Disclaimer: I am not making any money off of this. I am well aware that I did not create these characters, JK Rowling did... and I am merely playing around with them because it's fun.
Chapter One: A Time-Traveling Owl
Wednesday, July 31st, 1991
The first thing he saw was the owl. She flew right to him and landed on his outstretched arm, staring intently but somehow warmly at him.
"She's never that friendly," the shopkeeper said in astonishment, but the boy didn't hear.
"Hello," Harry whispered, entranced. "You're so beautiful..."
The owl walked up his arm, flapping her long, white wings languidly. When she reached his shoulder she tilted her head and rubbed her soft, downy cheek against his own.
"I'll take 'er," Hagrid declared, and the shopkeeper nodded. There was a long pause while the boy and owl looked at each other, and Hagrid rooted through his vast overcoat to find the right coins.
Hagrid watched them, unable to keep from smiling. Harry looked happier than he had the whole day. Hagrid paid for the owl, remembering to pick up a cage and owl treats as well.
Harry started at Hagrid's hand on his shoulder – he'd been lost in his own world, it looked like.
"Ye'll want to cage her, 'arry," Hagrid told the boy. "So she won't fly away."
Harry smiled at the snowy owl, who was shaking her head.
"She won't," Harry said confidently.
Hagrid scratched his head and shrugged as they left the shop, the owl perched comfortably on Harry's shoulder.
After a few more stops, Hagrid asked Harry to wait for him on a bench outside Griselda's Café while he ran a few personal errands. Harry sat obligingly, laughing as the owl nipped playfully at his ear.
In a flutter of wings, she rose into the air.
"Hey!" Harry called in surprise. He'd been so sure she was going to stay put.
"Krekk," the owl called, and flew off. Harry grabbed his shopping bags and hurried after her.
The denizens of the Alley were treated to the sight of the small, messy haired boy chasing his owl down the street, nearly tripping several times on the cobblestones.
The owl came to a landing on a shop sign. It was bronze in color, with curly, embossed letters in black ink proclaiming its name; Flourish and Blotts.
"Please don't fly off like that!" Harry told his owl, once he'd caught his breath. She fluttered down to land on his shoulder, and shuffled in place, her head hanging low in embarrassment.
"Oh, its okay," Harry hastened to add. "I just didn't want to lose you. I've never had an owl before."
She gave him a look, her keen eyes seeming to tell him that she wasn't his owl; rather, he was her wizard.
"So you like bookstores?" Harry grinned, glancing through the window of the shop. She nodded, and Harry laughed again.
"You're very clever," Harry marveled. "I wouldn't be surprised if you did know how to read."
Harry shouldered open the door and headed inside, breathing in the smell of ink and parchment. The shop was large, at least five times bigger than the pet store had been, and it was filled to the brim with bookshelves.
He wondered if he'd be able to read all the books within the shop in his lifetime. Probably not, but it was worth a try. Harry wanted to learn everything he could about the exciting new world he'd been invited into.
The owl pushed off his shoulder, heading down the main aisle before wheeling gently to the left. Harry hurried after her, nearly bumping into a few other customers, one of who seemed to be having an argument with a book, which was growling in response to her chiding.
He found her perched on a shelf, nosing a small brown book. Curious, Harry plucked it out and examined the title.
"Occlumency, Lessons for the Wise," Harry read aloud. He opened it up and skimmed through the introduction.
"Protect yourself from wizards who can read your mind?" Harry's eyes widened. That certainly sounded useful. He had no idea that some people could actually read his thoughts. It was an uncomfortable thought.
The owl fluttered off again, pointing to another book. Harry checked it out, a simple looking book called Defend Yourself. He shivered as he read on the back what sorts of curses wizards could cast on each other – a blood boiling hex? That sounded perfectly horrible.
When his arms were completely full of books, Harry went to sit down in a cupola in the back.
"Do I really need all of these?"
The owl nodded in certainty.
"Okay," Harry smiled slowly.
She tapped one of them, clapping her beak at the same time. Frowning, Harry selected it, scanning the title, Notable Witches and Wizards of the Past Millenium.
Harry turned pages, trying to figure out what the owl wanted. Thirty pages in, he started to feel frustrated, and flipped through it faster.
A single talon darted out to stop him. Harry looked down at the first name on the page.
"Hedwig of Maiden Castle, 1320 – 1457. Wait – is that right? She lived to be 137? Wow," Harry whistled, and read on. "Hedwig was a great Healer of her time, and is remembered for her kindness in assisting witches and muggles alike through childbirth and other illnesses. Hedwig is also known for her defense of a neighboring muggle village against a dragon attack in 1382, and her subsequent defeat of the ferocious Welsh Green. Er, is that what you meant? It is interesting – Ow! Stop pecking me, Hedwig!"
The owl stopped in her brief attack, fluttering her feathers in a manner that can only be described as smug.
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Harry knew.
"That's your name, isn't it? That's why you wanted me to see that... All right, Hedwig it is, then." Harry grinned at her widely. He didn't stop grinning as he continued to walk through the store and found his required school books, conveniently together on a shelf titled First Year Reading List.
The woman behind the counter was too absentminded to pay much attention to the small boy who paid promptly and exactly for the books he bought.
Harry left, lugging three more bags with him. He wondered how he was going to carry them all back to Privet Drive.
Hedwig lifted off, circling above him before leading him further down the alley.
What more did she want him to get? Harry wondered. He didn't think he could carry another ounce.
This time Hedwig stopped outside a small shop, labeled Selega's Secrets.
Frowning, Harry headed inside.
The proprietor looked up from his book, studying his new customer from beneath his horn-rimmed glasses.
"Just what are you looking for, young man? This isn't a cheap shop for trinkets."
"Er," Harry began, embarrassed. Hedwig flew right to a display in the back.
"That," he said, gesturing gamely to her.
The proprietor followed the owl, and picked up the item she was currently nudging.
"This is what you want?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed, seeing Hedwig nodding.
"Hmmph. Well, she's well-trained," the old man acknowledged. Hedwig let out an annoyed little squawk, and he chortled.
"Snobby too," Mr. Selega snorted, and headed to the register. "You've seen this before, then?"
"Remind me?" Harry asked hopefully. He headed to the counter and set down his bags before reaching for his moneybag.
"Gold watch, elegant yet sturdy. Undetectable expansion charm, it should last the rest of your life." Seeing Harry's bemused expression, Mr. Selega continued.
"That means it'll hold a good mansion worth's of items inside. Better than a chest, far more convenient – and more expensive. If you've got the gold, I'll set it up to be charmed to work only for you."
"Two hundred twenty," the man replied, eyeing Harry suspiciously.
Harry swallowed. It sounded very convenient, but was Hedwig sure? He looked at her again, and pulled out his purse.
"All right," Harry agreed. The proprietor straightened up, his disbelief disappearing and a smile appearing at the prospect of a sale.
"Good, young man. You know a bargain when you see it."
Harry wasn't sure that was the case, but he agreed. Mr. Selega took his gold and proceeded to key the watch specifically for Harry.
"Tap an item you want to put in it with your wand, then tap the watch – it will move in automatically. Its safe to put all manner of things in – they shouldn't interfere with each other. You want to pull something out, tap the watch and think of the item you'd like. If you forget the inventory, and want to take everything out, Subduco Omnes, and everything will come out – make sure you've got the space available, or you'll get crushed!" He laughed at his own joke, and Harry smiled feebly.
"You have any other questions, come back and ask anytime."
"Thanks," Harry nodded, and left. He wished he had his wand – without it, he still had to carry his bags.
Hedwig led him back the bench, where Hagrid was standing, looking around with a worried look on his face.
"'arry!" Hagrid bellowed, catching sight of the boy. "Where've you bin? Thought I said to stay put."
"Sorry, Hagrid," Harry said apologetically. "I thought I'd get my school books since the shop was so close. I figured I'd be back in time, but there were so many books – I lost track of times."
Hagrid's face softened.
"Ah, no 'arm done. Just like your mother, you are – always had her nose in a book. Looks like you bought half the store!" Hagrid laughed. "Alright then. You got yer owl, an' yer books... Ah, you'll be needing potions ingredients."
Hagrid led Harry and Hedwig into a small, dark shop that smelled rather putrid – it turned out to be the apothecary.
Hagrid talked with the clerk about the various phials and cauldrons that Harry could get while Harry and Hedwig wandered around.
The clever owl occasionally would point to a few things that Harry would take and put in his bag. Sometimes it was ordinary things, like pre-made healing potions, but sometimes it was strange things - like a bezoar, whose tag informed the reader that it came from the stomach of a goat, making Harry want to drop it in disgust.
But to his surprise, as they entered a particularly dark alcove, Hedwig ducked her head forward and grabbed a small, squishy looking orange ball in her beak. She tilted her head back and swallowed it.
"Hedwig!" Harry hissed, looking around to see if anyone had noticed. They hadn't. The snowy owl seemed all right, though, and took another one in her beak.
"What is that?" Harry murmured, looking closer.
Hedwig took advantage of his slightly open mouth, darted forward, and shoved the orange ball into his mouth. She pecked at his mouth, and as he leaned back and away, he instinctively swallowed it.
Harry shuddered - it felt funny going down his throat, very slimy - and it left a tangy taste in his mouth.
"That was strange," Harry gasped.
Suddenly his body was tingling, as if he had suddenly realized how cold a room was and reacted all at once. His vision was blurring, and he wondered if he might be falling, because his sense of gravity seemed to be altering. There was a faint thump, and his suspicion of falling was confirmed as his backside faintly stung. He still couldn't see, and wondered if he was fainting. He'd never fainted before.
Then something nudged his chin upwards, and an unknown liquid trickled into his mouth and down his throat. His vision was back, and somehow brighter than before. Hedwig was in front of him, looking very much like she had caught a whole family of field mice.
Are you all right, dear?
"What? Am I – I'm hallucinating," Harry groaned, shaking his head. "My owl just poisoned me, and I'm seeing things... I mean hearing things – whatever."
I'm afraid not, Harry. This is very real. Now, you must think your next response, not say it.
"What are you -"
All right, all right. How are you talking to me?
Every wizard and witch in the world has one magical creature to which it can fully bond with. Here Hedwig inclined her head almost smugly. It is a miracle for an owl to find the wizard it matches to within its lifetime. I am, however, lucky. I have found you – and for the first time, I was able to do something about it. There is much I have to tell you, Harry, once we have some privacy. For now, trust me that you should not tell anybody that we can speak like this.
Er – okay. The eleven year old nodded a little. So... you're like a familiar or something?
Something like that. She smiled in the way owls do, and Harry finally smiled hesitantly. More of a protector. We owls are known for our wisdom, and I hope to be able to impart much of it to you.
"Harry? What're you doin' on the floor?"
The boy in question looked up and saw a befuddled Hagrid standing over him, appearing to be even more gigantic than usual.
"Er – looking at the ingredients down here?"
"Okay." Hagrid shrugged. "Got the stuff you'll be needing for Potions."
"Thanks," Harry said quickly, and stood up. Hedwig moved to his shoulder as they walked to the front with Hagrid. The giant man went to look at some potions a few aisles over, so Harry quickly bought everything he wanted to, not just the cauldron and glass phials.
The clerk looked at him rather shrewdly.
"I see you read ahead," he commented.
"Yes," Harry lied. The clerk nodded and let Harry go.
They made a few more stops, picking up a telescope, and then a set of brass scales. Hagrid led them to a shop called Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions, and told Harry he'd see him outside when he was done.
Harry walked in and was quickly given a chair by Madam Malkin. When he was left alone after the measurements, Hedwig's voice chimed in his head again.
This is as good a time as any to reveal a great secret to you, Hedwig said somberly. Remember to respond in your mind. Harry, I have known you for longer than you have known me. I have already lived out eight years as your familiar.
Harry raised an eyebrow. What exactly was she talking about?
Time travel, Hedwig went on. Is entirely possible, for last week, I arrived here, travelling from Diagon Alley in November of 1999. I was sent to my past, now our present, in order to change the future.
Harry stared at her.
Are you serious?
Harry, magic can do almost anything, Hedwig told him. I will not lie to you, not about anything. We are bonded, and indeed an owl and her familiar cannot lie to one another in Truespeak.
Is that what this is? Truespeak?
Different people have different names for it, but that is what I call it, yes. Everything I will say to you will be true. It is simply not possible for it to be otherwise.
I believe you, Harry decided. You've been helping me from the start.
And I will continue doing so, Hedwig swore. I love you, Harry. And I will care for you as well as I am able.
Harry blushed. Hedwig knocked her head gently against his cheek.
I know this is very new to you, she continued kindly. But don't ever forget, Harry, that I love you. You are the most wonderful wizard I have ever had the pleasure to meet, then and now, and it is a tragedy that your hateful relatives have never seen that.
Harry truly knew the truth in her words at that moment. She knew of his relatives, of his past, and apparently knew of his future too. He'd never remembered hearing anybody tell him they loved him. He felt a warm feeling in his chest, and couldn't stop grinning.
He looked up as a bell dinged in the shop. A woman in gold robes entered the shop, holding the door for three girls who followed behind her. Two of them were quite small, poking and giggling at each other, and quite similar in their slim builds and blonde hair. The eldest girl had long auburn hair in a braid down her back, and looked quite like the woman, who could only be her mother.
"Annette," Madam Malkin greeted the woman with a smile.
"Mary," Annette smiled back. "It's good to see you again."
"Susan's starting this year, isn't she?" The proprietress nodded at the oldest girl.
"Yes, we're very proud of her," Annette said fondly. "We'll miss her dearly, but we know she'll do well."
"Of course she will," Madam Malkin agreed. "Henrietta can get her measurements while I finish with this last set. Another new student, in Susan's year."
"Oh," Annette turned and spotted Harry, sitting in the corner. "Do introduce yourself, Susan."
Harry looked up. Susan walked over to him and stuck out her hand. Harry stood quickly and shook her hand.
"I'm Susan Bones," she introduced herself with a wry little smile.
Susan's eyes flashed to his scar, but she nodded and didn't make a fuss. Harry nearly sighed in relief.
"So what House do you think you'll be in?" Susan asked.
"I really don't know… Actually," Harry admitted. "I don't even know what the options are."
Susan held out her arms as the assistant came over and fitted a measuring tape around her waist.
"Well, there's four Houses," Susan began. "Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. They're named for the four Founders of Hogwarts. I'm not sure how exactly you're picked for any one, mother and father won't say, no matter how many times I ask."
"Are there any differences between them?" Harry frowned.
"Well, each Founder valued different things more than others. Hufflepuff appreciated hard work and loyalty most, while Ravenclaw prized a thirst for learning new things. Slytherin emphasized ambition, while Gryffindor figured bravery to be better than the other traits. So people say that whatever House you're in, you have more of that respective trait. But anyone can be a mix, really. My dad was a Hufflepuff, and his family were mostly Hufflepuffs too, while my mum was a Ravenclaw, from a family of mostly Slytherins."
Susan paused, and thought about it.
"I know they'll be proud no matter where I go, but I think I'm leaning towards Hufflepuff. If I get to choose, that is."
"Thanks for explaining," Harry smiled at her. "Hufflepuff sounds good – what's not to like about hard work and loyalty?"
"Exactly!" Susan exclaimed with a nod. "There's a lot of competition between the Houses, but Hufflepuff mostly stays out of it. Gryffindor and Slytherin House have the biggest rivalry."
"Well, they say that the actual Founders, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin, had a falling out, and the Houses have been enemies ever since."
"Hasn't Hogwarts been around for ages?"
"Yeah, like a thousand years," Susan agreed. "It does seem way too long for any sane person to continue feuding. Nobody really even knows the details of why it began!"
"Here you are, Mr. Potter."
"Thank you, Madam," Harry said politely, accepting the package of clothes Madam Malkin was offering. He quickly counted out the money and handed it over.
"So what do you think?" Susan asked him. "Now that you know about the Houses."
It took Harry a moment to remember her initial question.
"Well, that kind of rivalry sounds ridiculous," Harry decided. "So I guess Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff for me."
"Great!" Susan grinned. "Well, I guess I'll be seeing you on the train. Maybe we'll be in Hufflepuff together."
"Maybe," Harry agreed. "See you at Hogwarts."
"Enjoy the rest of your summer," Susan called as he headed out, struggling under the weight of the eight heavy bags he was now carrying.
"'Arry!" Hagrid greeted him, and Harry couldn't help but smile at the large man. He was carrying two ice cream cones in one hand, one strawberry and one chocolate.
"Choose your cone," Hagrid said, somewhat dramatically.
"Strawberry, please," Harry chuckled. They sat down together to eat them. Hedwig leaned forward and stole a bite from time to time, earning a grin from Harry and a bellow of laughter from Hagrid.
"Didn' know owls like ice cream," Hagrid mused.
"She's special," Harry said fondly, stroking Hedwig's wings. "Thanks, Hagrid. For the ice cream, and especially - for Hedwig."
Hedwig turned her head to look at him, blinking shyly.
"You're very welcome," Hagrid, said, wiping his eyes surreptitiously. "Finish up, now. It's time to get yer wand."
Harry grinned. His day was just getting better.