Going back to Hogwarts was both a relief and a disappointment. It was nice to be back in the castle, don't get him wrong. Hogwarts was a wonderful place to be and he honestly loved the time he spent there. However, this year returning to Hogwarts also meant being surrounded once again by Dementors and Harry was more than wary of being within reach of the foul creatures again.
It seemed that he wasn't the only one that considered the possibility of the Dementors trying again. Professor Lupin was once again in their compartment, although this time he wasn't sleeping. Harry grinned in welcome to the professor as he, along with Hermione and Ron, filed into the compartment.
"Harry," the professor greeted with a gentle smile before turning to greet Ron and Hermione as well. "I hope your holidays went well."
Hermione immediately launched into an indepth explanation of every gift she had received. Harry was actually surprised she had managed to keep quiet for as long as she had. Sharing an amused glance with Ron as the professor seemed to become more and more dazed with every word Hermione spouted, he turned to look outside of the train window.
Adult back up or not, it never hurt to be wary.
Thankfully, there were no unexpected attacks on the way back to the school or even on the way up to the castle. In fact, Harry even made it through the entire first week back without anything unexpected happening.
While he was grateful for the extended break that he was receiving, he knew for a fact that it was only the calm before the storm. Ever since his first year at Hogwarts, something dangerous had always been going on in the background. Things that most the students in the castle hadn't even been aware of and Harry wasn't deluded enough to think that he was always going to know what, exactly, was going on.
He did finally figure out why he got suck a weird reading for Professor Lupin, though. Admittedly, Harry hadn't been all that concerned about it so he hadn't really given the matter much thought. The long list of information he'd been storing away whenever he found something about the man that was strange to him just finally clicked together in his head. 'You couldn't have told me that he was a werewolf?' Harry grouched.
'And ruin all your fun?' Gabriel asked, a touch of mischief in his tone. It looks like Harry could add pranking himself to the long list of things that would cause other people worry but mostly ended up just annoying him.
'I hate you.' Harry informed him cheerfully.
'Self-depreciation isn't good for you,' Gabriel replied, just as cheerfully.
Harry ignored him.
The lack of anything life threatening as gave Harry time to ponder the enigma that was Luna Lovegood. Specifically, Harry and Gabriel were analyzing their last meeting with the younger girl in the forest around the Burrow. The things that Luna had done and said shouldn't have been possible. It should have been completely and utterly impossible for Luna to have been able to actually touch their wings. There had never been a case of a mortal actually touching an angel's wings before in the whole of creation. Not to mention she seemed to know when Harry and Gabriel were talking, which other than being impossible was just plain creepy.
They'd looked her over up and down multiple times, analyzing everything about her magic and her aura. Luna had even sat down with them at different points during the week so that they could have a longer period of time to analyze her. In the end, there was nothing about her that they hadn't seen before in humans with the ability to see things that most couldn't. Her aura had a slight dark edge to it, likely from the period of time that she'd witnessed her mother die and that was it. Nothing out of the ordinary (or as ordinary as Luna ever got).
So if there was nothing about Luna that was all that different then they were left with the only other explanation: there was something different about them.
In truth, that was more worrying than there being something off about Luna. If Luna could touch their wings, that meant that something from his time as a human had changed him enough that normal angelic rules didn't apply. Harry wasn't all to comforted by that and he knew for a fact that Gabriel was beyond uncomfortable with the very idea of it.
From what Harry could gather, the wings of an angel were an extension of Grace, which was the angelic equivalent of a human soul. It was supposed to be impossible for anyone other than at least another angel of greater power to even think about touching them, let alone stroking them like Luna had. So if that rule no longer applied to them, what other rules could they throw out the window?
The horrifying thing was that neither Harry nor Gabriel had any idea what other rules they no longer had to worry about or what the rules for their current situation applied to them at all. Frankly speaking, Harry's body should have imploded on itself the moment that it made contact with their Grace, whether or not their soul was immediately re-absorbed into their Grace due to his status as an archangel. So that left them with a bit of a problem on their hands.
From what Harry could tell, they weren't in any immediate danger of finding out the hard way but with a possible mass murderer (they still weren't all that convinced on the truth of the matter) out to kill him, that wasn't all that comforting. The last thing they needed was to end up in a life or death situation only to find out what they could and couldn't do.
He'd had just about enough of those already, thank you very much.
Yet talk of Sirius Black still filled the castle halls, the children certain that the man would make another attempt to infiltrate the castle once more.
The Dementors also still posed a very real threat. The Minister had officially announced that they would be removed from the school yet the dangerous abominations still remained positioned just outside of the school wards. From the displeased glower of staff and student alike, the Minister wasn't making any friends as he procrastinated in removing the soul sucking monsters. Headmaster Dumbledore was looking more and more grim as the days past and the Dementors remained. If the Minister didn't get a move on removing the Dementors soon, Harry was sure that the Headmaster might blow another gasket at the man.
That was another thing that Harry had only recently heard about. It seemed that after his attack, Dumbledore had actually been witnessed shouting at the Minister. Apparently, the yelling could be heard within two floors of the Hospital Wing. Looking at the man from his seat at the Gryffindor table, Harry could only be impressed that the man still had the lung capacity for such things.
The resumed lessons with Professor Lupin were slowly showing improvement on his Patronus. Hermione and Ron still had brightly lit wisps coming from their wands, just like they had before the winter break so Harry had expected the same results from his own attempts.
Yet as he focused on the memory of meeting Sol and his sisters for the first time, the only happy memory that he had that produced the best results, and cast the spell, Harry was rewarded with something just a little more defined than a wisp of light.
"What is that?" Ron asked, distracted from his own attempt has he caught sight of Harry's Patronus.
Professor Lupin looked just as stunned. Instead of a recognizable animal, Harry's Patronis looked like a deformed bird. What was clearly wings extended from what looked like solid light.
'Huh,' Gabriel commented as Harry examined the Patronus. 'I guess that answers that question.'
'What question?' Harry asked, eyeing the Patronus as it began flying around the room.
'The Patronus Charm is a very light spell,' Gabriel began. 'As you know, the most basic form of the charm is that of a wisp of light. The more you practice and gain mastery over the charm, the more that your Patronus begins to take the shape of your most basic representation which usually presents itself as an animal.'
'How would that work with us?' Harry wondered. He knew all this already, having looked up the charm before leaving for the winter holidays. However he hadn't really considered the fact that, as an archangel, the charm might work differently for him. It seemed that though he hadn't thought of it, Gabriel had.
'Apparently, our most basic representation is that of an angel,' Gabriel replied easily as the winged ball of light flew past them. 'Angels, unlike humans, don't really have a solid form. Other than our wings, our bodies are just a mass of light. Even our wings, though they appear feathered, are just light given form. It's why Luna shouldn't have been able to touch them. You can't touch light.'
'So our Patronus is an angel?' Harry asked skeptically as the ball of light continued exploring with four sets of bewildered eyes following it.
'From what I'm seeing? Yup.' Gabriel sounded fascinated at the discovery. 'Or it is at the moment, at least.'
"What is it?" Harry asked hesitantly, well aware that he needed to act like he had no clue what he was looking at. 'What do you mean at the moment?'
'If I'm right, the Patronus Charm is attempting to find the animal that represents us the most.' Gabriel began. 'To do that, it would need to read our soul but instead of locking onto just our soul, it's picking up readings from our Grace as well.'
"I have no idea," the professor admitted, frowning as the Patronus got bored and dissipated. "Have you seen anything like that before?"
Harry shook his head, consoling himself with the knowledge that he wasn't really lying. His memories as an angel presented themselves a bit differently than the Patronus, as regular angels weren't exactly around at that point. 'I wonder why our Grace is affecting it,' Harry mused to himself. 'It was nothing but a wisp of light before the holidays so why is it suddenly forming now?'
'No clue. It's possible that as our Grace becomes more stable, the Patronus Charm is more likely to pick up readings from it. We'll have to try focusing on channeling only magic when we cast the spell from now on. Hopefully that'll overpower the readings that it's getting from our Grace.' Gabriel proposed after a moment of consideration.
Harry pulled out his wand an attempted the Patronus returned to being a wisp. Professor Lupin brushed the odd event as Harry only partially forming his Patronus correctly, much to their relief and he returned to helping Hermione and Ron with finding the right memory.
'We're going to have to be more careful,' Harry thought with a sigh. There was no telling what would happen to other spells if his Grace started to influence them in small ways. Would it make them more powerful or would it change the spell completely? Harry didn't think it would be smart to find out anytime soon.
Luckily for them, the incident with their Patronus was quickly brushed off and forgotten. The next two weeks remained rather uneventful as Harry returned to training with his sword and practicing using his wings whenever he could find the time to get away from the castle. With Ron and Hermione now knowing about Hope and her foals, Harry didn't have to come up with an excuse to sneak away anymore. His two friends just assumed that he was going to visit the unicorn family.
At night, Harry organized his memories before going to bed. He found that the process made it much easier to sleep at night and he could complete it faster and faster as time went on. Each memory was categorized by the name he'd had during that life and then 'shelved' in the order that they had happened. So far his memories from his current life and his time as Gabriel were the smallest of them all.
All in all, Harry was beginning to fall into a pattern and he loved every minute of it. The school year was finally looking up and to make matters that much better, the Minister had finally removed all of the Dementors from the school so Harry no longer had to worry about keeping an eye out for them either.
Quidditch, due to the attack at the pitch, had been cancelled during the weeks that he'd been unconscious but there was talk amongst the teachers to restart the season next week. There wasn't anything concrete yet, just a rumor. A rumor that Harry and the rest of the members of the Quidditch teams prayed was true. Harry hadn't realized how much he would miss the sport until he had found a sudden lack of it in his life.
Life at Hogwarts was finally looking up.
That should have been the first clue that something was going to come along and ruin everything and very soon. Harry should have been expecting it, waiting for it even.
He wasn't and when the other shoe dropped, he'd been just as caught off guard as the rest of his friends.
It had started with a simple visit to Hagrid's. Nothing that was out of the realm of normal and nothing that was all that earth shattering. It wasn't even that bad of a day outside. The snow on the ground was faded and melting and February was just around the corner.
Then Hagrid had darted back into his room and returned with a squirming rat in his hands and suddenly the visit changed. And unfortunately, it wasn't a change for the better.
"Scabbers!" Ron shouted, flying to his feet and accepting the rat with glee. Hermione looked vindicated from her seat on the opposite side of Harry but remained silent. She could rub the fact that she was right in Ron's face later.
"Found 'im hidin' from Buckbeak a few days 'go." Hagrid told the beaming redhead. "Thought that yeh might be missin' 'im."
What had he been doing down by the forbidden forest? Harry wondered as Ron hugged the rat to his chest. Rats weren't the brightest animals but he knew for a fact that they knew enough not to leave a perfectly warm place filled with plenty of food. The timing was too close to be a coincidence and Harry felt suspicion prick in the back of his mind.
A suspicion that was quickly forgotten in favor of more pressing matters just a half-hour later as they made their way back up to the castle and the rat in Ron's hands began going nutts. The squirming creature made a break for it only to be caught by Ron just before it had reached the Whomping Willow. That should have been the end of it.
A black dog, nearly as big as Harry himself, made sure of that. Leaping from the bushes not too far from them, none of them had time to react as Ron was toppled over and dragged towards the base of the violent tree.
"Ron!" Hermione screamed as they both booked it after the screaming redhead. Harry fought the urge to manifest his angel blade as he ran. When Ron was pulled into a secret tunnel in the base of the tree, Harry pushed his feet that much faster. Who knew where that tunnel lead?
The Whomping Willow seemed to make a move to attack them but Harry flared his wings behind him in warning. The tree, likely in self-preservation, thought better of it and he and Hermione made it to the tunnel without problem.
Harry didn't pause as he climbed into the dirt filled path and he didn't wait for Hermione to follow him as he began making his way forward. He knew that she was behind him and it wasn't Hermione that he was currently worried for. It was Ron, whose screams were forebodingly absent from the tunnel.
Harry was also slightly stunned. That dog had come out of nowhere. It hadn't even registered on Harry's radar until it had gone after Ron.
That was another thing that was bothering him. Why had the dog gone after Ron? Harry could understand why it didn't go after him, animals tended to be more perceptive than humans and it would know that Harry could have easily ended it if it had attacked him. Yet out of the three of them, the weakest of them was Hermione, not Ron. The redhead was stronger than Hermione and bigger in build. So why Ron?
He didn't know. Gabriel didn't have any answers either. They were both completely clueless.
Harry didn't like it.
"Oh my god," Hermione muttered behind him as they came to a set of stairs. "Harry, I think we're at the Shrieking Shack!"
"The what?" Harry hissed back as he began climbing the stairs. Fresh streaks of blood covered the wood and Harry had to force himself not to begin panicking as Gabriel began making threats in the back of their head.
"It's an abandoned shack not too far from Hogsmeade," she whispered to him as they reached the top of the stairs. The room around them was in shambles, Harry noted absently as he located the trail of blood on the floor. "The villagers say that, years ago, sounds of howling and destruction used to come from hear. They say that it's haunted so no one ever goes near it."
Haunted? Harry frowned as he took a better look at the room around them. "A ghost didn't do this," he told her as he pointed to claw marks that slashed into the wood of the wall. "Even Peeves isn't this destructive."
Hermione didn't say anything, frowning at the damage. "You're right. But what did?"
And was it still there? Harry finished for her, gripping his wand tightly in his hand. The urge to call on his angel blade grew stronger.
A destroyed door swayed in the wind, the trail of blood leading off into the room behind it. Harry extended his hand in front of Hermione as he inched forward with his wand at the ready. She stopped behind him, likely raising her own wand in preparation.
Harry moved to the opposite wall facing the opening slowly. Peering into the room, he could see Ron on the bed, gaping at something behind the door. Harry frowned. Turning towards Hermione, he pointed to behind the door.
Dirt covered her hair and face and a scratch on her cheek was bleeding. She nodded, closing her eyes in preparation. 'I don't like this,' Gabriel hissed.
'Doesn't matter,' Harry said back as he gave up all pretenses at being quiet and pushed his hand against the door. 'Ron's hurt. No one knows we went to see Hagrid and Hagrid doesn't know that we never made it back to the castle. Unless someone saw that dog grab Ron and us going after it, back up isn't coming.'
'Damnit!' Gabriel cursed. 'First sign of this getting worse, get our blade out. Consequences be damned.'
Harry didn't respond. Steeling himself, he walked into the room. Ron's eyes snapped towards him immediately. "Harry! Go, run!" the redhead practically wailed. "The dog! It's not a dog! He's not a dog!"
Shit! Harry spun around, wand at the ready as the door slammed closed with Hermione on the other side revealing a black haired man with shaggy hair and crazed eyes. A man Harry had seen before on wanted posters. Sirius Black.
'What?!' Gabriel practically yelled in their head. Harry couldn't help himself, he gaped. Since when did people turn into animals?!
"Don't move," he warned the man, wand trained on him.
Black wasn't looking at him though. Crazed black eyes were trained past him. Frowning Harry followed the gaze and found Ron. 'Just what is going on here?' Gabriel groaned.
"Why did you attack Ron?" Harry snapped at the man, drawing Black's attention to him. "Out of all of us, why Ron?"
'Come on Hermione,' he prayed silently. 'Go get help. He hasn't realized you're here yet, get out of here and go get help!'
Yet she remained behind the door, her magic shining brightly between the cracks of the wood. What was she doing?!
"What?" Black rasped, finally noticing him. He was studying Harry as if he had never seen him before, as if Harry had done something that was unexpected.
"Why attack Ron?" Harry asked again, taking a few steps backwards in the direction of his redheaded friend. "You could have grabbed any of us, but you went straight for Ron. Why?"
'When in doubt, keep the crazy person talking,' Gabriel commented in his head, seemingly just as focused as Harry.
Black was frowning now, looking rather confused. "I…"
"It doesn't make sense," Harry said, still backing up. He wanted to be close enough to Ron in case Black tried something. "Out of the three of us, Ron was the farthest from the bushes that you were in. Yet you went past us and straight for him. So I'm asking, why Ron?"
Black stared at him before laughing. Loudly. "Just like Lily," he said. "James never would have noticed. He would be yelling and threatening me, not questioning why I done it."
That sounded a lot like reminiscing, Harry thought with a frown. Fond reminiscing.
'Why would someone who betrayed them be doing that?' Gabriel mumbled in their head. Harry had to wonder the same thing.
According to Lupin, Black had been the one to give them up to Voldemort. The story had felt a tad two dimensional then and being faced with the man didn't change that. If Black had really been after him like everyone had spent the year thinking, he would have grabbed Harry instead of Ron. Harry had been the one closest to the bushes.
So why Ron? "That's nice," Harry said sarcastically. "Now why don't you answer the question? Stalling is only going to give the professor's a chance to get here."
Black's laughter faded off. "The professor's that your friend behind the door is supposed to bring?" he asked. "You might as well join us, girl. I can smell your blood and hear your breathing from in hear."
'Oh great, he has the same senses in his human for as his animal form,' Gabriel grumbled. 'Freaking magic!'
The door opened and Hermione darted inside the room, stopping once she was by Harry's side. "Sorry," she whispered to him. "I was hoping that if I was quiet enough, he wouldn't notice me. The books never said whether or not an animagus kept their animal senses in human form."
'Animagus? That's really what they call themselves?' Gabriel asked in disbelief.
'Hush,' Harry hissed. 'Not the time.'
"For someone who now has two wands pointed at him, you seem awfully sure of yourself." Harry commented as Hermione raised her own wand. Black likely had Ron's wand but they still had the advantage, especially seeing as Ron's wand likely wasn't going to work all that well for him. "So why don't you answer the question before we start firing spells at you. I'm sure the aurors would be happy to see you."
Black was looking at them with something that looked suspiciously like longing. "The rat," he said. "I wanted the rat."
"Scabbers?!" Ron squeaked at the man. "What do you want with Scabbers?!"
Harry frowned and looked at the squirming rat in Ron's hands, unable to escape the death grip Ron had on it. "Hermione, what's the average life span for a rat?"
"A year in the wild and about four years in captivity," Hermione told him.
"Ron, you said that Scabbers belonged to Percy first?" Harry asked, different scenarios running through his head rapidly.
"Yeah," Ron said shakily. "He's been in our family for twelve years-"
"Oh my god," Hermione whispered, swinging her wand around to point at the rat while Harry kept his trained on black.
Rats didn't have the presence of mind to go adventuring from a safe place into the unknown. They didn't live twelve years and they definitely didn't react when a wand was turned on them. Scabber's had stilled the moment he noticed Hermione's wand pointed at him. "Hermione?" Ron asked the frizzy haired girl.
"Ron, don't let go of that rat," Hermione snapped at him.
Scabbers being an animagus explained the odd behavior that the rat displayed but it didn't explain why Black had gone after him in the first place. Not unless…
"All they found was a finger," Harry muttered, eyes trained on the missing toe on Scabbers right paw. 'I knew there was more to that story than what Lupin knew!' Gabriel crowed. Something had felt off to them and now Harry knew why.
He turned his attention back to Black, who was gazing at them in stunned silence. "Peter Pettigrew?" he asked simply, gesturing towards the rat.
"H-how…?" Black stuttered, eyes wide and clearly rather thrown by what was going on in front of him.
"Nevermind that," Harry snapped. "Is that Peter Pettigrew?"
'And to think,' Gabriel groaned as the implications finally settled into their minds. 'It was such a nice few weeks, too.'