“Oh!” Hermione jumped, as if stabbed with a pin. “Harry, we have to go – Sirius should be in the Tower soon.” She glanced back into the wood. “I’ll go get Buckbeak. He found me while you were…otherwise occupied.” She waved her hands, encompassing the clearing, pond, James. “I’ll be right back.”
“Sirius? Sirius Black?” James demanded. “How’d he escape from Azkaban! He’s a traitor!”
“No, he isn’t.” Harry protested. “He switched being Secret Keepers with Pettigrew! It was a double blind – no one was supposed to know. He wanted to keep the focus on him and even set up a trap, but Wormtail betrayed us to Voldemort!”
James stared at him, absolutely dumbfounded. “He…tricked us? He never actually turned Dark?” he breathed, his mind racing as the missing pieces fell into place and the sense of absolute betrayal faded away, followed by a rush of new burning rage. “That rat faced, cowardly piece of hippogriff shite!”
The teens exchanged an entertained look, as Buckbeak snorted. James couldn’t help the reluctant smile at the hippogriff’s reaction. “Sorry. I’m going with you to get him.”
“You can’t.” Harry shook his head. “Dad, Sirius was in Azkaban for thirteen years, under the influence of the Dementors, all while believing that you and mum died believing that he had betrayed you. The shock of you being alive might just send him back over the edge after all!”
“Besides, sir, we have to get up to the North Tower. And while there’s room on Buckbeak for the three of us on the way up, there won’t be enough room for all four of us on the way down.” Hermione added as she led the hippogriff over to a boulder low enough for her to climb on.
“Yes, but I won’t need to ride up with you if I borrow one of the brooms from the Quidditch shed.” James argued. “I need to do this. Besides, it’s better if Sirius and I have this conversation before he finds a wand. I still want to kick his arse for not telling me about his plan in the first place!”
The teens exchanged a look, conversing -arguing- silently. James watched them, inwardly amused once again by how much they reminded him of himself and Lily.
“Fine.” Hermione said abruptly. “We’re running out of time. Mister Potter, if you can get one of the brooms, then meet us up there.” She pointed at the tower, highlighted against the light of the moon. “Let’s go, Harry.”
She and Harry watched as James transformed into Prongs, who snorted at them and shoved Harry hard with his nose before leaping off into the forest, heading straight for the pitch and the Quidditch sheds.
“Well.” Harry said after a moment. “Let’s get back to our rescue mission, shall we?”
The dappled grey hippogriff snorted, but obligingly broke into a short canter to give him enough speed for takeoff. Harry didn’t have time to enjoy the flight, being left breathless from both the speed and Hermione nearly squeezing the life out of his ribs in fear.
“It’s okay, Hermione.” A familiar voice soothed. “You made it up here in one piece. Let go of Harry and come down to me. You’re fine, darling.”
Hermione turned her face slightly from where she had buried it into Harry’s shoulder to squint at James. Her friend could feel her trembling still, a violent mixture of fear and adrenaline. She squeezed him briefly once more, this time in silent thanks, and gingerly began to maneuver enough to ease down to James’s waiting arms. Harry knew that if Ron had been with them instead, he would have been merciless about teasing Hermione about her phobia of heights and flying and was a bit happy that the redhead was laid up in the hospital instead of with them.