The teen managed a wan smile, avoiding his gaze. “My education here at Hogwarts has been…lively.”
“That’s an understatement.” Hermione muttered, and Harry shot her a warning glare. “We really need to go, sir.”
He nodded. “Harry, take the broom and Hermione down to the ground, carefully. I will take Sirius on Buckbeak.”
Harry murmured something to Hermione and handed the broom to her before going to stand at the hippogriff’s head, stroking him soothingly.
“Easy Buckbeak.” James said quietly, bracing himself for a moment before gathering up the too light form of his brother’s body and draping it across the animal’s withers, before scrambling up on his back as well. “Okay, kids. Go on.”
They silently complied without argument, and James took an abstract moment to appreciate the depth of trust that they had in each other, even after just a couple of years of friendship. They were a pair to be reckoned with already, and he made them a silent promise to protect them both in any way he could, to ensure that they had a future at the very least, and that he was around to be a part of it if he could. The flight down was mercifully quick, though Hermione couldn’t quite muffle her scream on the way down.
On the ground, James directed Hermione to shrink the broom and put it in his pocket, knowing that Madame Hooch would definitely wonder but put down the theft to student mischief. This wouldn’t be the first time someone had broken into the broom shed for a bit of midnight flying.
“Go on. I’ll see you both soon.” He said gently, not wanting to prolong the inevitable any longer.
The teens backed away as he clucked to Buckbeak, who had been fidgeting and pawing the ground. He leaped instantly into the air at the signal, wings flapping hard as they gained altitude and distance and eventually flew out of sight.
Hermione gasped as the clock began tolling, signaling the hour. “Come on!” She took off running again, Harry hot on her heels. Just before they reached the hall where the Hospital Wing was located, she pushed Harry to the side, making him slam against the wall.
“Dammit Hermione, stop doing that!”
“Harry, listen to me. We have to act as if everything is normal.” Hermione said fiercely, ignoring his complaint. “As far as Dumbledore knows, Sirius escaped, your father is dead, Professor Lupin is just another werewolf, and you no longer have a reason not to go back to the Dursleys at the end of term.” She shook him lightly as his eyes widened. “Let me do the talking, to him and to Ron. You just focus on controlling your temper. There’s way too much at stake here right now, and we can’t trust anyone. Not even Ron yet.”
She held his gaze, her own resolute and hard. He grimaced but nodded. They resumed their trek, skidding to a halt in front of the Hospital Wing as Dumbledore stepped out, closing the door behind him.
“We did it.” She said breathlessly, saving Harry from having to speak to the headmaster himself.
“Did what?” The wizard replied archly, his eyes twinkling as he passed them. “Good night…”
Harry rolled his eyes, following his friend as she burst into the room, where Ron was still sputtering.