Note: This segment takes place approximately two weeks or so after the first day of FIA's term. Yes, it seems out of place, but as I warned in the first chapter, these are only segments. I'll at least try to put them in order chronologically as we go along. So please do enjoy!
Harry sat in his office, elbows rested on the table, somewhat bored and somewhat agitated. He didn't really have a reason to be; after all, it was only a few weeks into classes at FIA and so far things had been going fairly well. Sure, he was still uncomfortable about having Draco Malfoy teaching in his school, and there were a few students that bothered him - and took joy out of doing so - but other than that, things were amazing.
He was agitated, however, because he was in his office, periodically staring out the window, waiting for an owl to appear. He needed to write a letter of gratitude to McGonagall and the rest of the staff at Hogwarts for all of their help with FIA, as well as to Kingsley. Kingsley should have been sending him an owl with more details about the Death Eaters he should be on the lookout for, and then he could use that owl to make a trip to Hogwarts to drop off a letter before sending it back to the Minister for Magic.
Yes, he could have always gone to the Owlery like any other student or staff member without an owl and used one of those owls, or he could have asked Ron to borrow Pigwidgeon. Still, he couldn't motivate himself to do so. Something about seeing an Owlery or seeing Ron's pet bothered him. It wasn't really an unknown something, it was something he knew well about, but it still saddened him to think on it. He wouldn't go sulking around the castle, so he decided instead not to think on it and wait for an owl instead. Business owls didn't give him the same feeling as the Owlery or Pig.
Harry had passed the time by writing the actual letters and sealing them with FIA's new wax sealer. He rather liked the crest that had been carved into the stamp, and it looked very nice in the shining, golden wax he'd bought for school uses only. He'd scribbled the destinations of the letters on their envelopes and had them all ready to attach to an owl once one arrived. However, he'd been waiting for quite some time now, and was almost positive Kingsley didn't have any new information for him today, hence the reason there was no owl. He thought, for a moment, on giving up and just heading down to dinner, to send the letters tomorrow.
Just as he started to stand up, there was a rapping on his window. He smiled softly, relieved, and opened it to allow a great horned owl silently flit into the office and place itself on the perch on his desk. A letter was clipped in its beak, and with a hoot, it dropped it. Harry went over to the desk and ripped open the envelope, unfolding the paper inside and reading its contents. To his expectations, it was Kingsley, telling him that there was actually no further information on the Death Eaters that had evaded capture at the Battle of Hogwarts. That relieved him some; it meant less work for him. In a P.S. message, Kingsley answered his earlier request to use whichever owl he sent to deliver a letter to Hogwarts, and stated that was more than alright with him, and offered condolences on the late Hedwig.
He really wished he hadn't read that last line, folding up the paper and dropping it in the wastebasket. He looked over at the large, brown owl whose saucer-like eyes were fixated on him. Hermione had suggested he get a new owl, once. He'd ignored her. He was fairly certain he'd never have another owl. How could anything compare to Hedwig? The simple answer was it couldn't, not even something as majestic as this great horned owl before him. It wouldn't be a companion, not like the snowy owl had been to him.
Clearing his throat, Harry set to placing the two envelopes he wished to send in the owl's beak, and it clipped down as instructed.
"Take one to Hogwarts, then get back to Kingsley, alright?" he said, and the bird's eyes shown as if it understood. With a few flaps of its impressive wings, it set off out the window and started to disappear into the darkening sky. Harry sighed. He would lose sight of this owl far more quickly. Its feathers just didn't stand out like Hedwig's had.
However, as he began to turn away, Harry caught a flicker of something white fall from the owl and float slowly down over the forest. He thought nothing of it initially, but watched as the owl swooped around it several times, seemingly unable to get to whatever had fallen. It soon registered in his mind it had been one of his letters. He grumbled something but couldn't hold it against the owl. It wasn't accustomed to delivering more than one letter at a time. It hurriedly flew back to the window, but Harry waved dismissively.
"It's alright," he told the bird. "I'll get it." He saw the remaining letter was addressed to Kingsley. "Just go back to the Ministry, okay? I'll send it tomorrow." The owl understood and turned around, disappearing against the sky. Harry groaned. Going out into the forest was not something he was looking forward to doing, but it hadn't been that deep, and how hard would it be to find a white envelope against dark brown dirt?
Dinner would just have to wait, and Harry exited his office and made his way down the spiral staircases. He didn't really pay attention to his surroundings as he went on, not aware if anyone said his name or greeted him. He went immediately to the entrance hall and left without a word to anyone, making his way down to the grounds and into the forest that surrounded the school.
Being in a new castle, Harry hadn't taken the time to explore this one's surrounding area too well, but he still required that the students stay out of the forest in case there were dangerous things out there. When he stepped under the cover of the trees, he didn't find anything unpleasant waiting for him, much to his relief. All was quiet and it seemed creatures were settling down to go to sleep for the night. There was still a little bit of sunlight left on the day, and he would be lucky if he could find his letter and get out before night completely fell.
Pulling out his wand, Harry stepped a little further into the forest and raised it.
"Accio Letter!" he called, and there was a spark at the end of his wand. There was a little bit of ruffling, and he turned toward the sound near a bush, expecting the letter to come flying out at him. He waited a few moments, and nothing happened. He frowned slightly.
"Accio Letter!" he called again, a bit louder this time, forcing a little more power into the summoning charm. Another bit of rustling in the nearby bush and still no letter. He growled, wondering how a dropped letter could possibly get itself stuck in a bush so badly, and he simply hoped there were no thorns in it as he went over to pry it out himself.
It was just a leafy bush, and he shoved branches aside to get to the letter. He saw its white corner poking out and he shook his head as he grabbed it, then gave it a tug. It wouldn't budge. In fact, he was fairly certain it pulled back. His brow furrowed and he gave it another pull, harder this time, and to his great surprise it pulled back so powerfully he lost his grip on it and it disappeared into the bush. He dove his hand into it further and felt the paper corner with his fingertips, but he couldn't get a strong enough hold on it to pull it out.
"Relashio," he muttered, pointing his wand at the bush. The spell should have released the letter from the mess of leaves and branches, but instead the leaves just loosened around his arm. For a panicked moment he thought he was bothering a Devil's Snare and it took him a moment to recall a fire spell that would make it release him. However, it wasn't a Devil's Snare and instead his eyes fell beyond the bush and to a streak of red that dashed out from the bush. He wouldn't have thought anything of it had he not seen a flash of white go with it.
"Hey! Bring that back!" shouted Harry, shoving his wand into his pocket and chasing the unknown creature into the forest as it stole his letter. Whatever it was, it was quick and hard to see, but Harry, with the expert eyes of a Seeker, was able to keep track of it as it hurdled over branches and rocks with incredible speed. Luckily, the young wizard was quick too, and was able at least to keep the creature in his sight as he chased it down, unaware of where the thing was leading him in the forest.
At long last, Harry seemed to have cornered it, for it had stopped running several yards ahead of him. It was red, as he'd noticed before, and rather small, perhaps standing to about his knees. There were specks of gold on it too, and he was already making a pounce on it as he realized what it was.
The phoenix spread its wings as Harry jumped at it, taking off just as he landed with a resounding thud on the forest floor. He skidded forward slightly and watched, awed, as the incredible bird took flight, letter clamped tightly in its ashen beak.
He was so amazed by the appearance of the phoenix that he had yet to notice the cold, hard ground of the forest was no longer beneath him, and he had skidded forward a considerable amount. He felt dirt on his lower half, but quickly became aware of the absence of ground beneath his chest and stomach. The phoenix had cleverly placed itself on the edge of a cliff, and now Harry was hanging precariously over its edge. The weight of his upper half outweighed his legs and he slid clear off the cliff.
Spinning around as fast as he could, Harry grabbed hold of a root protruding from the side of the cliff and clung to it with all his strength. His hands slid down it several inches as his body straightened itself, and he hissed as he felt the root's sharp sides cut into his palms, but he didn't dare let go. He looked up and saw the safe edge of the cliff was far too high above him to make a grab at, and even an Ascendio spell wouldn't propel him at the right angle, that was if he could even make a grab for his wand at this point.
He thought perhaps going down wouldn't be too bad, so he chanced a look below him. His glasses practically slid off his face as he stared at the ground that was perhaps two hundred feet below him and he looked back up. Dropping down was out of the question. There were no roots above him, so he couldn't climb up, and he was holding onto the root he was at now with all his strength, so using his wand was also out of the question.
As he dangled there, Harry thought for a moment of how stupid all this was, and how he was now going to die - not at the hands of Voldemort, a Death Eater, not even a curse - by falling to the ground because he was chasing after a phoenix for a letter. That was an interesting way to die. He thought for a fleeting moment that he could maybe use a charm to slow his fall and at least not kill himself. Hermione had done it before, as had many others. It was possible. . .
His thoughts disappeared instantly when the root could no longer hold his weight and snapped. He shouted in spite of himself and he plummeted down, trying unsuccessfully to wrestle his wand from his pocket. He couldn't get it, he knew he'd be reaching the ground any second, and then it would all be over. He squeezed his eyes shut, still trying frantically to free his wand. . .
There was then a very sharp pain in his shoulders and he thought maybe he'd flipped over and landed there, for the air around him had stopped moving. However, he certainly didn't feel dead, and it felt much more like something was grabbing him hard and pulling him up, as the air around him started to move again. Harry opened his eyes and looked up, gasping in utter surprise. Sharp talons were clipped around his shoulders, and above him was the crimson phoenix, looking down at him with intelligent, beady eyes.
The phoenix flew Harry up and in a different direction than from the cliff he'd sprung from, and from this position he saw parts of the Irish forest that he'd never seen before. It was a fantastic sight, just on the eve of twilight, to see the last of the sun's rays bouncing off the leaves of many, many trees in the lush canyon the bird flew him through, and before he could grow too fond of the sight, the phoenix changed course and brought him into a clearing of the forest.
Harry set his feet down on the soft grass, and turned to look at the beautiful phoenix that had just saved his life.
"Th-Thank you," he said breathlessly, still wondering how the skittish bird had known he was in danger, and more so why it had chosen to save him. He reached out a hand to stroke it's head, but it backed away, chirping the prettiest sound he'd ever heard as it dropped his letter at his feet. Hesitantly, he bent over and grabbed it, turning it over in his hand. It was in perfect condition, almost as if the phoenix had caught it on purpose.
Looking up, Harry saw the phoenix was starting to flutter away.
"Wait," he called quietly, taking another step towards it. It chirped another wonderful sound before increasing its speed and flying higher, much to his displeasure. "Hold on! You're. . . You're Fawkes, aren't you?" The bird seemed to hesitate in the air before taking off again, and Harry sighed. He'd thought for a happy moment that Dumbledore's old bird had come back, had come to his aid, but it appeared that he hadn't.
Still, phoenixes, as far as he knew, weren't native to Ireland. It had to have come from somewhere, and the only phoenix he knew of that would be anywhere near Ireland would be Fawkes himself. However, he knew Fawkes, and though he'd hoped desperately that was who'd rescued him, upon recalling his appearance, he knew it couldn't be true. There were more gold feathers on this phoenix's back than had ever been on Fawkes's. In fact, Harry couldn't remember any gold being on Fawkes's back. Perhaps this phoenix had been a relation, but it was no matter now. Odds were Harry would never see the phoenix that saved his life again.
Huffing somewhat indignantly, the young wizard figured he better get a move on if he wanted to get to the castle before it was completely dark, though being in the forest he couldn't see very much anymore anyway. It then occurred to him he hadn't the faintest idea where he was. He'd never adventured into the forest very far, and he'd certainly never been here. Seeing the forest from where the phoenix had flown him in wasn't familiar either, and he hadn't taken the time to try to find the castle while airborne.
"Point Me," said Harry, flicking his wand that he of course now could get out of his jacket. It spun around in his hand and pointed behind him, meaning north was in that direction. He groaned. Knowing where north was wasn't exactly going to get him back to FIA. Nonetheless, he started trudging in a random direction and maybe, if he got really lucky, he wouldn't run into a manticore.
As he walked, he ran through a number of spells that could possibly help him find his way, but none of them actually seemed to fit his situation. Once or twice he spun around because he thought he heard something behind him, but there was never a single thing behind him. Perhaps he was just on edge because it was dark, and he set a Lumos to his wand to help him see. He wasn't getting anywhere, but he considered himself lucky that he hadn't run into an acromantula nest or something else that would result in death.
Finally, Harry was starting to think he'd just settle down and create a makeshift hut until the morning when again he heard a crashing sound behind him. A chill ran down his spine as he recalled the protective charms didn't reach out this far, and there was a good possibility there were Death Eaters lurking. . .
He spun around, wand poised to fire off a curse, but he lowered his wand as he saw something he didn't expect to see.
"You again?" asked Harry, slightly awed, as the phoenix slowly sauntered up to him. It was looking at him, almost embarrassed, as if it hadn't wished to be seen. This expression made him crack a smile. "You've been following me, haven't you?" The phoenix looked away, starting to walk off in a different direction. "No, no, no! It's okay! You can follow me! Though, I'm not going in the right direction, am I?" It looked back at him, as if laughing it squawked out a few notes. Even in mocking, it was a most beautiful thing.
To his great surprise, the phoenix fluttered up and flew off to the right, hovering there, looking at him and waiting.
"You're going to lead me out?" he asked, and another beautiful tone answered him. So Harry held his lit wand before him, trailing after the fire-coloured bird. It led him this way and that, and for a long while he wondered if the bird was really trying to help him. Then, he recognized the bush he'd thought was trying to steal his letter and knew he was just outside of FIA's grounds.
"You're a really brilliant bird," said Harry, smiling at the phoenix. It chirped at him again and hovered above the forest's exit. "I s'pose this is good-bye, then? Thank you for saving me, twice now." The bird looked at him knowingly, and Harry understood. "Tell Fawkes, should you see him again, I thank him for everything too."
He didn't notice the bird cock its head at him as he said this, and pushed his way through the trees and into the clear grounds of Fawkes International Academy. How rare was it that he had found that phoenix, one he supposed was related to the school's namesake? He smiled to himself, thankful for the experience. He looked up to the castle, seeing its windows brightened in a golden light, all reaching out and shining down on him as he started to make his way up to its entrance.
Harry hadn't gotten far when he felt pressure on his right shoulder. He turned his head, blinking in a confused manner, to find the phoenix had alighted there, and looked rather content. He stopped walking and stared at it for a few moments before being able to find his voice.
"What are you doing?" was the first thing he could think to ask, and of course the phoenix had no way of answering this question other than staying perched on his shoulder. "You want to come with me?" It looked pleased at this comment and nuzzled its beak into the side of his head, and a grin grew on Harry's face. He knew that was a yes. This seemed to be happening so quickly, but he didn't care. He was going to have a magical companion after all!
"So I s'pose I ought to name you, then?" he continued, walking again and still the phoenix did not leave his side. "Let's see. . . well, you do know Fawkes. That was Dumbledore's friend." It chirped at him once more, and he was now positive of the connection between the two phoenixes. "Maybe I ought to call you after something for Dumbledore. Hmm, how 'bout Percival?" To his great surprise, the phoenix made a very unpleasant sound, one that reminded Harry oddly of the screaming he often heard around Dementors, and he found his ear being pecked rather harshly.
"Oww!" he muttered, rubbing his ear. "Alright, alright. You're a girl phoenix, aren't you?" The scarlet creature looked indignant, but the sound it made this time was much nicer. "Okay then. How about. . ." He paused, thinking, then came up with what he thought was perfect. "Ariana. Your name can be Ariana."
There was a moment of silence between the two, and then the phoenix sang the most heart-wrenching, gorgeous melody Harry had ever heard in his entire life. It wasn't sad as the song Fawkes had sung at Dumbledore's funeral had been, but pure beauty in the form of music. He knew the phoenix approved of her new name.
"Ariana it is, then," he told her, smiling as she continued her song, and she seemed to refrain the most beautiful phrase of the music in approval. By now they were outside the bridge of FIA, and within moments Harry and Ariana were strolling into the entrance hall. Some of the students, returning from a late dinner, stared at the phoenix perched upon Harry's shoulder as she continued her song. He wondered if it was different to each person, sounding perfect to each of them as it did to him.
It was then Harry caught sight of a redhead and a brunette, both of which looked rather pale. They must have heard Ariana's song, for they turned around as he approached them.
"Harry!" exclaimed Ron and Hermione in unison, running up to him, then stopping as they took notice of Ariana.
"A phoenix!?" cried Ron, gaping much like a fish. "Where did you find that?"
"She found me. Her name's Ariana," explained Harry, smiling broadly.
"But phoenixes are only native to Egypt and Asia," said Hermione, gazing at the bird in wonder. "How did she get here?"
"I s'pose she was either brought here or born here, much like Fawkes," answered Harry. "Either way, she's simply brilliant and, well, she took a liking to me, so. . ."
"You got yourself one hell of an owl, Harry," said Ron, and the three laughed. Harry was the first to stop as Ariana nibbled on his hair. She looked pointedly at the letter still in his hand.
"Oh, right," he said at once, causing his friends to stop laughing as well. "I've got a letter to send. See you in the common room?" They nodded and Harry took his leave, going up the spiral staircase and into his office where he'd started this fiasco a few hours before.
Ariana hopped from his shoulder and waited patiently on his desk as he slid his fingers across the envelope to try to make it look a little less shabby. All this trouble, he probably should've just rewritten the letter. He looked up as he thought this and realized that, no, he shouldn't have, because what he'd found was far worth the trouble.
Stroking Ariana's neck, Harry offered the envelope to her, and she snapped it up immediately.
"You can find Hogwarts, can't you?" he asked, though he knew for a fact she could. Her eyes twinkled in a manner that reminded him strongly of Dumbledore, and he knew to take that as a yes. "Have a happy flight, then."
Ariana fluttered to the office's open window, perched there for a moment, glancing back at Harry. He smiled warmly at her, and she seemed to take this as encouragement to leave, for she leapt from the window and snapped her wings open. Harry went to the window and watched as the speck of crimson grew smaller and smaller against the black sky until it disappeared among the stars. He sighed, leaving the window open as he exited the office. He wasn't worried about never seeing her again, he decided as he made his way to the common room. He knew Ariana would come back to him, and that she always would.