Albus Dumbledore and the Phoenix Feather
A work of documented fan-fiction (that is to say, I acknowledge that the character Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizard and the whole magical world in which this story is set; as being the intellectual property of JK Rowling).
Please note that a number of the characters in this story are original creations but I owe their creation to JK Rowling, as creator of the world to which they belong.
"Every great master was himself once a student"
Prologue – The feather lands softly
The year is 1852, the month is July
Archaeon Nobilo Dumbledore surveyed the dusty sands of Lower Egypt with his typical furrowed gaze, a calloused hand shielding his eyes from the vicious heat of the midday sun. Far to the west, the sands merged with the sky, a shimmering silver hue. To the east wound the Nile River, a sparkling stream of diamonds under the hot North African sun. It was a beautiful view; albeit a burning, painful sight to Archaeon's weary blue eyes.
He had been too long in this desert, and yearned for the comforts of his mother England. He yearned for the smell of freshly cut lawns and the sounds of barking dogs coming from across the expanses of his mansion in Somerset. He yearned for the comforts of his rocking chair beside the fireplace, a healthy cigar in his jowls and a house elf attending to his needs.
You see, Archaeon Nobilo Dumbledore was a wizard, and a mightily famous one at that. His most notable achievement had been the defeat of a vile African witchdoctor, Shakala Mambazo, allowing British wizards to successfully colonize Southern Africa (unknown, of course, to their muggle counterparts.) Yet Archaeon was not one to dwell on his achievements, nor did he accept the offers of Headmaster posts at famous wizarding schools, or even the prestigious post of Minister of Magic for Britain. In fact, Archaeon's reason for turning down these lucrative positions was buried, somewhere in the sands beneath his feet.
Archaeon Dumbledore had an interest in a very obscure branch of magic that very few in the wizarding world were slightly piqued by. Archaeon loved the History of Magic. No, not the tedious subject that had bored him to tears in his days at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (he could still remember falling asleep to the sound of ghostly Professor Binns' drone within a minute of a class starting). Archaeon Dumbledore had no time for that – his interest lay in the field of researching the History of Magic – that is to say, digging up old magical relics. Archaeon Dumbledore was an Archaeowizard!
Just then, Archaeon heard the whoosh of a broom as it came careering towards him, stopping just inches behind his head. He turned with a look of irritation on his tanned, heavily lined face.
'I told you, Aberforth, you cannot ride your broomstick in Egypt!' he snapped. 'The muggles here are very superstitious.'
'Oh, I forgot, Dad,' Aberforth said dully, dropping to the sand with a dumb expression on his face. Archaeon sighed inwardly. His eldest son was such a disappointment sometimes. He wondered how he had made it to third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry without being kicked out for being a totally lost cause. His younger son, on the other hand …
'Dad, Dad - are we going digging today?' came an excited voice from over the crest of the sand dune. Archaeon looked up expectantly with his blue eyes and saw his youngest son struggling purposefully to get his legs up the dreadful dune. A gleam crossed his eyes as he observed his youngest son.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was everything Archaeon could have hoped for in a second attempt at a son. He was still short for his age – at ten going on eleven, the boy had yet to sprout legs as his father was sure he would. After all, both Archaeon and his wife Lubo were tall people. Albus had chestnut coloured hair, a mixture at once of solemn brown and a delightful array of autumnal auburn tones. In sunlight like this, even a gleam of gold found its way to Archaeon's eyes. Albus shared his father's blue eyes. They sparkled whenever he was happy, which was invariably always. Archaeon felt a sense of warmth inside him. He was lucky to have such a beautiful boy as his son, even luckier when he considered how talented Albus was.
Albus Dumbledore had been extremely young when he had first displayed signs of magical ability. So young, in fact, that Archaeon had never met another parent whose child had done so at such an early stage. It had been the first night back from St Mungo's Hospital, where Lubo had given birth to Albus a day prior. The loving parents had gently laid their two day old babe into his cot, before returning downstairs to lay in each others arms in front of the fire, thoroughly exhausted. Not two seconds later, a resounding 'pop' had announced the arrival of baby Albus, now nestled in his mother's arms. Archaeon recalled, with a certain sense of humour about it all, how this uncanny ability to get wherever he wanted had given Lubo a considerable amount of difficulty. They had eventually had to charm Albus with a permanent anti-disapparation jinx, one which would only be lifted when he was seventeen and legally allowed to perform such complex magic.
Archaeon returned his attention to the present. A worn-out but thoroughly excited Albus was now standing in front of him, his face flush with enthusiasm.
'So, are we, are we?' Albus cried eagerly.
'I do not know, my son, it is fairly dangerous down there,' Archaeon teased.
'You said we could go digging with you today!' Albus spluttered; a look of utmost concern on his young, rounded face.
'Yes, Dad, you said we could,' Aberforth added, as dumb to Archaeon's little joke as Albus was.
'Still not Legilimens yet, my sons,' Archaeon quipped, more to Albus than to Aberforth. He very much doubted whether his eldest son would ever be able to perform legilimency, let alone transfigure a needle into a haystack. 'I was joking, if that had not occurred to you.'
'Dad!' cried Albus in exasperation. He beat his hands on his father's great chest, too softly to hurt the man in any way. Albus dearly loved his father, and had been looking forward to this expedition into an archaeological dig in Egypt with every ounce of anticipation in his body. If Archaeon Dumbledore was interested in the digging up of magical history, it is fair to say that Albus Dumbledore was fanatical about it. He had read every single volume of Achmed Al-Mohammed's fifty book series, Magyk before the fall of Empyres. The great Arabian historian from the 11th century was widely regarded as the most influential thinkers linking ancient magical practices to modern ones. He was the bridge between the golden Age of Egyptian and Greek magic, across the expanses of the Dark Ages, to the modern magical arts.
'Alright, my son, we shall go now,' Archaeon relented, once he had tired of laughing at his son's impatience. Indeed, he knew that Albus had been waiting for this Egyptian expedition since Archaeon had invited his two sons back at Christmas. The boy's feet had not touched the ground for a month afterwards, and Albus had positively salivated at the thought of going to Egypt – a place some regarded as the birthplace of magic as the wizarding world knew it.
Archaeon led the way across the sands, which were now being whipped around the base of their white Arabian robes (they dared not wear the darker, more fashionable robes of the times back home in England – the Egyptian sun was far too cruel for anything darker than white). Their feet hit the solid sound of stone. Archaeon retrieved his wand from his pocket – Albus watched with wide eyes, still too young to own a wand himself – and cast a spell into the sand.
'Descendo,' Archaeon said, swirling his wand in a tricky incantation. The sands beneath their feet blew apart, revealing stone steps leading into the darkness below. Archaeon cast another spell, 'Illuminatus.' Torches lining the walls of the stairwell lit up, a startling blue colour against the grey stone.
'Follow me, my sons, and remain with me at all times,' Archaeon said, casting a particularly strong look in Aberforth's direction. His eldest son, who was as air-headed as a muggle sometimes, nodded stupidly back. Albus was already pushing to get down the steps.
Archaeon led the way down the steps into the depths of the Egyptian desert sands, his wand out and lit up in spite of the torches burning brightly either side of them. They came to a platform, which appeared to have two alternative exits. Albus' attention was drawn immediately to the archway to the left. It seemed to be emitting a strange, whistling sound, like the sound of voices behind it. Yet a ragged curtain was all that covered it, fluttering to the eerie song from its depths.
'Avert your thoughts from that place, Albus, Aberforth,' Archaeon said, swiftly grabbing Aberforth by his robe to prevent him from walking straight through it. 'That is not a route you wish to take, not for a long time. My team of Archaeowizards will be removing it and taking it back to England soon, but it will not be accessible for the common witch or wizard. We will take this door ahead.'
Archaeon directed his sons to an archway that gleamed, golden and radiant like the gates of Ra, the Egyptian Sun-God's temple. As the trio stepped through, they felt the swirl of wind and the rushing of colours and sounds around them. This archway was a portal to another place, Albus realised with a thrill.
Albus felt his feet hit solid ground and opened his eyes. He could not believe what he saw before him. His father, Aberforth and him were standing on a plinth overlooking what appeared to be a massive city of gold. Every single building shone, golden and brighter than the sun. There were pyramids, temples and walls, aqueducts and palaces; and all seemed to be made purely of gold. This was the most remarkable place that Albus had ever seen! He was about to ask his father where they were, when his father spoke in awed tones.
'My sons, this is Heliopolis, the city of the sun.'
Albus had to blink a few times, both out of shock and to counter the pain from staring at the golden city for too long. This was not possible – he was standing in the ancient and mythical city of Ra, the Egyptian Sun God – a city nobody had seen for probably thousands of years.
'How did you find this, Dad?' Albus asked; overwhelmed with a sense of pride that he was his father's son.
'I have used all magical abilities known to me,' Archaeon said. 'One day, once you have started at Hogwarts and have developed your magical powers enough, I will be able to teach you at least a part of what I know.'
Albus could not wait. Nor could he resist the desire to explore. Archaeon sensed the glow of eagerness in his son and answered before the question was even asked.
'Yes, Albus, you may explore Heliopolis,' Archaeon said. 'Aberforth, you come with me, I have something to show you that might be of interest.'
Liberated, and knowing full well that Aberforth was only accompanying his father because he was too unreliable to be left alone, Albus set off down the golden steps off the platform that led down to the golden streets of the now deserted city. His heart was in his mouth. He could not believe his luck. He was not yet eleven, not yet accepted into Hogwarts, not yet the owner of a wand or a single spell of substance, but he was in the most ancient and magical of all cities – Heliopolis, City of the Sun.
Albus strolled through the streets as though he was the owner, Ra Himself. There were no inhabitants of this deserted place. There might not have been inhabitants for thirty centuries, Albus thought to himself. He felt himself being irresistibly drawn towards the gleaming golden centre of the city, which, somehow, seemed to glow even brighter than the rest of the place, if that was possible.
Albus finally found himself at the foot of the steps leading up into the Temple of the Sun God Himself. They seemed to rise forever ahead of him. He turned, looking around to see if he was being watched by Archaeon or Aberforth (who would be sure to tell on him if he saw). Once he was satisfied that neither were around to see him, he apparated to the top of the steps. Albus had undone his parents' anti-disapparation jinx when he was nine, quite by accident of course, but he had been clever enough not to apparate in the presence of any living person since then. Albus actually had no idea why he was capable of such mysterious powers at such a young age, especially when he compared himself to his hapless brother. Aberforth had only managed to demonstrate magical abilities at the age of ten – just months before the arrival of Hogwarts' letters. And, Albus recalled, it had been the rather pathetic matter of summoning the salt across the table without a wand. Albus had been summoning books from his father's prohibited study at will since the age of five!
Now that Albus had arrived between the magnificent golden columns bearing the proud roof of the Sun God's temple, he was immediately aroused as to what was inside the temple. He walked into the massive atrium, totally awed by the magical depiction of the sky up above. The sun beamed down from the ceiling, as though there was no ceiling there at all. 'So this is where the magic first came from,' Albus thought, thinking about the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Albus had never been there, but he had read about it, of course, in Hogwarts – A History.
Albus was drawn even further into the temple. He walked past countless statues of people with dogs' heads or other curious shapes in place of their heads, all posing with their hands backwards and forwards in the familiar Egyptian way. Colourful pictograms covered the walls. Up ahead, an altar loomed, a giant golden plinth towering over almost everything in the room.
For some unknown reason, Albus found himself standing on the altar. He had not intended to apparate like that, especially on to such a respectable place as an altar. Unlike Aberforth, Albus had actually learned the lessons in manners and decorum that his parents had tried to instil in him. He immediately wanted to turn, and prepare to apparate off the altar, when something caught his eye.
Right in the centre of the altar was an egg. A strange, pungent smell was coming from it. Albus recognised it as myrrh – despite the rarity of his travels with his father, he had still managed to go to some remarkably exotic places. Right next to the egg was a single, fiery red feather.
Albus could not help himself. He wandered over to the egg, crouched down on his knees and picked up the feather. It seemed warm at the root, as though it had just fallen. Albus was stunned. Could this be?
Albus had read all about ancient magic, of course, and knew exactly what he thought this might mean. There was an ancient creature, so powerfully magic, so incredibly rare, that Albus dared not believe it. 'Then again,' he thought to himself, 'this is Heliopolis after all, but no – it's not possible.' Albus mulled it over in his head. This creature, this bird, was legendary. It was said to live for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, according to some accounts, whereupon it would die in a ball of flame – only to re-emerge from the ashes. Incredible as this seemed, the bird would then create an egg embalmed in myrrh from the ashes of its "father", fly with the egg to the altar of the Sun-God in the city of Heliopolis, and place the egg there.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was holding the feather of a phoenix.
A fraction of a second later, he felt the slightest pressure on his shoulder. Hardly daring to turn and look, he heard the most beautiful sound fill his ears. A haunting, rousing melody that echoed across the Sun God's temple and filled Albus' core with longing, came from behind his ear. He could not wait any longer. Albus turned his head to find that a young phoenix was sitting on his shoulder.
The phoenix was the size of an eagle, with scarlet and golden feathers and a very proud looking face. Its beak glowed like the golden altar on which Albus stood. Two dark, penetrating eyes pierced Albus' own blue ones. The bird then did something terribly strange and terribly frightening for young Albus. It leaned its head forward and nuzzled Albus on the cheek with the front of its beak.
'Er … greetings to you, o phoenix,' Albus managed at last, stroking the wonderful creature with the arm that wasn't carrying the bird. He did not know what else to say to the remarkable creature.
'ALBUS! WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?' a voice sounded. It echoed menacingly down the temple. Albus turned at once, horrified to see his father standing at the entrance, hands on his hips. Before Albus knew what was happening, he had apparated to stand right in front of his father, quite without meaning to. He knew that he was truly in trouble now – his father would want to know how long he had been apparating for and how he had undone the anti-disapparation jinx.
'HOW IN THE NAME OF MERLIN DID YOU MANAGE TO DO THAT …' Archaeon began, but his rage quelled and his face became quite pale.
'What is it, father?' Albus asked desperately, afraid that he had done something to scare his father to death.
'That is … that is … oh my, Albus, look what you've found … that's a phoenix!' Archaeon was spluttering, looking more surprised than he had ever done in the presence of Albus.
Albus immediately realised that the bird was still on his shoulder. He had expected it to fly away when his father had bellowed at him from across the temple floor.
Archaeon reached out and stroked the magnificent bird, which gave him a haughty look and returned to nuzzling Albus' cheek. Albus, who had never had a bird on his shoulder, looked thoroughly put out.
'Albus, do you realise that only one of these things exists at a time?' Archaeon said.
Albus nodded. His father started telling him everything about phoenixes, information he already knew from books, sounding as excited as if he had found the Fount of Eternal Life itself. Eventually, when Aberforth had also attempted to stroke the phoenix and been rejected by a sway of the proud bird's neck; and when ten minutes had passed and it had still not left Albus' shoulder, Archaeon made an astonishing announcement.
'Albus, my son, I think you have just become the world's only owner of a phoenix.'
Albus stared back at Archaeon Dumbledore, not quite willing to believe what he had just heard. Was it true? Was he, an ten year old wizard, the new owner of a genuine, real-life phoenix? That did not seem right, in fact, he voiced it immediately.
'I cannot own a phoenix, Dad,' Albus said urgently. 'They have no owner!'
'Exactly the sentiment,' Archaeon said proudly. 'That is why I think it has chosen you as its master. You are very wise for a boy, if I say so myself.'
Albus flushed at the compliment, and turned to stroke his new pet. When his father and Aberforth were leading the way back to the archway into the real world, Albus hung back and spoke to the phoenix in low tones.
'I am not your owner, or master, or anything,' he said simply. 'You are far too powerful for that. But if you really want to stay with me, and be my friend, then I will be very happy. Can I call you … er, Fawkes?'
The phoenix stared into Albus' blue eyes with its own astonishingly dark eyes. Its head tilted forward in an unmistakeable nod. Albus broke into a brilliant grin, giving the phoenix what almost amounted to a hug. Slightly ruffled, the proud thing shook its feathers, but remained on Albus's shoulders nonetheless.
A few hours later they were through the archway, up the steps and back in the swirling desert sands and unquenchable heat of the Sahara. They returned to the Archaeowizards encampment, a set of fifteen magical tents clustered around a small oasis, where an exhausted Albus flung himself onto the comfortable silk sheets of his bed. Fawkes the phoenix fluttered on to the simple wooden table beside the bed, settling down on the cover of Enchantments in Egypt, Volume 5. Albus could not keep his eyes off the magical creature, his heart pounding in his chest. This was the greatest that he had ever felt.
Or not. Moments after Albus had fallen into bed, a thoroughly sand-beaten owl came hurtling into the tent. It dropped a letter on Albus's head and promptly collapsed in the corner, half-dead from its journey across the desert. Albus would have opened the letter at once, if not out of concern for the owl. But Fawkes was already hovering over the owl, crying silver tears onto the harried creature. Moments later the owl was flitting about with all the energy in the world. It gave Fawkes a grateful chirp and promptly flew off into the desert as though about to make a simple flight from Sussex to Essex.
'You are amazing, Fawkes,' Albus said. He turned his attention to the letter. It bore a familiar crest. Hands trembling, Albus opened the letter.
'Dear Mr Dumbledore,
I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry …'
Albus stopped reading at once. He ran to the opening in his tent, stuck his head out and yelled into the wind.
'Dad, Dad, I'm going to Hogwarts, I'm going to Hogwarts!'
It was the happiest he had ever felt.
Author's Note – This prologue could be the first chapter in a very long and eventful story that is forming in my mind. I would be grateful for anyone who reads this to write a review and let me know if you think it would be worth me writing more. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this beginning. I see it as a beginning in more ways than one – because this precedes the Harry Potter stories by over a century, bringing a school-age Albus Dumbledore to life.