I hate The Train.
It's not just the screaming kids and cramped cages, though they do not make it any better. No, the worst part is the shaking. The small moving room does not glide idyllically across the countryside as one might expect. Instead in rattles and sways down rickety tracks, bouncing slightly across bridges and quarries.
The Master's sister opens my cage and pulls me close to her chest. She knows I am distressed and cannot sleep in these conditions. I can smell the fur from her tiny rodent on her jumper. My eyes catch a movement in her bag and I see the little creature poke its small nuzzle out.
It looks delicious.
The pale creature spies me and rushed back into The Sister's bag. "It's alright," The Sister coos. "We'll be at Hogwarts soon. You can sleep all tomorrow while I am in class."
If only I could articulate my appreciation for this girl's kindness. Instead, I simply nibble her hand with my beak and try my best to slip into slumber. Ever since the day we met, she has loved me as much as The Master and has shown many times more as affection. She herself bestowed the name Pigwidgeon upon me many, many years ago. The Sister took me in as her own and pledged to be my guardian when the Master had to part with me because of The Human's War. The war has taken the lives of many, human and owl alike.
Including my beloved.
For a long time, Hedwig turned down my innocent gestures of friendship in leu of the attention she received from the other males in the Hogwarts Owlery. Many of the other owls chirped very disrespectful things about her when they thought no one could hear. I think the rest were jealous. Not only did Hedwig have the softest, whitest feathers among all the owls who lived or stayed at Hogwarts, but she had the sweetest soul of anyone most of us have ever met, much like The Sister. Of course, many also sought her out for her fame and fortune as well. Her master is so well regarded and known in the world of the humans that of course knowledge of him has trickled down to us. He would enter the Owlery many times a month to send her on deliveries and feed her the finest owl treats. Many of us did not know why her master is so sought after though. Our knowledge of what humans find attractive is limited, of course, but her master is rather small and skinny with untidy hair and bad vision. To humans, he should be quite ugly, I understand. Hedwig, who had known her master since he was not much more than a fledgling, told me that her master did not seem to understand why he was so popular himself at times.
The Train stops at the station. The Sister picks up her bag, trunk and cage, tucking me inside of the latter. She rolls me onto the chilly platform and grabs the arm of her light haired friend, keeping the other girl close. Every muscle in her body contracts as she wraps her hand tighter around the handle. I wonder if she wishes The Master and his friends were by her side. Maybe she just wants Hedwig's master. Hedwig told me that she saw the two participating in a part of the human's slow mating ritual last spring. Maybe The Sister misses her own beloved as much as I miss Hedwig.
As we arrive at the carriages The Sister leans over and undoes the latch on my cage. I gratefully leap from my perch and soar high into the air. For a single glorious moment, I am filled with euphoria. Then I see the Owlery Tower, and the memories come rushing back. It is as if a gust of wind has thrown me back in time.
A tall woman holds Hedwig in her arms. She sets her down on a ledge near mine. Hedwig's wing is wrapped in gauze and held in place by a piece of tied up cloth. She quivers slightly as I hop over to her.
"Hedwig," I chirp quietly. "What happened to you?"
"Fat Toad Woman. Grabbed me, opened letter, Master took me to that new teacher, fixed me up, I miss the Half-Giant, Pig," she rambles, head staring straight into nothingness, eyes glazed over. "He picked me out, chose me out of all the other owls, because I was the prettiest. Is that all I am, Pigwidgeon?" She finally turns her head towards me, wincing slightly from the pain. "Am I just a pretty owl? Is that all I have?"
I stood in shock. Hedwig tended to avoid me. We had last talked at Grimauld Place, back when we had no one else. "Don't chirp that. You're so much more than just a pretty face. You deliver letters well, and you're nice to everyone, even me, sometimes. And I'm obnoxious." I chirp and hop around her in circles. Her face lights up.
"Thank you," She squeaks out. "I can't talk to anyone else, you know. They don't know what we do. What kind of letters we deliver. They're important, you know. They're going to bring peace.
"You know, Pig, sometimes I think you know me better than the others, even though I tend to avoid you because you cannot fucking calm yourself."
I did not know Hedwig. I try to tell myself I did, but I think the things I say are mostly lies. Sometimes, I do not even know if I loved her or the sum of every falsehood I have fed myself.
After that evening, we started spending more time together. She seemed less bothered by my antics and exuberation. I started to fall in love. I knew even if she would be with me, it would never just be with me. Most owls choose a mate and stay with them. A few do not. They are what the other owls refer to as "whores" or "sluts". They say Hedwig has mated with most of the males in the Owlery and even some of the wild owls, the dumb creature who have not spent generations upon generations of selective breeding and genetic altering charms to make us strong and intelligent. I know the rumors are true. I know that I was not the first, and if not for her premature death I would not have been the last.
I land on the ledge and scuttle into the Owlery. The student's owls are just arriving and Hogwart's owls are just waking up.
"Pigwidgeon!" A large, intimidating screech owl named Bertha squawks. She waddles over to me, parting the other owls like Moses on the red sea, if the red sea was being squashed against the wall and slightly intimidated. "Where's the skank?"
"Hedwig is dead." I chirp quietly. "Don't call her a skank."
The nearby owls go silent. "What happened?" Neo, a handsome horned owl, asks after a moment.
"Hit by the Green Killing Curse," I mumble. "Her master got attacked by Death Eaters. She got killed in the crossfire."
"Damn," Neo hoots. The other owls stay silent in reverence.
"Well, does anyone know the last owl she mated with?" Bertha squawks, breaking the silence.
"Really, Bertha?" Pandora, a smaller owl belonging to a girl Master had mated with the year before chirps. "You know I like gossip as much as the next girl, but Hedwig's dead. Who cares who she mated with?"
"I care!" Bertha squawks loudly, waking a group of youths who probably planned to sleep until midnight and stay up late into the day. "The slut's contraception charm malfunctioned."
A silence spreads throughout the owlery. Now, everyone is listening, even the Hogwarts owls who have most likely spent months hearing her obnoxious hoots. Most wizards put contraception charms on their pets to keep them from bearing young. We much prefer it to the nonmagical alternative which I understand is getting one's genataila ripped out. Hogwarts puts the spell on all owls staying here monthly, even though the spells are suposed to last for at least a half of a year. It is very rare for a spell to fail and there is only one way to know that it did...
"She showed up here a little over a month ago, crying about the war. I think her master thought she was hunting. Next thing you know, she was in labor. She laid the egg, mumbling the whole time about how she did not want her owlet around the war. Then she left in the middle of the day, leaving me to hatch the damned basterd. I just want to hand it over to whoever sired the stupid little thing."
My mind starts spinning. Hedwig had a owlet? Could it be...
Of course it's not. A voice in my head says. Do you know how many owls she mated with?
"Geeze Bertha. If you just want to unload a owlet, you can do so without dragging it's dead mother through the dirt." Pandora chirps. "I'll take care of it, if you are so desperate."
"It's up there," Bertha spreads her wing and gesters to a top rafter without a thank you. Pandora glares at her and takes flight.
The other owls begin to disperse. I stay still. I could not believe it. I glance to the top rafter and see Pandora wrap a wing around a tiny, white owlet, with huge golden eyes practically bursting out of her head. It cannot be more than a few short weeks old. I quickly soar to the top rafter and join her.
"I'm going to take care of you now, little one." Pandora tells the tiny owl.
"No Bertha?" the little one asks.
"No. No more Bertha."
Pandora turns to me. We can't help but cheer up with the owlet's proclamation. "You are a little girl owl, right?" Pandora asks.
"Yep. Where's mommy?"
Pandora and I are silent. "Bertha said mommy left me." she chirps sadly. "Is mommy ever coming back?"
"Do you know why your mommy left you here?" I ask her.
"Because she hates me?"
"No. Don't listen to Bertha. There's a war going on, little one, and owls have died in the crossfire. That is what happened to your mommy. She left you here at Hogwarts, where it is safe."
"Mommy dead?" The owlet asks, beginning to break down. Pandora glares at me and pulls her closer.
"Don't worry. I am here. I will take care of you."
"I will too." I tell the fledgling. No matter if I am or am not...She's Hedwig's offspring. Hedwig was my friend. I have a duty to protect her.
"Don't forget me," A voice calls from behind me. We turn to see Neo. "All of us were Hedwig's friend. All of will help you."
"Oh really? Friend?" Pandora chirps reproachfully.
"I know what you are thinking, Pandora, and I want to assure you it has not been like that in years. And anyway, why are you not suspicious of Pig's intentions?"
"Pig and Hedwig? Pul-lease. The little scamp's not her type. No offense," She adds quickly.
"Only some taken," I return. Hedwig never talked about her exploits. The males did. That's how everyone knew. I never bragged or boasted though. I respected her.
The three of us spent most of the time caring for her. When not sent on deliveries, we brought her back food from our hunts. We stayed close to her when she woke from daymares. Pandora is the motherly one. She tells her tales of brave owls of generations ago who transported letters of rebellion across Europe during Grindlewald's reign and memories of Hedwig when the owlet asks. Neo is her protector. Whether it be other youths out to traumatize her or the cruel chirps about her mother, Neo squashes the monsters out to get her. I am her mentor. I taught her to clean her feathers and hop across the rafters, and a fortnight after my return to Hogwarts, I was the one the stand beside her as she stood at the edge of the rafter, ready to spread her wings for the first time.
"I am scared, Pig," She squeals, backing from the edge.
"You are going to do fine, little one." I chirp back. "Now, jump before I have to push you."
"Okay!" She chirps, squeezing her eyes shut and falling from the rafter. For a moment she tumbles in free fall, and I hold my breath, waiting for her to fall upon the floor, when she spreads her tiny wings wide, opens her eyes, and shoots up in the air. "I'm doing it, Pig!" She calls, swooping around.
"You are!" I chirp excitedly, joining her into the air in exuberation. "And you are doing so well too! Soon, you will be delivering letters and going on hunts and you will be all grown up and it will be wonderful!" I hoot, flying circles around the tower.
"Pandora! Neo! Did you see me?" She chirps as we land on the rafter. "Were you looking? Did you see me flying? Just like you!"
Pandora and Neo flutter close to her as she continues to ramble on about herself and hop around on the rafter excitedly. "Of course we saw you, kiddo," Neo chirps, ruffling her feathers. "Looks like Pig's rubbing off on you. Calm down before you hurt yourself."
"Okayokayokay." She chirps in one breath. For a moment, she is still. Then, she begins fluttering around again. "I am sorry, I cannot, I am so excited I flew!"
"Soon you'll be hunting like a champ!" Pandora chirps.
That day, after we sent the fledgling to bed, Pandora cornered me by one of the windows.
"Hedwig talked to you about a lot of things," Pandora states. "A lot of things she never chirped to the others, especially after she got over your lack of self restraint or delivery conduct."
"I have been better this year," I chirp.
"You have not been yourself at all this year. The only time you have been almost back to normall was at midnight, when you taught our little owlet to fly."
"You did not come here to chirp about me, did you?"
"I came to ask if you had any idea who the little one's father is." She chirps back. "You spent a lot of time with her, you see, and no one knows who she mated with at the end of last school year..." She trails off. "It's you." She chirps after a moment. "You are the owlet's father."
"I don't know," I say, starting to fall apart. "I mean, the timing would be about right, I think maybe, but she mated with a lot of owls."
"Not last year, she did not," Pandora chirps.
My mind spins again. Could it be, that for the last months of her life, she was only with me? That she no longer needed the affection of all the others? That the charm failed after her and I...I had thought about it before, of course. Dismissed it. Not because I did not want to be the father of the fledgling, but because I thought I surely could not be.
"Hedwig really cared about you," Pandora tells me finally, flying back to the top rafter.
Christmas break was almost impossible. The fledgling angrily cried the entire night before Pandora and I had to leave. By now, she no longer needed any of us to help her hunt or fly, but she still yearned the comfort of others.
"There, there, little one," I say, wrapping my wing around her. She had grown to be almost my size, but Neo worried about her small stature. He would ramble on about how malnourished she must of been when she was with Bertha. "Neo is staying here. Pandora and I will be back in two short weeks."
"Two long weeks," She corrects. "Two very long weeks. Promise me you'll come back?"
I returned that time. I thought for a moment, I would not be able to, for Death Eaters came to steal a girl. For a second, I thought it was The Sister, but it turned out to only be her pale haired friend. When the two of us reunited, she danced around the rafters with unlimited energy, hoping between shelves and rafters, causing all the other owls to curse the time she spent with me and my apparently horrible influence.
The next time we parted, Easter break, I did not. Again, I promised her I would return. I thought I meant it. Turns out fate had other plans. Something, I am not quite sure, changed the course of the war and compromised The Sister's safety. She kept me at her great aunt's house for weeks longer than I should have been. Every day, I paced The Sister's room, begged her and The Twins for letters and mourned parting from the owlet.
Then, one evening, the serene house turned to pandemonium. The Sister and The Twins hurried about, carrying large gold coins for some unimaginable reason and pointing to human symbols around the edge. The the three of them mentioned Hogwarts. Taking that as my cue to leave, I flew into The Sister's robe pocket right as they apreated away.
Upon arriving in a small, dirty pub, I flew out of her pocket, she none the wiser, and frantically flew to the Owlery Tower.
"Pig!" A young voice calls. The fledgling flies out of the window.
"I'm so sorry, little one," I cry. "I'm so sorry."
"I thought the worst!" The fledgling chirps. "I thought you...Like Mom..."
We land on the window still and I pull her under my wing before she can continue. "I love you, little one." I chirp. "I never want to leave again."
"Pigwidgeon!" Pandora squawks, fluttering towards me, closely followed by Neo. "You finally returned! But your timing is horrible. Hedwig's Master has returned as well, and the humans are preparing to go to battle."
"We have to hide her," I chirp frantically, waving to the fledgling.
"The enclave " Neo hoots. "I can't fit in the hole, but you can. No one will see you, and the structure around it is too strong to fall."
"Come on!" I chirp, leading the fledgling down the stairs and to the tiny enclave on the bottom floor. I let her hop inside first.
We sit there quietly as the sounds of battle swell across the grounds. She is the first one to make a sound.
"Are you my father?" She chirps quietly. "I mean, I know you and Neo have been like fathers to me, but I hear things and began to suspect maybe..."
"Yes," I say after a short pause.
"You and Pandora and Neo are the only ones who don't talk bad about Mom," She says to me. "You tell me what she was really like, right?"
"Your mother was good at delivering letters," I chirp. "One of the best. She delivered letters across countries at times and even braved injury to transport messages for her Master. She tended to forget how skilled she really was. Humans and owls alike told her she was beautiful. Sometimes, she thought that was all she was good for. She was kind to anyone who showed her kindness. She loved her Master more than anyone else on this Earth. She got annoyed by me, until I mellowed out and she began to warm up to me. Sometimes, she talked to me alone. She thought I was the only one who could understand how important we were. There are a million things she never told me, and a million things no one will ever know. I know now that maybe she loved me. I know that I loved her. I know that, had she been able to meet you, she would of loved you."
"So it's true, what you told me? She left me at Hogwarts for my safety?"
"We will never know, little one. It's just something I like to think. Your mother was a bit of a mystery to everyone."
"Pigwidgeon," She chirps after a few long moments. "I love you too."
Hours and hours latter, the sounds of battle die. They are replaced by screams and cheers of the victors.
"Let's go," I say to her, leading her towards the sounds of celebration. We swoop into the Great Hall to see our Master's comrades. "I do not see my Master." I chirp. "I thought I would see him."
"He's not among the dead." The little one tells me.
"There's The Sister." I call, swooping down to her. Her eyes are veiny and crimson as she sits close to her mother.
"Pig?" The Sister asks. "Is that you? How did you get here? Come here, silly."
The little one and I perch on the table near her. "Looks like you found a friend," She says, stroking me and the owlet.
We perch there for a long time and eventually fall into slumber. Eventually, I feel the Master's large hand on my head and I awake.
"Master!" I cry, looking up to him, his siblings and his friends. "You are alright! You are okay!" I hop around the table and knock over a cup of tea in happiness.
"Calm down, Pig," He says. "Ginny's been treating you okay?"
"Yesyesyes, but she's no replacement for you!" I chirp, rubbing my head against his hand.
"Hey! Calm yourself. Time to go." Master says, holding out his arm.
"No." I tell him, knowing he has no idea what I am saying. "Not without her." I say, putting my wing around the owlet. She burrows herself closer to me.
"Hagrid!" Master calls. "My owl is trying to kidnap one of your owls."
The Half Giant walks over to us and pries her from my side. "This one's the orphan who showed up. She's been spendin' a lot of time with Pig. I think he adopted her."
"What?!" The Master asks in shock.
"Tell yer what," Hagrid says. "I don' want ter break up any owl families here. Since this one's not really a school owl, why not Ginny take the younger one?"
"Really?" The Sister asks. "Oh, thank you! I aways wanted an owl."
"What are you going to name it?" An older brother with glasses I do not know very well asks.
"I'll name it after you, Percy," She says, giving him an emotional hug. "I'm so glad you're back."
"Erm," The Half Giant interrupts. "I think itsa girl owl."
"Oh," The Sister says, deflated. "Persephone then. That's a pretty name."
"Don't let her name the kids," Master says to his friend, Hedwig's master, in a low, crude, voice. Hedwig's master steps on his foot.
"Did you hear that, Pig?" Persephone asks. "I have a name! And The Sister is my master! Oh, this is so exciting," She chirps, fluttering around us. The Master scoops us up and puts us in our cages to bring us home. Us home. What a beautiful thought.
Persephone served The Sister for the rest of my life. She probably served her until the end of hers too. Persephone even came to serve her mother's master as he married The Sister. We did not really live with each other for much longer, as The Master and The Sister moved out of their parent's house, but the two wrote often and we would meet at each other's homes. After that first summer, though, she did not really need my help anymore. We would chirp as long as we could, until the other Master sent us away. I told Persephone how smart she was, how good she delivered letters, how loyal she was, but never that she was beautiful. The others owls and the humans did because she was, of course. Just as beautiful as Hedwig, in fact, maybe even more so. Her petite stature and snow white coloring made her, in The Sister's words, "super adorable". By the time she matured, the Hogwarts owls stopped calling her a mutt and instead wondered if she was "like her mother". Thankfully, by then The Sister was nearing graduation and she visited Hogwarts not nearly as often. I never told her she was beautiful because of that. I wanted her to know she had so much more to offer than beauty. Something someone should have told Hedwig. I wondered once if Hedwig was more confident, if she did not spend as much time with the male owls doing what she did, if Persephone would have even been born. I told myself yes, because I loved Hedwig and Hedwig loved me, so of course we would have still gotten together, if only for a short time.
At least, that's what I tell myself.
I tell myself a lot of things about my beloved. About Hedwig. They could all be true. They are not though. Some of them are, some of them are not.
I think that is okay.
Author Note: Hey, so okay, I know that Pig and Hedwig are different species but just roll with me here. If the Giant Squid can do the "horizontal Charleston" with Hogwarts or Harry and Snape can have a child together, then I think a few biology fails between two owls is pretty good for a crack fic. I call this a crack fic because although it is serious in tone, it is ridiculous in reality. This was really fun to write. It really helped me get out of my writer's block. Stay tuned for more stories this summer, now that I have plenty of time to write. So long for now!