Hedwig, Hogwarts, and Harry
Summary: Hogwarts is alive. Familiars are more than mere pets, and Harry Potter has a destiny far greater than he knows.
Disclaimer: Ain't mine and never will be, sadly. Don't sue. If you recognize certain ideas or plots, it would be because I've been rather strongly influenced by some of the excellent Harry Potter fanfiction authors I've read. No plagiarism is intended.
August 1, 1980, Lawrence Felton's Post Owl Aviary
In a warm, soft nest in a protected corner, a single egg, zealously guarded by its parents, wobbled and shook and finally shattered, spilling its inhabitant out into the nest. The new-hatched owlet slowly managed to put itself to rights, and peered about the aviary, dimly aware, even this new-born, of something ... missing. Food sated its hunger, water sated its thirst, but no amount of companionship from parents or trainers seemed to ease the sense of something missing.
November 1/2 (very late at night), 1981
Dumbledore breathed a silent sigh of relief when McGonagall finally left Privet Drive. He could not do what he needed to do so long as she here to see. The boy must be contained, must be put upon the proper path, or all would be lost. In the still darkness, he lifted the Elder Wand and cast an Alohamora, stepping around the sleeping bundle on the stoop as though it were of no concern. Once inside, it took little enough time to find the Dursleys and to cast certain useful spells on them. That done, he slipped back out the door, being sure to lock it, and cast one more, far more powerful spell, putting Privet Drive and its inhabitants under a modified version of the same spell that had condemned James and Lily Potter to their deaths. Of course, this time, Dumbledore used himself as Secret Keeper. No witch or wizard would ever be able to come here without his leave now, though muggles would not be interfered with at all. That done, he turned on his heel and Apparated away. There was much yet to be done. At least Black had taken care of one of the problems Dumbledore faced without any prompting. Having him out of the way would make matters far easier.
Lawrence Felton's Post Owl Aviary
The owlet, now a nearly fully-grown adolescent, clacked its beak angrily. Over the last year, as it had grown, it had become more aware, more intelligent. It knew, now, what it needed. Or more precisely, who. It was aware its 'who' was very young, a nestling chick, and that to go now would mean nothing, so it had been waiting. Now, all of a sudden, the instinctual knowledge of where its 'who' was disappeared. It was aware 'who' had not died, but it had no sense of where 'who' might be, and this made it very angry.
November 2, 1981- June 23, 1991
Unfortunately for Dumbledore, despite the success of his initial actions, fate, destiny, and prophecy are not so easily denied. The owl escaped the aviary within a week of her wizard being hidden from her. It took her less than a month after that to discover that someone was receiving mail not addressed to them. She began to take action.
Dumbledore was baffled by the lack of mail, other than Gringott's account notices and the rare few owls bearing entirely malicious packages. Given the sentiment on the street, he'd fully expected for the room he'd set up for the purpose to be inundated with mail of all sorts. He was, and remained, completely unaware that a certain snowy owl had taken it upon herself to patrol the skies near Hogwarts, depriving every owl she could outfly, outbully, or out-think of their cargo and taking the letters and packages to another location. Only the Gringotts owls, huge and fierce and heavily protected by spells, and a handful of other owls, neither huge nor fierce but as heavily protected by spells as their Gringotts counterparts, managed to evade her wrath. Every letter and package she intercepted was deposited in a good-sized, dry cave a safe distance from Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the Forbidden Forest. It was not the most secure location, but it was the best she could do.
When she wasn't waging a battle in the skies, the snowy owl spent her time narrowing her search for her wizard. It was not until nearly four years after he disappeared, when Harry began going beyond the reach of the Fidelius ward for part of every day, that she finally pinpointed his location, and very nearly killed the next half-dozen owls she deprived of their letters in her anger when she discovered she could not breach the wards and reach her wizard. She settled for watching him from nearby trees, guarding him as best she could. She wanted, badly, to approach him, but her inability to cross the wards made doing so exceedingly unwise. She would have to wait.
Unaware of all of this, Harry Potter struggled through his life. For the first five years of his life he was hated, reviled, neglected, frequently starved and sometimes beaten by his aunt and uncle. They called him 'boy' and 'freak' to the point that he'd mistaken them for his actual name until shortly before school started. He was kept at chores from dawn to dusk ... when they didn't lock him into the cupboard under the stairs, which served him as his room. His only clothes were Dudley's castoffs. The only thing bought just for him was his glasses, and those had been very begrudgingly purchased indeed. He'd not had a new pair since the first were bought a week after he started school. And school was no respite, either. Dudley ensured he was kept friendless, terrorizing anyone who thought to approach him. The Dursleys, all three of them, ensured the teachers despised him, telling lies about him. They even put tales about the neighborhood, to further isolate him from everyone.
Abused, friendless and alone, no one could have blamed him if he had become angry and vengeful, or had simply given up. But there was a courage and strength of heart and mind in Harry that Dumbledore did not suspect, and had not planned for. Harry was a most fortunate combination of the best attributes of his parents. He had intelligence to spare, cunning and discernment, loyalty and a generous, caring heart that could not be quashed. As he learned quickly, Harry seldom made the same error twice, outside of bursts of accidental magic, which he could not control. He learned to hide his intelligence and carefully husband his few resources in the constant battle with the Dursleys. And on the worst days, if he had the odd feeling that he wasn't as alone as he felt he was, if he spotted a flash of white feathers in a nearby tree, and if he fell asleep listening to music only he could hear, that eased his heart and mind, what did it really matter?
Today, though, was at least starting as a surprisingly good day. Mrs. Figg had broken her leg, and could not watch Harry while the Dursleys went to the zoo for Dudley's birthday, so there was a very good chance Harry would get to go, for the first time, since the Dursleys refused to let him alone in the house for fear he'd do something 'freakish' to the place. Of course, he first had to weather Dudley's tantrum over the number of presents received.
The day actually got better from there, Harry reflected. He got to see a lot of animals ... and had even spotted a white owl he'd glimpsed now and again over the years, since a few months after he started school when he was five. He'd eventually resorted to looking it up. It was evidently a Snowy Owl, and very much not indigenous to Great Britain. They liked colder climes than Britain had to offer. He supposed it had been part of a zoo, or someone's pet, and got loose. From the size, he suspected it was female, as they tended to be bigger than the males. Plus, it had black markings on it, which (evidently) males mostly didn't, though he wasn't going to pretend to be an expert on the matter.
Of course, things eventually had to go wrong. They walked into the serpent house, and almost immediately, Harry frowned, as he could swear he heard whispering, just on the edge of his awareness.
[[Disgusting meaty things. Always staring, always pointing. Would love to be able to teach them some manners!]]
[[I'm hungry. Would be nice to have something to eat.]]
[[Quit that! Ought to lock you up and smack the glass all day. See how you like it!]]
Harry blinked, wondering where the voices came from. It took less than a minute to figure it out, as the closer he got to the glass-fronted exhibits, the louder the voices became, though they still remained muted, quieter than a normal speaking voice (probably due to the glass separating them). Harry eventually approached one of the larger exhibits, in which lay a large Burmese python, that seemed to be asleep. Dudley and his friend Piers, of course, came over to try to get the snake to react, rapping hard on the glass, then stomping away in disgust when the snake refused to move.
[[Sorry about that. They're like that with everyone.]] Harry said, completely unaware he was not, actually, speaking English.
The python lifted its head. [[Well, well! Someone with manners at last! And who is willing to speak to us, no less! Your apology is accepted, youngling. We have become used to such treatment, but it is nice to know not everyone thinks treating us ill is a good idea.]]
[[So no one ever tries to talk to you?]]
[[Oh no, young speaker. It's quite the rare thing, I assure ... ]]
The conversation, unfortunately, got cut off as Dudley returned, body-checking Harry and sending him sprawling as he bellowed for Vernon, Petunia, and Piers to come and see the snake, now that it was moving. Half a second later, while Harry was still trying to pick himself up off the floor and clear the cobwebs out of his head, Dudley gave a great, high-pitched shriek, followed quickly by several others. It took a few seconds for Harry to realize why. Apparently, the glass front of the exhibit had disappeared, and the enormous python was slithering out calm as you please while everyone in the vicinity shrieked and ran.
[[We shall meet again, speaker. Until then, you have my thanks.]] This time, the voice was at a normal, conversational level.
Unfortunately, Vernon and Petunia were ... rather put out ... by the whole thing, and Harry earned himself a week locked in his cupboard save for twice daily trips to the loo.
The python managed to evade capture, and escaped the zoo. It was met, just outside the zoo's environs, by a snowy owl, who herded the thing north, aware it sought Harry. It might be able to reach Harry in his house, but the chances of that happening without arousing the ire of his keepers was nil, so she redirected the thing to the one place she was sure it would be able to find him, in a few months time ... King's Cross and the access to the Hogwarts Express. Harry would be there, come September first ... and the owl fully intended to be with him.
July 14 - 31, 1991
A single owl arrived on the fourteenth, bearing Harry's Hogwarts letter. It was the first owl carrying a missive intended for Harry that actually went to its intended recipient, rather than ... someone else ... and as such, the first owl to not be harassed half to death in the execution of its duty, though the snowy owl was less than pleased to see another owl able to reach her wizard while she could not.
The snowy owl spent the next days laughing in amusement at the increasing confusion and mayhem as first dozens, then, finally, hundreds of letters were delivered. Most of the other post owls, while less intelligent than she, thought the whole thing great sport as well, and many of them stayed after delivering their burdens so as to watch the mayhem. But when the family decamped for parts unknown, only the snowy owl followed them every step of the way, soaring above the fast-moving vehicle as she watched over her wizard. Soon. Oh, soon. Very soon, it would finally be time. Finally be possible! She had been more than pleased that her wizard seemed to be aware of her already on an instinctive level. He seemed to 'hear' her, when she tried to comfort him as best she could when things went badly for him, despite them not having bonded. It was very encouraging.
She stayed only long enough to see them settle, and see the large, hairy man approaching the miserable little hut before she winged back to the Aviary. The trainers had planned to send a group of owls off to Diagon Alley today, and she meant to be part of the 'shipment'. Her Wizard would be there, and she would do whatever it took to be allowed, finally, to be by his side.
July 31, 1991
Harry had learned about traditions in school, and had, as a six year old, developed one of his own. He'd only found out when, exactly, his birthday was when he started school, and only then because it was on his school papers, and the principal read it out the first time he'd been summoned to his office for something Dudley had done, but blamed on Harry.
Every year since then, he stayed awake the night of the thirtieth, waiting for midnight and the beginning of the thirty-first. He always managed, by some means, to have a 'cake', normally a drawing, and this time an actual 'drawn in the dirt' type drawing. He always told himself happy birthday, knowing full well no one else would mark the day in a pleasant way (he'd often come in for extra abuse, though), make a wish and mime blowing out candles. It wasn't much, but it was something that no one could take from him.
Always before, when he did this, absolutely nothing happened. So this time, he could be forgiven for being very, very startled when something started smashing at the door the moment he 'blew' on the dirt candles. Nearly as alarmed as his relatives (Vernon appeared at the bottom of the stairs with a rifle, which Harry very much wanted to know where he got it!), he hid behind the edge of the bricks lining the fireplace. A second later, the door hit the floor and an enormous man squeezed himself into the room.
What followed was easily the most surreal half hour of Harry's life. His parents were not drunks. They were wizards. The hundred-and-one letters that had been everywhere for the last couple weeks were actually from a school. The school his parents went to to learn magic. It was a lot to process, to say the least.
Hagrid, the man who had come for him, was sweet and gentle and friendly ... with Harry. He'd also been right angry with the Dursleys over Harry's lack of knowledge of who he was and where he was from. Harry, long used to weighing people up to see if they were someone he could trust in any way (sadly the answer was usually no), quickly realized that whatever else was going on, Hagrid was innocent of it. His face was open and painfully easy to read, and he came across as slightly ... simple. Oh, not stupid, to be sure, but ... perhaps unsophisticated was the better word to use here. There was no artifice in Hagrid whatever. No ulterior motive, and certainly not a jot of malice. For the first time, Harry rather thought he'd found an adult he could trust, at least somewhat.
Diagon Alley, London
Being swarmed in the Leaky Cauldron was a new experience for Harry, and it had been all he could do to keep from hiding behind Hagrid. He'd been far less than impressed with Professor Quirrel, wondering how in the name of everything the man actually managed to teach anything, with that stutter.
Their emergence into Diagon Alley cured Harry of his distaste right quick. The alley was ... completely fascinating. There was so much to see and gawk at. But within moments, Harry was distracted, because he could swear he felt a ... tug ... pulling him someplace. Unfortunately, Hagrid was having none of his attempts to pinpoint the source of the tug, herding him towards Gringotts. There was some compensation for that, as the cart ride had been fantastic. The vault, though ... that made him angry. So much money, and yet ... He wondered, bitterly, if the Dursleys had access to the vault. It would certainly explain their tendency to buy the newest and best of any given thing for themselves and their son. Harry had no idea how much Vernon earned at Grunnings, but he'd long suspected the Dursleys of living above their actual means. Until now, he'd supposed that Vernon was stealing from Grunnings, but now he had to wonder if Vernon was stealing from him!
Finally, though, they were back out in the alley. Harry had paid scant attention to the second vault they'd stopped at, or its contents, since he was determined to find out where that tug was coming from. They stopped at the trunk store first, which only made sense to Harry, as they'd then be able to toss all their subsequent purchases into the trunk, rather than carrying a ton and a half of packages. The next stop proved to be the wizarding version of a clothes shop.
There, Harry met (well sort of) a most unpleasant blonde-haired boy. He was arrogant, snobbish, rude, and, Harry suspected, a bigot, given his comments about 'our sort' he'd been making. Once he'd gone, a relieved Harry had asked the proprietress for more than just the standard Hogwarts kit, investing in enough shirts, trousers, pants and socks that he'd not embarass himself walking around school. He even managed to convince Hagrid to visit the cobblers, and got himself a pair of boots to replace his nearly-worn-out trainers.
Hagrid got chased out of the wand shop when they stopped there, though he didn't seem to mind overmuch. He muttered something about getting something, and took off, leaving Harry to contend with Ollivander ... and the news about his wand ... alone. He was actually rather grateful for that. The fewer people that knew his wand was 'brother' to Voldemort's, the better. Whatever being a brother wand meant.
He'd just turned to leave the shop when he spotted Hagrid just outside the window, holding an enormous cage, and a gorgeous snowy owl that was watching him with oddly intelligent gold eyes. The tugging sensation increased tenfold the moment he locked eyes with the owl. He hurried outside.
"Hagrid! You didn't have to ... " He started.
"Nonsense, Harry. Every kid needs a pet ta take ta Hogwarts." Hagrid objected. "An' owls are dead useful, they are. Carry mail, they do. This'n practically made a nest in me hair tryin' ta go with me, so I figgered she'd be a good pick for ya."
"She? A girl then?" Harry clarified.
"Yeh, least, accordin' to the shop owner, anyway." Hagrid said, then he checked his watch. "Gulpin' gargoyles. It's gettin' late, Harry. We'd best git some lunch and then git you back to yer aunt'n uncle."
Fortunately, they were tucked into a table in a corner, mostly hidden from the rest of the room. It was fortunate because about halfway through lunch, Harry couldn't resist the temptation to touch the owl anymore, and reached a finger through the cage bars to stroke her fluffy featheres. The moment he made contact, both owl and boy were surrounded by a sapphire-blue glow ... which Harry was wholly unaware of, because in that same moment, the bond, denied for a decade, snapped into place. Harry got inundated by a wash of pure joy, relief, love, protectiveness and comfort. Heedless of Hagrid's awed gape, he opened the cage door with his free hand, and, without them losing contact with each other, the owl stepped daintily onto his wrist, their eyes still locked.
/Oh, Harry-chick. It has been far, far too long. I am so glad we are finally together./
Harry gave a mental blink. The voice, gently maternal, seemed ... familiar, somehow. /I ... what ... how?/ He caught a sense of amusement from the owl.
/There is much to explain, my wizard./ She told him. /But I am your familiar. I have been since I was hatched, a day after you were. Familiars are rare, even for adult wizards. There are many benefits, that I will explain later. And yes, you've seen me before. I've been watching over you as best I can for many years now./
/You sang to me!/ Harry thought, finally making the connection. /That's why you sound so familiar!/
The owl looked pleased. /Yes, that was me. Now, as much as I am enjoying this, you'd best pay attention to your surroundings again. Hagrid is watching/
It took an effort of will to blink himself back to the 'real' world. Harry gazed up at Hagrid, wide-eyed. "Whoah. That was ... different."
Hagrid, for his part, was as wide-eyed as Harry was. "Yer familiar. She's yer familiar, Harry. That's rare, that is! Most wizards don't ever have one, and them that do don't usually find 'em til they're a bit more grown-up like."
Harry eyed the owl. "Wow. Guess I'm going to have to learn a bit about that sort of thing so I know what I'm in for."
"Might be best." Hagrid agreed. "Y'kin ask when ya git ta school, I wager."
"Yeah, that'd be a good idea."
Hagrid escorted him back to the Dursleys. Harry, seized of an idea, had sat on the same side of Hagrid as he'd seen the man stash the key to Harry's vault. Fortunately, he was able to fish the thing out of Hagrid's coat without Hagrid noticing. Oddly enough, he got no sense of disapproval from his owl. And really, they were going to have to discuss a name, soon! Before they actually got to the Dursleys, Harry had another thought and opened the cage that the owl'd had to sit in while they travelled. He did not want her hurt or anything if the Dursleys gave him grief.