A Bird's Eye View
You first heard of him when he came to Hogwarts as a scrawny 11 year old, too thin for his height, or too tall for his weight. You listened to the Sorting Hat tell your human about the new students, and Albus would comment 'Just like her father!' or 'Yes, that one would be harder to place, with those parents, but are you sure Hufflepuff was the best choice?', the blue twinkle in full force. But sometimes he would sigh, look thoughtful. 'Slytherin, yes, I'd expected that - still, there's a child who perhaps should never have been. That girl should have done so much better than marry him. We'll just have to see how the child settles in, he'll have a better chance away from home. I hope it's not too late, but I think he will travel a long, long road before he is truly happy. If he ever is.'
You keep an ear open for that young man thereafter.
Like at the end of his first term, when the Head of Slytherin visits Albus for the end of term report on his 'children'.
"He hasn't settled, then?"
"No, although he's not in the slightest homesick. He's undoubtedly very bright, and academically he's well ahead. My worry is that he had no social skills when he arrived, and he's not developing any. The rest of the Slytherins leave him be, but he's the butt of all the Gryffindor pranks and teasing. I've tried to talk to him but he won't say anything about it, even in confidence. Just sits and glowers and says it's all fine."
Albus sighs. "Any ideas?" he asks the Hat. Sometimes it will suggest a suitable older mentor for a troubled child. Or even matchmake. But not this time.
"There's been no-one for years who is likely to get through to this one. Not until he forgives himself," says your animated friend.
"Forgives himself for what?" asks Albus.
"For being born," replies the Hat, and Albus blanches.
Time passes, and you hear of him again:
"Came top in potions and defence against the dark arts, although he thinks that one a little beneath him. Second to Potter overall this year."
And there comes the day Albus receives a missive from the black ministry owl. He calls the thirteen year old to his office. It's the first time you've actually seen him, and you think immediately of one of your avian friends who would envy that beak. You take a good look. Not a boy any more, nor yet a man. And from the look on Albus' face, the very worst age for the news he must deliver.
Your father has been sent to Azkaban for beating your mother to death. Well, dressed up better than that, but that's the message. He's likely to receive the Dementor's Kiss if he's found guilty. Would you like to go and see him? No. My dear boy, your mother's funeral is next week. Who would you like to accompany you? No-one.
And on it goes. Albus gets nothing out of the boy. Eventually he lets him go with words of reassurance, but you can see he just wants to hide. As he leaves the office, you are the only one who sees the single tear that runs down his cheek.
Two further years pass, and he is again in Albus's office.
"I am well aware that Mr Lupin is a werewolf. That is why I made elaborate security arrangements for his, and everyone else's, safety. That is why I had a Whomping Willow planted above the entrance to the tunnel. To keep everyone else away. It's only thanks to Mr Potter that you are unharmed."
"Potter tried to kill me!"
"He did not. I have heard his story and I believe him. Black was at fault, yes, but Potter was not involved in this prank."
"Prank??!! I was nearly killed, or worse! If that's your definition of a prank, I'd hate to see something you thought was intentionally malicious!"
"The fact remains that you, along with the rest of the school, had been repeatedly warned not to go near it! So why did you?"
And you see the young man realise that once again, he will get no sympathy, no-one in here is going to put his needs first. You watch his face close up. Stiffly, he says:
"I apologise, Sir, I was obviously at fault. I see that now. What punishment would you have me undertake?"
Albus sits down with a sigh. "No punishment. I think you've had a nasty enough shock. Perhaps you'd better go back to your House now. And remember that warnings are given to keep you all safe."
The young man turns on his heel and strides to the door. But you see the resentment in the stiffness of his gait, in the rigidity of his shoulders.
"Oh, Fawkes, did I miss a chance there to get through to him? I should have thought it through better, I've handled it wrongly again, haven't I? But with this news of Lord Voldemort gaining strength, I've been too preoccupied, and the Ministry won't listen. You'd remember him as Tom Riddle. He turned to the Dark side. How many more of our children will the Dark taint or destroy in the coming years?"
You fly to perch on his shoulder, and the liquid note that comes from your throat gives him strength.
It's nearly three years before anything of significance about the young man reaches your ears again.
"My spies tell me he's taken the Dark Mark, Minerva. One of a group of six Slytherins, graduated only last month. Where am I going wrong, that our children are so easily corrupted? What else can I do to keep them safe?"
And as the months pass, you hear that attacks against Muggles and Muggle-borns increase. The toll is heavy, some of the names are known to you as recent students, and you know the Hat is mourning as well. And you hope against hope that the young man is not involved in the worst of the atrocities.
There is good news, too, although tinged with worry.
"James and Lily and Frank and Alice?! Both due in July? That's great news, Albus! Should be really powerful little ones, with those parents."
"Oh, definitely, Minerva. But how do we keep them safe in the meantime?"
And then the young man returns and oh! how old he looks, how shaken, how he pleads with Albus to forgive him, punish him, he deserves the worst the world's most powerful wizard can do to him. And Albus tells him that his unique position gives him access to the plans of Voldemort, and that if he wishes redemption, he must become a spy.
He brings the news that the Dark Lord knows of a prophecy and seeks the two boys born in July. You are there when the plans to hide both families are made. You hear that the two Fidelius charms have been cast, and you are uneasy, though you do not know why.
And at Hallowe'en that year, when all others celebrate, you, and Albus, and the young man, know that the reprieve is only temporary.
The young man is now a professor, and Head of Slytherin House, charged with the welfare of the offspring of his former associates. You wonder how one who has never been cared for can give what he has never received. He is alone, no-one comes close to him, even Albus and Minerva are kept at a distance, emotionally. Oh, his classes get the best exam grades in Europe, but you suspect he is not coaxing them into learning, or inspiring in them a love of potions for its own sake. Rather, he is bullying, threatening, terrifying them into learning. But who has ever shown him there is another way? And would he have let them?
Time passes, and every year, the Hat looks into those young heads on the first day of the year, and one of the things it now seeks is a friend for that young man, but as the years grow longer, it becomes harder to find even a nodding acquaintance. You know from what you hear on your perch that the man, no longer so young now, is maintaining his contacts amongst the followers of the Dark, and though all is quiet, you know it is the calm before the storm.
The first tidings of unease come in the year the July babies are sorted into Gryffindor. You had, somehow, expected it this year. What you had not anticipated was the Hat's smug announcement that it had found The One for Him at the Sorting. And despite all Albus' cajoling, threats and pleading, the Hat refuses to tell, saying only that the two were so far apart that any attempt to bring them together before it was their time would push them apart for ever. With which you and Albus have to be content.
But thereafter, you and your human keep watch. And you it is who first notices the Hat's almost imperceptible reaction - perhaps a twitch of the tip, or a flutter in the brim - when a certain name comes up in conversation in his presence. Not that he has anything good to say about her - oh, no, the trouble he was put to producing the PolyJuice Reversal potion for the know-it-all brat, illegally brewing potions she didn't understand, the difficulties of mashing the Mandrake roots to exactly the right consistency for the meddlesome twit (you know that other students have also been petrified, but you wonder if he notices).
You spot a subtle change the next year when, after the debacle at the Shrieking Shack, he debriefs Albus. In the midst of the anti-Potter-Weasley-Black-Lupin rant, painful to your ears, there is a sudden, quiet, "She attacked me, Albus. I couldn't... I didn't expect... Not that. Potter and Weasley, yes, but not..." Albus, in a rare moment of tact, moves the subject on, and soon he is ranting again.
With the trials of the following two years, there is little to see until you and Albus return to Hogwarts after the battle at the Ministry. You are not well, having taken the killing curse for Albus, and you are wrapped up in an old sock under your perch when he visits with a strengthening potion he has brewed for you. In that private moment, when he is gently feeding the foul-tasting potion to you from a pipette, you look him in the eye, sensing his despair.
"I failed them, Fawkes. All of them. They didn't trust me enough to come to me for help. Hell, they didn't even remember about me. Not even she remembered about me..." He puts down the bottle. "You need to take more of this later. I'll leave Albus with instructions. I have - other patients to brew for. She ... It's all I can do for her."
You really don't feel any better after this monologue.
The final battle comes, as predicted, two years later. On a fine June evening, the Dark Lord lures Potter to that most muggle of places, Privet Drive. The Order, your Order, watches, follows, and the battle which commences is short but fierce, invisible to muggles but bloody to wizards, but most of all, best of all, victory comes to your faithful servants of the Light. The man shows his true colours at the last, fighting against those he has betrayed all these years, knowing that either way, the lies end tonight. She stands with her best friends and is at Potter's side, keeping all others at bay while he finishes this evil wizard.
You are also there, swooping in and out, distracting Death Eaters, giving heart to the Order, giving the bird's eye view to Albus, who is directing the effort. And so you see the end of it all, the killing curse from Potter's wand straight to Voldemort's chest. You see the body fold to the ground and crumble to dust. You also see, perhaps not with your eye, but with your spirit, the evil spirit gather itself for one last spiteful blow, and you cannot stop it as it speeds like a dark arrow into the muggle contraption tearing round the corner, striking hate into the fat young muggle whose mind is receptive to idea of accelerating, always accelerating towards the three young Gryffindors holding onto each other in the centre of the road. You can but cry a warning, and the terror in your call alerts all to danger. She sees it first, and with the strength of a young lioness she leaps towards the pavement, pushing the two young men before her, screaming at them to move. Most of the Order are too shocked at this unexpected attack to react, but you, from your vantage point on high, see a black robed figure streak towards the trio, wand aloft, summoning the three to him, but his energy is low after the battle, and all he can do is use the momentum of their bodies to draw them closer. And the boys, being closer, move faster, but she is caught in the beam of light and everyone sees, as if in slow motion, the way her body twists through the air, the surprise on her face as she describes an arc above the speeding vehicle, and lands in a crumpled heap behind it.
You dive to the ground and reach the huddled mass at the same time as the black robed figure. You stand between them, your spread wings frustrating his efforts to pull her into his arms as you cry your healing tears over her shattered form. Only then do you allow him to cradle her in one arm as he takes hold of your tail feather and in a flash the three of you are in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts.
Four days later you are preening your feathers on Albus's windowsill when word at last comes from the Hospital Wing.
"Poppy? What news?" demands Albus.
"She'll live," says the mediwitch. "She woke up and went straight back to sleep. But it'll be a long road back for her now that she's stable."
"And what about..."
"He left as soon as her eyes opened. Four days and nights, he only left her side to brew more potions and salves for her. I think he willed her back to us."
Minerva moves to stand by Albus. "We must thank him somehow, Albus. For all that he has done."
The door opens and the man in question steps into the room, too exhausted to see what is in front of him. With the last ounce of his consciousness, he opens his mouth to speak but before a sound is uttered, he is falling face first to the carpet. Albus, chuckling, levitates him to the couch Minerva transfigures, and you have an oblivious, gently snoring companion in the office until sunset the next day.
Three weeks later you are discreetly helping Albus to beat his Potions Master at chess, half listening to their serious conversation when there is a gentle knock on the door of the office. Albus opens it with a wave of his hand, and there, leaning against the door post, is the girl. You do not think she has ever been a great beauty, and certainly her present injuries and exhaustion do her no favours.
"Headmaster," she says before either man can react to her presence. They leap to their feet, guiding her fragile frame to a large comfy armchair by the fire, alternately congratulating and rebuking her for being out of bed for the first time since that night. You notice that the Hat is now all ears; the younger man is drinking in her appearance like a man in the desert, has no idea what to do with his hands and is completely tongued-tied. Albus rescues him by asking the girl to what they owe the great pleasure of her company. My, he can charm the birds from the mountain tops when he wants!
"Poppy tells me that I can't start my apprenticeship at St Mungo's in September. In fact, she says that they've already given my place to someone else. Professor, I must do my apprenticeship, all I want is to be a Healer. I don't know why they've done this, I'll be better by September, it's weeks away yet, and if I'm not quite better, I could borrow a time-turner until I am! Please can you speak to them and get them to reconsider?"
You see the look traded between the two men, and recall the earlier conversation. Albus takes one of her hands in one of his.
"My dear child, of course you want to be a Healer, it is one of the most noble callings there is. But we must be honest with you, your injuries are such that it is out of the question for you to go this year. There is no denying your determination, but you would simply not have the physical stamina for such a demanding course of study at present. Would you truly wish to start on the course knowing that, through no fault of yours, you would struggle to come up to your own standards? Far better that you wait until you know whether you will be able to manage it." You and she both catch the unspoken 'if ever' in that last statement. She looks at Albus in horror, and you realise that no-one has prepared her for the likely permanence of her physical limitations. The compassion in the younger man's eyes turns to pride as she draws herself up and speaks with scarcely a hitch in her voice, although you know that she must be so close to tears.
"Alright, so I can't go this year. But I shall go, when I'm ready, and until then, I'll just have to find something to do. I shan't trouble you further sir, I'm sure I can manage."
"There are always alternatives," the black robed man says, and you hear the fear of rejection in his voice. "If you are determined upon this course of action, I find myself devoid of extra-curricular activity since the abrupt termination of my spying career, and am intending to start some long outstanding research projects. I would be able to acquire the potions syllabus for your course, and you could, at your own pace, be guided through this. If you would help me in my research, you would in all likelihood achieve more for wizardkind in the next year than you would as an apprentice Healer. Furthermore, as a Healer you would have little time for research; if you are determined to spend the next century or so healing others, why not turn this to your advantage now, for I think you would have a flair for research. Moreover, I am sure Poppy would be grateful for your potions making skills, and I believe that a position as potions assistant would carry a reasonable grant, as well as food and board at Hogwarts, am I not right, Albus?"
"Of course, my boy, of course", murmurs the old man, "and now, young lady, that you have had such a unique, once-in-a-lifetime offer, perhaps you would care to be escorted back to the Hospital Wing to continue your much debated recovery? Plenty of time to make a decision, no need rush anything."
And you watch as the young lady struggles to her feet, and you see that the younger man decides to interpret 'escort her to the Hospital Wing' as 'pick her up and carry her through the floo' and you also see that she looks at him as if seeing him for the first time.
As the months pass, you find that Albus takes particular pleasure in using your services as a post owl, especially when the recipient is one of the clever young people ensconced in the state of the art research laboratory at the top of the West Tower. Thus it is that you see them working quietly side by side, or arguing, not always respectfully, over this or that theory, bolstering the other's confidence when a pet hypothesis fails, or quietly taking tea and biscuits by the fire when he perceives her energies are flagging.
And one day, over the now ritual tea break, you have just silently appeared when you sense him plucking up all his courage, steeling himself for rejection as he asks her if she has any plans for the following Saturday evening? For, he says, he expects that as she is of muggle heritage, she will not know much of wizarding culture, and it so happens that he has a reservation for two at the greatest wizarding restaurant in the world and if she would like to take a friend out, he would be delighted to make the arrangements. And she replies that she would be charmed to take a friend to dinner, if he will do her the honour of being that friend, and she would be much obliged if he would make the arrangements.
You disappear as silently as you came, and the message you carried to invite them both to next Saturday's Valentine Ball is never delivered. But Albus understands.
Within the year, you preside over their nuptials from your perch in Albus's office. It's a quiet ceremony, just close friends and family, and for all you have watched him conduct many, many marriages, you have never seen one where the bride limps towards her intended with such courage and determination, or where the groom enfolds his love in his arms as soon as she reaches him, making visible his vow to support her in every way until the end of his days.
And you are, quite accidentally, the first to hear the news she imparts to her husband nearly two years later. The first, because although she only says it once, you take in the information long, long before he is able to. Indeed, it is many minutes before he comes out of the trancelike, slackjawed state that her simple statement has cast him into.
"But - but - how? I mean - why? How? I can't believe ... Really? A baby? I'm going to be a father?"
"You, my love, are going to be a daddy. In about seven months. And I know that you are going to be a better daddy than yours ever was, and that you will love your child as you love me, and I will not have you worry about all the things that went wrong in your childhood because they will not happen to us and our child. Or children." And you realise you have intruded unwittingly on a most private moment, and you leave as you see the tears of joy start to her eyes as he clasps her to him and sobs into her shoulder.
As the years pass, you notice there is no more talk of Healer apprenticeships. He had been right, she contributes far more as a researcher than she could have in any other way, and they see this as the reason it never happened, and never associate it with her poor health. Notwithstanding, their family grows, happy, healthy and boisterous, and one day, you stumble across them in a conversation which, although the same in content, has changed somewhat in presentation over the years:
"Pregnant, my love."
"I thought we'd stopped all that!"
"Well, we'd only be able to guarantee stopping all that if we stopped all this," she says, moving closer to play with the buttons on his robes.
"Seriously, my love, after the toll it took on you last time, I didn't want to put you through that again. What went wrong?"
She mumbles in response. He gathers her into his arms and she takes from him the courage to repeat herself. "Nothing went wrong. I know we agreed, but after four sons, well, I know how much you've always hoped for your own little girl. So I just, well, let it happen. It's too late for you to mind now, so you might as well look forward to it."
He sighs. "Very well. But this is absolutely the last one. I am not having my brilliant research partner flat on her back again for another nine months!"
"It was being flat on my back that got me in this state," she mutters, and he chuckles.
"Was it?" he whispers in her ear. "Or was it being by the dungeon door? Or possibly the main desk in the lab? Or ..." And at this point you decide you really do not need to know, and you leave them to reflect upon their previous conduct in privacy.
You never do find out if he gets his own little girl, because, quite suddenly, Albus, your dear human companion of so many years, passes beyond the veil. In your mourning, you return to your mountain top in the far distant mountains to the east, and you lose all contact with humans, knowing that you will not return to their company until you are once again called at a time of need. Sometimes you wonder, though, if the next human you will ally yourself to will be descended from that too tall, neglected child and his love. But you do know that though they miss you, they don't need you, they have found all they need in each other.