An owl flew down to the Astronomy tower of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It headed straight for the boy who was sitting there, huddled in his black school cloak that bore, over the left breast, a gold and scarlet emblem depicting a pouncing lion overlaying the Hogwart's crest. The boy turned his sad green eyes to the bird. He wondered, why the unknown owl had come and why now - at Midnight. The owls always came during breakfast.
"Hey, you." The boy greeted the owl, but made no move to take the message it carried. He turned his gaze back to the sky full of shining stars.
The bird clicked its beak. It was evidently displeased to be ignored like this. "Whooot," the owl protested.
"One of them is Sirius, did you know that?" the teenager asked in a pained voice. "The dog star."
The owl tilted its head to the side and peered at the boy with bright amber eyes. Its ‘whooot' carried more emphasis this time, and the bird flapped its brown wings, irritated.
The boy turned his eyes to the owl again, growing equally irritated. "If you don't want to stay with me for a while, you can clear off. I won't take that message anyway."
'What?' the thought flying thought the head of the black-clad man hidden in the shadows had the same shocked intonation as the owl's, "Whooot?"
"It could be a Portkey for all I know," the boy continued heatedly. "Nobody knows I'm here and poof I'm gone and nobody even notices."
The man and the owl's emotions were totally different this time. The secret observer nodded his satisfaction. 'Finally, Harry, at the age of sixteen you've learned to be cautious.' The bird on the other hand grew very affronted and pecked the boy's nose. Hard.
"Ow!" The boy's hand shot out from under his cloak and covered his bleeding nose. "What the hell!"
The owl attacked the exposed hand this time.
"Fine, fine!" shouted the boy furiously. "Give me the stupid message. And do you know what? If it kills me, I really don't give a fuck!"
The man in the shadows nodded again. His suspicions had been confirmed. Harry had come back from the Christmas holiday - the first since he had started at Hogwarts that he had been forced to spend at home - on the verge of a mental breakdown. Evidently, something had happened at Privet Drive that had broken the proverbial camel's back. Severus wasn't a spy for nothing and it didn't take long for him to find the reason of the boy's mental state.
Harry untied the message and Severus noticed that even in his anger he treated the bird gently, careful not to hurt its leg.
Harry read the note out loud, his disbelief growing with each word. "I am Nephele, your new owl. You may want to look up how to take proper care of me." His wounds forgotten, he reached for the bird.
"Hi, Nephele," whispered Harry, stroking her wings gently. A small smile appeared on his face. He got up and scooped the owl in his arms, still staring at it in a daze, and evidently wondering if her appearance was a dream.
A small smile appeared on the hidden man's face. He couldn't reveal his true loyalties or feelings, and he also couldn't replace the boy's godfather. Pets, on the other hand, were fortunately somewhat replaceable.
He watched the boy leave the Astronomy tower. After the door shut behind him, Severus took out his broom. In five minutes he would be at the apparition point outside the gates and near the Forbidden Forest, and in another few seconds, he would be at the Dursleys'. He wouldn't let the murder of Hedwig and his son's pain go unpunished.