Harry peeked into the library. It was unusually quiet, with only the sour-faced librarian behind her desk and a towhead fourth- or fifth-year Ravenclaw girl reading at a window.
The Ravenclaw glanced up sharply as Harry walked in, studying him with pale hazel eyes. Flipping her white hair over her shoulder, she scrunched her shoulders and nestled her pale face further into her scarf- not the usual Ravenclaw colors, Harry noted, but a homemade-looking black-and-white scarf.
Taking a table far from the girl, Harry sat down to write his letter.
When Harry was done writing, the girl looked up with a sigh, snapping her book shut.
"You," she said, passing Harry, "Write too much."
And she was gone from the library, leaving a shiver of winter wind in her wake.
Harry blinked as he watched the door she'd disappeared through. Then the girl poked her head back inside.
"And do you have any idea how cold the Owlrey is this time of year?" she demanded rhetorically, disappearing again within moments of asking the question.
The owl post flew in with a gust of snow the next morning, showering the Great Hall with a fine layer of white.
"Where's Hedwig?" Hermione asked, scanning the ceiling.
"Dunno," Harry said, absently looking up. "She's harder to see when the owls bring snow with them."
"There she is," Ron said, pointing across the Hall with his toast and narrowly missing Neville with a flying blob of jam.
Hedwig spiraled down to land on the table, shaking her snow-coated feathers out over everyone's food. Dropping the Daily Prophet into Harry's lap, she helped herself to a piece of bacon, blinking at Harry with amused gold eyes.
"Would you like some bacon?" Harry asked, slightly exasperated. He reached up and stroked Hedwig's head.
"How is she?" Hermione asked, slightly nervously.
"Well," she began, "The other day, I was down by Hagrid's pumpkin patch, you know, where the tree line begins? I was there, trying out an old spell I found in this book- it was written in some ancient language, I'd found it and translated most of it- and, this spell, see, it's supposed to grant speech to, say, trees or animals. I wanted to try it, so I-"
"Hermione," Ron interrupted, "Get to the point!"
Hermione shot him a glare, then continued. "Basically, I was trying this spell on a tree, when Hedwig flew down and startled me. I- I think the spell misfired, and I'm not sure if she was caught in it..." Hermione trailed off, looking between Harry and Hedwig.
Harry blinked a few times. "Um. You hexed my owl?"
"I don't know?"
"You don't know?" Harry and Ron exchanged disbelieving looks. This was a rare occurrence.
"We could at least find out if the spell- if it hit Hedwig- did what it was supposed to," Hermione suggested.
Harry looked at his bacon-munching owl.
"Hedwig, can you talk?" he asked, trying to keep a straight face.
Hedwig blinked at him, looking extremely intelligent. She hooted.
"Well," Harry said, "That's that."
Hermione sighed and reached across the table to pet Hedwig.
"I guess it is," she said quietly.