Actions

Work Header

A Familiar's Work is Never Done

Work Text:

She knew what the words meant.

“Avada Kedavra!”

She knew what the green light would do to her boy.

“No!”

She knew she wasn’t going to let it touch him.

“HEDWIG!”

She hoped he would survive, would find the peace he deserved.

She hoped he would remember her.

She hoped-

She woke up.

Feathers fluffing outward in surprise, the snowy owl blinked rapidly. It was not in her nature to stare about in baffled shock, but that’s exactly what she did. The familiar room full of other owls was just as she recalled - pleasant enough and certainly well-kept, but too crowded for her to enjoy being in it.

She had no idea what she was doing there.

Hunkering down on her perch as the human who looked after the owls walked by, she checked for the Bond that had been present for the last six winters. Thankfully, it was there, though much fainter than it should have been - almost as if all the time she’d spent with Her Boy was undone.

A single hoot of annoyance escaped her beak.

Just then, the door to the room opened, and a pair of dark haired young men entered. She straightened up, attention attracted.

The one in front was Her Boy’s rambunctious Adult-Child, the one that always smelled like a dog regardless of whichever form he was in. It was a shock to see him, since she easily remembered the days and nights of grief Her Boy suffered through after he told her the Adult-Child was dead.

Behind him, though... Behind him was a grown human with the same hair and face of Her Boy. The eyes were different, as was the scent and the Aura, but she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man shared kinship with the child she’d watched over for the past six winters.

In an instant, she’d launched herself from the perch and flew to the second man’s shoulder. He yelped in surprise, not expecting her sudden appearance, but she didn’t take it personally - especially since, after getting over his initial reaction, the man stroked her feathers in the same manner Her Boy always did.

The Adult-Child stepped closer, and she gave him the same stern look as usual, making the man she perched upon laugh.

A few moments later, the human who tended to the owls came up to them, apologizing and claiming he had no idea why the snowy would do such a thing.

“Only had that one a few weeks, and she’s usually quite standoffish.”

“It’s no trouble, I promise,” said the man she perched upon. “Admittedly, she’s a bit showier than what my wife and I need, but considering her reaction to me...”

She flapped her wings at that - she hadn’t reacted to him, but to his obvious kinship with Her Boy.

“In that case, shall we discuss a price...?”

Not long afterward, she was carried from the room to the outside world, eager to start the search for the young human that held the other end of her Bond.

“Alright, my lovely, I need you to fly to Number Seven, Bumblebee Lane in Godric’s Hollow.” She very nearly ignored the man’s request, except for the fact that the Bond warmed when he gave her the location. Head bobbing in acceptance, because she recognized that it must be where Her Boy was, she flew up into the air and away from the noisy Alley.

All during the flight, she pondered what to do when she first found Her Boy. Nip his ear to signal her displeasure at being left behind during the Sky Battle? Groom his hair to let him know not to worry her like that again? Or perhaps just settle onto his shoulder for a cuddle, showing how glad she was glad of his continued life?

As she expected of magical folk, the two men took their own transportation and beat her to the house, and were waiting outside the front door watching for her approach. Tempting as it was to ignore them and simply fly around to a window in the back, she nonetheless came down to alight on the shoulder of the man who had kinship with Her Boy. He praised her excellent travel time, which made her preen - it was good to be appreciated, after all. The Adult-Child, on the other hand, made a comment about getting something smaller and less noticeable, which caused her to shriek at him.

Chuckling, the other man carried her inside, calling out to someone already present as he did so. A woman with long red hair entered the front room, smiling at them and carrying a human-hatchling.

She blinked.

She hooted.

She flew straight to the surprised woman, perching on a folded arm in order to closely peer at the human-hatchling. The little being gurgled at her, and reached up to touch her feathers.

As soon as he did so, the Bond snapped back to full strength, and Hedwig wondered what in the world had happened to Her Harry.

-A Familiar's Work-

“Honestly Prongs, how does the owl you bought manage to bond itself to your one year old son?”

“Haven’t the foggiest, Moony, but that’s what happened.”

“So I see.”

From where she dozed, perched on the railing of Harry’s crib, Hedwig ignored the bewildered voices of Her Boy’s Sire and the Wolfish One. Her Boy’s Hatcher was elsewhere in the house, presumably either preparing the evening meal or still smacking some sense of calm into the Adult-Child (who had started laughing with no intention of stopping when they all realized Hedwig was Bonded to Harry).

“You don’t think this will hurt him, do you?”

“Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t think it should, but there’s no recorded precedent for a magical child bonding with a familiar this young - it’s completely uncharted territory.”

“Bloody fantastic...”

“Look on the bright side, James - you’ll get to write all this down yourselves and be the research other people refer to if it ever happens to another child.”

“Why did I even bother calling you over again?”

“Oh, I haven’t the foggiest.”

The two of them started bickering then, which prompted Hedwig to open her eyes and hoot reprovingly. Both men froze, staring back at her. Flapping her wings a couple times, Hedwig looked pointedly at the sleeping Harry and then back at the grown humans. The Wolfish One blinked, while Her Boy’s Sire snorted.

“Well, I guess she’ll at least be a good nanny, of sorts...”

-A Familiar's Work-

“Most extraordinary, most extraordinary indeed!” Hedwig glared at the Funny Smelling Old Coot. She knew he was the one responsible for making Her Boy remain with the Unpleasant People for so many winters, and had never liked him as a result, regardless of what defenses Fawkes made for his overall character.

“Don’t suppose you have anything more helpful to say than that, Professor?”

“I’m afraid not, my dear boy. Normally, it is impossible for any animal to form a Familiar Bond with a child not yet to the age of eleven - the same age at which their magical core stabilizes, as you know.”

“Right, yeah, that’s why they get their wands and start going to Hogwarts then. But how was the ruddy bird able to bond with Harry?”

“I have no earthly idea, Sirius.”

“Well, what about un-earthly ideas, then?”

“Hm... Perhaps... I think I can recall reading of something similar to this instance... Allow me some time to conduct research, James, and I may be able to put your concerns to rest.”

“That’s fine, Albus. It’s not like we’re going anywhere, as you know...”

“Indeed. Oh, that reminds me, I had a question come up the other day concerning invisibility cloaks, and wondered if I might borrow yours for a short time-?”

Hedwig screeched.

She knew what the Sight-Hiding-Cloth was called by humans, and it was Harry’s. The Old Coot had no right to it!

Unfortunately, the men all ignored her, though Harry recognized Hedwig’s distress and whimpered, reaching for her. The human-hatchling’s chubby fingers batting at her feathers were enough to distract the snowy, and she hopped closer on the play mat so he could more easily touch her.

Harry burbled happily as he got to fiddle with the soft feathers, and with the adult humans wandering away, Hedwig decided she may as well take the time to groom Her Boy. Even as a hatchling, his dark hair was getting long and finicky, strands of it sticking up in different directions. With deft motions born of long practice, the owl efficiently sorted them out with her beak.

“Thank you for that,” a soft voice spoke up behind her. Hedwig turned her head around to stare at Her Boy’s Hatcher, who’d entered the room from the Cooking Place. “I wouldn’t be surprised if his hair turns into a complete mess in future, just like his father’s.”

The red-haired woman sat on the play mat beside them, instantly earning Harry’s attention and a happy babble of incomprehensible sounds. Hedwig hooted in gratitude for how gently the woman picked Her Boy up and cuddled him - much better than the sharp words and harsh slaps Harry had long endured in that other human-nest.

“Clearly, we’re going to have to think of a name for you at some point,” Her Boy’s Hatcher murmured, still holding Harry with one arm even as she reached out to stroke Hedwig’s head feathers with the other. “I might have to go poking through my old History books to find something suitable...”

Hedwig immediately flapped her wings in approval, remembering Her Boy doing just that many winters before, when they originally Bonded. Laughing, the woman recognized the gesture for what it was.

“Alright then, glad to know you like that idea.”

“Are you talking to the owl, Lily?” Hedwig’s good cheer soured a bit when the Adult-Child sauntered over and draped himself down beside them. “Honestly, that thing’s got to be daft, what with willingly joining this family and all.”

“What does that say about you then, Sirius?”

“Oh, don’t worry, I already know I’m daft for doing the same thing!”

“Pa’foo!” Harry giggled, making waving motions at the ridiculous man. The Adult-Child simply smiled, and an instant later morphed into a large, shaggy black dog.

Hedwig decided she wasn’t going to put up with such nonsense this time around.

Shrieking fiercely, she launched herself at the bigger animal, biting and raking with less intention of hurting and more to simply scare him. Panicked barks accompanied the dog fleeing away from her attack. They went around the perimeter of the room once before the Adult-Child darted towards the front hall, only to crash against the legs of Her Boy’s Sire in the doorway. Both of them collapsed with a great deal of noise, which only increased when the idiot dog reverted to his human form.

Eventually, they fell silent to listen to another sound: both Harry and his Hatcher laughing hard enough to shake, Hedwig hooting along as she perched smugly on the woman’s knee.

“I- am so in love- with- this bird!” The red-haired woman panted between her giggles.

“I’m starting to wish we’d never gone to the bloody owl shop,” the Adult-Child grumbled.

Harry’s Sire sighed in agreement.

-A Familiar's Work-

“Hm... ‘Boadicea’? She was a powerful warrior witch-”

The snowy owl closed her eyes.

“Evidently not. What about... ‘Nike’? The first known owl animagi?”

She turned her back to the red-haired woman.

“I think I’m starting to run out of ideas... Ooh, here’s a good one - what do you think of ‘Hedwig’?”

Lily laughed when the owl finally gave her a hoot of approval.

-A Familiar's Work-

The night it was all ruined, Hedwig had been out hunting.

After three wonderful months with her young wizard charge, his parents, and their ridiculous friends, she’d foolishly gone and let her guard down. It had become a habit to spend every other night out in her natural environment, tracking down rodents to snack upon or smaller birds to startle. She thought Her Boy would be just fine in his peaceful human-nest.

The sudden blast of fear across the Bond changed her mind in an instant.

By the time Hedwig arrived back at their home, entire portions of it had been ripped asunder. She flew straight through one new hole and into Her Boy’s personal room, where she could hear him crying. Harry’s Hatcher was lying still on the floor. Between her and the crib was a crumpled pile of cloth - robes with a disturbing smell about them that Hedwig instantly felt wary of. Ignoring them for the time being, she settled down beside the distressed Harry, letting him clutch at her.

The two of them stayed like that until the Adult-Child came skidding into the room, looking frantic.

He moaned upon spotting the dead woman, but didn’t take the time to check her over more closely, as Harry’s soft cries caught his attention. “Oh, thank Merlin, Prongslet, you’re okay- he is okay, isn’t he Hedwig?”

She nearly gave his fingers a nip for that as the man reached past her to pick the hatchling up, but she didn’t have the heart. After all, it wasn’t as if she’d actually been around to protect Her Boy, as she should have been...

Then a huge form arrived in the doorway, and Hedwig felt a bit of hope - the Big One had often proven himself to be a good friend and ally of Her Boy in the Before, after all.

“Hagrid, what are you doing here?”

“Pr’fess’r Dumbledore felt th’ Fidelius fall, Sirius, an’ he sent me along t’ check on things... I don’t think he thought it’d be this bad, tho’...”

Focusing on Harry, Hedwig didn’t pay much attention to the conversation between the two men - at least not until the Adult-Child handed Her Boy over to the Big One, and left. She fluttered up to perch on the Big One’s wide shoulder, where she could alternatively look him in the eye and gaze down at Harry.

“You must be Hedwig,” The Big One rumbled, easily supporting the human-hatchling with one arm as he lifted the other to run a finger along her back. “Th’ Pr’fess’r said you’d probably stick close to ‘im. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt th’ little tyke.”

Hedwig hooted her approval, and settled more firmly into place as they went outside. The Big One got aboard the Adult-Child’s mechanical transport, but not before bundling Harry up in a warm expanse of pale blue cloth. Despite the urge to take to her wings and fly beside them, Hedwig tucked herself in alongside Her Boy for the long flight they set off on.

-A Familiar's Work-

“You aren’t going to be separated from him, are you?”

Hedwig fixed the Old Coot with a cold glare, and he sighed. Fawkes trilled lightly from his perch nearby, for once standing up for Hedwig rather than his own Bonded Human.

“Yes yes, I know my friend, separating a wizard and his familiar is unbearably cruel, especially when that wizard is still a mere child. But the Dursleys will not appreciate having such an intelligent animal in their household, I’m sure.”

Hedwig hissed. If she were strong enough, she’d have snatched Harry up and flown out the window then and there. Even if she wasn’t able to properly raise Her Boy by herself, she could surely get him to someone, anyone more suitable for him than Those People. The Wolfish One, perhaps, or the Clan of Fire-hairs who’d practically become family to Harry in the Before. Even the Adult-Child would be better than the life the Old Coot planned to send Her Boy back to!

But though she could express these indignant thoughts to Fawkes, his human refused to listen, or just didn’t understand. He continued to make arrangements, keeping Harry in a conjured crib beside his desk all the while. When nightfall drew close, he summoned the Big One.

“I need you to take Harry to Surrey, Hagrid,” the Old Coot said, handing over both Her boy and a wood dial with a spinning needle attached to it. “I’ve enchanted this compass to guide you straight there.”

“Thanks, Pr’fess’r. But, what about Hedwig? I mean, I wouldn’t mind lookin’ after her ‘til Harry comes back t’ us, but I don’t think she’s willin’ t’ leave him...”

The Old Coot sighed. “I know. By the time you arrive at Privet Drive, I’ll have something ready to handle that particular problem.”

Hedwig didn’t like the sound of that.

-A Familiar's Work-

The solution the Old Coot came up with wasn’t ideal, but Hedwig was willing to accept it, since she’d be able to stay with Her Boy and watch over him.

The Stern-Cat-Educator didn’t particularly like it either, though she ceased arguing when Hedwig stuck out a leg for the Old Coot to slide his solution on. After they set Harry down in front of the door and departed, there was nothing left for her to do but huddle beside him and wait.

A little while after dawn broke, she could hear footsteps coming closer from within the human-nest, and felt the Change occur.

The ring on her right leg warmed, which then spread to the rest of her body. Hedwig’s feathers tingled and melded together, her beak softened, her eyes became fixed in one spot - through it all, she had to fight not to resist the odd sensations. It all stopped just as the door was opened by the Screechy Woman.

There was an exclamation of surprise, and then both Hedwig and Her Boy were whisked away inside.

From then on, as long as any of the Unpleasant People were present, the owl was stuck in her stuffed toy form, only able to give Harry as much comfort as he could glean from hugging and holding her. At night, thankfully, the Screechy Woman, Fat Man, and Hungry-Worm retreated to their private dens on the level above, a far enough distance that Hedwig could Change back to her normal self to guard Harry as he slept.

It wasn’t ideal, but far, far better than being kept away from Her Boy completely.

-A Familiar's Work-

“Freak! Get up! It’s time for breakfast, and you’d better not burn any of the bacon this time!”

“Boy! The grass isn’t going to cut itself! And don’t you dare track any mud back inside this house when you’re finished!”

“Don’t even think about asking Mummy for any ice cream, Potter, because it’s all for me, got it?”

Ten winters passed in this manner, and Hedwig loathed every day of it.

The Screechy Woman and Fat Man made Her Boy work, work, work, while the Hungry-Worm never did anything but taunt and hurt him. Just once, just once, Hedwig would have loved to Change back to her normal form and peck at all their eyes, send the whole family shrieking out into the cold so she could dote upon her Harry and fetch for him all the good human food she could. Instead, she always remained stuck as a soft, cuddly toy whenever any of Them were around. The Old Coot’s ‘solution’ seemed to be more of a punishment at those times than anything else, even if it did keep her from ever needing her own sustenance or sleep.

Hedwig lived for nightfall, when Her Boy could flee to their private nest under the stairs, when the Unpleasant People went far enough away Hedwig Changed back and could give him every bit of comfort she had to offer. Harry liked best when the two of them settled together on his thin sleeping floor-perch, so Hedwig could groom his hair as he made up stories to tell her. Usually, the tales were about a boy and his owl friend going off on grand adventures to places unknown... Though sometimes, after particularly hard days, he’d quietly recite the ever-growing dream of being taken away to a simple home, where there was a Hatcher and a Sire who loved him, who took care of him, whom Hedwig could be herself around.

When he fell asleep afterwards, Hedwig would mourn the loss of the man who looked like Her Boy and his gentle red-haired mate. She wished something different had happened that night, so that Harry could have kept his proper family, including the Wolfish One and the Adult-Child.

They would have made him happy, more so than Hedwig could manage by herself.

-A Familiar's Work-

“But Mummy! I WANT it!”

“I’m so sorry Diddikins, but you can’t-”

“I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT AND I WANT IT NOW!”

The Screechy Woman took a deep breath before turning her darkest glower on Harry. “Give him the owl, Freak.”

If Hedwig were capable of it, she’d have shrieked in protest. Unfortunately, the best she could do was seethe inside her soft prison as Her Boy tightened his grip on her Changed form.

“But Hedwig’s mine,” he whispered. The fat child screamed again, prompting his thoroughly unpleasant Hatcher to snatch Hedwig from Harry’s arms and shove her into the Hungry-Worm’s. Immediately, his caterwauling ceased, and the spoiled brat had the audacity to laugh and point his pudgy finger at Her Boy.

“Don’t just stand there, Freak, you have chores to do! Go on, get!” Oh so slowly, Harry crept from the room, staring back at Hedwig with glistening eyes. She knew what that meant - he was going to start spilling liquid from them soon, immensely upset, and there wasn’t a dratted thing she could do to comfort him while stuck with the Hungry-Worm.

...Granted, he didn’t hold onto her for long. As soon as Her Boy was busy outside and no longer present to be taunted, the spoiled brat dropped her on the floor and ran off to play with his other belongings. And with the Screechy Woman busy upstairs, and the Fat Man out of the house entirely, Hedwig was able to Change. She flew straight to her and Harry’s private nest, but was unable to get inside thanks to the latch. Letting out a frustrated hoot, she went back to the Cooking Place, debating what to do.

Going outside to Harry wasn’t an option, for multiple reasons: not only were all the doors and windows closed, but the Unpleasant People would accuse Her Boy of having snuck back in to retrieve her himself. Hedwig wasn’t willing to bring that kind of trouble down on the hatchling’s head.

After pondering options for a while, she finally picked one. Flying over to the house’s main room, she found the fancy flower-pot-like-thing that the Screechy Woman had made such a fuss over a few days before, not allowing either Harry or the Hungry-Worm or even the Fat Man to get close to it. Landing on the tabletop beside the ridiculous thing, Hedwig studied it for a moment before lashing out.

The sound of the crash brought the Screechy Woman downstairs, forcing Hedwig to Change, but that was part of the plan. She got to sit and watch, smug, as the Screechy Woman sobbed and wailed over her broken pot-thing, the Hungry-Worm watching wide-eyed from nearby. In her upset, the Screechy Woman seized Hedwig, carried her to the private nest under the stairs, and threw her in so hard she hit and rebounded off the opposite wall.

When Harry returned that nightfall, he gave Hedwig a shrewd look.

“...You did it, didn’t you?” He whispered. “Knocked Aunt Petunia’s new vase off the end table so she’d put you back in here, instead letting Dudley take you again.”

She replied with a smug hoot.

-A Familiar's Work-

After that incident, the Hungry-Worm didn’t dare demand to be given Hedwig again. And after the Fat Man tried throwing her out with the rubbish, only for Hedwig to ‘mysteriously reappear’ atop his vehicle, none of the Unpleasant People so much as touched her.

Both she and Harry were quite pleased by that particular turn of events.

-A Familiar's Work-

Hedwig could feel it in her flight-feathers when the time of year for school letters finally arrived. She waited anxiously for Harry to get his, knowing it would come with the Big One, who’d then take both her and Harry to the Alley where they’d first met in the Before.

So, it was quite irritating when instead, Harry’s letter was dropped off by one of her kinfolk, only to be destroyed by the Unpleasant People.

Day. After. Day.

Hedwig seethed over it all week, so the fifth morning, when she and Her Boy were awake before anyone else, she scratched and pecked at the door of their private nest repeatedly.

“You want to go out today?” Harry asked, clearly confused. Hedwig hooted at him. “Well... Alright, I guess. I can probably slip you out while the Dursleys are eating breakfast.”

Sure enough, as the Unpleasant People stuffed themselves with Her Boy’s perfectly prepared food, Harry managed to snatch her from their private nest on his way to the front door. He silently opened it, setting her on the step, before withdrawing back inside.

Out of range, Hedwig Changed, taking a moment to fluff out her feathers and enjoy the fresh air. Then she flew up, flapping higher and higher before turning north.

Pushing herself, she reached the School Castle by midday, and with no advance warning dove straight through an open window into the Stern-Cat-Educator’s place of work. The woman was quite startled by her arrival, needless to say, and took a fair while before finally recognizing who Hedwig was. After that, her annoyance faded a bit.

“I suppose I should have known better, letting Harry Potter’s school letter be taken to him by our owls,” she muttered to herself, looking for the correct paperwork. “Just give me a moment to make you a copy, and you can bring it to him a second ti- what in Merlin’s name?”

Hedwig then had to wait through the woman’s discovery that twenty-seven letters had already been sent to Harry, with no reply for any of them.

“Alright,” she grumbled, preparing a fresh letter and envelope. “I apologize for being so short with you earlier. Please, take this to Mister Potter, and rest assured I’ll be having words with the Headmaster about this today.” Hedwig bobbed her head in approval, accepted a treat (it had been more than ten winters since her last one, after all), and took off back to Her Boy.

The return trip took longer than the first one, by simple dint of Hedwig being tired out from the morning’s flight. She wound up stopping for a hunt and short nap at one point in order to keep her energy up, and didn’t make it back to Harry until the following morning, when he was already outside and fiddling with the Screechy Woman’s plants.

He jumped when she touched down next to him, but skipped a beratement in favor of finally getting to read his school letter.

There was one parchment with an acceptance to the Castle School on it, another with a shopping list, and a third, shorter one from the Stern-Cat apologizing for the mix-up and flood of unnecessary paperwork. The woman had included a side note praising Hedwig, saying that Harry was very lucky to already have such a dedicated Familiar.

He read all three out loud to her, and afterward praised the owl himself, to her delight. She safeguarded his letter for the rest of the day, until he was able to sneak her back inside the building at nightfall while the Unpleasant People consumed their final meal before sleep-time. None of them even noticed that Hedwig had been gone.

Less than a week later was the anniversary of Harry’s Hatching Date, and with the dawn came a tremendous banging at the front door. Hedwig listened eagerly from their private nest as Harry met the Big One, learned a little about his Sire and Hatcher, and was told to get ready for his day of school shopping. Her Boy fetched his least ragged clothes from their private nest under the stairs, along with Hedwig herself.

“Now, there’s a bird I remember!” The Big One smiled when he saw her. “Hello, Hedwig! You been lookin’ after Harry these last ten years?”

“You know Hedwig, Mister Hagrid?”

“Sure do, and just Hagrid’s fine, Harry. Hedwig’s been yer Familiar since you were just a wee tyke, barely a year old! I still remember when we brought th’ both of ye here... Which reminds me, we won’t be needin’ this anymore.” With that, the Big One plucked the Old Coot’s ring from Hedwig’s leg, and she Changed to her normal form in Harry’s arms. Across the room, she saw the three Unpleasant People stare with bulging eyes and gaping mouths, and shrieked triumphantly at them.

“It- it- it’s real!” The Hungry-Worm cried out.

“As real as you n’ me! Now, c’mon Harry, Hedwig, we’ve got some shoppin’ t’ do!”

Outside, the Adult-Child’s motor transport was waiting for them, an unfamiliar bucket-seat attached to the side. The Big One directed Harry into it, and told Hedwig they were going to Diagon Alley if she wanted to meet them there. Hooting in reproach, she instead settled into Harry’s lap.

Where she belonged.

-A Familiar's Work-

When they arrived in London, the Big One drove them to the quiet street the Leaky Cauldron was situated on and parked. Hedwig hopped up to Harry’s shoulder, and though they got many odd looks while approaching the pub, once inside it no one seemed to think they were out of place.

Knowing how uncomfortable Her Boy could become if people recognized him, Hedwig didn’t hesitate to start preening his hair, wings extended just enough to not only keep her balance but also help shield his face from the crowd. The Big One didn’t notice as he led them through and to the back entrance, from which they entered Diagon Alley.

The place was just as crowded and noisy as Hedwig remembered. At least the multitude of persons present meant Her Boy had an easier time avoiding attention as the Big One led him towards the Goblin Holding ahead of them. Hedwig was familiar with the place only thanks to the owls they employed - friendly things, always eager to socialize but often on too strict a timetable to manage it.

Harry paused by the entrance, reading from some sort of decoration above the doors, and Hedwig took the chance to study their surroundings a bit more closely. One goblin guard who caught her gaze stared back, before slowly giving her a slight nod. Hedwig bobbed one back, and then Her Boy was hurrying onward after the Big One.

They had to wait their turn to speak to a goblin sitting on a very tall perch, who sneered at the Big One but frowned thoughtfully at Hedwig and Her Boy.

“The trip to Mister Potter’s vault will not be pleasant for the owl,” he tried to tell them.

“Is she not allowed?” Harry immediately asked, a hand coming up to rest on her feathers. “I know lots of places have a No Pets rule, but she’s very well-behaved, I swear-”

“That is not the concern, Mister Potter. Though it is unusual for an owl to stay so close to their owner, we do not insist on keeping Familiars from accompanying their Bonded. If yours is willing to remain in the cart, there is no trouble.”

“Oh. Alright then. Thank you.”

Hedwig made sure to keep herself settled in Her Boy’s lap for the entire ride through the Tunnels.

-A Familiar's Work-

Their final stop after all the other shopping had been accomplished was to the familiar place where many of Hedwig’s kin still awaited the arrival of their destined Bonded - or, at least, a human whose magic resonated closely enough to their own that they didn’t mind entering into their mail service. She hunkered down on Harry’s shoulder, not eager to be mistaken for one of the Unbonded owls in the room.

The Big One went around gathering up items Hedwig recognized, such as her perch, her travel cage, her treat bag. Harry’s eyes grew rather wide when the Big One paid for it all himself, and it wasn’t until Hedwig nipped his ear that the boy remembered to offer his thanks.

“S’the least I can do, seein’ as I wasn’t able t’ get you a proper birthday present b’fore comin’ t’get you this mornin’.”

“Hagrid, this whole day has been the best present I’ve ever gotten.”

What little of the Big One’s face that could be seen behind the beard turned bright red. “Ah, well, that’s kind of ye t’ say, Harry.”

“Where to now?”

“Well, it’s late enough I think we could spend th’ night at the Leaky Cauldron, an’ head back t’yer home t’morrow.”

“Okay.”

When they re-entered the loud business place, Hedwig did her best to shield Her Boy once again, but couldn’t pull off the same success as earlier. The owner of the place recognized Harry, shouting out his name for all in the place to hear. Hedwig screeched when many of them attempted to rush at Her Boy, not caring in the slightest that they were only offering their praise and gratitude. She nipped at the first individual who tried to grab Harry’s hands, which thankfully got the Big One to step forward and intervene.

A little while later, once the three of them were settled in a private room with their meal, Hedwig glared at the Big One until he set his eating tools down with a sigh.

“Harry, I need t’ tell ye a bit more about yer parents, and th’ War...”

-A Familiar's Work-

While Her Boy and the Big One slept that night, Hedwig slipped out the open window for a flight, and to think.

She didn’t particularly want to return to the Unpleasant People, even if she no longer had to hide her true self from them. But, they’d not yet met anyone else who could help take care of Her Boy until the time came to go to the School Castle. The Fire-hair Clan was out, since Harry didn’t encounter any of them before Travelling Day on the train, and she didn’t know where the Wolfish One or the Adult-Child had hidden themselves for the past ten winters.

Beak clacking in frustration, Hedwig settled gracefully on a rooftop, absently scanning the ground below as she ran other options through her mind. A slight movement caught her gaze, and the owl blinked at the sight of a woman re-arranging books in one of the store windows below.

That made her think of someone else she could trust with her boy’s safety.

-A Familiar's Work-

“You an’ Hedwig take care now, Harry, and I’ll see ye both when school starts!”

“Thanks again, Hagrid. Goodbye!” The Big One drove off, and Hedwig observed sadly as Her Boy’s shoulders slumped. Slowly, he turned to face the house they both dreaded, reaching for the handle of his new school trunk.

Hedwig nipped his ear.

“Ow! Hey, what-” She cut off his protest with a chirp, fluttering into the air and gliding partway down the road. “Hedwig! What are you doing?”

It wasn’t until he’d followed her all the way down to the intersection that Harry realized what she was up to.

“Hedwig, come on, we can’t just leave-” He paused. “Can we?”

Hedwig shrieked, flapping her wings in triumph as realization dawned on Her Boy’s face.

-A Familiar's Work-

It took the rest of the day to lead Her Boy to the right house, since he had to lug the heavy trunk along and frequently stop for a breather. They also needed to wave off the occasional concerned passerby, though that sort of occurrence thankfully didn’t happen often. Hedwig honestly wasn’t sure whether to be glad or annoyed that more people didn’t stop to see if Her Boy was alright.

Close to nightfall, the two of them reached their destination.

Harry fidgeted anxiously as he stood on the front stoop of a nice home, Hedwig’s obvious calm not helping much. His quiet knocking finally attracted someone’s attention, and the boy stiffened when a girl his age opened the door.

“Yes?” She asked, eyes darting from Hedwig to Her Boy and back again. “Can I help you?”

“Um, this, er, this is going to sound strange, but my owl led me here,” Harry said. “I admit I’m not really sure why, but-”

“Oh! Is that a Hogwarts trunk?”

“Huh?” Hedwig held onto Her Boy’s shoulder when he leaned back. “You mean you know about-?”

“Yes, of course! I got my letter last September when I turned eleven - it was ever so exciting to learn about magic and the Wizarding World!” The girl enthused. “I wanted to get an owl when we first went to Diagon Alley, but decided to wait since I didn’t know anyone I could send letters to. If I’d seen one as beautiful as yours, though, I might have decided otherwise!”

Hedwig couldn’t help but preen a bit at that.

“I’ve always had Hedwig - Hagrid said she made a Familiar Bond with me when I was a baby. I didn’t realize wizards used them for mail until last week...”

“You said that she led you here?”

“Yeah. We, um, well, we have to live with my aunt and uncle, who don’t exactly like magic, and they really didn’t want me to find out about Hogwarts at all, so now that I do Hedwig and I just, we, we don’t want to go back.”

Hedwig glanced between the two children, who each stared at the other. Then the girl stuck out her hand in the human gesture that accompanied introductions.

“I’m Hermione Granger. Would you like to come inside?”

-A Familiar's Work-

Leading Her Boy to the Many-Books-Girl was by far the best decision Hedwig could have made, and she felt quite proud of herself for it.

His friend’s Hatcher and Sire, once told of the full situation (and Hedwig made sure Harry told them all of it, nipping at his ear every time he tried to leave a detail out), were quite insistent that Harry stay with them until the start of school, eagerly preparing a spare room for him and Hedwig. The following few days were a bit uneasy, as the humans all got used to each other, but things soon settled into a comfortable routine.

Harry happily helped prepare breakfast and ate his share at the table with his friend’s family. Then he and the Many-Books-Girl would spend their mornings going over school books, sharing stories, sometimes even getting into a game of Chase around the house. Then, after the midday meal, either her Sire or Hatcher would take the children out for a few hours. At first, they went on shopping trips to get Harry things he needed, such as new garments, but once his basic needs were all met the outings turned to fun things. Hedwig went with them on one trip to a local park, and enjoyed watching Her Boy play with the Many-Books-Girl even more than stretching her own wings.

“How do you think she knew about us?” The Many-Books-Girl asked at dinner one evening, watching Hedwig from her spot at the table. “I mean, she must have known I was Muggleborn, if she was able to lead you straight here from Surrey.”

“I have no idea,” Harry said back, after swallowing a bite of food. “The only times she’s been away from me were when she went to get my letter from Hogwarts, and the night I spent at the Leaky Cauldron.”

“Well, however it happened she found out about us, we’re very glad she did,” the light-haired Sire spoke up. “It’s been wonderful to have you here, Harry.”

“Thank you, Mr. Granger.”

-A Familiar's Work-

The morning that Her Boy and his friend were to leave for the School Castle, Hedwig couldn’t help but keep fluttering her wings in glee. Finally, she could stop worrying about the Old Coot showing up to take Harry back to Those People, a fear that hadn’t been far from her mind during their entire stay with the non-magical family. And even if, technically, Her Boy was going to the place that the meddling old wizard ruled, it would be three whole seasons before the Old Coot could even try to attempt to return them to the utterly inadequate home.

Her Boy’s friend was even more excited than the owl, constantly dashing to and fro, double checking that everything was properly packed, from school books to personal items to the lunches for their train trip. While her Hatcher and Sire were clearly used to it, simply working around the girl, Harry did his best to help calm the other child down and ease her hyperactivity.

When he started to get frazzled by her continued exuberance, Hedwig flew over to settle on the Many-Books-Girl’s shoulder. Both children blinked at her, but when the owl simply stared back, they shook their heads and moved on - without the earlier frantic energy.

Hedwig knew that the Many-Books-Girl would be well served by a bit more animal balance in her Aura, and since Crookshanks wasn’t around to provide it, well, she certainly could afford step in for a while.

-A Familiar's Work-

“First time on the platform, I take it?” Hedwig, about to demonstrate to Her Boy and his friend how to get through the shadow wall, paused before taking off to peer at the people coming up alongside them.

“Er, yes, actually,” Harry said, clearly relieved. “Could you show us how to...?”

“Certainly, dear,” the dark-colored woman smiled, her mate and children nodding as well. “It’s a simple matter, really - you just hurry towards the barrier, and it lets magicals right through. Muggles have to hold onto the arm of a witch or wizard, though.” With that, she and her mate offered to escort the Many-Books-Girl’s Sire and Hatcher, while their identical children sidled up to Harry and his friend.

“My name’s Parvati, and this is my sister Padma,” one of the girls said right off. “We’re just starting at Hogwarts, too.”

“I’m Hermione Granger, it’s nice to meet both of you! Harry’s the only other incoming first year I’ve met so far, and we’ve been wondering all month what it’s going to be like to start going to school at Hogwarts.”

“We’ve had to wonder, too,” the second of the girls said quietly. “Our parents went to the Jaadoo-Nadee Academy in India-”

“Which we would have attended too, if our father’s business hadn’t brought him to Britain.” Hedwig didn’t like the way the first girl interrupted her nest-sister. She could only recall a few encounters Her Boy had with the Glittering-Child in the Before, all of them exhausting.

Many-Books-Girl obviously didn’t mind, as she immediately got drawn into a rapid conversation with the newcomer, the two of them following after their pair of Hatchers heading through the shadow wall. Harry, on the other hand, offered the Quiet-Child a small smile.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “Hermione tends to jump at research opportunities. I’m Harry, by the way.”

“I heard.” The Quiet-Child smiled back. “You two aren’t siblings, are you?”

“No, we only met about a month ago. I didn’t want to go back to my Muggle relatives after finding out about Hogwarts and everything, so the Grangers let me stay with them.” Hedwig tightened her grip on Her Boy’s shoulder as they stepped through the shadow wall, and then got to bask in the glow of his amazed expression when they stopped beside the train. “Whoa...”

“Better move,” the Quiet-Child warned him. They stepped to one side just in time to avoid their pair of Sires coming through the wall.

The assorted pairs came together in a large group again, and moved further down the platform to a reasonably open space to exchange goodbyes. Then, the four children and Hedwig got aboard the train together, quickly finding an empty compartment to share. As soon as they were settled, the chattering girls resumed their rambling predictions about the school, each evidently only half-listening to the other as their topics of choice were completely different. Hedwig clacked her beak in amusement before hopping down to rest on the bit of bench space between Her Boy and his new friend.

“What were you saying earlier about Muggle relatives?” She addressed the question at Harry, but kept her attention on Hedwig, offering her fingers for inspection. The owl gave them a once-over, decided she could find nothing to hold against the child, and lifted her head higher in an invitation for petting.

Harry told her a short version of the events that led to his coming to stay with the Many-Books-Girl, which had the Quiet-Child listening with wider and wider eyes.

“Your owl must be very powerful,” she said when he’d finished. “I’ve only heard a few legends about Familiars with the ability to lead their human counterpart away from potential harm and to a place of safety like that. Usually, it’s more along the lines of avoiding dangers in the wilderness - to have led you to the home of a Muggleborn neither of you had met before is unheard of.”

Harry sighed, prompting Hedwig to hop onto his lap. “Great, something else that’s freaky about us...” He winced when Hedwig screeched at him, attracting the Many-Books-Girl’s attention.

“You referred to yourself as a freak again, didn’t you?” She demanded, scowling. “Harry, you know you can’t believe anything those horrid people ever said, and that especially includes the names they’d call you!”

“I know, I just, I can’t help but feel they were right about this - I mean, yes, they called me a freak because of my magic, but even among other people with magic me and Hedwig are still unusual.” His frown deepened, even when Hedwig tried to provide all the reassurance through their Bond that she could.

“I might not know the full story, Harry, but I know you aren’t a freak of any sort,” the Quiet-Child said firmly, causing her nest-sister to look at her strangely. “You’re like Hedwig - a rare breed, something that starts out small and grey, but grows into a final form that is truly special.”

Hedwig decided that the Quiet-Child would forever be in her good graces by the expression of gratitude on Harry’s face alone.

-A Familiar's Work-

“Parkinson, Pansy.”

“Slytherin!”

“Patil, Padma.”

“...Gryffindor!”

Hedwig softly hooted with approval from the rafter where she perched, glad to see the Quiet-Child going to Her Boy’s group, even if the girl herself looked more than a little stunned.

“Patil, Parvati.”

“Gryffindor!”

The next hoot was more exasperated than glad, but she decided that as long as the Glittering-Child didn’t do anything worse that cause the occasional headache, the girl could be ignored.

“Perkins, Sally-Anne.”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Potter, Harry.”

“Gryffindor!”

As Her Boy moved to join both the Quiet-Child and Many-Books-Girl at his proper table, Hedwig screeched with glee. Already, she could see the identical two Fire-hairs greeting him, while many other children shouted and cheered. Harry looked pleased as well, accepting congratulations and sharing relief with his friends. When the noise died down, though, he made sure to glance upwards, smiling. Hedwig flapped her wings so he could spot her, turning the smile grew into a grin.

She stayed put through the meal, aware that Her Boy needed some time to get acquainted with the other children around him and that he wanted to present a less conspicuous appearance for his first impression. Once the different groups began standing to leave the Hall, however, Hedwig took off from the rafter in order to pay someone else a quick visit.

The Stern-Cat-Educator seemed a bit surprised when the snowy landed by her elbow, but quickly offered her a stroke and a bit of leftover chicken. Opposite of Hedwig, the Old Coot chuckled.

“I see Mister Potter’s owl has done just fine in the last ten years, Minerva, contrary to your dire predictions.”

Hedwig shrieked at him, causing the witch to smirk.

“Perhaps so, Albus, but she certainly seems to be less tolerant of you than ever.” Before the Old Coot could respond, she went on, addressing Hedwig. “Shall I assume you’d prefer to live in the Gryffindor dorms as opposed to the Owlery?”

Hedwig bobbed her head up and down.

“Very well. I’ll make sure to adjust a few windows as needed. For now, perhaps you’d like to catch up to your boy before the first years reach their destination.”

She bobbed again, gave the woman’s hand a quick, affectionate nip, and headed off. There were many things to like about the Stern-Cat, not the least of which was how she appropriately referred to Harry as Hedwig’s, as opposed to the other way around.

Only a few people noticed her silently flying through the halls of the School Castle, and none of them thought to try and stop her. Hedwig easily reached the painting of the Show-Off-Woman ahead of the approaching children, settling on a banister to wait for Her Boy.

Funnily enough, it was the youngest Fire-hair boy (remembered from Before with mixed fondness and exasperation) who noticed her first. He jumped with a muttered ‘bloody hell’, nearly knocking over some other little ones. Hedwig clacked her beak, amused.

“Figures you’d beat us here,” Harry said as he came up to her, his two friends just a step behind. The Glittering-Child, Hedwig was relieved to see, was oblivious to her nest-sister’s departure, busy chatting away with another of the girls.

“I saw her pass by overhead,” the Many-Books-Girl mentioned, smiling as they waited their turn to enter through the hole in the wall. “It looked an awful lot like she knew where she was going - do you think she’s been to Hogwarts before?”

“Either that, or she’s gifted with exceptionally good directional sense,” the Quiet-Child replied.

Harry hummed absently. “No reason it can’t be both.”

They had to wait a few minutes in the main room as a few of the older children told the little ones about their new home before being sent on to bed. Harry and Hedwig went up one set of stairs, while the girls went to another. Once in the familiar sleeping-room, one of the boys who’d accompanied them tentatively asked if he could pet Harry’s owl.

“Sure! She’s been really friendly today. Her name’s Hedwig.”

“She’s beautiful.” The Shy-Strong-Boy’s fingers were hesitant, but Hedwig nudged herself forward a bit further to bump his palm. This was a child who got braver with time as he grew up in the Before, she knew, even if he wasn’t as close to Her Boy as Harry’s other friends.

“Thanks! Neville, right? I’m Harry.” They shook hands, and then the other boys gathered close, asking for their turns to stroke Hedwig’s feathers. She accepted the attention happily, as was her due, letting all the recent frustrations and tension drain away. Finally, she and Harry were back in familiar territory, where looking after him would be so much simpler.

...At least, that was what she thought at the time...