Chapter 1: Flight of the Phoenix

The phoenix was miffed. It was the middle of the night! It was unnatural, that's what it was. A phoenix is not a nocturnal bird, but there he was, flapping along in the dark like some stupid bloody owl.

A phoenix can sense things, and he knew he was needed. It was urgent. The wizard called Severus, the one with the boring black plumage, was trying to carry out the final wishes of Albus Dumbledore, and everything was going wrong. Totally wrong. Yes, he could feel it so very strongly. He'd better hurry.

The phoenix didn't understand wizards very well, even after centuries of observing them. However, he knew that Severus was doing what Albus had wanted. And he knew that if Severus failed, then that cute fledgling wizard called Harry would fail, too. That would be very bad. And Severus was failing. Fawkes could feel the wizard's anxiety growing. He flew as fast as he could.

As Fawkes soared toward Hogsmeade, he thought of Albus. Fawkes had adopted Albus so long ago. He remembered Albus' twinkling eyes and bright, colorful plumage. And his sweets. Yes, those sweets! Especially the lemon drops!

Albus was gone now, but Severus and Harry were still loyal, as loyal any Hufflepuff, and Fawkes prized loyalty above all else. It drew him to them like a magnet. He remembered when young Harry had faced the basilisk. Now he could feel Severus facing the serpent. It was time for him to help again. It's what Albus would have wanted.

Suddenly Fawkes sensed the searing pain and terror as the serpent struck! The Shrieking Shack was just ahead! He dove and nearly lost a few feathers as he plunged though a partially boarded-up window.

Fawkes caught a glimpse of Harry and his friends leaving, and he knew then that Severus had succeeded. But Severus was lying still in a pool of blood. Fawkes was too late! It was over. Poor Severus had been loyal to the very end.

Terrible sorrow overwhelmed the phoenix. He hopped onto the wizard's chest, looked into the blank eyes, and started to cry.

Suddenly the wizard's eyes weren't quite so blank anymore, and then the wounds in his throat began to heal. Maybe he wasn't dead?

The bird's tears turned to tears of joy when Severus gasped for air and started fumbling with his robes. Fawkes fluttered to the side and watched as Severus pulled out a bezoar and choked it down. Then he washed it down with the contents of several potion vials.

That's the way! Good wizard, smart wizard! the bird thought as he hopped up and down on the dirty floor.

The phoenix managed to fly Severus out of the shack, but the wizard was too weak to hold on for very long and he fell into the weeds as soon as they were outside. Clearly, Severus needed to rest for a while, and anyway it was still dark, so Fawkes settled onto the dilapidated fence and started to preen.

Fawkes liked Severus. In some ways Severus reminded him of Albus. Albus had made mistakes when he was little more than a fledgling, bad mistakes, but then he'd realized that. He'd been lost in regret for a time, and then he'd started to change and grow. He'd become powerful and wise, at least until near the end when, in Fawkes' opinion, his thinking had started to get rather flaky. Wizards had such short lives compared to a phoenix. It was sad. Fawkes had watched so many come and go.

Severus had made bad mistakes when he was young, just like Albus had, and after he'd finally gotten the remorse under control, he'd started to grow. He had already become quite powerful, and he even showed a bit of wisdom sometimes, too.

Actually, Severus reminded Fawkes of a vulture, with his plain black plumage and elegant beak. Fawkes liked vultures. They had a certain dignity as they went about their work, cleaning up the nasty things that no one else was willing to touch. Not like those scatter-brained owls, always flitting around with their letters and packages. Fawkes didn't care much for owls.

Albus, on the other hand, had been more like an unusually colourful puffin, but with the heart of a hawk, and the mind of ... well, a common loon, actually. Fawkes missed his Albus. He'd loved the old bird despite his flaws. He would have to find himself a new wizard one of these days. Perhaps he would adopt Severus. It would be interesting to watch the man mature. Severus had more than a century left in him, and he could be quite entertaining at times.

In fact, Severus was quite entertaining when the Thestral showed up. Fawkes knew he shouldn't laugh after what the poor fellow had just been through, but he chortled to himself anyway. The Thestral had been attracted by the smell of blood, and when it started to nibble at the wizard's blood-soaked cloak, it woke him up. When Severus found himself staring into the scaly snout of the Thestral, his eyes got as big as dinner plates and he jumped like he'd been hexed. He swore and swatted at the beast. It backed off and watched him expectantly. It was hungry, poor thing.

Then Severus seemed to have an idea. He rummaged in his cloak and started to empty its magic pockets. Fawkes watched as he brought out an assortment of potion vials, a Death Eater's mask, some scrolls, a couple of books, a silver dagger – a precaution against werewolves, no doubt – a few sickles and knuts and, yes, a small bag of Albus' favorite lemon drops! They were Fawkes' favorite, too.

Severus got to his feet with difficulty, took off the bloody cloak, and waved it at the Thestral. "Come on then, beast!" he sneered, "dinner is served!" He turned, picked up the mask, and led the Thestral into the shack. Fawkes took the opportunity to pounce on the lemon drops.

After a short while Severus returned without cloak, mask, or Thestral, and he slumped down against the side of the shack to rest. Fawkes could sense his plan. Severus wanted to go away and start over somewhere else. He wanted everyone to think he was dead. If anyone came for his body now, they'd find the place a shambles. The floor would be covered with bloody hoof prints and cloak fragments. A Death Eater's mask would be lying in the muck. It would look like hungry Thestrals had consumed Severus' mortal remains. No one would give the matter a second thought.

Fawkes liked the plan. He knew that Severus had done something shocking for Albus. Albus had insisted on it, and the bird understood that it was necessary, but most people wouldn't be eager to forgive Severus. It would be best for him to leave now. Fawkes knew a place where they needed someone who could make medicinal potions; someone who could help them and teach them. Fawkes would adopt Severus and take him there. There was a shaman there who could help him recover and heal.

Fawkes fluttered over to Severus and squawked at him. The sun would be coming up soon. It was time to get moving.