Apparently giving up writing for a newspaper freed my muse, because I have too many ideas for stories to keep track of them. I keep starting and stopping because I have an idea for something else. This is the only thing completed so far. Please read, comment, note errors, Britpick, whatever. Once I think it's ready, it will go up at AO3.
Being both freezing cold and burning hot at the same time is an intense experience. It’s also painful. Unbelievably agonizing. The heat is the venom dissolving my veins. The cold at my back comes seeping up from the filthy floor beneath me. The heat is the blood pouring out of me, soaking into my robes. The cold is death coming to take me away.
I have given the memories to that miserable green-eyed boy. More than I probably should have, but nothing matters any more. I can feel my heart trying to contract around air as I bleed to death. Darkness overcomes even the burning of both hot and cold.
Then I hear a noise.
I can’t convince my eyes to open but there seems to be a weight on my chest and a strange ringing in my ears. Which is ridiculous. I’m dead. I shouldn’t be feeling or hearing anything. I was hoping for oblivion and I get wet.
Not my blood. Something even warmer, slicker, dripping onto my face and throat.
Into my throat.
I flap a hand uselessly, trying to chase away that bloody bird as I realize what is happening.
There is a trilling sound, like a laugh, and the Phoenix tears keep falling on me. I can actually feel the flesh of my torn throat knitting closed. It is a more disconcerting sensation than having it ripped open. That was quick and painful. This is slow and feels. . .very odd. And it itches.
I open my eyes and find myself staring, at very close quarters, at that annoying bird of Dumbledore’s. Fawkes trills again, sounding very pleased with himself for having ruined my death. I try to push him away but all he does is lean forward and bite me on my nose.
There are limits and I have reached them.
I sit up, flailing my arms, trying to chase that miserable, aggravating feathered version of Albus Dumbledore away.
I am not entirely successful. I lean back against the wall, gasping as my hands examine the once gaping wound at my throat. The bleeding had stopped and I encounter skin. Hot, as if I were burning with fever, and itching, as if a thousand tiny ants had paused to nibble there. Even as I run my fingers across the scars, I feel them fade and the pain subsides.
Fawkes bounces forward, flapping his wings, and pecking at me. I swat him away several times until he manages to pull a vial out of my pocket. A vial of blood replenishing potion. Apparently Phoenix tears can only go so far. Since I am dizzy and queasy from the dizziness, I swallow the contents of the vial.
As usual, my potions work exceeding well. I feel better in a heartbeat.
Fawkes is now tugging at another pocket. General healing and replenishing potions. Right. Drink a couple of those and add a pain potion because even though my throat is healed, the back of my head hurts from where I hit it as I fell, plus my back did not enjoy lying on the cold floor.
I stagger to my feet and stare at the floor. Based on the amount of blood pooled there, soaking into the dry wood, I must have lost every drop in me. And then there is what is soaked into my robes, making them stiff and sticky. I take a second blood replenishing potion without even thinking just because I know I must need it.
The number five floats into my foggy mind. The average human male has five liters of blood. From the looks of it, about four and a half must have leaked out.
Fawkes trills again, cocking his head to one side. If birds could smile, that obnoxious pile of feathers would be smiling. Showing all his teeth, too.
My wand is lying in the blood. I summon it to my hand, rather surprised when it responds immediately. Then I look at my hands. I am an average male but I swear, it looks as ten liters of blood poured on the floor, down my robes and over my hands.
Now what? I look around, trying to decide what the fuck I am going to do. I was supposed to die. I was sure of it. Albus was sure of it. We all had to die — although I imagine that miserable boy will somehow survive in the end — for the Dark Lord to die. I made out my will, left it with my solicitor, paid all my bills and have made sure, every single morning for months, that if I died before nightfall, there would be no problems. I hadn't specified a service, though. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hold one for me. I’d be lucky if I wasn’t burned at the stake posthumously.
Which was apparently just the wrong thing to think. Fawkes suddenly leapt up into the air, flapped his wings a few times, and burst into flame.
I hadn’t survived near exsanguination to burn to death. Bleeding to death wasn’t painless but it was damned sight less painful that burning to death would be. I staggered, clutching at the wall, and managed to find my way to the door. I walked a few steps out into the field around the Shrieking Shack, then dropped to my knees, unable to stand or move any farther.
I could feel the heat at my back and smell the acrid smoke. I should have tried to get up and run away but all I managed was to fall facedown on the grass. After a few seconds, I rolled over, staring up at the sky.
The sky was grey, mostly overcast, but the underside of the clouds were lit with flashes of curse light and, closer to me, flames.
My left arm suddenly sent a surge of pain through me, as bad as the pain of my throat being ripped out. I clutched it, crying out, and rolled over.
I think I lost consciousness for a few minutes. Or maybe more. At any rate, when I opened my eyes, the sun was breaking through the clouds and the shack was a pile of embers.
I sat up. Considering what had occurred in the last few hours — hell, the last decade — I actually felt well. Even my usual chronic heartburn was gone.
I stood up, surprised at how easy it was. Really, I did feel physically excellent, perhaps better than I ever had before. Mentally, however. . .
Something moved in the smoldering ashes. I stared at it, blinking stupidly. Really, my body might have recovered but mind was definitely not up to snuff.
It was Fawkes.
He trilled at me and I moved forward without thinking. My robes were stiff and, quite frankly, distinctly whiffy, but there was nothing I could do about that now. Fortunately, Fawkes was near the edge of the ashes and relatively easy to reach. I bent down and picked him up.
What the hell?
For anyone who doesn’t know, the Phoenix is reborn in fire and is fire colored. All red and gold. A born Gryffindor. The bird I was holding in my hands was not.
He cheeped and nibbled at my thumb. He felt warm and soft in my hands.
“What did you do, you ridiculous beast?” I was surprised to hear my own voice and even more surprised that is sounded perfectly normal.
Leaning down, I tried to make out what exactly had happened to Fawkes when he bit me on the nose again. I would have dropped him but at the same instant his beak met mine, the world spun around and I was no longer standing outside the ruins of the Shrieking Shack.
The room I was in must have been on the top floor of a building. The roof was so steeply pitched, I could only stand upright for a few feet in the center. There was a window at one end, above a staircase, and a door at the other end of the long, narrow space. A bed that looked a bit like a prison cot was tucked under the roof. On the opposite side of the bed, a battered trunk stood. My trunk. My old school trunk, no less.
I set Fawkes down on the bed, then sat down myself.
What the fuck?
I took a couple of deep breaths and suddenly realized I what I was smelling, aside from myself and the sort of musty attic smell I expected. Goats.
A white-haired head was coming up the stairs. I wasn’t at all surprised to see Aberforth Dumbledore. He didn’t seem surprised to see me, either.
“They say the Potter boy killed Tom Riddle,” said Aberforth in a conversational tone, as if we were discussing the weather. “Died, Potter did, then came back to life. Too late for Riddle, though. He’s dead as a doornail.”
“Good,” I said, for lack of anything else.
“I imagine you have a few questions.”
I shook my head. “No. I should have known your brother would manage to fuck up my death from beyond the grave.”
“Well,” said Aberforth, “He was an interfering git, he was.”
We stared at each other for a moment. Then Aberforth pointed to the door opposite the stairs. “You can wash in there. Should be clothes in the trunk.”
Aberforth shrugged. “No idea. Is that Fawkes? Why is he that color?”
I looked at the Phoenix chick, which had tucked its head under its wing. Bloody thing was already twice the size it had been when I pulled it out of the ashes.
“I thought it was the ashes at first,” I replied. “But it’s not. He’s black. And silver.”
“Bloody hell.” said Aberforth.
I apparently was now the happy owner of not only the world’s only Phoenix but the only black and silver Phoenix in history. I wished I could kill Albus all over again.
“You should wash up.” Aberforth sniffed pointedly. I must really stink if he was complaining. He waved his hand and a tray with tea and sandwiches appeared on top of the trunk. “Best see to my customers,” he said, turning and walking away. Albus had definitely got all the demonstrative behavior in that family.
I decided to start with a bath. The door lead to a decent-sized bathroom, too big to fit in the space it occupied. There was a long, deep, claw-foot tub which filled when I waved my wand at it. I stripped, dropping my clothes on the floor. They really were disgusting. Once I sank into the hot water, I burned my garments with a swish and flick, then sat back in the bath.
Between the blood and the ashes, the water was quickly filthy so I replaced it, then just lay back to think.
Actually, I began to appreciate what a clever fellow Albus Dumbledore was. Not only had he saved my miserable life, he had covered up the fact that I wasn’t dead. The Shrieking Shack was a pile of burnt wood and ashes. If someone ever came back for my corpse, they would assume it was burnt to ash as well. So I could go away and no one would ever know. Besides Aberforth, and it wasn’t as if he were going to tell anyone.
I planned a long soak but, truth was, I was hungry and rested so I got out of the bath and used the surprisingly nice towels to dry off. I wrapped one around my waist, although I don’t know why I was being that modest. It’s not as if Fawkes cared. If he had ever seen Dumbledore starkers, he shouldn’t be offended by my skinny arse.
I sat on the bed, levitating the tea over, warming the pot and pouring a mug. The sandwiches were a bit dry and I was never that fond of cheese and ham but I needed sustenance. When I finished eating, I raised the lid of the trunk to see what Albus’ plans were for me.
On top were muggle clothes. Black wool trousers, a white linen shirt, gray wool waistcoat and black suit coat, as well as the necessary smalls, socks and shoes. I lifted them out and set them aside. I had put the tea tray on the floor so I piled the clothes on the bed. Fawkes, who looked about half grown now, snorted and twitched in his sleep but otherwise ignored me.
I knelt to look into the trunk and what I saw there made me laugh.
Bloody sodding brilliant Albus Dumbledore.
On top was a copy of my muggle birth certificate. Under that, my NHS card and my driver’s license. The driver’s license was what made me laugh. I had had one, briefly, in my late teens, but not since. This one was current, apparently issued a few months before. Then there was a lease for a flat that was completely paid up for one year. There was a BRP, a current passport — the photo was actually almost flattering, for me, copies of my certificates of education. I was apparently an excellent student and was qualified to teach advanced maths, Latin and Greek. I was also a member of some organization of experts on runes. Then there was a checkbook and savings book. I had enough to live on comfortably for a year at least, more, if I kept to my usual frugal habits.
It also appeared I was current on all my taxes, owned a small automobile, fully insured, and belonged to a darts club in Hull.
Under that was a suitcase, modern, with handle and wheels. It contained much more than it should have, several change of clothes, with undergarments, shoes, top coat, scarf, ties, even a black umbrella.
All I could do was sit on the floor and laugh. I was crying, too. Fortunately, there were a dozen handkerchiefs in the suitcase. I made such a spectacle that Fawkes woke up and squawked at me.
What else could I do? I got dressed, tucking my identification into a very nice calfskin wallet. The other papers I wouldn’t need to carry with me went into the suitcase. I shut it and stood up, handle in one hand. Albus was lucky. I knew how to survive in the muggle world and actually had real documents to prove it.
Fawkes, who appeared to have reached his full growth while I was sorting through my future, really was silver and black. Frankly, I thought it a much more handsome color scheme than previously. He flapped his wings and I held out my arm so he could land on it.
We stared at each other. Then I said, “I’m ready,” and he bit me on the nose again, taking me to whatever the future held.
December 18, 2017