Hedwig's Last Gift

Harry Potter swayed under the weight of a large wooden beam, letting out a loud grunt as he tried to straighten his back underneath it to lift the beam up; he was unsuccessful.

"Really, Harry," came a familiar female voice behind him. "There's a much easier way to do that." He heard a muttered spell and instantly the weight of the beam was gone; it had levitated off his back and, as Harry watched, it sealed itself into its proper place along the wall.

Harry turned to face Hermione with a wide grin. "Thanks. You saved me."

It was only a few days after the great Battle at Hogwarts. The chaos and destruction had taken a great toll on the castle—entire walls were missing, wooden beams were everywhere, and nearly every stone was out of place. He and a good thirty other students and teachers had stayed to clean up the mess so that life in the castle could go back to normal.

"Are there any funerals today?" Harry asked the young woman. Not only the castle had been destroyed in the destruction of the war—countless good people had died. Fred Weasley's funeral had been just the day before. There had been much weeping, but when it was over everybody said that they felt just a tiny bit better—the hard work and effort put into ensuring that the Weasley twin was properly honored and put to rest provided everybody with a merciful peace.

"No," she responded. "Although Remus and Tonks are being put to rest tomorrow morning." They both bowed their heads in silence and respect for a moment, the sting of the loss nowhere close to fading. Harry reached forward and gently touched his friend and sister's arm in comfort. She gave him a small, somewhat watery smile.

Harry bent to lift a shard of wood from the ground, intending to magic it back into the wall, reattaching it to the rest of the splinters, when a voice from across the hall called out his name. Neville was hurrying towards the two.

"Harry- there's something I need to tell you. I've been meaning to for a long time, but I haven't had a chance until now."
"What is it, Neville?"
"Well, do you remember that letter you sent to me at the end of our sixth year?"

Harry had to think for a moment, but then recalled that he had, in fact, sent a letter via Hedwig to the Longbottom household.

"Yes… what about it?"

"Well, my Gran has an owl too, you see. His name is Rufus."

Harry couldn't see where Neville was going with this, but he played along with a nod.

"Ok and…?"

"And, well, I suppose he and Hedwig, er, hit it off, you could say." Neville's ears blushed a momentary pink, and Harry got his meaning.

"So then, Hedwig stays with him for a few more days before flying back to you. And I didn't think much of it until I found something in my sock drawer."

Here, Neville began rummaging in the pocket of his sweatpants. His closed fist emerged, and he held his hand out to Harry, who reached forward to accept what Neville was giving him.

A cream-colored egg, slightly larger than a chicken's egg, now rested in Harry's palm. He studied it, befuddled, examining the faint gray spots that speckled the smooth shell. And then it clicked.

"This is… Hedwig's egg?"

Neville nodded emphatically.

"But… that's impossible! I mean, that was almost a year ago. Surely it would've hatched…?"

Hermione gave a gasp.

"Oh, Harry! That's not just any egg!" seeing the complete lack of understanding on the boy's face, she continued on.

"Throughout history, there have always been owls. But only some form extremely close bonds with their… well, 'owner' is the wrong word. 'Companion' is more fitting. But to Hedwig, you were more than a companion. You were her best friend, her son almost."

Harry felt slightly confused, but nodded for Hermione to continue her textbook-like explanation.

"Well, Hedwig is similar to Crookshanks in one category: they are both very, very smart. And Harry, I think Hedwig knew that summer that she was... Well, that she was going to die."

"And so she left this egg for me?"

"Well, yes, Harry! See, all owls have a small bit of magic within them. It's in their bones. And what Neville is appearing to be saying is that Hedwig used that magic to create this egg for you, and she caused it to wait to hatch."

Neville nodded emphatically. "Yes! See, when it didn't hatch at first, I thought it must've died. But when I held it, it was still warm. Like it was in limbo, just waiting for the right moment to hatch. So I kept it in my socks so that it would stay warm. But last night, I was looking it over and it moved. Harry, I think it must know that you're here and that it's time to hatch."

Even as Neville spoke, Harry felt a movement within the egg and heard a slight rustling sound. He jumped a little in alarm, holding the egg at arm's length from his face, and Hermione gave a small chuckle.
"It's only an egg, Harry; it won't hurt you." Harry felt rather sheepish and brought the egg closer to his body, automatically holding it with both hands against his chest.

"So what do I do with it?"
"Well, you keep it, of course!" replied Hermione. "It's Hedwig's last gift to you. It will hatch and she is entrusting you to raise this owlet for her, since she is not here to do it herself."

Harry gave a sad smile at that, thinking fondly of his beautiful bird, the way she used to soar with her huge wings outstretched in the absolute ecstasy of dancing through the air. Had she really been so thoughtful, so smart as to leave him this last gift? Did he really deserve this honor?

Harry removed his handkerchief from his pocket and carefully wrapped the egg up before slipping it into his deep pocket, resolving to be the best companion for this owlet there ever was.

- -The Next Morning-

Harry stood, clasping hands with Ginny, his head bowed, by the Great Lake where a funeral was being conducted. The sermon had been short and direct, and now it was time for final goodbyes before the two caskets were lowered, side-by-side, into the soft, welcoming earth. Hermione stood between the caskets, tears in her brown eyes, one hand resting on the wooden surface of each. Her lips moved as she spoke to Remus and Tonks, but nobody else could hear what she was saying.

Ron stepped forward and took the hand of his girlfriend when she was finished, nodding respectfully to each coffin, obviously holding back tears, before leading her back to where their friends stood. Everybody had a turn to say their final words to the dearly missed Order of the Phoenix members. And then it was Harry's turn.

"Er, Hullo Remus," he said quietly to the glossy surface of the cherry wood coffin, feeling slightly awkward. "You were a great man." And, oh dear, tears began stinging the back of his throat, making audible words difficult. His nose began to run, and he quickly turned to the smaller white coffin.

"Hullo, Tonks," he told this coffin. "They should've made this coffin pink, huh? You would've liked that, I'll bet. You were brilliant, you know."

Here he addressed both coffins. "Ginny and I will keep an eye on Teddy; don't you worry. He'll be well provided for. He won't want for anything. It's the least we can do."

He hustled from the coffins, swiping at his face with the sleeve of his borrowed black suit. When he reached Hagrid, the half-giant gave his arm a reassuring squeeze, and Harry nodded, unable to speak. Hagrid smiled understandingly.

And then, something in Harry's pocket moved. Harry nearly jumped, then reached into his pocket, excitedly removing the egg. A large crack ran down the surface. He watched, fascinated, as the something inside shifted, chipping away. A few minutes passed and a piece of shell fell to the ground. Harry moved his free hand to help peel the egg open, but Hagrid stopped him.
"No, Harry," he whispered. "'E's gotta do it in 'is own."

And in a matter of minutes, the shell was chipped away, piece by piece, until a soggy bundle of black feathers rested in Harry's hands. The feathers let out a squeaking sound, and Hagrid helped Harry clear most of the shell and goo away with a handkerchief.

"It's a girl, Harry," Hagrid whispered. "You'd be'er get her inside; she needs ter dry off an' get warm."

Numbly, Harry obliged, unable to take his eyes from the creature in his hands. 'It's Hedwig's baby,' he thought with fascinated wonder. He was enchanted as he saw the dark feathers shift, and a tiny yellow eye peep out at him.

"Hello, darling," he whispered to it. "You really are a miracle, aren't you?" He carefully made his way back to Gryffindor tower and lay on the rug in front of the small fire in the fireplace. He snagged some cushions off the sofa and rested the bird on them, making her as comfortable as possible.

"Thank you, Hedwig," he whispered.

Ginny found Harry asleep in front of the Gryffindor fire after the funeral service was over. Hermione had explained everything to her and so she was unsurprised to see a now completely dry ball of fluff perched contently on her boyfriend's hand. She gave a small smile.

'Well, welcome to the family, little one,' she thought tenderly as she curled up next to Harry's side on the warm rug.