I don't own Harry Potter
Well, here it is - the final chapter of 'Psychosis'. I really hope you like the ending, and I hope I have managed to answer every question that has, until now, remained open. I'm not sure about the last bit, so feel free to tell me if I have forgotten something.
The credit for the 'phowl' (you'll know what I mean when you have finished this chapter) goes to Finwitch1 - thanks for the idea, I hope you like the way I have included it!
As for the wand, I have done some research on what kind of wands were thought up by JKR, so it should be (halfway) canon-compliant.
Thanks to everyone who has read, favourited and reviewed this story - I don't think I would have had the perseverance to finish it without you! I'm not good at responding to each review individually, but I appreciate every single one of them!
If you are interested in further stories of me, I will start posting the next one in January. For now, to everyone who celebrates it a happy Christmas!
Chapter 40 - Into the future
Harry was excited. Today was the day he would get his wand. Sure, it wasn't his first one, but it would be the first one he would actually be able to use. Surely this warranted a bit excitement, didn't it?
Even Professor Snape, who was walking next to him, didn't scowl quite as fiercely as he normally did when Harry became over-excited. Harry knew that the man didn't really mind his high spirits (he had seen him hiding a smile often enough), it was just that Professor Snape liked scowling. A lot. And especially when they were in a public place, like today.
When Harry pushed the door to Ollivander's open, the faint chime of a bell brought back a rush of memories.
He didn't remember much of his first visit to Diagon Alley with Hagrid, but every so often something he didn't even know had happened that day almost ten month ago came back to him. Every time this happened, though, it felt as if he saw a scene out of someone else' life. It was difficult to fathom just how much everything had changed during the last year.
"Ah, Mr Potter," the soft voice of the wand-maker greeted them, "I didn't think I would see you quite so soon again. You seemed rather adamant to get the holy and phoenix-feather wand, even though it was not properly working for you..."
Harry decided then and there that he didn't like Mr Ollivander. The man was creepy!
Severus cleared his throat. "As you have already guessed, Mr Potter here needs a new wand. I would appreciate it if you could skip the measuring part, we both know that it didn't help to find the correct wand anyway."
"Ah, well, there are so few wand-makers left, and if I don't make an impression on the young wizards and witches even fewer will choose this profession. But if you insist..." he trailed off, looking at Harry with unblinking eyes.
Harry, feeling uncomfortable, moved closer to his Professor.
"What happened that your old wand does no longer work for you, Mr Potter?" Ollivander finally asked.
"Uhm," Harry replied, unsure what to tell the man. Why did he have to be so nosy? Couldn't he just sell him a wand?
He knew that he couldn't tell the wand-maker about the Horcrux. Professor Snape had made sure that Harry was well aware of the dangers it would entail if this information reached the ears of the wrong people. But then, what else should he tell Mr Ollivander? Because it was because of the Horcrux – or rather its destruction – that his old wand did no longer work for him.
It had only been a month ago that Professor Snape had allowed him to try to do some magic again. However, when Harry had touched the phoenix-feather wand, nothing had happened. He hadn't even felt the soft tingling he remembered from the beginning of the school year. Sure, he did no longer need the wand to help him fight against the Horcrux, but from what Ron and Neville had told him, everyone felt this tingling when they touched their wand.
So why was it that Harry felt absolutely nothing?
Despite the Professor's reassurance, Harry had worried that perhaps he didn't have any magic. Yes, there had been the incident a few month ago when he had become really angry and his magic had, apparently, smashed all the windows of their house. But perhaps this had just been accidental accidental magic? A coincident? Or maybe he did have magic but not enough to channel it through a wand like anybody else?
Finally, when Harry hadn't stopped fretting about his lack of magical talent, Professor Snape had given him his own wand, stating that it was probably only Harry's wand that was malfunctioning. However, he hadn't felt anything when touching the man's wand and even when Harry had started to whoosh it around nothing had happened.
Gloomily, Harry had decided to visit Alice and Frank 'since they are like me and cannot do stupid magic too'. Additionally, so he had thought, they might tell him another story about his parents which might cheer him up.
While Harry had been gone, Severus had flooed Poppy and asked her to come over so that Harry could try her wand, as he refused to believe that the child didn't have magic. He had seen him blowing out the windows, and there simply wasn't something like 'accidental accidental magic'. If a child displayed accidental magic, it had magic, full stop.
And really, as soon as Harry had touched the witch's wand (which had taken some convincing and, in the end, even the threat to cancel Harry's swimming lessons) the boy had gasped and a stream of golden sparks had shot out of the tip of the medi-witch's wand.
After Harry had stopped jumping up and down in excitement and had returned from informing the Longbottoms that he was indeed a wizard, the Potion Master had made him sit down on the couch and explained that he believed that the destruction of the Horcrux was responsible for a shift in Harry's magic and that this was the reason for the phoenix-feather wand no longer working for him.
Harry hadn't understood everything the man had said, but it seemed that a wand made of holy with a core of a phoenix feather was quite unusual and that with Harry's equally unusual magic it wasn't very surprising that he and the wand were longer compatible.
What Severus hadn't told Harry (at least not explicitly) was that the Horcrux hadn't been the only thing connecting him to the Dark Lord. Dumbledore (who had been informed by Mr Ollivander) had told him about Harry having bought the brother wand of Tom Riddle's. And while the Potion Master hadn't thought much about it at that time, he had started to worry about it once he had learned about the other thing that connected the child with that madman.
Therefore, he wasn't at all perturbed by the fact that the phoenix-feather wand did no longer work for Harry – quite the contrary. It was just another prove that the link between Harry and the Dark Lord was irretrievably broken. As far as Severus was concerned, this was good news, even if Dumbledore saw this differently.
And so it was essentially Harry's hard-earned freedom why the two men had come to Diagon Alley today. The Potion Master thought that this was an acceptable reason for going to the place he normally avoided like the plague.
Well, of course, they were also here because Harry needed a new wand if he wanted to start school again, but visiting Diagon Alley because having conquered the Dark Lord (at least partially) sounded much better, didn't it?
Currently, though, Severus wished there was another way to get a wand. Sighing, he turned to the annoying wand-maker.
"I'd say it's none of your concern why the boy requires a new wand," he said through gritted teeth, "and I would be grateful if you would just provide Mr Potter with a few wands to try. Of course, we can always go to another shop if you are so reluctant to sell us one of yours."
Apparently, the threat was enough to persuade Ollivander that any further questions would lead to the loss of a customer and he went to the shelves to fetch a few wands to start with, all the while muttering to himself. As he had no idea which wood or core might be compatible with the magic of the boy-who-lived, he chose several completely different wands, some being more suitable for transfiguration or charms, others for defensive magic and even one that would allow its owner to excel in offensive magic.
Harry almost groaned when he saw the large pile of boxes the wand-maker levitated to the desk in the middle of the room. They were wizards, so why hadn't they come up with a quicker and more rational way to find a good wand? If the shop sign was anything to go by, Ollivander and his ancestors had had more than enough time to do so!
Next to Harry, Professor Snape raised his eyebrows. "Well, Mr Potter, it seems that you are in for quite a bit of work." With an amused expression at the boy's incredulous face when the wand-maker went back to the shelves to fetch even more wands, he conjured a stool out of nowhere and made himself comfortable. This would take a while.
Half an hour later, the stack of wands was considerably smaller. However, Ollivander had just gone into one of the small chambers adjoining the main room of his shop where he stored the more unusual wands.
So far, only five wands had reacted when Harry had waved them, and three of them had caused minor damage to the room. According to the wand-maker this meant that they were out of question (though Harry didn't really understand why – he would need to learn to control his magic anyway, so why did it matter what a wand did the first time he touched it?).
The other two had emitted some dull sparks, but apparently, this wasn't enough for Mr Ollivander.
"Do you think he will allow me to buy any wand?" Harry whispered to Professor Snape, "perhaps we should go to another shop..." he suggested, sounding doubtful.
"I think we should wait for another few minutes, Harry. If I have understood his murmurs correctly, he has an idea about which wand might suit you. Unless you feel too uncomfortable?" Severus looked at Harry questioningly. It was the first time the boy was amongst other wizards again, after all. Until now, they had mostly stayed at their house and only travelled to a few muggle towns a few times.
"No, 's ok," Harry reassured his Professor.
Just then, Ollivander came back into the room, carrying a single (rather dusty) box. He wore an expression that might pass as a smile, though Harry thought that, if anything, it made him look even more creepy. "I think I have found the right wand for you, Mr Potter. Silver lime and phoenix feather, ten and a half inches, quite flexible. Just give it a wave."
Neither of the two man noticed the Potion Master's soaring eye-brows.
Obediently, Harry reached for the (rather light) wand. He had barely touched it when a thick fountain of silver sparks shot out of its tip. Casting a questioning glance at the wand-maker (who, in turn, nodded encouragingly), Harry grabbed the wand and swished it through the air. He became aware of a tickling sensation, first in his right hand but only seconds later, it had spread through his entire body and made him giggle.
"Well, Mr Potter, it seems you have found your wand." Mr Ollivander said, his eyes twinkling madly.
"I have?" Harry asked, not daring to hope that there indeed was a wand which allowed him to use it.
"Of course, Mr Potter! Can't you feel it? Just take good care of it, you are quite a tricky customer and I don't think I have another wand that would choose you. Of course, I could always make another one..." the rest of his mutterings was barely audible.
Severus cleared his throat. "How much do we owe you?"
"I'm afraid this will be 18 Galleons. The wood is quite rare and the wand is about 150 years old..." obviously, the man felt uncomfortable about charging almost twice as much as he normally did.
Without further ado, Severus paid for Harry's wand. He had suspected that it wasn't an inexpensive one as soon as Ollivander had mentioned that it was made of silver lime. The wood was hardly used any more though it had been quite fashionable a century ago. With a core of phoenix feathers it was probably one of the most unusual wands the Potion Master had ever come across, as phoenix feathers had only come into use about 50 years ago, long after wand-makers had stopped using silver lime.
While he had expected that only very few (and most likely very uncommon) wands would work for Harry, he hadn't expected it to be one made of this particular wood. But since the boy had already become rather proficient in Occlumency, it was quite fitting, he supposed, as silver lime was widely associated with the art of mind magic.
A short while later, a bouncing eleven year-old boy and a pensive man left the wand shop and made their way to the apothecary. Fortunately, summer holidays had not yet started and as it was in the middle of the week there weren't many people around.
And although the excitement about finally getting a wand was quickly subsiding now that he had one, Harry still couldn't stop grinning. The Professor had promised him that, once he had purchased new stuff he needed for his potions, they would first go to Flourish&Blotts – where Harry would be allowed to choose new books – and then they would have an ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.
And then, when they would be at home again, Harry could show off his new wand to Alice and Frank and then the Professor was going to teach him to cast spells!
Harry sighed in contentment. He doubted there were many people who were happier than him at this very moment.
For Harry and Severus, the past few month had been rather quiet.
Once the need to constantly keep an eye on the child had started to abate, the Potion Master had commenced brewing again. He hadn't thought that Harry would join him into the lab willingly, but the boy kept surprising him.
The first few times, Harry had only watched his guardian brewing potions (mostly for the infirmary, as Madame Pomfrey claimed that the potions from the apothecary were sub-standard). However, this had quickly become boring and he had told the man that, since he still hadn't been allowed to do any magic, he should at least be allowed to brew potions. Professor Snape had looked at him incredulously but finally, the man had agreed and now they spent at least three afternoons a week in the makeshift potion lab.
Harry's other lessons were progressing nicely, too. Originally, Severus had planned for Harry to repeat his first year – he had missed the entire first term of the school-year, after all. Now, however, they had already started on second year material in all subjects except transfiguration (with which Harry struggled a bit) and history - since they had focused more on muggle history and everything Harry should have learned in primary school.
Of course, they hadn't been able to cover all the practical subject material in herbology either, as they didn't have a green house at their disposal, but during their brewing sessions, Harry had probably learned more about plants than the normal first-year did anyway, so the boy should have no problems to pass the end-of-year exams.
While Harry and Severus had settled into their routine, the life of the other two occupants of their house had performed a volte-face.
After Mrs Ross had discovered that the hour-long torture had left Alice and Frank with some brain damage, she had been able to treat them much more efficiently. For a week, the couple had been moved to a private hospital where both of them had had head surgery. The doctor had been doubtful whether it would be of much use – the damage had been done a decade ago, after all – but after the Longbottom's return to their current home, it had quickly become apparent that the operation had helped enormously. There were no immediate changes, but the pace of their progress had sped up tremendously.
However, this also meant that the psychological damage the Lestranges and Crouch jr had inflicted on them had become more noticeably. Dr Green came several times a week for therapy and Madame Pomfrey had prescribed potions (which Severus was brewing, of course) to help them cope.
And about two month ago, Neville had visited his parents for the first time since they had left the closed ward of St Mungo's. In the wake of Neville's weekly visits, he and Harry had quickly become friends. And while Ron would always have a special place in Harry's heart – being his first friend ever – he was glad to have another one. It would make it much more easy to settle into life at Hogwarts again, he supposed.
Because Harry had finally decided which school he wanted to attend when the summer holidays were over. Professor Snape had told him that there were other schools that would love to take him, that he didn't need to go back to Hogwarts if he didn't want to. Harry had thought about it for quite some time. Currently, he was rather glad not to have to go to classes with lots of other kids but to have his Professor all for himself. But he supposed that the man was right and that it would eventually become boring. And Professor Snape had promised that they could still brew potions together even when Harry had returned to school, so it wouldn't be too bad, Harry thought.
However, now that he had two friends at Hogwarts and already knew some of the teachers and the medi-witch, he felt reluctant go to a new school where he would know no one. Of course, going back to Hogwarts meant that he would probably be stared and pointed at by the students (and probably even some of the teachers) who had witnessed his (or rather the Horcrux') odd behaviour during the few short weeks he had been a normal first-year. But with the help of Ron and Neville, Harry thought that he would manage.
And of course, Hogwarts also had the benefit that Professor Snape would be there, too – which not only meant that Harry could visit him whenever he wanted to but also was the man's reputation amongst the student's body likely to reduce any taunting or bullying Harry might face to an absolute minimum. There were bound to be students who considered Harry a lunatic and were eager to let him know about their opinion.
When Harry had first told his guardian that he wanted to return to Hogwarts, the man had been doubtful whether this was such a good idea.
Oh, he hadn't worried about the students – as head of Slytherin, he would have no problems whatsoever to keep them in line, and Minerva wouldn't tolerate bullying within her own house either. Additionally, Ronald Weasley and Neville Longbottom would make sure that the tower behaved. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were not overly prone to harass another student, but if one of them was stupid enough to think that he would get away with tormenting the ward of the dungeon bat, Severus was sure a few weeks scrubbing cauldrons would be enough to evict this notion from the brat's brain.
No, it had once again been the headmaster who had given Severus a headache. While Dumbledore's influence on the ministry had been declining considerably ever since the Prime Minister and the Queen had taken charge of wizarding affairs, he was still headmaster of Hogwarts. What was more, the man had still been under the impression that it was Harry who was responsible for conquering the Dark Lord (should he rise again, that was) when they had left the school. And if Harry returned to Hogwarts, the boy would be under the direct influence of Dumbeldore again, which certainly didn't bode well for his future.
And so it was that the Potion Master paid a visit to Hogwarts, after Harry had declared that yes, he was sure that he wanted to return to the school in Scotland and no, he wouldn't change his mind.
As Severus was rather sure that it would take several hours to make Dumbledore agree to take an Unbreakable Vow not to meddle with Harry's life any more (or at least more than his position as the boy's headmaster called for), he deposited Harry with the Longbottom. The couple was well enough to look after their own son (with the help of the house elves and only for two days at a time, but still), so the Potion Master didn't worry overly much.
In the end, though, Severus was only away for little more than an hour – and this was only because he had looked in on his Slytherin's after having taken care of Dumbledore.
During the first five minutes of his stay in the headmaster's office, Albus had successfully avoided any clear statement at all. However, when Severus had mentioned Harry's new wand, he had become quite agitated and demanded more information.
Sensing that the now-broken connection to the Dark Lord might be the one thing that would convince Dumbledore that the prophecy (in which probably only the Dark Lord and Dumbledore himself really believed in anyway) didn't pertain any more, Severus had provided the man with a more detailed account of the day when he had cast the killing curse at Harry so many months ago.
Fawkes, who had apparently decided to side with Harry and Severus rather than his own wizard, had lift off his perch and landed on the Potion Master's shoulder halfway through the tale. Later, the phoenix wouldn't budge even when Severus was about to leave and Dumbledore agreed that Fawkes might want to see the sea again – much to a certain child's (and owl's) delight.
The bird's approving trills when the Potion Master had finished his explanations had seemed to be the the one thing that convinced Dumbledore that the claims of his Potion Master were true.
After a while of complete silence, the headmaster had sighed heavily. In a rather desperate tone, he had then proceeded to ask Severus how they should ever completely destroy Tom Riddle if Harry might not have the prophesied ability any more.
When the Potion Master had casually hinted that the changes in the ministry might be good for more than just a muggle-friendlier policy and less corruption, the old man had looked at him gobsmacked.
Apparently, he had never really considered the possibility that the people responsible for hunting down criminals and fighting terrorism might be better equipped to fight a dark wizard than a child.
And while Severus wouldn't have been so confident a few month earlier, the changes of the last few month had been quite encouraging.
One of the most important incidents had surely been the ban of Lucius Malfoy from the entire ministry, due to the fact that he had not only tried to bribe the new Secretary of State for Magic but also threatened muggle officials that now worked alongside wizards in the Muggle Liason Office.
Additionally, the equipment of the entire Auror force with muggle weapons was likely to have an impact, too. Not many wizards (especially purebloods, who represented the vast majority of the death eaters) expected to be shot when attacking fellow magical beings.
And since the government had promised (or threatened with, depending on the point of view you took) that this was only the beginning of a complete renovation of the wizarding government, the Potion Master was confident that by the time the Dark Lord returned, the responsible people would be more than capable of dealing with him and his followers.
After Severus had revealed his thoughts to the currently not twinkling old coot, the man had been deep in thoughts. Only when the Potion Master had leaned forward and almost screamed his employer's name, Dumbledore had jolted out of his musings and recalled the presence of his Potion Master.
And although he had still been reluctant to do so, the man had finally acquiesced in Severus' demand to take an Unbreakable Vow not to use Harry for his own gains – or for the good for the entire wizarding world. Additionally, Dumbledore had agreed to only speak to Harry about school-related matters and not to call him into his office without Severus being present, too.
The Potion Master knew that the last bit might seem a bit paranoid, but he wouldn't take any chances – not with Harry's life or welfare.
That matter settled, Harry and his guardian continued their brewing sessions, Harry's schooling and, of course, their holidays - which, in Harry's case, mostly meant swimming in the sea as long as his Professor allowed him to, now that it was finally warm enough and the man had stopped worrying that his ward might get a cold.
The only thing that dampened their mood was the death of Nicolas Flamel.
It had been a miracle that it hadn't happened sooner, as the man had never woken up again after that fateful day when Severus had cast the killing curse at him. The Potion Master had flooed Perenelle Flamel regularly and had supplied her with whatever potions she thought might help her husband to recover or at least stop his condition from deteriorating.
In the end, though, it had been to no avail and the heart of the old wizard had just stopped beating.
Harry had only been told that the deceased man had helped his Professor finding a way to kill the Horcrux. It was sad that he had died, yes, but Harry wasn't devastated – he had never met the man, after all.
Severus, on the other hand, had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he had killed Nicolas Flamel. It didn't matter that he had been prepared for the man's death – after months of being in a coma, Flamel's death could hardly be called a surprise. And neither could Perenelle's repeated reassurance - that she didn't blame Severus and neither would Nicolas, that it had been her husband's decision and that he had known that it might not work - ease the Potion Master's feeling of guilt.
Neither Severus nor Perenelle had any real idea why it was that Nicolas hadn't woken up and, in the end, died. Harry was a living proof that their theory worked.
Of course, it might have been just bad luck, but the Potion Master was more inclined to believe that it had something to do with Flamel having already taken the Elixir of Life for several centuries before being hit by the fatal curse.
It wasn't as if he had become immune to the effects of the elixir – Perenelle was still alive, after all, and if the potion would stop working completely after a certain amount of time, this would hardly be the case.
But since the body of a century-old person was completely and utterly dependant on the Elixir, even without any additional live-threatening influence, it was quite possible that the extra strain of the curse had simply been too much.
The Potion Master hadn't been sure whether to allow Harry to attend the funeral. In the end, it was the boy's insistence and Poppy's and Dr Green's reassurance that, as long as Severus would answer any questions Harry might have and talk to him if he appeared to be uncomfortable, it wouldn't harm the boy to go to the funeral, that convinced the Professor to take him.
Perenelle was happy to get to know the child her husband had consented to help. Seeing the little boy's smile and hearing him merrily (but quietly – he had obviously been told that a funeral was a sad occasion) chattering away to his guardian helped her to come to terms with her husbands death and to make her peace with everything that had happened since Nicolas had decided to entrust the Philosopher's Stone to Albus Dumbledore.
On September 1st, an odd group of people could be found standing offside on platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross. While one of the two boys remained close to two of the four adults, the second boy scurried between the train, the gate that led to the muggle part of King's Cross station and a tall, dark man.
"What if they don't come in time, Professor? What if Mr Weasley didn't manage to repair the car? Ron told me that the twins have damaged it pretty badly! What if-"
"Harry, calm down!" Severus admonished the over-excited boy, "That are the Weasleys you are talking about. I would be more concerned if they arrived in time not to have to run to catch the train. You and Mr Longbottom can save Mr Weasley a seat-" he was interrupted by an anxious Harry.
"But what if they are too late? Does this mean Ron won't come to Hogwarts this year?"
"Of course not, you foolish boy! The teachers don't take the train either but still succeed in finding a way to arrive at the castle in time to witness hundreds of adolescents stuffing their faces with unhealthy food. If they don't arrive in time for the train, I suppose they will just floo to Hogsmeade or Mr Weasley's parents will side-along apparate their flock of children to the edge of the grounds."
"Oh, right..." Harry answered, though he still looked doubtful and his gaze lingered on the gate to the muggle world where just now, more and more children and their parents came through – none of them had red hair, though.
"Perhaps it's best if you and Neville already board the train?" Alice Longbottom suggested.
"Your mother is right, Neville," an elderly lady, whose choice of clothing was almost as eccentric as Dumbledore's, stated, "you don't want to have to run and jump on the Express, do you? As far as I know you, you'll just fall down, miss the train and then we will have to apparate to Hogwarts and the teachers will have to look after you the whole day just because of your clumsiness."
"Mother!" the man – Frank Longbottom – who was standing next to his wife hissed. "Don't belittle the poor boy! We need to build up his confidence, not to shake it even further!"
Augusta Longbottom had the grace to blush at her son's reprimand. Once her son and his wife had learnt about Neville's low self-esteem they had been quite adamant to change that and had explicitly forbidden her to even mention the boy's shortcomings.
"You will tell Ron that we are on the train, won't you?" Harry asked his guardian worriedly while Neville was hugged first by his mother and then by his father and then again by his mother.
"No, I will tell him that we have lost the two of you somewhere in the tunnel's of Gringotts – of course I will tell him, you impossible child!"Severus snapped.
He couldn't handle all the starring that was directed their way – at the Longbottoms, not at him, yes, but this didn't make it any more comfortable. He was glad that in a few minutes time (once the Hogwarts Express had pulled out of the station and was out of sight so that he could stop the inevitable waving) he would apparate to Hogwarts. Dunderheaded children and meddling old coots he could deal with.
Harry bit his lips, unsure whether his next question would sound too babyish. "And you'll be there when we arrive?"
Severus' gaze softened. "Of course I will. Someone has to teach all of you imbeciles potion, after all. I will be at the feast and if you don't want to subject yourself to a tower of annoying Gryffindors just yet, you can come down to our quarters and sleep in your room, just like we have agreed on."
Harry's eyes lit up when Professor Snape mentioned his room. A few days ago, he and the Professor had visited the quarters in the dungeon that had been renovated and rebuilt by the elves. The rooms were much more spacious now and even had magical windows. The guest room where Harry had slept all those month ago now looked completely different. The only thing that still was the same was his tent. While his fear of lying down on a bed had decreased significantly over the last few months, he still preferred not to have to sleep in one – the nightmares tended to be worse if he did.
"Uhm, I think I'll better come to our quarters then. Ophi told me that he would put perches in my room and I still need to show them to Hedwig and Bertha- I hope they like it in my room..." Harry said, eyeing the two birds, who were sitting in the cage next to him, anxiously.
"I'm sure they will," Severus answered with a smirk, remembering the day they had found Hedwig sitting on Harry's pillow, hatching a white egg. At first, they hadn't been sure which bird might have caught the owl's interest and therefore was partly responsible for this, but Severus had had his suspicions.
The next day, he had been proven right when Fawkes had burst in (quite literally) and immediately turned his attention to the white owl, ignoring both Harry and Severus. Harry's eyes had become as big as saucers while the Potion Master had to stifle a groan. He hadn't meant to encourage the birds to go through with the mating when he had told the headmaster this tale to prevent him from asking further questions!
To say Harry and the Potion Master had been worried about what a cross-breed between a snowy owl and a phoenix would look like – not to mention the abilities and general behaviour patterns of such a creature – would have been an understatement.
One afternoon about four weeks after they had discovered the egg, Harry had came running into the Potion Master's lab, shouting that there were cracks in the eggshell, and half an hour later, something akin to a white mop had hatched out.
That had been almost two months ago and since then the white mop had grown considerably. It no longer resembled a mop – or an owl, for that matter – either but looked a lot like Fawkes did a few weeks after a burning day. The only difference was that the young bird was completely white and, while it had the stamina of a phoenix when it came to trilling and warbling, it had the voice of an owl – which took much getting used to.
Hedwig and Fawkes seemed rather proud of their offspring and the phoenix had already started to teach his son/daughter (they still weren't sure which one it was, but Harry had insisted that the bird needed a name anyway) how to disappear in a burst of flames. However, all the phowl (as Harry had insisted on calling the new species Hedwig and Fawkes had decided to create) had managed so far was to make his feathers smoke.
Harry whirled around and saw something red flying towards him. A moment later he realized that the red thing was his best mate's hair. "RON!"
"Harry, mate! How are you? I haven't seen you in ages! Neville! Do you already have a compartment? We'd better hurry up, mum's in a rather bad mood anyway – Fred'nGeorge decided to borrow the car one last time last night and she caught them just when they were trying to sneak back into their room." Ron babbled away. Then, his eyes fell on the cage next to the Potion Professor. "Hey – how's Bertha ?" he asked.
Harry grinned. "Great! He still only smokes, though – makes Hedwig crazy, by the way. But he's awfully strong already – Professor Snape told me it's normal for phoenix's, but still – he managed to lift the cage and put it nearer to the window!"
While the children continued to prattle, Severus, the Longbottoms and the Weasleys started to load the numerous trunks and cages into the train. Molly, the Potion Master noticed, kept her distance, though he could tell that she was dying to speak to the Longbottoms.
Arthur, who had noticed his wife's odd behaviour, too, shrugged apologetically and Severus nodded. As long as the woman didn't start harassing Harry, he didn't care.
There was a whistle, indicating that the Hogwarts Express would leave shortly.
Severus turned to Harry. "Do you have everything?" when the boy nodded, he continued. "Now, I will send Fawkes to look in on you some time during the afternoon. If you don't feel well, you will tell him and he will let me know."
Harry squirmed at the Professor's word. He was twelve, not six! However, he couldn't prevent a smile forming on his face when he looked into his guardian's concerned eyes and the warm, fuzzy feeling the man's word had provoked made more than up for any embarrassment.
"Up on the train with you, then," Severus said in a gruff voice. He kept telling himself that he would see the boy again in less than eight hours, but somehow, this didn't ease his anxiety. Well, he might just send Fawkes early, then. It wasn't as if the phoenix would mind spending time with Hedwig and the feathered duster.
Hedwig hooted when her master's master put her cage into the train. Making sure that her owlet was all right, she turned her attention back to her master who had just thrown himself in the arms of the tall black man.
"Bye, Professor," Harry mumbled into the man's chest, feeling ridiculous – he would only be away for a few hours! His guardian patted his shoulder and with a barely audible "Love you Professor!" Harry climbed onto the train, leaving behind a stunned Potion Master.
At last, all three boys were on the train. The Hogwarts Express started moving. Ron, Neville and Harry were hanging out of the windows, waving at their parents (respective guardian).
"Bye Mum, Dad!"
"I'll write as soon as we have arrived! I might have forgotten my transfiguration-textbook..."
"Bye, Professor! See you soon! May I fly with Hedwig and Bertha before bed?"
Hedwig and Bertha screeched approvingly.