The Earth Phoenix
All recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.
I am not a native speaker of English. Please excuse my mistakes.
Ten-year-old Harry Potter anxiously tried to hide behind a tree, hoping that Dudley and his gang would become distracted by someone else before reaching him. Of course, it was nothing special that Dudley was chasing him, considering that he did so every day. However, on this day, Dudley was especially upset at Harry, because Harry had failed to get a lower grade in his Maths test than Dudley. 'I tried so hard to give as many wrong answers as it was believable, but how could I know that Dudley did that bad?' he mused, noticing with trepidation that his cousin was approaching very quickly. 'I need to get away,' he thought in panic.
All of a sudden – later Harry could not even recall how it happened – his vision expanded greatly, whilst he found himself closer to the ground than before. Looking down at his own body in surprise, he realised that his whole body had changed into... 'A bird?' he thought, staring at red feathers in disbelief. 'How could I suddenly become a bird? Will I be able to fly?' he wondered. However, before he could even make an attempt to closely examine let alone test his wings, his whole class was standing around him, staring at him in apparent disgust.
Seeing that Dudley was reaching out to grab him with a sneer on his face, Harry surmised, 'I need to get away from here like that time when I ended up on the roof.'
Without even noticing what he was doing and why he was doing what he did, he dug into the ground and completely vanished in an instant. He felt a strange pull in his stomach as he burrow-flashed himself to an unknown place that his instinct told him that it was safe. While his classmates were still staring at the empty spot on the grass, where the small hole, through which their avianized classmate had vanished, closed itself like by magic, Harry arrived in a small glade that was surrounded by tall and old looking trees.
'Where am I now?' he wondered, anxiously taking a few uncertain steps on his bird feet.
All of a sudden, he heard a whisper. It was the voice of what sounded like an old woman. "Come here, my boy. This way," it instructed him.
Harry carefully began to set one foot in front of the other and slowly walked in the direction of the voice until he stopped dead in his tracks, and his eyes widened in surprise at the sight in front of him.
The burgundy coloured phoenix with white and pink back plumage stood in front of a huge castle with enormous stone walls. Never before had Harry seen anything so impressive.
"Ah, lad, aren't you a beautiful earth phoenix, just like Gwendolyn was," the voice said gently, neither bothering to explain to a confused Harry what an earth phoenix was, let alone Gwendolyn. "Just come on, lad, go straight to the entrance doors," it instructed him. "I am Hogwarts," it explained, "the castle, which you're just looking at. I'm very old, but I know everything about the magical world, and this place is your home. This is where you belong. For several years I have been awaiting your arrival."
#You're the castle? But how can a castle talk to me?# Harry asked in disbelief, not aware of the fact that his words came out as trills.
"I'm sorry, sweetie, but I can't understand phoenix language. I am only a castle, even if I possess very strong magic," Hogwarts replied kindly. "Why don't you just transform back to your human form and talk to me?"
'Transform back? Does that mean I'm able to change back? But how?' Harry wondered.
Seeing that the phoenix seemed to be hesitating, Hogwarts spoke up again. "Are you uncertain how to transform, little one?"
Harry nodded eagerly, looking at the thick walls in expectation.
The castle chuckled a bit. "All right then, just imagine yourself back in your human form. Try to wish yourself back to being a human. That's what Professor McGonagall uses to teach her students. If that's difficult, then try to wish to be able to communicate with me."
'Okay, I really want to be able to ask the castle where I am and what I'm supposed to do,' Harry thought, and an instant later, he found himself back in his human form.
"Enter the castle through the entrance door and turn right, but don't go upstairs. Look for the second alcove on the left hand side," Hogwarts instructed him.
Harry hurriedly followed the advice, and a few minutes later, he found himself in a small alcove. Suddenly, the wall to his left moved sidewards, revealing a narrow staircase.
"Excuse me, Hogwarts," he said hesitantly, "where are we exactly? I mean... I know you are this castle, but why am I supposed to be here? And where does this staircase lead?"
The castle chuckled as she began to explain, "Through your father, you are a direct descendant of Gwendolyn Gryffindor. She was the younger sister of one of the four people who built me, and this staircase will lead you to her quarters, which now belong to you as her heir."
"I'm sorry," Harry stammered, "but I think this must be a mistake. I'm only Harry, a freak and a good for nothing burden. I can't be an heir of someone living in a castle."
He looked up in irritation when Hogwarts began to chuckle in apparent amusement. "Do you really think I do not know the grandchildren of my Founders?" she queried. "I knew them all, your father, his father, and all the others. However, none of them was an earth phoenix, and Gwendolyn instructed me to not lead anyone into her quarters but an Animagus, who is able to transform into an earth phoenix like herself."
"Does she still live here?" Harry asked shyly, feeling very uncertain at the prospect of intruding someone's space.
"No, my dear," Hogwarts replied with a sad tone in her voice. "The Founders lived one thousand years ago. These quarters have not been used since then."
"Is anyone else living here in this castle?" Harry asked, feeling uncomfortable at the thought of entering a huge place that had been deserted for a very long time.
"I am a magical school," Hogwarts replied, pride sounding in her voice. "Several hundred students live here for ten months a year, and many of them call me their home. Just now it is quiet, because the afternoon classes have just begun. When you turn eleven, you're going to become a student here, too."
"I will be eleven in two months' time," Harry said, hesitantly eyeing the room, to which the castle had led him.
Although the staircase had led him downstairs, the room seemed not to be situated in a cellar. Through a huge window that was covering an entire wall, he could oversee the grounds, a lake and even the forest, where he had arrived in the first place. The room was equipped with comfortable looking, wooden furniture as was the adjacent bedroom. The bathroom, however, appeared as if it had just been modernized. However, Harry knew better than to annoy the kind old castle with his incessant questioning.
"Harry," Hogwarts pulled him out of his thoughts. "I can only communicate with you because of your relationship to my Founders. Apart from that, I am only able to speak with the Heads of the four Houses and the Headmaster. As I am aware of all conversations that take place within my walls, I know everything about you. I also know that the Headmaster wants you to live with your relatives. Therefore, he must not know about your presence here. I, however, believe that your upbringing was not as it should have been, especially considering that you felt the urge to come here, even if it was not your time yet. Therefore, I will ask Professor McGonagall what to do with you. Please make yourself comfortable here, while I have a small discussion with the professor. She is the Head of Gryffindor House, the House, in which your rooms are situated. Ah and by the way, at the end of this corridor, the ground is soft. That's the spot, from which Gwendolyn used to burrow-flash away, when she was in her phoenix form."
Harry hesitantly took a seat on the sofa in the living room. 'Am I dreaming?' he wondered. 'Just by trying to get away from Dudley I got a new home? In a castle? A magical school? Wait... magic?' he thought in confusion. 'But Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon told me there was no such thing as magic.'
Absolutely exhausted from his first Transformation, he drifted off to sleep.
Harry woke up to two female voices; one of them he recognised as that of Hogwarts. 'I hope they won't throw me out now; I love being here,' he thought, anxiously eyeing the elder lady in the dark green one-piece, who was standing in front of him.
"Hello Harry," the woman said friendly and sat next to him on the sofa. "I am Professor McGonagall, the Deputy Headmistress, and I was a good friend of your parents. They were both my students during their time at Hogwarts. I heard that you are a natural Animagus and can transform into an earth phoenix."
'She knew my parents,' Harry thought happily and nodded shyly. "Hello, professor. I am sorry for intruding here," he said quietly, causing McGonagall to cast him a surprised look.
"If I heard correctly, you have been invited here by the castle herself," she said kindly. "What I would like to know is why you ran away from your relatives, though."
Harry squirmed under her stern gaze and slowly explained about the events at school. "I'm sorry, Professor, I didn't mean to..."
"It's all right, bairn," McGonagall said, soothingly placing her hand on his shoulder. "Do you want me to take you back to your relatives, or would you prefer to stay here?"
"I'd like to stay here if that's possible," Harry replied quickly.
The professor remained pensive for a moment, before she stood up in determination. "Of course it is possible. However, since Professor Dumbledore, our Headmaster, must not know about your presence here, you must remain in your quarters during the next two months until you are officially admitted to Hogwarts as a student. Hogwarts, can you please establish a secret passage between Harry's rooms and my living room, only visible to the two of us as well as Poppy and Rolanda?"
"Done," Hogwarts replied in her gentle, soft voice, and Harry noticed with amazement that a new dark wood ornamental door had appeared right next to the door leading to his bedroom.
"Very well then, Harry, wait a moment. I will call my two best friends. Just like me they will be very happy to have you here," McGonagall said gently, before she strode through the newly made door. A few minutes later, she returned with two ladies in tow, whom she introduced as Poppy Pomfrey and Rolanda Hooch.
Harry immediately liked the three older witches. They asked him a lot of questions about his life at the Dursleys, but they also told him many interesting stories about his parents and seemed very funny. 'I like how they're joking the whole time,' Harry thought, feeling happier than he had felt ever before.
After a while, Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey excused themselves, as the Gryffindor Head had to attend dinner and the Healer was needed in the hospital wing. Before they left Harry with Madam Hooch, they called Malcolm and Misty, their personal house-elves, and introduced them to Harry.
Harry stared at the two elves with surprise. Never before had he seen such creatures. However, they could speak normal human language, and they both seemed very nice. 'Malcolm seems very correct, and Misty seems as strict as Professor McGonagall, although she is Madam Pomfrey's elf. I hope they'll never be upset at me,' Harry mused.
He was pulled out of his thoughts when Madam Hooch ordered Malcolm to bring dinner for her and Harry. "I can..." he stammered but slowly trailed off when the older witch motioned him to take a seat at the beautifully decorated ebony table in front of the large window.
A mere instant later, dinner popped up on the table. Noticing his surprised look, Madam Hooch began to laugh. "The house-elves always overdo it. If you ask for something to eat for two people, you'll be able to feed a whole class. I didn't think about that. So tuck in; eat whatever you like."
"I am supposed to cook dinner, and I'm not allowed to eat at the table," Harry said in a barely audible voice, eyeing the food with anxiousness, while his mouth started watering at the sight of the delicious looking meal.
Hooch cast him a terrified look and finally replied, "Well Harry, at Hogwarts, everything is different from your former home life. Here, the house-elves do all the house-work, and you are supposed to do everything that all the other students do." With that she placed a little of everything on Harry's plate.
During the following weeks, Harry learned quickly that most things were different from what he had learned at the Dursleys'. He was not a freak but a completely normal wizard, showers were not only too hot or icy cold but could be adjusted to an agreeable temperature, he was entitled to wear clothes that fit, and he was allowed to read books as much as he wanted. Until the beginning of the summer holidays, the three adults took turns teaching him about the magical world and taking meals together with him in his rooms. While it took a while for Harry to get used to his new life, it was difficult for the adults to comprehend that he was completely happy in spite of being locked into his rooms all the time.
'This place is huge, especially compared to my cupboard,' Harry thought, 'plus I have so many interesting books to read, I get lots of food, no one calls me a freak. It's like living in a paradise.'
It was only a few days before the end of the summer holidays that Harry had his first nasty experience at Hogwarts.
"Why don't you transform into your phoenix form and go fly over the grounds?" Hogwarts suggested one day. "Now that the students have returned home, it should be easy for you to remain unseen, especially if you're in your Animagus form."
From that day at the beginning of July onwards, Harry frequently burrow-flashed himself outside and spent many hours enjoying the nature around the old castle. Soon, a slightly muddy spot right on the shore of the lake became his favoured place. It was surrounded by tall grass that made sure that no one accidentally passing by would see the phoenix but enabled him to observe the grounds at the same time.
He watched the half-giant called Hagrid, of whom the witches had told him that he cared a lot about animals, working around his hut, saw the teachers going to Hogsmeade and coming back, and observed Professor McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey and Madam Hooch flying on broomsticks. Since the beginning of the holidays, the three witches made it a habit to fly together once a day, and Harry admired them enviously for their skill. 'Of course I can fly in my phoenix form,' he thought, relieved that he finally managed to fly after crashing into the ground a few times at his first attempts. 'But it would be nice to be able to fly even in my human form.'
One day, the three witches were flying around, chasing a small ball with golden wings, which they used to search for after once releasing it. Harry made it a habit to look for the ball that always tried to hide from the witches' sight, and very often he managed to spot it before Madam Hooch, who usually was the fastest of the three, caught it. All of a sudden, he sensed that the earth shook and rumbled due to thunder. Although the sky was still blue, he instinctively knew that the thunder had not been more than a few miles away and that it was heading into their direction. 'Flying in a thunderstorm must be very dangerous,' he thought and hurriedly left his hideout. Flapping his wings, he swiftly rose into the air and grabbed the Snitch with his right foot. Unaware of the surprised looks the adults shot him, he pressed the small ball into Madam Hooch's hand, before he landed on the ground and slowly waddled back to his favourite spot, knowing that it was the most convenient place for burrow-flashing back to his rooms due to the softness of the muddy ground.
Only when the adults made a huge fuss later on, when they were having tea together in his rooms, wondering how he could find the Snitch faster than themselves, Harry resolved to be more careful in the future in order to not attract so much attention.
"If Harry gets sorted into Gryffindor, I must convince Albus to abandon that stupid rule about first years not being allowed to play on the house teams," Professor McGonagall said eagerly. "Harry would make a fantastic Seeker."
One day, the earth phoenix observed Madam Pomfrey come out of the castle together with a tall wizard, completely dressed in black. Since his hearing was extremely good when he was in his phoenix form, he automatically overheard their conversation.
"I'm sorry Severus for dragging you to Hogsmeade today," Madam Pomfrey apologized, smiling at the man to her left side.
'Ah, that must be Severus Snape, the Potions Master,' Harry realised, recalling what the three witches had told him about the man, who was much younger than themselves and once had been their student.
"Going on a small errand with you is nothing compared to the hell that the next seven years are going to be," the wizard replied, grumpily, causing the witch to cast him a surprised look.
"Why would that be, Severus?" she queried, seemingly astonished.
"Because Potter is going to come to Hogwarts," Snape replied matter-of-factly. "Seeing that he was the spitting image of his father when he was a baby and probably has been spoilt endlessly by his doting relatives, he might be even worse than his father if that's possible at all."
"Oh Severus," Madam Pomfrey said in a soothing voice. "Don't judge the boy, before you have even met him. Maybe he is completely different from his father, even if he looks like James."
'Oh cool, the professor hates me,' Harry realised, with a feeling of déjà-vu that reminded him of his time at the Dursleys'.
A few days later, when Harry had breakfast together with the three witches as usual during the holidays, Professor McGonagall informed him, "Tomorrow morning, Malcolm will take you to King's Cross, the station in London, from which the Hogwarts Express is going to leave at 11 o'clock. Please make sure that you pack everything you need. Probably, you will be able to return to your rooms at any time; however, you must be careful that no one misses you. If you become sorted into my House, which I expect, considering your blood line, this won't be a problem of course. However, you might as well end up in any other House, so that it wouldn't be so easy to come here without anyone wondering where you are."
"Yes Professor," Harry replied obediently, still feeling very grateful that the three witches had taken the time to take him shopping in a smaller wizarding town within Edinburgh a few days ago. They had taken him to Gringotts, the wizarding bank, where he had learned that he possessed a lot of gold, and they had helped him buy everything that he would need for the school year. 'I'll just come here when everyone is asleep,' he thought but decided to not voice his thoughts. Instead, he asked everything that came into his mind about the train, the travel to Hogsmeade and the Sorting.
When he scrawled into bed that evening, he thought, 'Tomorrow, many children will come, but they're all wizards and witches like me. I won't be a freak here. I'll be like everyone else. Maybe I can even make friends.'
On the following day, Malcolm apparated him straight to the platform. "Master Harry, just take a seat on the train. I will see to your luggage," he whispered, only to add, "If you ever need anything of have problems, feel free to call me at any time, just don't tell anyone about it."
Before Harry could do as much as thank the kind elf, the creature vanished with a small pop. He felt a bit unsure among all the children, who seemed to know each other and appeared happy to meet each other after the long summer holidays, so he quickly boarded the train and sat next to the window in an empty compartment.
He felt slightly disappointed, seeing that lots of students just strode ahead in the corridor after a mere glance into his compartment. 'Maybe I still look like a freak,' he thought sadly, when the door was opened and a boy, who seemed to be about the same age as him, asked shyly, "May I sit here?"
"Of course," Harry replied, smiling at the other boy. Within the next minute, he learned that the boy's name was Neville and that he possessed a toad, which was trying to escape almost constantly.
A few minutes later, a girl with bushy brown hair and a very business-like attitude entered the compartment and made herself comfortable next to Harry. "Good morning. I am Hermione Granger," she introduced herself, giving the two boys a sharp look. "I know everything about you," she told Harry after hearing his name.
During the train ride, the three first years spoke about everything they had ever heard about Hogwarts or the magical world, and Harry had to be very careful not to tell the others that he was in fact living in the castle. In the morning, Hogwarts had instructed him to not tell anyone about the matter, at least for the time being. By the time the train pulled into Hogsmeade, the three first years had already become good friends and hoped that they would be sorted into the same House.
'Let's just hope it won't be Slytherin,' Harry thought when he stood next to Hermione and Neville in the Great Hall, exchanging a mutual glance with the black robed professor at the Head table.
Question: Would you like Harry/Hermione/Neville in Gryffindor - or - Harry Slytherin, Hermione Ravenclaw, Neville Hufflepuff ? This will not have any influence on the story's main plot... only for the scenery :P
A huge thanks to my friends on facebook and my sons for their invaluable feedback :-)