Hedwig was happily grooming Harry's head with her beak as he studied his Herbology textbook. Comfortably seated on a couch in the common room, back resting on one end and feet tucked up to his butt, the book rested on his lap, the parchment on a clipboard Hermione had allowed him to borrow. Nice girl, that Hermione.
Finishing his Herbology homework, Harry set it aside and began a crossword. Six down, five letter word that means 'to fail'; 'blank' up.
'Try... Ummm... Damnit.' Hedwig said.
"So much for 'wise old owl', hey?"
It was quickly becoming common to see Harry carrying on half a conversation by himself. Suffice to say, it was awkward. Hedwig was very motherly as it was, but Nightwing apparently was a sarcastic dick who could put Snark (I mean Snape!) to shame.
But that's not the point!
It took Harry until the middle of his fourth year to solve that particular crossword.
"Mr. Potter, the Headmaster wishes to speak with you. Follow me, please."
Harry rose, Adern slipping over his shoulders comfortably as he did so and followed his head of house, wondering why Professor Dumbledore wanted to see him."
Standing in front of the Gargoyles once more, Harry laughed at the password ("Everlasting Gobstoppers!") and followed the stairs up. Knocking on the door, he heard a kindly "Enter, Mr. Potter," and brought himself into his headmaster's office.
"Harry, please, come sit. Lemon drop?"
"Thank You, sir," Harry said, reaching for one, letting his magic 'taste' it first for anything... unsavory. A mild calming draught laced it, nothing more, and so Harry took it.
"Why is it you wanted to see me, sir? ... I blame that prank with the firecrackers on the twins and Sirius!"
The old Headmaster laughed gently and said "No, you misunderstand, Harry. I asked you here to see if you wouldn't mind my borrowing of Salasha. You see, in the third floor corridor, we are guarding the Sorcerer's Stone. And though we've placed a number of protections around it, I and the Stone's owner would like to place a number more, such as, say, a Basilisk."
'Salasha,' Harry thought, calling his last familiar to him. 'Guard the third floor corridor. The only people allowed in are the headmaster and... Hagrid. Turn all the others away. I'll get mirrors placed around the hall so you'll only petrify them.'
A feeling of affirmation flowed through their bond, and Harry faced his Headmaster again. "She'll do it, but we want mirrors placed around the hall so she only petrifies people."
Dumbledore smiled and nodded, and it was done by the end of the day.
Christmas came and went. Harry spent it with his Godfather at a hotel in Hogsmede, and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. Sirius got Ron an owl, a small, buzzy little creature, and Harry was fairly certain Ron would love having his own bird (he could almost hear Ron saying "Great, now we can retire Errol!").
Hagrid sent him a book labeled "Dangerous Creatures for Dangerous Wizards" that explained how having a familiar tended to work, which Harry enjoyed immensely. Ron had given him chocolate, and Hermione gave him another book, this one entitled "Magical Snakes through the ages", which Harry enjoyed as well.
Sirius gave him a large set of Wizard's games, promising to teach him how to play them all, and an old piece of parchment ("If you're up to no good, this will help you more than you know."), and from Molly Weasley he received a green, knit sweater and some fudge, and from an unknown source, a simple package that made Sirius gasp.
"Oh, the trouble we'd get into with this..." he whispered as Harry handed it to him. "This, Harry, is your father's old invisibility cloak. It belonged to his father, and his grandfather, and at the very least his great grandfather's grandfather. Now, it belongs to you, and eventually, you'll leave it to your kids."
Harry held it reverently, and then slipped it over his shoulders. Sure enough...
"Heeeeey, I could get usssed to being invisible like this!" Adern hissed from his spot on Harry's shoulders.
Harry, with Ron and Hermione under his cloak with him, slipped out of the Gryffindor common room and towards the third floor corridor. Adern was comfortably slithering over the ground ahead of them, scouting for trouble (and Filch.) with a sense of pride. As thee three humans entered, Harry threw the cloak off and rushed forward, throwing his arms around his largest Familiar's snout in a hug. After all, everyone, even monster snakes, likes a hug now and again.
The three humans and two snakes settled down to rest with each other, Harry on Salasha's head, and Ron and Hermione resting on her sides. The five talked into the night, about school, about muggle films (which Ron found both strange and fascinating at the same time. He'd have to take up the chance to see these 'Star Wars' for himself one day.
The day that Harry accidentally killed Professor Quirrel started like any other, really. He woke up, said good morning to everyone, and then went to breakfast. Then he accidentally bumped into the turnbaned teacher, and the next thing anyone knew, Quirrel was screaming in pain and falling apart into tiny little chunks of dried out skin that felt more like that blackened honey on the edge of a honey baked ham. A black mist burst from the professor's body, but Harry, in a stroke of genius, reached out and touched it, and the mist screamed too- or was it Hedwig, sreaming for him to let go? Or was it Hermione and Ron?
Harry couldn't tell, and he slipped in to blissful unconsciousness.
A special thank you to all my reviewers- you keep me writing even when this is really just me compiling som ideas for a bigger, full on story!