Wednesday, 31 July 1991
Harry stepped out into Diagon Alley and blinked in the bright sunlight. Just as his vision seemed to be clearing, another white spot appeared. Oddly, it was growing larger and larger.
“Watch out, ‘arry!” Hagrid grabbed him by the arm and yanked him to the left. The flying object shot past him, and whirled around them.
Harry stared as he realized it was a bird. No, an owl – a white owl. It let out a loud sound that was definitely not a hoot.
“Krekk!” The owl warbled, as it slowed, and to Harry’s surprise, descended towards him. He reached out instinctively, and its talons wrapped over his right arm.
“Hello,” he said, smiling at it.
The owl cooed as it turned its head to look at Harry with its bright yellow eyes. Then she walked up his arm, flapping her long, white wings. When she reached his shoulder she tilted her head and rubbed her downy cheek against his own. Harry laughed softly, then reached up and cautiously stroked her wings.
“Hold still, please!” A girl called as she ran up the steps, brandishing a wand.
The owl burrowed its face into Harry’s neck and let out a mournful coo.
“What’s wrong?” Harry frowned as he looked at the young woman. She was slim and blonde, and was wearing blue robes and a name tag that declared her name was Verity, and she worked at Eeylops Owl Emporium.
“This owl’s been giving us trouble for weeks,” Verity declared as she approached Harry and Hagrid. “Doesn’t like any of the customers, and tries to fly away every chance she gets.”
“How much is she?” Harry blurted out. The owl was beautiful, and she’d flown straight to him like she knew him.
The shop girl looked startled, but recovered quickly. “Four sickles, and I’ll throw in a free cage and a bag of treats. You’ll be doing me a favor.”
Harry petted the snowy owl’s wings as he followed Verity to the owl store.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you there,” he told the owl softly. Harry felt excited – he had money now, and he could actually have something he wanted.
His answer was an understanding sort of whistle. Harry grinned at the owl, and felt very proud when he went up to the counter and handed over four sickles. He took a simple silver cage, tossed the complimentary bag of owl treats inside, and left Hedwig perched on his shoulder.
“Great creatures, owls. Smarter than any other bird, ‘cept mebbe a phoenix,” Hagrid told Harry as they left the store. “But you might want to cage her for the walk, don’t want her flying away.”
The snowy owl let out an indignant cry – krekk – and swiveled her head to stare down the groundskeeper. Hagrid’s eyes widened in surprise.
“She won’t fly away,” Harry said confidently. She looked pleased by his faith in her.
“Alrigh’,” Hagrid allowed. “Listen, Harry, would yeh mind if I slipped off fer a pick-me-up in the Leaky Cauldron? I hate them Gringotts carts.” He did look a bit sick, and Harry felt a little bad that he’d forgotten about Hagrid’s green features, since he’d been absorbed in finding his owl.
Hagrid suggested Harry get his robes, though he felt a little reluctant to be on his own. Once the large man headed off, Harry made his way towards Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions.
“I wonder what I should call you,” Harry mused, gazing at the owl on his shoulder.
Keen yellow eyes met his for a moment, and then with a flutter of white wings, his owl left his shoulder and went flying down the street.
“Hey!” Harry called, upset. He’d been so sure she was going to stay put.
“Krekk,” the owl called, and flew off. With the cage and his moneybag in hand, Harry hurried after her, calling - “Wait up!”
The denizens of the Alley were treated to the sight of the small, messy haired boy chasing his owl down the street, nearly tripping several times on the cobblestones.
She landed serenely atop a bronze shop sign. Below her, curly, embossed letters in black ink proclaiming the shop’s name; Flourish and Blotts.
“Please don’t fly off like that!” Harry told his owl, once he’d caught his breath. She fluttered down to land on his shoulder, and shuffled in place, her head hanging low as if apologizing.
“Oh, it’s okay,” Harry hastened to add. “I just didn’t want to lose you. I’ve never had an owl before.”
She gave him a look, her keen eyes seeming to tell him that she wasn’t his owl; rather, he was her wizard.
“I guess you like books?” Harry suggested with a grin as he looked at Flourish and Blotts.
Well, as long as he was here, Harry figured he could pick up his schoolbooks. He opened the door and headed inside, breathing in the smell of ink and parchment. The shop was large, at least five times bigger than the Owl Emporium had been, and full of ceiling-high bookshelves that were crammed full of large books and gaudy signs indicating the different sections.
The owl pushed off his shoulder, heading down the main aisle before wheeling gently to the left. Harry hurried after her, nearly bumping into a few other customers, one of whom seemed to be having an argument with a book, which was growling back at her.
He found the snowy owl perched on a shelf, nosing at a small brown book. Curious, Harry plucked it out and examined the title.
“Notable Witches and Wizards of the Past Millenium.” Harry read aloud. That did look interesting, he supposed, and began to flick through.
His eyes widened as he realized that in addition to the texts, there were glossy pictures of the people talked about, and they were moving, grinning and waving up at him.
“Wow…” As Harry continued flipping through the pages, the owl extended a foot and pressed her talons to the page. Harry waited a moment for her to move it, and when she didn’t, he looked back at the page.
“Hedwig of Maiden Castle, 1320 – 1457. Wait – is that right? She lived to be a hundred and thirty seven? Wow,” Harry whistled, and read on. “Hedwig was a great Healer of her time, and is remembered for her kindness in assisting witches and muggles alike through childbirth and other illnesses. Hedwig is also known for her defense of a neighboring muggle village against a dragon attack in 1382, and her subsequent defeat of the ferocious Welsh Green. Er, is that what you meant? It is interesting – Ow! Stop pecking me, Hedwig!”
The owl stopped in her brief attack, fluttering her feathers in a manner that can only be described as smug. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Harry knew.
"That's your name, isn't it? That's why you wanted me to see that... All right, Hedwig it is, then." Harry grinned at her widely. “You can read, can’t you? That’s amazing.” He remembered that the snake at the zoo was able to read its own sign, and wondered if all animals were this smart.
Hedwig preened herself proudly, and leaned in to nuzzle her soft face against Harry’s cheek. She cooed softly, a comforting sound, and for a moment, Harry’s eyes closed, his body relaxing at the gentle touch of her feathers.
Harry made his way back to the front of the store, where he picked up one of the shopping baskets, then pulled out his school list. Together, they wandered through the aisles, picking out the required texts. The smallest was a slim red paperback, Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them, while the dull sounding Magical Theory was inevitably thick and heavy. When Harry had found his last book, The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection, Hedwig stepped off his shoulder and flew down the aisle, to land precariously on a low shelf. Harry knelt down beside her, curious to see what she was interested in. It was an old leather bound book, dark green and scuffed, and he pulled it out and dusted it off to read the title.
“Occlumency, Lessons for the Wise,” Harry read aloud. He cracked it open with a little difficulty – clearly nobody had touched it in ages - and skimmed through the introduction. “Protect yourself from wizards who can read your mind?”
Harry’s eyes widened. That certainly sounded useful. He had no idea that some people in this world could actually read his thoughts. He tucked it in between Magical Drafts and Potions and A History of Magic, then followed his owl as she led him to another aisle. Hedwig selected one last book before returning to his shoulder. It was called Hogwarts, A History. While history classes had never been Harry’s favorite (in part, due to Dudley’s constant presence in the seat behind him, where he could kick Harry and stick away his used gum in his hair), he brightened at the thought of learning more about Hogwarts.
Harry wandered a bit, taking down books that looked exciting, adding them to his basket, which was now incredibly full. The best looking one was called Curses and Counter-curses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying and Much, Much More) by Professor Vindictus Viridian.
The absent-minded clerk barely noticed Harry, to his relief, as she rang up his purchases. He paid exact change, and heaved two paper bags (they must be enchanted to not have broken by now), now filled with a couple dozen books, along as best he could.
He turned in surprise to see Hagrid hurrying towards him.
“Where were you?” Hagrid demanded anxiously as he ran a hand through his scraggly mane. “I looked at the robe shop, but Madam Malkin said you never showed.”
“I went to the bookstore instead,” Harry felt abashed. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“No harm done.” Hagrid said, his smile clearly relieved. “Just like your mother, you are, heading right for the books.”
Harry brightened at the mention of his mother, whom he knew almost nothing about. “She liked to read?”
“Loved it,” the great man said kindly as he put a gentle hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Lily Evans was the smartest witch of her age, and everyone knew it. Did you buy out the whole store?” Hagrid laughed as he saw Harry’s heavy bags.
Hagrid took one of the bags of books for him, lifting it easily and tucking it into his side. “You need a trunk,” the large man realized. He led Harry down Diagon Alley, to a store with a small white sign that said Smythe’s Storage, est. 1758.
Harry followed Hagrid into the shop and began looking around. The store seemed much bigger on the inside than the narrow shopfront had indicated. Trunks of all shapes and sizes were stacked on top of each other – wooden ones, stone ones, and on one table, there were trunks covered with gemstones!
He wandered over to a stack of dark wood trunks with carved designs. Some of the patterns were even moving: vines waving at him, or waves crashing against the sides of the trunk.
“Harry!” Hagrid shouted, and Harry went to find him. “I found ye the perfect trunk.”
It took Harry a moment to connect what Hagrid was saying with what he was doing. He seemed to be holding the tail of a rather square looking furry creature with large eyes, and a large golden keyhole in place of a nose.
“Er…” Harry stared. “Is that a trunk?”
“Course it is!” Hagrid beamed, and leaned down to pat the top of it.
The living trunk purred deeply, then began to rub its back against Hagrid’s hand. “I haven’t gotten you a birthday present yet,” Hagrid beamed at Harry. “So this is what I’m getting you!”
Harry nodded, still a little shocked. Hagrid led the trunk up towards the counter, and Harry watched as its four furry little feet trundled along.
“Oh, it’ll be nice to have this one gone,” the shop owner sighed. “It’s always following the customers around… You can have it for two galleons.”
Hagrid started rummaging through his pockets for the coins.
“Um, how does it work exactly?” Harry had to ask, looking wistfully at the other trunks.
“It has multiple compartments,” the woman told him. “You pet different parts of the lid to open each one.”
Harry approached the trunk, and it turned to him, its black eyes wide and curious. He reached out cautiously, and it moved to meet him, nuzzling against his hand. Harry began to grin. It was kind of like a cat, but not smelly like one of Mrs. Figg’s though. His trunk purred, and Harry stroked its furry lid.
“It definitely has character,” the woman said, and handed a small golden key over to Harry. “There’s only one key, so keep it safe. It’s pretty well spelled against any tampering; it would take some serious magic for someone else to get it open without the key.”
“Let’s put these books away,” Hagrid said.
“Wait,” Harry paused, reality hitting him. “I can’t take this back to Privet Drive! Everyone will see it!”
“Didn’ think of that,” Hagrid said, crestfallen.
“Is that a muggle area?” The woman enquired, and Harry nodded. “Not to worry, it’s runically warded. Muggles will see an ordinary trunk with wheels and a rope attached, not feet and a tail.”
“Great,” Harry said in relief. “Thanks, Hagrid.”
“No problem, ‘arry. Happy birthday!”
He unlocked the trunk, and it popped open gladly, showing a surprisingly normal looking wooden interior. Harry put in all his books, then closed it again, and experimented as the woman advised, petting different parts of the lid, and finding that it would close and open again into an empty compartment, then take him back to his books if he stroked the right spot again.
“Different stomachs, more like,” Hagrid chuckled.
“Mind if I hold your tail?” The trunk wagged its tail eagerly, and Harry took a hold of it and led it out of the store. It plodded after him, its eyes flickering around to take in the sights.
“Now, we never did get your robes,” Hagrid said with a smile.
“Do you ever wear robes?” Harry wondered as they returned to Madam Malkin’s.
“They don’t make ‘em big enough,” Hagrid shrugged. “Usually just wear my coat instead.”
While Harry held open the door, Hagrid had to duck his head and turn sideways to squeeze through.
“Rubeus!” A woman called warmly. “How are you?”
“Well, thanks,” Hagrid said, sounding a little bashful. He ran a hand through his hair and smiled at an auburn haired woman. She had a slim face, wore deep blue robes, and was probably in her thirties. “How are the girls?”
“Look at the owl, it’s so pretty!”
Harry looked past the woman who’d stepped forward to hug Hagrid – she was incredibly petite beside him. There were three girls behind her, all with the same hair. One was standing on a footstool, getting fitted for robes. The other two were smaller, maybe six or seven years old, and very alike in looks.
The girls came forward to look at Hedwig, who was still perched quietly on Harry’s shoulder. She stepped off, holding out her wings, and the girls gasped, then giggled, as she flew to land on the smaller one. They took turns petting her gently as Hedwig preened proudly.
“Her name’s Hedwig,” Harry told them, and they smiled up at him happily.
“Here for your robes?” He turned to see a woman in mauve robes. “Yes, please.” Harry took the list out of his pocket to look at it. “Three sets of work robes,” he read aloud.
“Of course. Step up here, please.” Harry climbed onto a footstool and noticed that the woman had a small tag on her shirt that read Madam Malkin.
“Hello,” the girl standing facing him smiled at him. “Are you going into first year at Hogwarts too?”
“Yeah,” Harry said, smiling back.
“I’m Susan Bones.” She held out her hand and he shook it, before Madam Malkin instructed him to raise his arms.
“Harry Potter,” he replied, just as a makeshift robe was dropped over his head. The seamstress quickly began pinning it to the right length.
Susan’s eyes darted up to his forehead instinctively. “What House do you think you’ll be in?” She asked curiously.
“At Hogwarts. We’re all sorted into four different houses.” When Harry shook his head, Susan decided to tell him. “There’s Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin. They’re named for the four Founders of Hogwarts.”
“Oh. Are they any different?”
“Well, each Founder valued different things. Hufflepuff appreciated hard work and loyalty most, while Ravenclaw prized a drive for learning. Slytherin emphasized ambition and cunning, while Gryffindor wanted people who were brave. Everyone says that whatever House you’re in, you have more of that respective trait. But I think people are more complex than just one thing,” Susan pointed out, and Harry nodded.
She pointed over to her mother, who had sat down with the younger girls and was smiling as they petted Hedwig. “My mum was in Ravenclaw, and my dad in Hufflepuff.” Susan’s voice lowered slightly as she spoke just to Harry. “I know they’ll be proud no matter where I go, but I’d like to be in Hufflepuff.”
“It sounds really nice,” Harry decided. “What’s not to like about hard work and loyalty?” He’d like to be around people like that. He’d never had friends before, maybe he would in Hufflepuff.
“Exactly!” Susan exclaimed, beaming at him. “There’s a lot of competition between the Houses, but Hufflepuff mostly stays out of it. Gryffindor and Slytherin House have the biggest rivalry.”
“Well, they say that the actual Founders, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin, had a falling out, and the Houses have been enemies ever since.”
“Hasn’t Hogwarts been around for ages?”
“About a thousand years,” Susan nodded. "It does seem way too long for any sane person to continue feuding. Nobody really even knows the details of why it began!"
“That’s you done, my dear.” The proprietress declared.
“Thank you, Madam Malkin,” Harry said politely, accepting the stack of newly altered black robes she was offering. He read the receipt, quickly counted out the money and handed it over. She thanked him and headed to the back room to deposit the sickles.
“So what do you think?” Susan asked Harry as he bent down to tuck his set of three robes into his trunk. “Now that you know about the Houses.”
It took Harry a moment to remember her initial question.
“Well, that kind of rivalry sounds ridiculous,” Harry decided. He’d had more than enough of getting picked on back in Little Whinging – he’d much rather go to Hogwarts to learn, not to participate in some weird old wizarding rivalry. “So I guess either Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.”
“So we might be in Hufflepuff together.” The young redhead said with a smile.
“Maybe,” Harry agreed. “See you at Hogwarts.”
“Enjoy the rest of your summer,” Susan called as Harry headed out, picking up the tail of the trunk to lead it outside. Hedwig left the little girls, cooing her own goodbye, and flew over to land on Harry’s shoulder.
“You too,” Harry waved back, and stepped outside.
“How do you feel about ice cream?” Hagrid asked him, pointing to a shop called Fortesque’s.
“I love it,” Harry said eagerly. He ended up choosing chocolate raspberry.
They found a bench a little down the street and sat down together to eat their ice cream. Hedwig leaned forward and stole a bite from time to time, earning a grin from Harry and a bellow of laughter from Hagrid.
"Didn' know owls like ice cream," Hagrid mused.
"She's special," Harry said fondly, stroking Hedwig's wings. "Did you know she can read?”
“Owls are clever,” Hagrid nodded. “That’s why they’re used for the post. An’ they’re one of the best animals for a wizard’s familiar, jus’ like cats.”
“What’s a familiar?”
“It’s an animal with a real strong bond to a witch or wizard. Very loyal, and some people say that familiars can even talk to their wizards.”
“Do you think I could talk to Hedwig?”
“I dunno,” Hagrid shrugged. “I’ve never actually seen anyone talk to animals.”
Harry frowned, remembering the snake. He opened his mouth to tell Hagrid about it, when suddenly there was a loud cry. A kid on a broomstick was flying down the street, knocking into various people, who shouted at him in annoyance. Other pedestrians scrambled to get out of his way, as he was only a few feet from the ground, and not quite above their heads.
“Kevin, get back here!” A man shouted angrily, but the little dark haired boy just laughed and kept flying. “Immobulus!”
A light pink wave of energy struck the tail end of the broom, and it suddenly slowed down. The kid wailed in frustration, kicking his legs, but his father was soon able to catch up. He hauled the boy off the broom and took it away from him.
“When I say not this year, I mean it,” he said fiercely, and dragged the kid back towards the broom shop.
Harry finished up his ice cream and saw that Hagrid was already done.
“Let’s finish off your list,” Hagrid told him.
They ducked into a writing shop, where Harry stocked up on parchment, quills, and ink. Then they stopped at a clothing shop, where Harry got a pointed hat, his cloak, and dragon hide gloves. There was some normal clothing as well, so Harry decided to get himself a couple pairs of shirts and trousers that fit him properly, though he resolved to keep them hidden until he went to Hogwarts. Finally, he thought happily, he wouldn’t be wearing Dudley’s oversized hand-me-downs.
Next, they found a shop where Harry bought a telescope for astronomy, and a pewter cauldron, silver stirring spoon, glass phials and scales for potions class. That was also where he found a comfortable denim bookbag, that the shopkeeper assured him had a lightening charm and an expanding bottom charm on it that would last for years. Harry tucked his money bag into the bookbag and was impressed that the lightening charm totally worked – he barely felt a change in the weight. He tucked everything else into the third compartment of the trunk, as he’d used the first one for books and writing supplies, and the second for his clothes.
They stepped into the Apothecary next, and Harry winced as the smell of rotten eggs and spoiled meat hit his nose. But then his eyes widened as he looked around. The store had everything he might have thought he could use in a potion, and more besides. Some of the ingredients even looked back – eyeballs blinked at him in greeting from clear jars. There was even an enormous heart in a large fish tank, floating in some kind of purple slime. One shelf was adorned with the most beautiful ingredients – bright scarlet feathers, silver unicorn horns, and gleaming green scales.
Hedwig took off with a soft call, and Harry followed after, wondering what she might have to show him this time. The snowy owl had found a gap in the ceiling-high shelves covered by a curtain. Harry gulped, looked around to make sure nobody was looking (nobody was), and stepped through.
There was another part of the store here, with less light and even creepier looking ingredients. There was a dead lion preserved in a nearby case, and an aquarium of strange fish with sharp teeth and deadly looking spikes.
He had to look for a moment to find Hedwig. She was flying through the aisles, looking for something. Harry waited until she settled down, then followed her. He looked where she’d landed, and realized that while everything in the front section had been labeled, the area behind the curtain was not.
Hedwig clicked her beak against a large clear bowl, which was full of little orange mushrooms that seemed to be wriggling against the glass.
“Weird,” Harry muttered as he watched the little fungi crawling around in the bowl. Hedwig knocked against it again. “What are those?”
She tapped it again rather impatiently.
“Alright,” Harry said after a moment. “You haven’t led me wrong so far.”
She preened a little at that. Harry unscrewed one of the empty jars on the bottom shelves that he’d seen people filling. Then he plucked out the little wriggling mushrooms with tongs, dropping them into the jar until it was full.
When he got back to the front, the shopkeeper had already assembled a basic first year’s set of ingredients for him, in a small case; there were vials and small jars of herbs, oddly colored liquids, and even teeth! Harry slipped the jar into the pile, and the man’s eyes narrowed, but he said nothing as he rang him up.
Outside the Apothecary, Hagrid checked Harry’s list again.
“Just yer wand left – oh yeah, an’ I’ve still got one more errand to run. I’ll meet you at Ollivanders in a few. Just down the street, on yer left.”
Harry’s heart raced with excitement as he hurried down the street, Hedwig hooting softly in his ear, his trunk bouncing from foot to foot to keep up with him. His wand. He was really going to be a wizard.
When Harry finally arrived back at Privet Drive that evening, he was relieved to find it silent and empty. The Dursleys weren’t back from the trip yet. The front door was locked, but Harry had stashed a key to the back door in a rosebush since Petunia started locking up early to punish him for staying out late.
Thankfully his trunk bounded up the stairs without any pushing, and Harry got settled into his new room. It was still rather crowded with Dudley’s old junk, but it was infinitely better than the cupboard. He shoved some broken toys off the desk to make room for Hedwig’s cage. The trunk kicked aside a few dirty articles of clothing, and settled down contentedly at the foot of the bed before closing its eyes. Harry grinned, shaking his head at how strange his life had suddenly become.
He soon discovered that there wasn’t any fresh food in the house, since they’d been away for a week. Luckily, the freezer had a frozen lasagna in it. Harry cut himself a large piece and warmed it up in the oven.
“What would you like to eat?” He asked Hedwig.
She just looked out the window, and gave a little shrug of her wings.
“Not hungry? Wait, do you hunt for your own food?”
Hedwig nodded, pleased at his deduction. She perched on the edge of the chair across from him, and Harry found himself talking to her as he dug into his food. When the Dursleys were home, he wouldn’t have gotten any of the hot meal, probably just cold bread, and if he was lucky, cheese with it. He might as well enjoy it while it lasted.
“Things are going to be different now,” he said happily. “They were so scared of Hagrid, now that I have a wand, they won’t try anything, I bet. I wonder if Dudley still has a tail…”
When he finished eating, and felt pleasantly full for the first time in a while, Harry cleaned his plate and went upstairs again. Harry considerately opened the window for Hedwig to go hunting, but it wasn’t dark yet, so she lingered at his bedside, watching as the young wizard went to his trunk and looked through his books. Harry took out The Standard Book of Spells, Year 1.
“I’m really going to do magic,” he whispered.
Despite all the amazing things he’d seen in Diagon Alley, some part of Harry had feared that Hagrid had been wrong, that he wasn’t a wizard after all. But then he’d found his wand, and he’d felt the magic in him for the first time. It had come to him so naturally, as he waved the wand, and beautiful sparks leapt from the tip.
In just a month, he’d be going to Hogwarts, and learning how to do all sorts of spells… Harry smiled as he remembered Hagrid’s words at lunchtime. You’ll learn fast enough, Hagrid had assured him warmly. He wouldn’t be able to see Hagrid until he came to Hogwarts, but now he had Hedwig for company.
Harry began looking through the book of spells, grinning with each new cool charm he read about, and soon lost track of time. When the sky dimmed, and Harry had to turn on the light in order to see the pages.
Hedwig flew out the window to go for a hunt. She returned an hour later looking very triumphant. Harry petted the soft feathers on the back of her head, letting her sit in his lap as he read. At the end of the next chapter, Hedwig turned and nipped the skin on the back of his hand.
“Ah!” Harry said, surprised at the sharp pinch. She stepped off of his leg and marched over to his trunk, whose eyes were closed at it apparently napped.
“Kreeek!” She clearly wanted him to do something. Harry came to her, and opened it to each compartment, until she hopped into the third and poked at the set of potion ingredients. Recalling then that Hedwig had picked something out at the apothecary, Harry picked up the jar of orange mushrooms.
They were still wriggling around in a weird way. Harry set the jar on his bed and then fetched out his herbology text, 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi. There were dozens of entries on mushrooms, but thankfully each one had a picture to match it to. Harry flipped through the book until finally he found the odd little orange fungi.
“Saharan mushrooms,” Harry read aloud. “These are found only underwater in desert oases in northern Africa. While used in many restorative draughts, these mushrooms are also highly prized as a consumable. Eating a single mushroom significantly cools down the body, saving many desert travelers from overheating. Another key property is its mind altering effects.”
Harry’s eyes widened at that statement. Had his owl convinced him to buy wizarding drugs? He continued to read on, dubiously.
“Eating a single mushroom allows the mind to become more open to mental connections, allowing, in some cases, shared telepathic communication, though only for a limited time.” Harry’s head jerked up as he thought of something Hagrid had said earlier, about legends of familiars and their wizards being able to speak to each other. “Is this for us? So we can talk?”
Hedwig nodded, and stepped closer in order to tap on the jar. Harry grinned, very curious. He unscrewed the top, then plucked out a mushroom. The boy stared at it for a moment, then shrugged, and stuck it in his mouth. He chewed, shuddering as he felt it wriggling in his mouth. It had an odd earthy taste that he’d never experienced before. Harry swallowed quickly, making a face as the mushroom squirmed its way down his throat.
Hedwig bent down and snatched up one for herself. She gobbled down the mushroom and stepped back over to Harry. He reached out to her, excited – and then suddenly his vision blurred, and he swayed unsteadily.
His skin tingled all over, goosebumps rising as he felt suddenly cold. Harry wrapped his arms about himself and shivered for a moment, keeping his eyes shut.
Are you alright, dear? A woman’s clear alto voice asked him in concern.
“Yeah, I think so,” Harry groaned. He blinked his eyes open and looked around in confusion, trying to find the speaker…
It worked just as I hoped. The voice sounded young, and very pleased. Now think your next response, don’t say it.
Harry stared at his owl, who was looking right at him. Hedwig? He thought. Is that you?
Yes, Harry. His owl cocked her head to the side, and her yellow eyes seemed pleased.
“Wow,” Harry breathed. It was very peculiar – he could hear her laughing in his mind, a pretty tinkling sound, as she ruffled her feathers prettily.
So if I can talk to you… Does that mean you’re my familiar?
Yes, Hedwig told him softly. It will take time to develop a familiar bond fully, one day we will be able to communicate like this without any magical assistance.
Cool, Harry thought.
There’s a lot I have to tell you, Harry, Hedwig sighed as she rubbed her head against his left hand. I’ve traveled quite a distance to be with you.
Where are you from? Harry wondered curiously.
I don’t mean I traveled a distance in space, the snowy owl replied. I traveled from seven years in the future. A witch used a complicated spell to send my spirit and my memories back to my younger body. I arrived in this time only a few weeks ago.
Harry stared at her blankly, waiting for the punchline.
This is no joke, Hedwig told him knowingly. Harry, I’m a time-travelling owl. And I need your help to save the wizarding world.
The eleven-year-old swallowed hard, and ran his fingers through his hair as he processed what his owl had just told him. It sounded so crazy, so outlandish… But after everything he’d seen in the last two days, why wouldn’t time travel be possible too?
“Alright,” Harry said finally. “What do we need to do?”