1 - An Unexpected Saviour
The view from Gryffindor Tower was as picturesque as any in Hogwarts castle. On this sunny Sunday afternoon in late April, the grounds sparkled, a green carpet stretching between the Quidditch pitch and the Whomping Willow. Tiny dots scattered across the grass, students enjoying the rare day of pleasant weather as they mercifully forgot the piles of homework awaiting them back in their common rooms.
One such girl could not forget, however.
Rose Weasley sat hunched over at a gnarled desk in the corner of the tower, back turned to the tempting scene outside. Her quill scratched relentlessly at the parchment spread before her, adding length inch by inch to the frustrating Potions essay. Despite it not being due until Wednesday afternoon, Rose simply couldn't relax with her friends with it looming in the back of her mind.
'Just two more paragraphs.' This was to herself - not a single Gryffindor remained indoors and the common room was entirely empty.
At this moment, disembodied footsteps sounded almost inaudibly across the carpeted floor. If the red-haired girl had not been so engrossed in her work she might have noticed, but as it was she remained ignorant.
If she had not been writing with her nose quite so close to the parchment, she may have seen a tiny brown dot appear to float in the air mere feet away from her desk. She may have correctly deduced that this was the very tip of a dark-wooded wand. She might even have prevented its owner (concealed under a well-known invisibility cloak) from casting his carefully considered spell.
As it was, Rose Weasley noticed none of this.
She assumed that it was simply a gust of wind which snatched her mostly-complete essay from beneath her hands and into the air, and not a deft levitation charm. As one might in the situation, she leaned out to catch it, but found it rather out of reach as she wobbled precariously on her chair.
As the stood up to chase it, the hidden wizard flicked his wand to float the parchment swiftly towards the conveniently open window. Seeing her essay rise out of her limited reach, Rose pulled out her wand to Summon it.
'Accio parchment!' Unbeknownst to her, this charm - however useful in normal circumstances - would not serve to counteract the levitation which already kept a hold of her writing. With a gasp from the redhead, the essay tumbled out into the sunshine and tumbled over the students lazing on the grass below.
'Merlin's starry hat!' Her wand having failed her, Rose took no time in racing out of the portrait hole in pursuit of the parchment, leaving the cloaked figure to chuckle in amusement.
Outside, a gangly teenager whisked out his wand and captured the flailing piece of homework with his own levitation charm, guiding it further and further away from the castle. Glancing down at a small mirror in his hand, he grinned at his reflection as it morphed into the face of a smirking boy with impossibly messy, black hair.
'Got it, James,' the boy grinned back.
'Nice job, Fred.' Fred stowed the mirror in the pocket of his jeans and turned towards the entrance to the Great Hall to see a frantic girl rushing out across the grass, her startlingly red hair flying everywhere as she wove her way between the groups of students. The girl glanced in his direction, and he held his wand casually behind his back while still maintaining the levitation charm.'Time to get this show on the road,' Fred whispered, and the parchment sped towards the Forbidden Forest, the girl following behind on the ground.
Rose stomped though the Forest, slightly torn parchment in hand, a murderous look on her face.'James Sirius Potter, I'm going to kill you if you had anything to do with this,' she muttered, snarling under her breath. The sky was already beginning to darken as she followed her wand, which was spinning like a compass in her palm, towards the castle. Hoofbeats sounded from behind her, and Rose tried to calm her heavy breathing.'It's okay,' she whispered shakily. 'The castle can't be far.' She definitely didn't want to meet up with a pack of centaurs in the middle of the Forbidden Forest. Rose knew they could be prickly at the best of times, but if they found a witch wandering through their territory things were not going to end well.
What with her nerves so on end at the thought of encountering any of the creatures that inhabited the Forest, Rose was embarrassed to admit that she came frighteningly close to letting loose a blood-curdling scream at the blaze of fire which materialised in front of her. Her eyes were filled with a flash of orange and yellow even after the light dissipated, and she blinked to clear her vision.Before her, only a couple of feet tall and even more insignificant in the Forest than Rose herself, stood a phoenix.Its feathers were perfectly groomed, lying flush against the bird's body and curling out artistically at the ends, and its tail plumage was a wonder to be seen. The phoenix's eyes were a shiny black, and Rose was reminded of onyx as the magical creature surveyed her intelligently.'P-please don't hurt me,' Rose said, shivering. It did not cross her mind at this point that the worst this phoenix could do to her, aside from pecking her eyes out with its (rather curved though not exceedingly sharp) beak, would be to spontaneously combust and hope Rose became caught in the ensuing flames.The phoenix seemed to humour her, however, and somehow managed to bow its head in a reassuring manner. With this, Rose was able to calm herself and resume a state of mind that Hermione Granger-Weasley would be proud of. Upon logically thinking through her predicament, she realised that the mysterious phoenix might well be her metaphorical ticket out of here, if she could somehow manage to reason with a class XXXXX magical creature.'I don't suppose you would be able to assist me in getting back to the castle?' Rose pointedly maintained eye contact with the bird, carefully keeping her body language non-threatening and unaggressive.After a long moment in which the air pressed down upon Rose as if it were laden with lead, the phoenix stepped forward and proffered a scaly leg to her. Rose took a secure hold of it without a moment's hesitation - if she gave the bird any reason to think she was a threat, she feared it would simply take off into the air and leave her stranded once again. Upon further reflection, Rose recalled one of her uncle's stories in which he met Dumbledore's phoenix in one of his adventures, and this situation seemed familiar somehow ...For the second time that day, Rose very nearly screamed to high hell as she was lifted off of the ground and through the twig-filled canopy (she received rather more scratches than one might expect under the circumstances). Clinging tightly to the phoenix's foot, Rose screwed her eyes shut to avoid glaring down at the ground, which was already far too far away.Rose never had liked flying, even on a broom.On being returned to solid ground, Rose gave a what she hoped was inaudible sigh and pried her fingers from the phoenix's claws. They were on the edge of the lake, and it would be quite a long walk back to the castle, but she definitely wasn't about to complain.'Thank you,' she nodded to the bird, surprised to find herself slightly breathless from her flying experience. Another thought flickered across her swirling mind. 'Do - do you have a name?' Almost instantly, Rose felt like slamming her palm to her forehead. How was the phoenix supposed to answer her?However, a scaly claw began to scratch a groove in the loose dirt under their feet. Rose watched, unblinking, as letters were formed before her eyes.Fawkes.'Thank you, Fawkes - ' she turned back to look at the phoenix, but it - he - had already taken off into the evening sky. Rose smiled, a small twitch of her lips.'I'll say hi to Professor Dumbledore's portrait for you.'