and the Malediction of the Deathly Hallows
The Song and Feather of The Phoenix
Tuesday - March 15, 2005
Mr. and Mrs. Potter, of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, first time expecting parents, didn't know it yet, but soon an unexpected but welcomed visitor would come knocking at the door of their peaceful residence and cause ripples in their peace (hopefully for the better). The visitor would offer Harry James Potter the opportunity of a lifetime in the form of the most unassuming object he could ever suspect possessing.
With hindsight, whatever Harry chose to do with the opportunity he would be given would make all the difference in his and the life of many in the Wizarding World. Only thing was, after having fought so mercilessly to vanquish Tom Marvolo Riddle and his Death Eaters and lost so many loved ones in the process, would Harry be willing to put at risk the happiness and peace he, alongside his wife and friends, have strived so fiercely to maintain, and just to act on a mere possibility?
Now the only war that waged in the peaceful Wizarding Community, almost seven years since the Boy Who Lived finally defeated the Dark Lord, was the one happening within Harry James Potter as he argued the pros and cons of following his heart or leaving things alone. But then, he would eventually figure, that course of action wouldn't be very Gryffindor of him now, would it?
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart
Somewhere within the busy grounds at Hogwarts, a phoenix was singing in a stricken lament of terrible beauty that Minerva McGonagall had heard only once prior to that afternoon. The same phoenix that now sang this lamenting tune had also sang it eight years and three months ago and had gone after, never to be seen or heard of again, just as its owner had left the world. That is, until now.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry's current headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, was a severe-looking witch with a stern face. In fact, she was stern in every sense of the word, she embodied the definition with her tall, brisk stature and posture, square glasses, and black hair tightly knotted atop of her head, sparsely streaked with white at the temples (the only sign that hinted at her advanced age or that time outwardly affected the witch at all).
Currently, as Minerva heard the first notes of the phoenix song above the chattering of students migrating across the grounds and hallways of the castle to attend their next lesson, after all these years, she had a strong suspicion of what it could signify. Hearing the song reminded Minerva quite abruptly that the mission her long dead mentor and friend had given her, back in June of 1993, still needed carrying out.
Of course, she had realized this all along, being the kind of witch that Minerva was, but only now came to the realization that she had been idle with this particular mission's disposition. Therefore, this could only mean one thing and as thus, she found it would be safe to assume that this was probably the sign she had been waiting for.
After all, she internally debated, Dumbledore had never told her to stop following his order, should he die, and she'd almost forgotten all about it with the passing of time. Clearly, time hadn't forgotten what Minerva almost had.
In fact, she was sure that the magic that bound and protected Hogwarts and its students hadn't forgotten what it had witnessed between its late headmaster and current headmistress. That much Minerva could count on –that's how ancient magic worked and it couldn't be cheated, or ignored in any way.
Walking briskly and purposefully down the corridor that lead to the hallway with the gargoyle that guarded the stairway leading toward her office, Minerva McGonagall confidently spoke the password, and hastened up the spiraling steps as the gargoyle moved aside to allow her entrance. Standing at the threshold leading into her office, Minerva glanced around at the many portraits of the previous headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts that hung on the walls of her circular office until her eyes settled on one.
Prolonging the inevitable, she avoided making eye contact with the resident of the one portrait she had unconsciously sought after and squared her shoulders. This specific portrait had hung on a golden frame over her desk for nearly eight years now and she often sought its counsel. After all, this precise painting was of a man she had known very well and had been honored to call her friend at one point.
It was the portrait of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
With a sense of grim resignation and disquieted calm, Minerva McGonagall entered her office, removed her square glasses with slightly trembling hands as she walked toward her desk, and daintily placed them atop her desk. The finality of her actions wasn't lost on her. Headmistress McGonagall steeled herself with a great sense of foreboding and forced her eyes to meet the familiar twinkling blue eyes of Dumbledore's portrait.
For his part the old headmaster was looking peaceful and untroubled, his half-moon spectacles perched upon his crooked nose, as he stared back at Minerva with a knowing look that made it almost impossible for her to hold his gaze, and waited patiently for her to speak. However, stubborn as she tended to be, and feeling only partially ruffled, Minerva held Dumbledore's gaze.
While Minerva stared intently at the portrait of Albus Dumbledore a streak of silver light suddenly flashed around the room. There was a bang like a gunshot next, and the floor trembled. A second flash went off with a blinding burst of flames –Minerva along with several of the portraits that had been snoozing yelled in surprise– there was a screech, and a cloud of dust filled the air.
Crouching low and putting a hand over her mouth and nose to stop from coughing up the dust, Minerva watched the proceedings of a single, long golden feather float in the air until it finally settled and innocently laid atop Dumbledore's portrait just as the dust cleared. Above her desk Fawkes the phoenix soared in wide circles, singing softly, and, in a marvelous column of fire that consumed it, the phoenix was gone the next instant.
"It's time, isn't it?" Minerva tremulously asked the late headmaster in a hushed whisper. If she hadn't been sure about the meaning behind Fawkes's brief return before, now she was.
In answer, the old headmaster smiled jovially, interlocked his fingers on his lap, and nodded as if to say "I'm afraid so, my dear" but was quite at his leisure, and otherwise, finding the whole thing quite amusing –if the mad twinkle in his blue eyes was anything to go by. Memory served to remind her that it was.
For a moment, Minerva remained frozen with her wild pulse drumming deafeningly in her ears and, coming to her senses a moment later, she was in motion once again. Looking only slightly ashen, McGonagall stood to her full height once again and pulled her shoulders back. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, she knew it with bone deep certainty that this was the sign she had been waiting for.
This was it. Reaching for her glasses and perching them back on her nose, McGonagall nodded shrewdly and decisively. Delaying wouldn't change the fact that it was time... Time she acted and made well on her promise to Dumbledore.
One March mid-afternoon, in the year 2005, Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, had finally been given the signal she had been anticipating and dreading for the past eleven years –the signal that told her it was time to act and carry out her unorthodox mission, once and for all. Finally, the moment had come for her to do her part and she knew what needed to be done. She wouldn't fail Dumbledore, she resolved, even if he weren't around to witness the task he'd given her be carried out.
Reaching that conclusion, McGonagall nodded to herself and steeled her resolve as she gathered oxygenated courage into her expanding lungs. Pulling parchment, a quill, and ink out of her drawers, Minerva sat at her desk and wrote a quick note to her Deputy Headmaster.
The note explained that she had pressing business to attend to and would be absent for an indefinite amount of time from that moment onward. Therefore, as Deputy Headmaster, she was entrusting him with the safety of all Hogwarts' students until she returned later that day. As a postscript, she also let him know that she could be reached by owl if absolutely necessary and to please inform the rest of staff.
Satisfied with the letter, McGonagall sealed it and stood. Searching for her wand from within the folds of her emerald-green robes, Minerva procured it, and tapping twice on the letter, sent it in search of the Deputy Headmaster. That done and with her wand still out, she approached the old headmaster's portrait with purposeful strides and pulled back the sleeves of her robes to keep them out of her way.
With a gentle but smart tap to the glass, Minerva's lips began moving fervently and she began to chant a surreptitious incantation under her breath. With well-practiced precision, Minerva began to scratch runes onto the surface of the glass in quick succession and her hand was almost a blur as she drew one Germanic alphabet letter on top of the other with minimal pause.
Each rune burned bright and dissipated soon after being drawn as McGonagall broke down and removed the wards she'd placed over the old headmaster's portrait so it could serve as the perfect hiding place to guard the object she had been entrusted to keep safe eleven years ago. Retracting her wand and safely placing it back within the folds of her robes, Minerva reached out a hand through the glass of Albus Dumbledore's portrait without meeting obstruction and the man within placed a small, but rather powerful object in the palm of her hand.
The moment the object made contact with her hand, Minerva felt its weight and let out the breath she'd been holding in a gust. Closing her fingers around the tiny, delicate object, Minerva distractedly mumbled her thanks to the wizard, pulled her hand out, and, still clutching the object within her grasp, turned away from the portrait and the man within without a backwards glance to walk away. That is, before she remembered her manners.
Only for a moment, McGonagall paused to address the portrait of Phineas Nigellus's, a clever-looking wizard with a pointed beard who was (thankfully) not pretending to sleep at the moment, as he was so fond of doing when he was needed, and without delay asked, "If you would be so kind, Phineas?"
"You want me to visit my other portrait?" said Phineas in a reedy voice (his eyes travelling around the room and focusing upon McGonagall's clutched hand with interest).
"That would be most helpful."
"And the message?"
"Just let him know I'm on my way… and that it is a matter of delicate nature. Dire."
"Delicate and dire in nature," repeated Phineas. "Anything else?"
"Be quick about it, won't you, please?" suggested Minerva.
Phineas barely managed not to scowl. "Yes, yes… very well…" he muttered fussily.
Phineas slopped away into the frame of the portrait and disappeared from view as McGonagall resumed walking.
Making toward her fireplace, McGonagall pulled out her wand again and methodically said, "Accio!" to summon her cloak from its perch with a wave of her wand, as she gathered a pinch of glittering Floo powder out of the flowerpot she kept it in and stepped up to the dying embers of the fire, throwing the powder into the flames. With an instant roar, the fire turned into emerald green flames and rose higher than McGonagall, who stepped right into its warm breeze, spoke her destination clearly, "The Hog's Head Inn!" and vanished.
"Minerva," muttered the tall figure of the Hog's Head's barman in greeting as he came in from the street, slammed the door behind him, and watched as McGonagall step out of his grate a moment later, dusting the excess soot from her emerald-green robes methodically. If her sudden apparition in his Inn surprised the man, he wasn't showing it. Instead, he opted not to talk and kept his questions under wrap.
"Aberforth," Minerva greeted brusquely, trying to keep the impatience out of her voice and failing. "Just passing through, don't mind me." Since Albus Dumbledore's passing, the man's uncanny resemblance to his late brother continuously unsettled Minerva whenever she saw him. "Need to Apparate and be on my way…"
"By all means," said Aberforth gruffly, looking pointedly from McGonagall to the door. With that, Minerva passed by Aberforth on her way into the street and for the second time in less than five minutes, the door to the Hog's Head was slammed behind her.
Once outside, Minerva turned on the spot into the crushing darkness.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Hope you have enjoyed this chapter. Until next chapter –Chapter Two: A Lesson In Transfiguration and Transmutation.