"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!"
From what Harry could see of Hermione's face, she looked terrified.
"If we manage that without being seen, it'll be a miracle!"
"Well, we've got to try, haven't we?" said Harry. He stood up and
pressed his ear against the door. "Doesn't sound like anyone's there....
Come on, let's go."
Harry pushed open the closet door. The entrance hall was deserted. As
quietly and quickly as they could, they darted out of the closet and
down the stone steps. The shadows were already lengthening, the tops of
the trees in the Forbidden Forest gilded once more with gold.
"If anyone's looking out of the window --" Hermione squeaked, looking up
at the castle behind them.
"We'll run for it," said Harry determinedly. "Straight into the forest,
all right? We'll have to hide behind a tree or something and keep a
"Okay, but we'll go around by the greenhouses!" said Hermione
breathlessly. "We need to keep out of sight of Hagrid's front door, or
we'll see us! We must be nearly at Hagrid's by now!"
Still working out what she meant, Harry set off at a sprint, Hermione
behind him. They tore across the vegetable gardens to the greenhouses,
paused for a moment behind them, then set off again, fast as they could,
skirting around the Whomping Willow, tearing toward the shelter of the
Safe in the shadows of the trees, Harry turned around; seconds later,
Hermione arrived beside him, panting.
"Right," she gasped. "We need to sneak over to Hagrid's.... Keep out of
They made their way silently through the trees, keeping to the very edge
of the forest. Then, as they glimpsed the front of Hagrid's house, they
heard a knock upon his door. They moved quickly behind a wide oak trunk
and peered out from either side. Hagrid had appeared in his doorway,
shaking and white, looking around to see who had knocked. And Harry
heard his own voice.
"It's us. We're wearing the Invisibility Cloak. Let us in and we can
take it off."
"Yeh shouldn've come!" Hagrid whispered. He stood back, then shut the
"This is the weirdest thing we've ever done," Harry said fervently.
"Let's move along a bit," Hermione whispered. "We need to get nearer to
They crept through the trees until they saw the nervous hippogriff,
tethered to the fence around Hagrid's pumpkin patch.
"Now?" Harry whispered.
"No!" said Hermione. "If we steal him now, those Committee people will
think Hagrid set him free! We've got to wait until they've seen he's
"That's going to give us about sixty seconds," said Harry. This was
starting to seem impossible.
At that moment, there was a crash of breaking china from inside Hagrid's
find Scabbers in a moment --"
Sure enough, a few minutes later, they heard Hermione's shriek of
"Hermione," said Harry suddenly, "what if we -- we just run in there and
grab Pettigrew --"
"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 --"
"We'd only be seen by ourselves and Hagrid!"
"Harry, what do you think you'd do if you saw yourself bursting into
Hagrid's house?" said Hermione.
"I'd -- I'd think I'd gone mad," said Harry, "or I'd think there was
some Dark Magic going on --"
"Exactly! You wouldn't understand, you might even attack yourself! Don't
you see? Professor McGonagall told me what awful things have happened
when wizards have meddled with time.... Loads of them ended up killing
their past or future selves by mistake!"
"Okay!" said Harry. "It was just an idea, I just thought
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.
"We're about to come out!" Hermione breathed.
And sure enough, moments later, Hagrid's back door opened, and Harry saw
himself, Ron, and Hermione walking out of it with Hagrid. It was,
without a doubt, the strangest sensation of his life, standing behind
the tree, and watching himself in the pumpkin patch.
"It's Okay, Beaky, it's okay..." Hagrid said to Buckbeak. Then he turned
to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. "Go on. Get goin'."
"Hagrid, we can't --"
"We'll tell them what really happened
"They can't kill him --"
"Go! It's bad enough without you lot in trouble an' all!"
Harry watched the Hermione in the pumpkin patch throw the Invisibility
Cloak over him and Ron.
"Go quick. Don' listen...."
There was a knock on Hagrid's front door. The execution party had
arrived. Hagrid turned, around and headed back into his cabin, leaving
the back door ajar. Harry watched the grass flatten in patches all
around the cabin and heard three pairs of feet retreating. He, Ron, and
Hermione had gone... but the Harry and Hermione hidden in the trees
could now hear what was happening inside the cabin through the back
"Out -- outside," Hagrid croaked.
Harry pulled his head out of sight as Macnair's face appeared at
Hagrid's window, staring out at Buckbeak. Then they heard Fudge.
"We -- er -- have to read you the official notice of execution, Hagrid.
I'll make it quick. And then you and Macnair need to sign it. Macnair,
You're supposed to listen too, that's procedure --"
Macnair's face vanished from the window. It was now or never.
"Wait here," Harry whispered to Hermione. "I'll do it."
As Fudge's voice started again, Harry darted out from behind his tree,
vaulted the fence into the pumpkin patch, and approached Buckbeak.
"It is the decision of the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous
Creatures that the hippogriff Buckbeak, hereafter called the condemned,
shall he executed on the sixth of June at sundown --"
Careful not to blink, Harry stared up into Buckbeak's fierce orange eyes
once more and bowed. Buckbeak sank to his scaly knees and then stood up
again. Harry began to fumble with the knot of rope tying Buckbeak to the
Committee's appointed executioner, Walden Macnai..."
"Come on, Buckbeak," Harry murmured, "come on, we're going to help you.
"... as witnessed below. Hagrid, you sign here..."
Harry threw all his weight onto the rope, but Buckbeak had dug in his
"Well, let's get this over with," said the reedy voice of the Committee
member from inside Hagrid's cabin. "Hagrid, perhaps it will be better if
you stay inside --"
"No, I -- I wan' ter be with him.... I don' wan' him ter be alone --"
Footsteps echoed from within the cabin.
"Buckbeak, move!" Harry hissed.
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.
Hermione's white face was sticking out from behind a tree.
"Harry, hurry!" she mouthed.
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....
"Quick! Quick!" Hermione moaned, darting out from behind her tree,
seizing the rope too and adding her weight to make Buckbeak move faster.
Harry looked over his shoulder; they were now blocked from sight; they
couldn't see Hagrid's garden at all.
"Stop!" he whispered to Hermione. "They might hear us
Hagrid's back door had opened with a bang. Harry, Hermione, and Buckbeak
stood quite still; even the hippogriff seemed to be listening intently.
Silence... then --
"Where is it?" said the reedy voice of the Committee member. "Where is
"It was tied here!" said the executioner furiously. I saw it! just
"Beaky!" said Hagrid huskily.
There was a swishing noise, and the thud of an axe. The executioner
seemed to have swung it into the fence in anger. And then came the
howling, and this time they could hear Hagrid's words through his sobs.
"Gone! Gone! Bless his little beak, he's gone! Musta pulled himself
free! Beaky, yeh clever boy!"
Buckbeak started to strain against the rope, trying to get back to
Hagrid. Harry and Hermione tightened their grip and dug their heels into
the forest floor to stop him.
"Someone untied him!" the executioner was snarling. "We should search
the grounds, the forest."
"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
"We'll have to hide in here," said Hermione, who looked very shaken. "We
need to wait until they've gone back to the castle. Then we wait until
it's safe to fly Buckbeak up to Sirius's window. He won't be there for
another couple of hours.... Oh, this is going to be difficult...."
She looked nervously over her shoulder into the depths of the forest.
The sun was setting now.
"We're going to have to move," said Harry, thinking hard. "We've got to
be able to see the Whomping Willow, or we won't know what's going on."
"Okay," said Hermione, getting a firmer grip on Buckbeak's rope. "But
we've got to keep out of sight, Harry, remember...."
They moved around the edge of the forest, darkness falling thickly
around them, until they were hidden behind a clump of trees through
which they could make out the Willow.
"There's Ron!" said Harry suddenly.
A dark figure was sprinting across the lawn and its shout echoed through
the still night air.
"Get away from him -- get away -- Scabbers, come here --"
And then they saw two more figures materialize out of nowhere. Harry
watched himself and Hermione chasing after Ron. Then he saw Ron dive.
"Gotcha! Get off, you stinking cat --"
"There's Sirius!" said Harry. The great shape of the dog had bounded out
from the roots of the Willow. They saw him bowl Harry over, then seize
pulling Ron into the roots. "Ouch -- look, I just got walloped by the
tree -- and so did you -- this is weird--"
The Whomping Willow was creaking and lashing out with its lower
branches; they could see themselves darting here and there, trying to
reach the trunk. And then the tree froze.
"That was Crookshanks pressing the knot," said Hermione.
"And there we go..." Harry muttered. "We're in."
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..."
"Macnair and Fudge would've come too," said Harry bitterly. "I bet you
anything Fudge would've told Macnair to murder Sirius on the spot...."
They watched the four men climb the castle steps and disappear from
view. For a few minutes the scene was deserted. Then --
"Here comes Lupin!" said Harry as they saw another figure sprinting down
the stone steps and hating toward the Willow. Harry looked up at the
sky. Clouds were obscuring the moon completely.
They watched Lupin seize a broken branch from the ground and prod the
knot on the trunk. The tree stopped fighting, and Lupin, too,
disappeared into the gap in its roots.
"If he'd only grabbed the cloak," said Harry. "It's just lying
He turned to Hermione.
"If I just dashed out now and grabbed it, Snape'd never be able to get
it and --"
"Harry, we mustn't be seen!"
"How can you stand this?" he asked Hermione fiercely. "Just standing
here and watching it happen?" He hesitated. "I'm going to grab the
Hermione seized the back of Harry's robes not a moment too soon. just
then, they heard a burst of song. It was Hagrid, making his way up to
the castle, singing at the top of his voice, and weaving slightly as he
walked. A large bottle was swinging from his hands.
"See?" Hermione whispered. "See what would have happened? We've got to
keep out of sight! No, Buckbeak!"
The hippogriff was making frantic attempts to get to Hagrid again; Harry
seized his rope too, straining to hold Buckbeak back. They watched
Hagrid meander tipsily up to the castle. He was gone. Buckbeak stopped
fighting to get away. His head drooped sadly.
Barely two minutes later, the castle doors flew open yet again, and
Snape came charging out of them, running toward the Willow.
Harry's fists clenched as they watched Snape skid to a halt next to the
tree, looking around. He grabbed the cloak and held it up.
"Get your filthy hands off it," Harry snarled under his breath. "Shh!"
Snape seized the branch Lupin had used to freeze the tree, prodded the
knot, and vanished from view as he put on the cloak.
"So that's it," said Hermione quietly. "We're all down there... and now
we've just got to wait until we come back up again...."
She took the end of Buckbeak's rope and tied it securely around the
nearest tree, then sat down on the dry ground, arms around her knees.
"Harry, 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 too. He explained what he'd seen; how, as the nearest
dementor had lowered its mouth to Harry's, a large silver something had
come galloping across the lake and forced the dementors to retreat.
Hermione's mouth was slightly open by the time Harry had finished.
"But what was it?"
"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. He was thinking back to the person he'd seen
on the other bank of the lake. He knew who he thought it had been... but
how could it have been?
"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 --" Harry swallowed, knowing how strange this was going to
sound. I think it was my dad."
Harry glanced up at Hermione and saw that her mouth was fully open now.
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...."
"But then --"
"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. He turned to took at
Buckbeak, who was digging his beak into the ground, apparently searching
for worms. But he wasn't really watching Buckbeak.
He was thinking about his father and about his father's three oldest
friends... Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.... Had all four of them
been out on the grounds tonight? Wormtail had reappeared this evening
when everyone had thought he was dead.... Was it so impossible his
father had done the same? Had he been seeing things across the take? The
figure had been too far away to see distinctly... yet he had felt sure,
for a moment, before he'd lost consciousness....
The leaves overhead rustled faintly in the breeze. The moon drifted in
and out of sight behind the shifting clouds. Hermione sat with her face
turned toward the Willow, waiting.
And then, at last, after over an hour...
"Here we come!" Hermione whispered.
She and Harry got to their feet. Buckbeak raised his head. They saw
Lupin, Ron, and Pettigrew clambering awkwardly out of the hole in the
roots. Then came Hermione... then the unconscious Snape, drifting
weirdly upward. Next came Harry and Black. They all began to walk toward
Harry's heart was starting to beat very fast. He glanced up at the sky.
Any moment now, that cloud was going to move aside and show the moon....
"Harry," Hermione muttered as though she knew exactly what he was
thinking, "we've got to stay put. We mustn't be seen. There's nothing we
"So we're just going to let Pettigrew escape all over again.. said Harry
"There's nothing we can do! We came back to help Sirius; we're not
supposed to be doing anything else!"
The moon slid out from behind its cloud. They saw the tiny figures
across the grounds stop. Then they saw movement --
"There goes Lupin," Hermione whispered. "He's transforming
"Hermione!" said Harry suddenly. "We've got to move!"
"We mustn't, I keep telling you --"
"Not to interfere! Lupin's going to run into the forest, right at us!"
"Quick!" she moaned, dashing to untie Buckbeak. "Quick! Where are we
going to go? Where are we going to hide? The dementors wilt be coming
any moment --"
"Back to Hagrid's!" Harry said. "It's empty now -- come on!"
They ran as fast as they could, Buckbeak cantering along behind them.
They could hear the werewolf howling behind them....
The cabin was in sight; Harry skidded to the door, wrenched it open, and
Hermione and Buckbeak flashed past him; Harry threw himself in after
them and bolted the door. Fang the boarhound barked loudly.
"Shh, Fang, it's us!" said Hermione, hurrying over and scratching his
ears to quieten him. "That was really close!" she said to Harry.
Harry was looking out of the window. It was much harder to see what was
going on from here. Buckbeak seemed very happy to find himself back
inside Hagrid's house. He lay down in front of the fire, folded his
wings contentedly, and seemed ready for a good nap.
"I think I'd better go outside again, you know," said Harry slowly. "I
can't see what's going on -- we won't know when it's time --"
Hermione looked up. Her expression was suspicious.
"I'm not going to try and interfere," said Harry quickly. "But if we
don't see what's going on, how're we going to know when it's time to
"Well... okay, then... I'll wait here with Buckbeak... but Harry, be
careful -- there's a werewolf out there -- and the dementors
Harry stepped outside again and edged around the cabin. He could hear
yelping in the distance. That meant the dementors were closing in on
Sirius.... He and Hermione would be running to him any moment....
Harry stared out toward the lake, his heart doing a kind of drumroll in
his chest.... Whoever had sent that Patronus would be appearing at any
For a fraction of a second he stood, irresolute, in front of Hagrid's
door. You must not be seen. But he didn't want to be seen. He wanted to
do the seeing.... He had to know...
And there were the dementors. They were emerging out of the darkness
from every direction, gliding around the edges of the lake.... They were
moving away from where Harry stood, to the opposite bank.... He wouldn't
have to get near them....
Harry began to run. He had no thought in his head except his father...
If it was him... if it really was him... he had to know, had to find
The lake was coming nearer and nearer, but there was no sign of anybody.
attempts at a Patronus --
There was a bush at the very edge of the water. Harry threw himself
behind it, peering desperately through the leaves. On the opposite bank,
the glimmers of silver were suddenly extinguished. A terrified
excitement shot through him -- any moment now --
"Come on!" he muttered, staring about. "Where are you? Dad, come on --"
But no one came. Harry raised his head to look at the circle of
dementors across the lake. One of them was lowering its hood. It was
time for the rescuer to appear -- but no one was coming to help this
And then it hit him -- he understood. He hadn't seen his father -- he
Harry flung himself out from behind the bush and pulled out his wand.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM! "he yelled.
And out of the end of his wand burst, not a shapeless cloud of mist, but
a blinding, dazzling, silver animal. He screwed up his eyes, trying to
see what it was. It looked like a horse. It was galloping silently away
from him, across the black surface of the lake. He saw it lower its head