Fawkes the phoenix is an integral character in the Harry Potter novels, in addition to being the pet of Dumbledore. At the close of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore dies, and Fawkes appears to leave Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as well. Many readers have speculated on whether or not the phoenix will return, and what bearing it will have on the final book in the Harry Potter series.
In the Harry Potter novels, phoenixes are particularly powerful magical animals about the size of swans with fiery plumage. J.K. Rowling retained the traditional mythology about the phoenix, that it burns to death when its body begins to fail and then rises anew from the ashes. However, she added a few qualities of her own. According to Rowling, phoenixes are intensely loyal creatures, and their tears possess healing qualities. Phoenixes can also provide strength through their singing, appear and disappear at will in a burst of flame, and can protect their owners by taking magical blows intended for them.
Fawkes's name is a clever play on British history; Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the British Parliament on 5 November 1605, along with other Catholic extremists. The plot was foiled, but is commemorated in Britain every year with Bonfire or Burning night, a celebration that involves setting off noisy explosions and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes. One might say that the phoenix's rather incendiary name hints both at his fiery nature and the role he may play in the seventh and final book. It is also a nod to Dumbledore's revolutionary spirit, and the frequent ruckus he raises at the Ministry of Magic.
Fawkes and Harry Potter have a unique relationship. At one point in his life, he apparently gave two feathers to Mr. Ollivander, the finest maker of wands in Britain. Two wands were made with the feathers; one was sold to Tom Riddle, who later became Lord Voldemort, and the other was sold to Harry Potter. When these wands meet for the first time in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the effects are very interesting.
The two also seem to share connections. Harry is in Griffindor House: the colors of Griffindor are red and gold, like the phoenix's plumage. When Harry is in trouble in the Chamber of Secrets in the second book, Fawkes appears to save him and brings reinforcements: the Sorting Hat and a sword which belonged to Godric Griffindor, founder of Griffindor House. He also heals Harry with his tears, and carries him out of the Chamber of Secrets along with Ron and Ginny Weasley. Dumbledore remarks that Harry must have shown him particular loyalty for Fawkes to appear.
The phoenix appears as an important character in all of the books: when Harry is in need, he often turns up to help. He also carries messages and warnings for members of the Order of the Phoenix, which is named after him. In the fourth book, Harry hears strengthening music which sounds like the song of a phoenix, and in the sixth book, Fawkes sings a lament for Dumbledore which resonates through the Hogwarts campus.
Because Fawkes represents an animal which dies and is reborn over and over again, it seems likely that he will return for the last battle between good and evil in the seventh book. If he failed to reappear, it could be ominous for Harry Potter, who has lost the support of two trusted friends and advisors: Sirius Black and Dumbledore. He represents rebirth and renewal, and he is also associated with Dumbledore, whom Harry asserts will never be truly gone from the school. It is probable that he still has an important role to play.