The Sugar Quill
Author: Splatt & Ada  Story: Rooftop Rumors  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Rooftop Rumors by Ada & Splatt

Summary: A Peck of Owls, the chapter was called; the second chapter of the long awaited 5th book … so what about those owls? Was Hedwig really out hunting all evening? Or was she closer to home than Harry realized? Enjoy an owl’s eye view of post-Dementor events in Privet Drive. Find out exactly ‘hoooo’ was delivering those messages and what they thought about that night’s incident, and about each other! Join Hedwig as we share her thoughts and visions of the night of 2nd August, 1995.

Rating: G

Classification: Alternate POV

Disclaimer: All characters and names used in these fics, other than the names of Eddie, Beryl & Nigel, are the legal property and creative work of JK Rowling and/or Warner Bros.


~~~

Another humid, sultry evening was drawing to a close in the town of Little Whinging. The fiercely shining sun had long set, and the heavy dusk had turned into night; a wave of inky black sky, strewn now with stars, had swept westwards over Privet Drive and the neighboring roads like a cloak, and the street lamps now shone thickly through the leaden air.

With a sweep of her graceful wings, Hedwig soared upwards from the edge of the stagnant pond where she had been hunting, her patience rewarded by the frog she now held firmly clamped in her beak. She knew Harry wouldn’t really appreciate the gift; he never seemed to quite understand just how tasty such things could be. But all the same, he was having a rough time of it this summer … worse than ever. She should know; after all, she was nocturnal, she heard his midnight ramblings, shook her snowy head at his cries of distress – and even if he didn’t choose to eat her frequent offerings, she was sure he understood the gesture.

Hedwig swept her strong wings up and down, soaring low over the treetops of the park. She circled slowly, enjoying the air flowing around her after the heaviness of the oppressive heat earlier that day, and was about to head for Privet Drive and a refreshing drink of water, when she was overcome by two sudden sensations: a stale, decaying stench that lingered in the air, and an aura of magic … dark magic.

Following her instincts, she flew over the rooftops of Magnolia Road, and coming to a gentle halt, she landed quietly on top of the fence that ran along an alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. She plucked the frog from her beak with a swift claw, gripping it firmly as she surveyed the alleyway; then, closing her large, round amber eyes, she let the atmosphere wash over her, listening, absorbing, sensing … Dementors … there had been Dementors in Little Whinging!

Hedwig’s eyes flew open. She must get to Harry; no wonder magic had been performed, but she hoped it had been by whoever was on duty tonight, because if not … if not, Harry was going to be in so much trouble. Whatever it was that had happened in this place earlier, there was no other sign of it now, except … Hedwig clamped her beak firmly round the dead frog again and took flight over the garages bordering the alleyway – she could see something shining at the end there, where the lamplight was hitting the shadows in Magnolia Crescent.

Hovering low, reluctant to delay any longer in returning to see how Harry was, she realized immediately that it was a small tin, with a picture of a black and white cat on the outside. “Arabella Figg!” What on earth had happened here, and why had Arabella been there? Hedwig knew Arabella could not have performed the magic … who could have been on duty tonight? Not Kingsley … he was on last night, perhaps it was that Tonks girl … Hedwig blinked rapidly as she took flight: she’d never forget her first encounter with Tonks, finding out that what she’d thought from the air was a nice tasty hedgehog, nestling behind some bushes on the edge of the park, was in fact the young Auror’s spiky head…

Hedwig soared upwards once more, turning quickly towards Privet Drive, but just as she winged her way towards the open bedroom window of number four, she was distracted by two things: a large screech owl, sitting pompously on top of the roof, staring at her, and the sound of Vernon Dursley’s bellows emanating from somewhere within the house.

Hedwig wheeled in a graceful arc around the house, before sailing upwards to perch opposite the vaguely familiar screech owl. If Vernon Dursley was yelling, there was no doubt Harry was close by, and as the noise wasn’t coming out of Harry’s own window, it was safe to assume that she wouldn’t be able to reach Harry, and that she’d probably learn more out here than in her cage.

The two owls eyed each other beadily for a few seconds, as the raised voices floated up into the night sky. Nearby, a dog started to bark, and over in the woods by the park, local owls could be heard hooting to each other. Hedwig realized, once she was closer, where and when she’d seen this owl before: nearly three years ago, it had been, after Harry’s first year at school and they were back stuck with his dreadful relatives … and that ridiculous House Elf had caused no end of trouble for poor Harry, doing magic and letting him take the blame … Hedwig blinked again at the memory, and reluctantly removed the dead frog once more with her clawed foot.

“You’re here from the Ministry,” she hooted at the screech owl, who continued to look pompous, staring down her beak at Hedwig as if she had no right to be speaking to her at all, but casting envious glances at the dead frog all the same.

“My business is my own, I’ll have you know,” the owl responded haughtily, ruffling her feathers importantly, and then adding: “I am on an urgent errand for the Ministry of Magic’s Improper Use of Magic Office. I don’t have time for hunting, like some.”

Hedwig cocked her snowy head on one side and studied the owl for a moment. She wanted very much to know what was happening, and refrained from retorting that if the owl was on such urgent business, she ought to just bugger off. It would be in her and Harry’s interest to play the game.

“May I ask the name of such an important owl? I do believe you’ve been here before on Ministry business?”

The owl puffed her chest out even further. “Beryl, most senior Ministry owl in my department, I’ll have you know. Received the long service medal last year, hardly found room for it on my cage, I’ve been given that many awards.”

“Incredible,” said Hedwig, nodding to hide the urge to make a rude gesture with her wing. “So … you must have had to be very discreet … do you visit many Muggle neighborhoods?”

Beryl made a sound not dissimilar to one of Vernon Dursley’s snorts. “Foolish Hogwarts students, jinxing their brothers and stupid Muggle neighbors, using switching spells … causing mayhem at the Ministry, I’ll have you know. Get all they deserve, I can tell you.”

Hedwig nodded sympathetically, and waited. Sure enough, given a long enough pause, Beryl was off and running:

“Been here before of course. That Potter boy! He’s terribly unpopular at the Ministry, I’ll have you know, spinning ridiculous tales about … well, about everything … this is a blessing in disguise, I can tell you. Mind you, old Hopkirk seems to have a soft spot for him, always so POLITE in her dealings with him. Hmmph, wouldn’t get that level of attention from me, I can tell you.” Beryl ruffled her feathers importantly again; Hedwig hoped the expression in her amber eyes wasn’t reflecting what she was really feeling, and nodded in what she hoped passed for encouragement.

“But that’s not my business. MY business is to deliver the message to the right person and leave. Job done. Of course, there is always a certain satisfaction in a job WELL done – I couldn’t help trying to clip the idiot Muggle who lives here with my wing when I arrived,” Beryl almost snorted again, “but I got the job done, in record time no doubt. That’ll be noted, they’ll have noticed that at the Ministry, I can tell you. Dropped the envelope at that skinny boy’s feet and left. Mind you, I was NOT impressed with the way the window was slammed shut as I left. It makes it so hard to HEAR what they’re saying about the incident …waaarrrrkkkk!”

With a startled squawk, Beryl suddenly toppled over and disappeared from view, with what appeared to be a small ball of gray feathers tumbling after her. Before Hedwig could react, there was a loud ‘crack’, followed by a high-pitched scream and an outraged yell from inside the house. The noises pierced the heavy darkness; there was the clatter of dustbin lids falling to the pavement, and the distinct yowl of a cat.

Hedwig dropped the dead frog into the guttering – she’d collect it later – and took flight, circling round the house until she was hovering over the back garden. A dazed and ruffled barn owl, shaking its feathers agitatedly, was perched uneasily on the kitchen window sill. Just then, a long, skinny arm reached through the now reopened window and removed the small scroll of parchment attached to the owl’s scaly leg, which it had thrust forward. Then, it shook itself, and took off into the air at great speed, circling erratically around the neighboring rooftops before appearing to become aware of Hedwig’s startled gaze.

Hedwig flew upwards, soaring over the silent rooftops, before turning back towards the barn owl; they circled each other warily in the stuffy night air, the barn owl a little lop-sided now, before being distracted simultaneously by the indignant squawks emanating from the darkness below.

Beryl was making far too much noise to go unnoticed in this Muggle neighborhood … anxious for Harry, Hedwig swooped low over the lawn, hooting a gentle warning as she landed softly on the back of the garden bench.

The small feathery ball that had collided with Beryl turned out to be a tiny gray owl, which was gamboling and fluttering around the top of Beryl’s disheveled head, a high-pitched twitter emanating from its tiny beak.

“ … we was ‘avin’ a race, you see,” the breathless owl continued, “me an’ Eddie, I mean ‘e set off first, of course ‘e did, but I’m a bit nearer, see? An’ I’m smaller too, see? More … more … aero-dynamic!”

Hedwig turned her amber gaze to the left; a disdainful snort had escaped the barn owl, which had come to rest unsteadily on a nearby upturned plant pot.

“… really sorry … really, truly … are you okay? An’ I’d nearly won, see? Only you was in the way, sorta …” the tiny owl seemed to be trying very hard to control its restless bouncing, and was staring at the still quivering screech owl, eyes big and round in its small, pointy face.

Hedwig clamped her beak firmly shut on the greeting she was about to utter, and tried to look stern, but inside she couldn’t help a slight tremor of amusement escaping. Pig had arrived.

~~~

The lack of noise from the kitchen, despite the window being open again, was causing Hedwig some concern, but nonetheless she knew her priority was to calm things down, avoid attracting attention and then to gather as much information as she could from these owls … she had to be ready to help Harry when he needed her.

Within seconds, she had Beryl, a twittering Pig and a slightly unsteady Eddie perched on number four’s roof. She cast a swift look into the gutter to check that her dead frog was secure, and then turned her attention and her large amber eyes to the visitors. It was time to try asking some carefully put questions; she wanted to know exactly what level of trouble Harry was in.

“Don’t be mad, Eddie,” Pig was continuing, “just ‘cos I would’ve won the race... gotta get a few more white mice down you, mate... I’m certain it’ll double your low fly air speed...”

“I wasn’t in a ... a race... with you or anyone!” Eddie started to protest, addressing his left foot. “Do I even know you? You don’t look like any owl I’ve seen before …”

“AW, now, no goin’ back on it just ‘cos you came a croppa’ ... I knows you wasn’t exactly awares of me flyin’ so stunningly fast, but I ‘ad seen you and well, I said to meself, that there’s Eddie, an’ we’re racing! I wouldn’t-”

Hedwig rolled her large amber eyes as Pig continued to twitter away; she gazed around lazily from owl to owl, buying herself time as they settled themselves. Both Beryl and Eddie had had their feathers seriously bent and ruffled, and she left them in peace for a moment to preen, while Pig hopped from one foot to another, rambling on about races and winners as he turned this way and that, surveying the garden, the roof, the sky.

Much as she wanted to hear what Pig knew – after all, there had to be a reason why he was here - it was essential not to betray too much to the Ministry owls; and they had information, important information, that she wanted very much to gather from them… and she dearly hoped Pig would be quick enough to follow her lead. How to sound keen enough that they would stay to gossip and yet indifferent enough that they wouldn’t get suspicious?

Pig’s tirade seemed to have brought itself to a natural halt at last. Clearing her throat, Hedwig decided to address the newest arrival.

“Eddie is it?” she hooted, and at that owl’s nod, added: “Do you work with Beryl here?”

Eddie was vigorously cuffing his own head with his wing, still rumpled by his collision with the window. He was casting curious and slightly dazed glances at Pig, but responded to Hedwig politely, whistling slightly through his beak, “Oh yes, well, that is to say I work at the Ministry, but our Beryl here tends to fly in different circles … hey!” Eddie suddenly turned his head to stare fully at Pig. “I do know you! I’ve been to your house before … you’re a Weasley owl!”

Hedwig winced, her concern realized all too soon: this might be the end of it, her opportunity to find out what was going on. She stretched herself upright, trying to draw Eddie’s attention away from the unconcerned Pig, but he was on a roll. “Why, that’s who sent me here - Arthur Weasley. Very polite man, even rushed as he was, he asked if I was up to the journey – such a warm night you know – yes, a very nice man, Arthur Weasley.”

Hedwig began to breathe a bit more easily. Whatever was going on between Harry and the Ministry, it seemed obvious that both Mr. Weasley and whoever had sent Pig from the secret hideout at Grimmauld Place appeared to be aware of the situation and were working on Harry’s behalf. She sighed: poor Harry. He didn’t even know where she’d been going when he kept sending her off with messages for his friends, Ron and Hermione. Never before had Hedwig wished she could talk the human language so much as now; it was so frustrating to be able to understand it, but not speak it - she might have been able to ease some of Harry’s frustration, even if she couldn’t break Albus Dumbledore’s protections and tell him exactly where his friends were.

Aware that Pig and Eddie were now busy discussing the merits of Arthur Weasley, Hedwig’s attention snapped back to the present. Beryl was looking disdainfully from one owl to the other, and suddenly Hedwig saw comprehension dawning in Beryl’s eyes. They grew rounder and wider, and Beryl’s beak opened and closed at least twice before she managed to sputter at Pig: “WEASLEY!! Are you talking about WEASLEYS??? I- I- I know YOUR family… those infernal, those insane… those… TWINS! I sprained my wing after their first year at Hogwarts … sent to that Ottery St. Catchpole so many times during the holidays, I’ll have you know! I had to take my first ever leave of absence when they ... they thought it was funny… FUNNY, I ask you, to offer me water… tainted with … with something that turned me pink as a… as a… as a canary!”

Hedwig refrained from mentioning that canaries were, in fact, not pink but yellow and concentrated on trying to catch Pig’s eye; he was doing a poor job of concealing his amusement at Beryl’s indignation, seemingly unaware that no-one else was laughing: “Oh boy, Fred an’ George Weasley … right little characters they are … but good ‘earts for all that, an’ their little sister … now SHE ‘as their number all right, don’t you worry … she’ll be the one to watch in the future, you mark me words!”

Hedwig winced as Pig hooted in amusement at the thought. Perhaps it was Fred and George’s influence, but a whole year in the Weasley household hadn’t exactly curbed Pig’s chattiness and lack of discretion.

“But you’re right enuff, Eddie, never was a more genuinely nicer man than Arfur Weasley. Just now, even with our ‘Arry in such a dire pickle – gettin’ owls tellin’ ‘im he was expelled and that ‘is wand would be destroyed … our Arfur was in that fire like a flash, ‘e was – well, ‘e ‘ad to tell Sir—“

A sudden loud squawk from Hedwig startled Pig into momentary silence. She had been listening with an awful fascination to Pig’s rambling, taking in the seriousness of the situation immediately (Harry’s wand was to be destroyed? He was expelled this time?), and with mounting horror had realized whose forbidden name Pig was about to utter. Luckily, before she had to think of something to say now that she had the full attention of Beryl, Eddie and the slightly bemused looking Pig, a rapidly moving shadow in the sky caught her eye.

“Look!” she hooted, “look there!”

They all turned their heads towards the sky, Eddie wobbling a little and Pig spinning round in a full circle, so rapidly did he turn to see what Hedwig had spotted. It was another owl, this time flying so fast they could hardly make out its color or breed before it swooped down and sailed through the still open window of the Dursley’s kitchen. Hedwig held her breath. There was a clattering noise from inside the house before the owl reappeared, soaring upwards and away, as the window was slammed shut again, muffling Vernon’s hysterical bellow which could still be heard echoing through the glass.

Hedwig was almost hopping with the multitude of thoughts zooming round in her head at this point, but wishing desperately to know what mission this owl had been on, she remained rigidly still on the rooftop, waiting. Seconds later she was rewarded, experiencing an unexpected wave of satisfaction over the fact that Beryl had stayed with them so long.

“That’s Nigel” she announced pompously, to no one in particular, and then hooted after him to get his attention. “He works at the Ministry too, I’ll have you know,” and she added smugly, “that Potter boy must be in real trouble to warrant all this work for the Ministry’s best owls.”

Hedwig swallowed hard on a sharp retort – her pleasure at Beryl’s delay in returning to the Ministry hadn’t lasted long. She glared at the back of Beryl’s head, muttered a few choice names under her breath, and then turned her attention to the new owl, which seemed to have noticed the others now, and was zooming back towards them.

A small feathery canon-ball, Nigel could have been mistaken for Pig’s brother excepting for his color, which was brown rather than gray. Lightning fast, he corrected his flight path and landed with a ruffle of feathers next to the still slightly rocking Eddie. On closer inspection, the similarity to Pig was only fleeting; this owl may have been small and feathery, but it had the ability to fly in a straight line, and didn’t constantly vibrate as though powered by Muggle batteries.

"Ah, Beryl, hello, busy night down here I see, hot night... soooo … this is Harry Potter's house, then? Bit of a right to-do, what? Wondered what was going on, there was Dumbledore himself, in old Hopkirk's office,” he paused at the impressed gasp from Beryl and Eddie. “Ah, Eddie, isn’t it? From the second floor, what? Yes, yes, Professor Albus Dumbledore himself was there tonight …” Nigel stretched himself to his full lack of height and preened a little; then aware of the curious gazes upon him, he settled back down on the rooftop perch and looked from his fellow Ministry owls to Hedwig, then to Pig, who was quivering expectantly and unable to stop the occasional small squeaky hoot from emanating from his tiny beak.

Hedwig roused herself and spoke quickly, to stop Pig from launching into another potentially dangerous tirade, “Actually, we were just waiting to hear more news … err, from the Ministry – you know, on what is next...” she said vaguely. As one, all the owls turned their eyes on Nigel expectantly.

Nigel ruffled his tiny feathers slightly and gazed back at them; he was so small he had to look upwards to all but Pig. He hesitated, and then looked at Hedwig, impressively white and imposing, her keen amber eyes not moving from his face.

“She’s his owl,” Beryl hissed, sensing Nigel’s wariness. “The Potter boy’s owl, she’s going to know everything soon anyway …”

Nigel nodded his tiny head; there were more Ministry owls there than outsiders, it wouldn’t hurt to share – and especially the impressive sight of Albus Dumbledore. That story was going to keep him famous amongst his fellow Ministry owls for some nights to come.

“Well, well… I didn’t rightly know what had gone on… well… I was up asleep in the Owlery, what? And old Hopkirk … now there was a scene to end all scenes… Hopkirk see, she came up to see if you’d returned, Beryl – another important message had to be sent, and quickly too … well she wasn’t best pleased that you hadn’t returned, what? So she saw I was awake now, and she had to use me now, didn’t she?“

Beryl shuffled her clawed feet guiltily, and clicked her beak together twice in succession. Hedwig cast her a cursory glance and was sure Beryl was doing the owl equivalent of that awful Petunia woman pursing her lips. Nigel continued his tale, delighted with his enrapt audience: “She took me back to her office, and there he was, none other than the great Albus Dumbledore – he had that glorious Phoenix with him, what? They were talking, very quickly and very intensely – old Hopkirk, well, I don’t have to tell you that she was in quite a state, quite a state indeed … saying that as far as she saw it, it was a simple matter: she’d had her orders regarding this sort of thing from Potter, the Minister for Magic himself no less, yes, Mr. Cornelius Fudge … but well - weelllllll, it WAS Dumbledore after all, wasn’t it? And, well, you don’t dismiss him now do you, what?”

Nigel paused and nodded importantly, aware that there was total silence, the other owls all leaning towards him to catch every word.

“So - she quickly wrote ANOTHER message, Dumbledore stood over her, telling her what was to happen … no rolling up the parchment, sealing it nicely and tying it to my leg properly, oh no – shoved it into an envelope and nearly stuffed it down my throat she did and off I go, with it in my beak, to this strange Muggle neighborhood, what? And then, my first encounter with THE Harry Potter! Nasty people he lives with mind … tricky place to land … very slippery tables … and the mess … bits of food all over the floor … no good at all… but I can say I’ve met him now, what? Took the letter from my beak himself, he did! Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore all in one night … Anyway…what did he do? Must have been bad, what? Although at least there’s to be no wand destroying or expulsion now … just suspension - and a hearing!”

Nigel finished in a rush of words; everyone was silent. Hedwig’s mind was whirling with both relief and worry… even Pig seemed to be motionless, the only thing moving was something tied to his leg, stirred by the light breeze that had risen up … Hedwig started: “Pig!” she hooted urgently, “Pigwidgeon, remember why you raced over here this evening!”

Pig blinked, hopped on the spot, and his feathers recommenced their constant vibrating. Realization dawned on his pointy face, and he raised a leg out in front of him, staring at the small roll of parchment.

“Cor blimey, Hedders! Good catch, matey! If I’d gone back to Si...,” Pig faltered under Hegwig’s fierce glare, “Err... if I’d returned to Grim ... to base with it - now that wouldn’t ‘ave been a good ‘fing. You lot wait up, and I’ll just go do the bizz!”

Hedwig stretched out a white, cautionary wing, stalling him as he was about to take flight. “Be careful, Pig - the window is still shut, remember? We don’t want another … accident, now do we?”

Pig nodded his little head importantly, aware the other owls were shaking their heads too, Eddie still looking decidedly addled. This was his moment, he’d show these Ministry owls how to deliver a letter all right. He struck a jaunty pose and flapped his short wings, surveying the house below them. Then, muttering to himself, “Mighty fine pickle ... well, there don’t look to be any other way, no... it’ll just ‘ave to be...” and Pig took a funny sort of flying hop, and disappeared down the nearby chimney in a whirl of gray feathers.

Hedwig closed her eyes and waited. For once she didn’t mind that it was Pig delivering this particular message. Then, almost immediately, in a shower of dust, Pig, now resembling a rather soiled feather duster, popped back out of the chimney, the wails of Vernon Dursley of, “OUT! OUT!” and seconds later, “I’ve had enough!” rumbling after him upwards into the dark night sky.

Hedwig felt a chill sweep over her body, despite the stuffy heat of the night. That Dursley git threatened Harry with expulsion from his house often enough on a good day... and this had been anything but. This was serious. Hedwig gathered herself, preparing herself for flight, ready to accompany Harry in case he came rushing out of the house at any moment. She felt the now unwelcome presence of the Ministry owls; they had definitely outstayed their welcome, and as far as she was concerned, their usefulness, and Hedwig wished they would all just leave. But once again, the owls all seemed rooted to their spots: Beryl looked shocked and a little disdainful, Nigel looked torn between courtesy and curiosity, and Eddie just looked ridiculous, one eye staring glassily in a different direction to the other.

Pig’s sudden sneeze attracted Hedwig’s attention; he was shaking ash from his body in a violent mini-fury. “Don’t nobody go in there... fink if I’d ‘ung about I’d ‘ave been stew. There’s tension there that’d break the neck of an ‘ippogriff, that big Muggle pulling ‘is own feathers out of ‘is face. Poor ‘arry, I don’t reckon ‘e even realized it was me!”

Hedwig wasn’t at all surprised to hear this last comment. Harry must be out of his wits, and she herself was reaching the end of her tether. She needed time and space to think, and she needed to be ready the instant Harry wanted her. It was time to encourage all of them to go, including Pigwidgeon.

“Pig, listen: it sounds like we could have a major problem on our claws. Harry is about to be thrown out of the only safe place he has.” Hedwig tried to keep her voice low, aware of the curiously listening Ministry owls, but it was difficult with Pig busily spinning to rid himself of ash and dust. “PIG!” Hedwig hooted loudly, finally succeeding in getting the little owl’s attention as it span to a halt, a final shower of fine dust landing gently around it. “You need to go back to … your home and find a way to tell them what’s happening at the Dursleys, do you hear? They need to tell me what Harry and I are supposed to do next …”

Pig hopped into the air again and zoomed around Hedwig’s head a couple of times. “Now, now... don’t you worry yet Heddy. ‘Arry’s a good boy, e’ll respect what e’s told by … well, by we-know-‘oo – that there message I just delivered told ‘arry to stay put, right? To stay where ‘e is, and as you can guess, it was written by the one person you can be right sure ‘arry will listen to... when ‘e barks his orders, ‘arry listens; it’ll make ‘im stay put, sorted.”

Hedwig was certain that if it was physically possible, Pigwidgeon would just have added a rather pronounced wink to his message and nudged her with a non-existent elbow; she really wished very much that she could throttle Pig at that moment, but as that might be counter-productive she forced herself to breathe deeply and remember the company of the other owls.

“Fine, fine, I’ll wait and see. Just stop zooming around before I -- oh no... now what?”

Once again, all eyes, except one of Eddie’s, turned skywards. A mighty and beautiful specimen of owl was soaring towards them, something clamped tightly in its beak; it swooped low over the rooftop, circling number four Privet Drive, then, without hesitating, shot down the chimney right next to the stunned peck of owls without a sound. There was a muffled screech from inside the house, and before any of them had time to speak, the impressive owl had swept back out of the chimney, shaking the dust from his tawny feathers with one dignified beat of his wings.

As though someone had suddenly plugged them back in, the five owls on the rooftop began to squawk with a mixed sound of concern and indignation; this newcomer was showing no signs of stopping to chat. Aware of the noise, the owl turned its great head, and blinked its large round eyes just once, before hooting softly: "Be quiet and you will hear for yourselves."

The owl circled them grandly once, and then flew gracefully upwards, soon swallowed up by the star spotted sky.

"REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA"

All the owls, even Hedwig, started. The awful echoing voice of a Howler rebounded up the chimney and drifted out into the night... followed by the faint smell of burning parchment. That voice was infused with more than volume... there had been both power and an ancient magic in those words.

Finally silence rushed back in and filled the night. Hedwig perched still as a statue, thinking hard, while a temporarily motionless Pig met her gaze thoughtfully. Eddie seemed to be trying to whistle and hum at the same time. Nigel and Beryl exchanged fiercely curious glances, before Nigel cleared his throat and squawked: "Remember the last ... what?" Beryl nudged him gently, "Nigel, don't pry,” but she was staring at Hedwig and Pig expectantly, a hungry look on her face.

Eddie stopped making strange noises and started to preen himself. "Expect someone forgot to finish their sentence in their haste to send the Howler."

“No doubt, Eddie. That there is as plausible as anyfink...” nodded Pig, in a not-quite convincing tone.

Beryl and Nigel looked skeptically at each other, but Hedwig’s mind was working fast. Raised voices could once again be heard drifting up the chimney; it was time to move along the onlookers.

“Well, whatever it should have said, we’re not likely to know. I think it’s time we all made tracks – and your friend Eddie here looks like he might need a bit of help getting home.”

Eddie, hearing his name, shook his head, which caused him to wobble alarmingly, and addressed the chimney cheerfully, “Why thank you, my good lady, your concern is appreciated but I assure you unwarranted.”

Nigel and Beryl exchanged looks and though Beryl looked disgruntled at the idea, it was clear this much was true. Eddie was not going to find his way back to the Ministry tonight without help.

“Come along old chap, what?” boomed Nigel in his hearty manner. He grabbed Eddie by one of his wings; fortunately, although small, Nigel seemed strong as well as fast. Beryl begrudgingly hoisted Eddie’s other wing over her shoulder and with a final nod and farewell, the three Ministry owls began their lop-sided ascent, disappearing into the darkness that had begun to gather heavily on the horizon.

~~~

Hedwig watched them go for moment, aware that Pig had moved closer to her.

“’e'll be all right. Dumbledore will sort it."

Hedwig turned around anxiously, her guard dropping now it was just the two of them. "It gets worse every year."

Pig seemed to be trying to be supportive, striving to stay as still as possible, and only rocking slightly to and fro as his tiny claws gripped the edge of the rooftop.

“I don’t know what’s worse for him … the days with these horrid, horrid Muggles or the nights … when he dreams, has nightmares, cries out …”

Just then an angry voice spiraled up the chimney again, interrupting her; that ignorant Muggle, yelling at Harry to go to bed. Hedwig sighed. “And now all this.”

Pig hopped excitedly from foot to foot, “AH, now Heddy, bad dreams - finally we come to a subject I am worth my weight in gold for... why me very first summer wiv’ the Weasleys I learned all about ‘ow to take care of someone suffering from those.” Pig continued, jumping up and down excitedly, “Young Ginny ‘as ‘em ... nightmares too - awful fright it gave me first time I ‘eard her! Felt the same as you, wanted to ‘elp but what could I do? So one night see, one night I wriggles all sneaky like out of Ron’s window an’ through ‘ers – an’ I sang ‘er a lullaby, see? ‘Course, it didn’t work right away.” Pig paused in his recital and cocked his tiny head on one side, “Come to fink of it... it didn’t work at all at first, she nearly ‘exed me into next Tuesday with ‘er wand, but then see, then she saw me a-whistling a lullaby and the dear girl, she smiles see an’ said I was the perfick cure for bad dreams!”

Hedwig nodded. She had heard Harry’s bedroom door slam shut through his open window, and knew that at least he was secure in the house for now, not out in the unsafe world alone. Now she glanced piercingly at the little owl, causing him to stop in mid bounce, “The little red-head? She has bad dreams too? About what?”

Pig’s boisterous hopping had stopped as he thought about Hedwig’s question.

“Well, see – I don’t rightly know for sure as you can guess, but I ‘ear ‘er cryin’ about blood an’ askin’ for somefink to stop ... she seems frantic like, worried about somefink, about ‘er friends – an’ sometimes she cries out for ‘arry Pot-” Pig’s voice froze, and he looked anxiously up at Hedwig. “Now then don’t judge ‘er, Hedders, will you? It’s not in a lovey sort of way, matey, it’s – well ... it’s like she’s trying to warn ‘im about somefink, that’s she’s worried FOR ‘im, see - right ‘eartbreaking, it is.”

Hedwig sighed. “Yes, well I remember she did get into some serious trouble a couple of years back ... I didn’t really notice her at first – when Harry had his first visit to The Burrow, such a tiny thing … so quiet, always hiding away, but I do remember the troubles at school that year …“

Hedwig hesitated, thinking back to that time. “Yes … yes, I can understand what you say, Pig, about her bad dreams – it makes sense. To even survive what she went through,” Hedwig sighed again. “She and Harry have that in common, certainly. Of course, I didn’t see much of her after that, well not in fact until last summer, when Harry and I went to stay at The Burrow again – you remember, it was your first few months there?” Pig nodded, listening hard. “But now … ever since I’ve been visiting Grimmauld Place – well, there’s something different about her. There’s than meets the eye to that one …” Hedwig blinked thoughtfully, “You know her well, don’t you? She named you after all?”

"Yeah, she did!” Pig chuckled, “Not that my Ron was too ‘appy! ‘Ee wanted to call me somefink a bit more … aggressive! ‘An I suppose I got to know young Ginny pretty quickly, what wiv ‘er bad nights an’ all that … an’ she talks to young ‘ermione quite a bit you know... an’ I'm usually within ‘earing distance see ... not trying to eavesdrop, of course."

Hedwig resisted the urge to roll her amber eyes, but felt her mood lift a bit more. Pig was quite a comfort when he wasn’t hyper-active. "No, of course you aren’t!” then she hesitated. “Hermione’s a good girl, very thoughtful… and wise … if she were not human, she’d be an owl, you know … but Ginny, well last summer she was definitely more talkative – and a lot less … pink. I wonder if I’ve under-estimated her?”

Pig stretched out his small wings, and then tucked them in again. "Well she’s a live wire, an’ that’s for sure. There’s a real bit of those twins in ‘er – you can see it sometimes in ‘er face, but mostly it’s just this … spark, this fing about ‘er that – sorta shines really.” Pig gazed dreamily into space for a second.

“Anyway,” he continued, “I ‘ave it on good authority that you might see the little Ginny I've always known since I joined the family last year comin’ out more – got ‘erself a boyfriend, see? Keeping it quiet of course... wouldn't want to see ‘ow them brothers of ‘ers would react of course, but all I’m sayin’ is I've already been sent to Birmingham twice this Summer - in the dead of night –“ Pig faltered at Hedwig’s expression. “Well, all right, evenin’ really, sorta round teatime - with secrecy sworn not to let any response near the ‘ands of any male in the family. Never could say no to those big brown eyes of ‘ers.”

“So anyways, I’m becoming a Master of Disguise, see? An’ what I does is this: I rolls around in the ash an’ the Floo dregs see, so as to make meself unseen … an’ once I kicked ol’ Errol so ‘e fell a bit- not so as to ‘urt ‘im, but the poor ol’ bugger falls so much ’e’s plenty used to it, but then see, we calls that a distraction, an’ while everyone was tending good ol’ Errol I flew all sneaky like out the window with naught even a shadow to tell where I ..."

Hedwig hooted softly, but her attention was drifting again. There was the definite sound of scratching coming out of Harry’s window: he was writing letters, and soon Hedwig would be needed.

"Mind you, this boy’s taken quite a fancy to our Ginny. ‘E’s writing ‘er more than she’s writing back, an’ that’s a fact. Bit keen, I reckon, this Michael Corner – but it seems ‘e’s a Ravenclaw, and they ain’t all bad.”

“Yes, yes, thank you Pigwidgeon, this is all very interesting. But you’d better get a move on before they send Errol after you. Sirius will be wondering why you’ve not returned, and I need to get to Harry.”

Pig nodded smartly, did a mini sort of salute with one wing and then, quite gently he said, “Don’t worry, Heddy.” Pig used the tiny wing to pat Hedwig gently on the back. “Whatever ‘e did, ‘e only did it because ‘e ‘ad to. Dumbledore will make sure ‘e’s all right, you know that. See ya later.”

And Pig launched himself gaily off the rooftop, whizzing upwards and Hedwig watched as he veered eastwards and began a haphazard spiraling course home.

Through the open bedroom window, Hedwig heard a loud thud and a stifled grunt. Harry had kicked something. Hedwig knew his habits and this was a frequent one. He’d either be nursing his knee, his ankle or his foot. It was time to go. Scooping the dead frog from the gutter for what was hopefully the last time, Hedwig took flight. She circled twice around Privet Drive, hovering for a few seconds longer outside, and then with a soft rustle of wings, she soared in through the open window of Harry’s bedroom, landing lightly on top of her cage, the dead frog once more clasped in her beak.

Harry, as was to be expected, was not in a good mood. Barely greeting her, and as anticipated, ignoring her offering of the dead frog, he rapidly tied three scrolls of parchment to her leg, telling her tersely to take them to Ron, Hermione and Sirius and not to return without good long replies. Hedwig sighed as Harry fastened the parchment. She was glad to be doing something for him, feeling useful at last, but fat chance he’d get anything like good long replies.

With the final instruction to peck them until they wrote decent length answers, she gave Harry a muffled hoot goodbye, and still holding the frog in her beak, she took flight for Grimmauld Place. If she made good time, there was every chance she’d arrive at the same time as Pig – her flight path was definitely more … direct – and she had some serious hand-pecking planned. Poor Harry, what a night; she felt carrying out his instructions to the letter was the least she could do.

THE END
//
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