."
Harry and Hermione listened closely. They heard footsteps, the soft cursing of the executioner, the snap of the door, and then silence once more.
The moment they disappeared, the tree began to move again. Seconds later, they heard footsteps quite close by. Dumbledore, Macnair, Fudge, and the old Committee member were making their way up to the castle.
"Right after we'd gone down into the passage!" said Hermione. "If only Dumbledore had come with us..."
"Right, it's nearly time," said Hermione tensely, looking at her watch. "We've got about forty-five minutes until Dumbledore locks the door to the hospital wing. We've got to rescue Sirius and get back into the ward before anybody realizes we're missing.... 11
Hermione was tugging at his sleeve, staring at her watch. "We've got exactly ten minutes to get back down to the hospital wing without anybody seeing us -- before Dumbledore locks the door --"
They slipped through the doorway behind them and down a tightly spiraling stone staircase. As they reached the bottom of it, they heard voices. They flattened themselves against the wall and listened. It sounded like Fudge and Snape. They were walking quickly along the corridor at the foot of the staircase.
"... only hope Dumbledore's not going to make difficulties," Snape was saying. "The Kiss will be performed immediately?"
"Hermione -- what'll happen -- if we don't get back inside before Dumbledore locks the door?" Harry panted.
I don't want to think about it!" Hermione moaned, checking her watch again. "One minute!"
They had reached the end of the corridor with the hospital wing entrance. "Okay -- I can hear Dumbledore," said Hermione tensely. "Come on, Harry!"
They crept along the corridor. The door opened. Dumbledore's back appeared.
"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...."
Dumbledore beamed at them.
"Well done. I think --" He listened intently for any sound within the hospital wing. "Yes, I think you've gone too -- get inside -- I'll lock you in --&quuot;
Harry and Hermione slipped back inside the dormitory. It was empty except for Ron, who was still lying motionless in the end bed. As the lock clicked behind them, Harry and Hermione crept back to their own beds, Hermione tucking the Time-Turner back under her robes. A moment later, Madam Pomfrey came striding back out of her office.
"Did I hear the headmaster leaving? Am I allowed to look after my patients now?"
Fudge, Snape, and Dumbledore came striding into the ward. Dumbledore alone looked calm. Indeed, he looked as though he was quite enjoying himself. Fudge appeared angry. But Snape was beside himself.
"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. 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, running his fingers distractedly through his hair. "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 and Hermione. As he and Fudge left the dormitory, Madam Pomfrey hurried to the door and locked it again. Muttering angrily to herself, she headed back to her office.
Lupin crossed to the door and closed it behind Harry.
"No. Professor Dumbledore managed to convince Fudge that I was trying to save your lives." He sighed. "That was the final straw for Severus. I think the loss of the Order of Merlin hit him hard. So he -- er -- accidentally let slip that I am a werewolf this morning at breakfast."
There was a knock on the door. Harry hastily stuffed the Marauder's Map and the Invisibility Cloak into his pocket.
It was Professor Dumbledore. He didn't look surprised to see Harry there.
"Your carriage is at the gates, Remus," he said.
"Thank You, Headmaster."
Lupin picked up his old suitcase and the empty grindylow tank.
"Well -- good-bye, Harry," he said, smiling. "It has been a real pleasure teaching you. I feel sure we'll meet again sometime. Headmaster, there is no need to see me to the gates, I can manage...."
Harry had the impression that Lupin wanted to leave as quickly as possible.
"Good-bye, then, Remus," said Dumbledore soberly. Lupin shifted the grindylow tank slightly so that he and Dumbledore could shake hands. Then, with a final nod to Harry and a swift smile, Lupin left the office.
Harry sat down in his vacated chair, staring glumly at the floor. He heard the door close and looked up. Dumbledore was still there.
"Why so miserable, Harry?" he said quietly. "You should be very proud of yourself after last night."
"It didn't make any difference," said Harry bitterly. "Pettigrew got away."
"Didn't make any difference?" said Dumbledore quietly, "It made all the difference in the world, Harry. You helped uncover the truth. You saved an innocent man from a terrible fate."
Terrible. Something stirred in Harry's memory. Greater and more terrible than ever before... Professor Trelawney's prediction!
"Professor Dumbledore -- yesterday, when I was having my Divination exam, Professor Trelawney went very -- very strange."
"Indeed?" said Dumbledore. "Er -- stranger than usual, you mean?"
"Yes... her voice went all deep and her eyes rolled and she said ... she said Voldemort's servant was going to set out to return to him before midnight.... She said the servant would help him come back to power." Harry stared up at Dumbledore. "And then she sort of became normal again, and she couldn't remember anything she'd said. Was it -- was she making a real prediction?"
Dumbledore looked mildly impressed.
"Do you know, Harry, I think she might have been." he said thoughtfully. "Who'd have thought it? That brings her total of real predictions up to two. I should offer her a pay raise...."
"But --" Harry looked at him, aghast. How could Dumbledore take this so calmly?
"But -- I stopped Sirius and Professor Lupin from killing Pettigrew! That makes it my fault if Voldemort comes back!"
"It does not," said Dumbledore quietly. "Hasn't your experience with the Time-Turner taught you anything, Harry? The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.... Professor Trelawney, bless her, is living proof of that.... You did a very noble thing, in saving Pettigrew's life."
"But if he helps Voldemort back to power--"
"Pettigrew owes his life to you. You have sent Voldemort a deputy who is in your debt.... When one wizard saves another wizard's life, it creates a certain bond between them... and I'm much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter."
"I don't want a connection with Pettigrew!" said Harry. "He betrayed my parents!"
"This is magic at its deepest, its most impenetrable, Harry. But trust me... the time may come when you will be very glad you saved Pettigrew's life."
Harry couldn't imagine when that would be. Dumbledore looked as though he knew what Harry was thinking.
"I knew your father very well, both at Hogwarts and later, Harry," he said gently. "He would have saved Pettigrew too, I am sure of it."
Harry looked up at him. Dumbledore wouldn't laugh -- he could tell Dumbledore...
"I thought it was my dad who'd conjured my Patronus. I mean, when I saw myself across the lake ... I thought I was seeing him." "An easy mistake to make," said Dumbledore softly. "I expect you'll tire of hearing it, but you do look extraordinarily like James. Except for the eyes... you have your mother's eyes.
Harry shook his head.
"It was stupid, thinking it was him," he muttered. "I mean, I knew he was dead."
"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him. How else could you produce that particular Patronus? Prongs rode again last night."
It took a moment for Harry to realize what Dumblefore had said.
"Last night Sirius told me all about how they became Animagi," said Dumbledore, smiling. "An extraordinary achievement -- not least, keeping it quiet from me.. And then I remembered the most unusual form your Patronus took, when it charged Mr. Malfoy down at your Quidditch match against Ravenclaw. You know, Harry, in a way, you did see your father last night.... You found him inside yourself."
And Dumbledore left the office, leaving Harry to his very confused thoughts.
Nobody at Hogwarts now knew the truth of what had happened the night that Sirius, Buckbeak, and Pettigrew had vanished except Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Professor Dumbledore. As the end of term approached, Harry heard many different theories about what had really happened, but none of them came close to the truth.
The exam results came out on the last day of term. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had passed every subject. Harry was amazed that he had got through Potions. He had a shrewd suspicion that Dumbledore might have stepped in to stop Snape failing him on purpose. Snape's behavior toward Harry over the past week had been quite alarming. Harry wouldn't have thought it possible that Snape's dislike for him could increase, but it certainly had. A muscle twitched unpleasantly at the corner of Snape's thin mouth every time he looked at Harry, and he was constantly flexing his fingers, as though itching to place them around Harry's throat.
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. He looked back at Sirius's letter. "Hang on, there's a PS...."