NOTE: All characters and places belong to J.K. Rowling. I wish I had thought it up first. But then again don’t we all? I decided to just post as I finish the chapters cuz I’m really impatient, but please review and I’m going to try and answer all reviews so if you have a question or comment please post.
"PRESENTS!" Ron yelled and ran back to the parlor. Everyone had just finished their cake and followed him at a much slower pace, their stomachs not as used to being stuffed full as his was. Once they had all settled Harry began opening his gifts, feeling awkward that everyone was watching him. He supposed most people were used to this sort of positive attention, but it was definitely something he was still uncomfortable with… the last thing he wanted was to be the center of attention. Pushing those insecurities down deep, he kept a joyous air about him for the benefit of the those who’d gone through the trouble of giving him this party. Besides, after opening a few gifts and getting used to the upbeat atmosphere, part of him actually liked that people were paying attention to him without yelling or throwing things.
From Ron, he got a muggle toy called "Magic 8 Ball," with a card that read, To remember old Trelawney and the fact that we never have to take her class again. The boys shared a grin as Harry reached for the next gift, which happened to be from Tonks. She gave him a new broom servicing kit and flying goggles that she’d had fitted with lenses containing his exact prescription. He thanked her profusely as Ginny excitedly handed her gift over next- an indoor quidditch set that everyone wanted to try right away, Harry included. But Mrs. Weasley quickly called for order, insisting they not be rude by ignoring the rest of the presents.
Eager to play the new game, Harry quickly opened the rest of the wrapped packages in front of him. Fred and George gave him a sample pack of all their new merchandise along with a gift certificate for their store, The Weasley Bros. Laugh Emporium. While he found it amusing, he decided the twins’ gift was something he should look through later, based on the face Molly was making. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley gave him a new wristwatch, which Harry believed to be far out of their price range. Though he sincerely thanked them, he made a mental note to try and find a polite way to give it back for something less costly later.
Lupin’s present was strange. It was a blank piece of parchment and a note saying that he would explain about the parchment later. His friend winked at him in a conspiratorial manner before turning to continue a conversation he was having off in the corner with Tonks. Harry shrugged and put the gift in the pile with the rest of his new things before reaching for the next present. It was from Hermione and surprisingly she didn’t give him a book. Instead it was a small box that said, "Open me later when there aren’t many people around." He looked at her quizzically and she just smiled.
It took a lot longer than he’d imagined, but when he finally made it through all the presents, Mrs. Weasley announced dinner for those that were staying, once more delaying the game. Most everyone left, except the Weasleys, Hermione, Luna, Neville, Lupin and Tonks. Mad-eye grumbled something about annoying duties and apparated with a loud crack. Everyone talked throughout dinner, their hearts as light as their moods and Harry reflected that he finally felt at home, for the first time in a long time. More than that, he felt accepted, even loved. They talked and laughed for a long time, the teens all forgetting their desire to play the new quidditch game as they were distracted by such a happy gathering.
Finally the clock struck half past nine and it was time for Luna and Neville to take their leave through the floo network. They each wished him a happy birthday one last time before stepping into the fireplace and disappearing to their individual destinations. Harry was exhausted, but gave no argument when Hermione and the Weasley kids wanted to talk privately in his and Ron’s room. They all headed upstairs in a noisy ruckus, everyone still in a carefree party mood; once they situated themselves comfortably around the room it seemed everyone was talking at once, each trying to catch Harry up on what he had missed while stuck away at the Dursleys. With a headache threatening to break loose, he made them go one at a time.
"It’s Fred and George, Harry!" Ron said grinning madly at his brothers. "Their shop is doing so well, and they’re giving a lot of money to the folks! We’re not poor anymore, thanks to them."
"Aww, you embarrass us little brother." Fred said with mock modestly.
"Really, it was nothing." George piped in.
"Dad getting a new job helps too, you know." Ginny put in, attempting to keep her brothers’ heads from swelling any further.
"The store and a new job, so that explains the wristwatch! I was going to have your mum return it for something else." He stared down at the gift sitting comfortably on his wrist and wondered what Arthur’s new position was.
"Not a problem anymore." Ron couldn’t keep the goofy grin off his face as he looked through all of Harry’s new things. He suddenly became distracted by something he found. "Hey! You should open this box Hermione gave you now." He held the small, white box out to him.
Harry glanced at Hermione who was sitting next to him and she nodded her agreement. He took it from Ron’s hands and shook it gently, his curiosity peaked at the unusual sound buzzing inside. As soon as he opened it, something small and glittery zoomed up and out. On instinct alone he reached out and caught it mid flight, though it took a second to realize what was struggling in his hand. "Where did you get this?" He asked her.
"I took it from the practice box at the end of last year. I figured you’d like a real one to practice with, and you told us your dad had one." She looked down shyly at she admitted she had stolen the snitch.
"Well done, Hermione!" George said proudly.
"A girl after our own hearts." Fred complimented her, looking positively gleeful that she was starting to come around to their way of doing things.
"It was a one time thing. Something special for Harry for his birthday." Hermione assured the twins in a scolding tone before peeking at Harry out of the corner of her eye. "Do you like it?" She asked him nervously.
"Of course! This is so much better than a book or homework planner!" He said, throwing an arm around her shoulders and pulling her in for a hug.
Everyone laughed as someone knocked, interrupting the fun. Mrs. Weasley opened the door and walked right in. "Here you all are!" She exclaimed as Harry quickly hid the snitch behind his back. "Harry dear, Albus is downstairs and would like to see you, as well as Ron and Hermione."
"We’ll be right down." He promised. She closed the door and everyone looked at each other.
"Maybe he has our OWLs!" Hermione jumped up and ran from the room. With that thought, Ron and Harry followed much slower each trying not to be the first downstairs. When they reentered the parlor, Dumbledore was sitting by the fire and Hermione was practically dancing around him in anticipation.
"Ah, Harry. So that Miss Granger doesn’t strain herself, I will say that, yes, I do have your OWL results with me, but first there is something important I must discuss with all of you. Remus! Thank you for joining us as well." Everyone turned to see Lupin in the doorway. Dumbledore waited patiently while they all settled into the ugly furniture. Lupin slumped into the armchair near the door, but Harry chose the couch closest to his headmaster as Ron and Hermione took a seat on either side of him. All three teens were anxious to find out what the big news was, certain Dumbledore wouldn’t bring them word of anything bad on Harry’s birthday. They soon found out how wrong they were.
"Now, Harry, what I have to say may upset you but it must be said." The old wizard began carefully. "Tomorrow you, Remus, Hermione and Ron will be accompanying me to the Ministry of Magic for the reading of Sirius’s will. Apparently, he left us all something and we all must be present."
"He left Ron and me something?" Hermione asked, shocked not only by Sirius’s generosity but by the subject they were discussing. Harry felt her take his hand in silent support and he was grateful, unsure of his own feelings on the topic.
Dumbledore brought his fingers together and regarded his audience over the top of his small spectacles. "You should know that after he returned here to Black Manor to hide out, Sirius contacted me about changing his will. He now had a godson he cared for a great deal, and two young people who he cared for almost as much as Harry, in addition to a best friend." He paused to nod at Lupin who was sitting quietly with tears on his face. "I made the changes he indicated and now, with his passing, we must hear his final words."
Harry was having a hard time dealing with his emotions at the moment. Sadness mingled with guilt and anger, leaving his stomach churning and his eyes stinging with the unshed tears he’d built up in his anguish. Ron reached over to place a hand on his shoulder as Hermione squeezed his hand tighter, each knowing how tormented he must be feeling- he was thankful for them both. He met Dumbledore’s empathetic gaze. "What time are we leaving?" He asked quietly.
"Around ten o’clock. The meeting is set for eleven and I’m afraid you three aren’t yet old enough to apparate so we must take the muggle way." The headmaster answered quietly.
"I think I’d better go to bed then, I wasn’t able to sleep last night and today was a lot to take in." He said his goodnights, thanking everyone for everything they’d done in throwing him his very first birthday party. Then he quickly went to his room and closed the door. After changing into a T-shirt and sleep pants, he collapsed on the bed feeling both wide-awake and extremely exhausted. Minutes later, he heard a knock on the door and realized he had been waiting for it. "Come in." He called with sigh.
Hermione stuck her head in. "Are you okay, Harry?"
Ron’s head appeared above hers. "Can we come in?" He asked quietly. Harry nodded and they both tumbled into the room. Ron took a seat on the edge of his own bed, but Hermione gently settled herself next to Harry.
"What are you thinking?" she asked him quietly.
"That I wasn’t expecting that." he answered. "I know I probably should have with him being... being... gone, but I wasn’t prepared."
"Neither were we, mate." Ron took a bite out of a chocolate frog and shook his head at the floor.
"What can we do for you, Harry?" Hermione looked upset and eager to do anything to make him feel better.
He shook his head helplessly. "I just want to stop thinking about this and I don’t want to talk about it either."
"Well, Dumbledore gave us our OWLs. We haven’t opened them yet, we wanted to wait for you. Maybe that will help." Hermione held up three envelopes.
"Anything to see your grade, eh Hermione?" Ron teased.
"Oh shut up, Ronald. Here." Harry reached to take his and Hermione jumped back in horror. "Harry! What happened to you?!"
Ron grabbed Harry’s arm before he could hide it under the covers. He had forgotten that he hadn’t put on his sweatshirt to hide the marks. "Was it the muggles?" his friend demanded.
"It’s nothing." Harry was flushed with embarrassment and hoping they’d just let it drop.
But Hermione appeared livid. "You have to tell Dumbledore. I can’t believe it. And after the order talked to them-"
"Let it alone, Hermione." Harry pleaded, cutting her off. "It’s over. I’m here now and next year, I’ll be of age and able to use magic to defend myself."
Hermione looked angry and unsure, but finally she dropped her eyes and silently handed him his envelope. Ron took his too, though he was still positively fuming. They read though them, Hermione getting more and more excited. "You first Harry!" She said eagerly.
"Why don’t you go first?" He responded, sharing a smile with Ron.
"Well if you insist." And with that she spread the paper out on the bed so they both could read it.
Miss Hermione Granger,
We are pleased to report that you have received the highest marks in your grade. Below are your individual scores. Congratulations and keep up the good work.
Arithmancy - O
Ancient Runes - O
Astronomy - O*
Care of Magical Creatures - O
Charms - O
Defense Against the Dark Arts - O
Herbology - O
History of Magic - O
Potions - O
Transfiguiration - O
*Due to unforeseen circumstances, your Astronomy grade is based solely on what you had completed.
"Wow, Hermione! You got all O’s!" Harry was stunned, he knew she’d do well, but all O’s?!
"What did you get Harry? You go next." He spread his paper on top of Hermione’s letting the others take a look.
Mr. Harry Potter,
Below are your individual scores. On behalf on the entire board, I would like to congratulate you on receiving the highest grade in Defense Against the Dark Arts in over 50 years. Keep up the good work.
Astronomy - O*
Care of Magical Creatures - O
Charms - O
Defense Against the Dark Arts - O+
Divination - A
Herbology - E
History of Magic - E
Potions - O
Transfiguiration - O
"Wow, those are good marks, Harry!" Ron marveled.
"How did you get an O+?" Hermione demanded. The boys looked amused.
"I showed my patronous for an extra point. The tester offered it, I didn’t ask for it." He said, hoping to appease her jealousy.
"I could’ve shown my patronous too." Hermione said sourly under her breath. Then she shook her head and returned to normal. "Anyway, your turn Ron."
Ron grumbled to himself as he leaned forward and put his paper on top of the other two. He obviously wasn’t as pleased with his grades.
Mr. Ronald Weasley,
Below are your individual scores. Good luck in the next two years.
Astronomy - A*
Care of Magical Creatures - O
Charms - E
Defense Against the Dark Arts - O
Divination - P
Herbology - A
Potions - E
Transfiguiration - E
"Oh Ron." Hermione shook her head.
He dropped his head, looking worried. "How long do you think I can keep mum from seeing these?"
"Probably only till you wake up, if that." Harry laughed as Ron’s face twisted into an expression of terror.
"Two O’s! She’s going to kill me. Even Fred and George managed three each!"
"At least we both got good enough grades to continue potions." Harry said, trying to cheer him up. He knew Dumbledore had gone over Snape and nullified the professor’s threat not to accept any student with less than an O.
"Yippee." Ron said sarcastically. "Two more years with Snape."
"We need it if we’re going to be Aurors." He reminded his friend. "Besides, the grades aren’t the worst in the world and you passed everything important with good marks."
Ron got up said goodnight and crawled into bed, pulling the covers over his head. Harry and Hermione grinned at each other before she looked down at the floor again, avoiding his gaze. "We should probably go to bed too, Harry. We have to be up...early...you know." She hesitantly said goodnight and made to leave for her and Ginny’s room.
"Thanks, Hermione. For keeping the Dursleys a secret for me." Harry said, trying to ensure that it would remain a secret. She gave him a weak smile and left without another word. "You too Ron." He said to the lump on the bed next to his.
From somewhere under the covers, Ron mumbled "You’re welcome." Harry put his glasses on the nightstand and got under the covers. He hoped that he was tired enough to not have any nightmares and after awhile finally closed his eyes to thoughts of flying on his broom with Hermione and Ron right behind him, all trying to catch the snitch she’d given him for his birthday.
Hermione quietly closed the door to her room, noting that Ginny was already asleep. She lay in her own bed, wide awake, thinking of how sorry she felt for Harry. He was holding so much in, she was afraid he would burst someday soon. They were all sad Sirius was gone, but they had others to fall back on. Harry formed very fast and very strong attachments to people, probably because he’d felt so alone for so long. Sirius of course had been no exception and to take him away from her friend was simply cruel.
And those muggles! How Harry could continue to suffer in silence for what those horrid people did to him, she just didn’t know. She figured it was probably because he was embarrassed, but she didn’t care. She wished the Order had done more than threaten the Dursleys, she wished they’d cursed them straight to hell.
Tossing and turning for more than an hour, she finally gave up on sleep and kicked off the covers. There was nothing she could think to do to help Harry through all of this… she certainly couldn’t force him to talk to her. And if he didn’t talk to her, how was she ever supposed to be able to try and make him feel better? Frustrated, she knew the only thing she could do was wait patiently for him to decide he needed to talk to someone. She just hoped she was the one he turned to.
Ron got up as quietly as he could, not wanting to disrupt Harry. He’d seen the heavy dark circles beneath his friend’s eyes and as his usual roommate, he knew how horrible Harry’s sleeping patterns were. And Harry needed his rest more than any of them to make it through what was shaping up to be a very sad tomorrow. So in an effort to let Harry continue sleeping peacefully, Ron made his way down to the kitchen for a glass of milk.
His own restlessness he attributed to a combination of his anger on Harry’s behalf for what the muggles had done to him as well as his poor grades. There was nothing he could do about the Dursleys, especially if Harry didn’t want the adults to know about it. So he attempted to put all of that aside- after all, if Harry could do it why shouldn’t he be able to?
As for his grades, while he hadn’t exactly failed everything like he thought he would he’d done no where near as well as his friends. Hell, he hadn’t even done better than the twins, and they couldn’t have cared less about school. Of course, he knew Fred and George were smart in their own right, but still… he’d actually tried to do well. Or maybe he hadn’t. Truth be told, his mind hadn’t fully been on his exams last year, there had been too much going on at the time. But saying that he’d been distracted by the goings on at the end of last year was an excuse and nothing more. After all, it hadn’t affected Harry much and it certainly hadn’t stopped Hermione. He poured his drink and sat at the table, trying to feel tired.
A small sound behind him startled him so badly he thought he was going to jump out of his skin. Ron whipped around to find Kreatcher exiting his cupboard. The strange, cranky little elf walked through the kitchen and out into the hallway, muttering softly to himself. Though Ron couldn’t hear what exactly he was saying, he figured the ugly thing was upset to once more have the house invaded by wizards he deemed unworthy. He was a bit curious as to what the house elf was up to, but the last thing he wanted was to have any interaction with Kreatcher.
With a heavy sigh, he put his now empty glass in the sink before heading back up to his room. Once more he took great care to not wake Harry as he slipped back into his own bed. As he pulled the covers up around him and closed his eyes, he only hoped his mother would go easy on him. As for this school year, he was determined to do better. Maybe he would ask Hermione to help him study… Yes, that was a great idea! He rested easier, now that he had a plan. Especially since it was one that would give him an excuse to be around Hermione even more. Drifting off to sleep, he pictured how great this year would be and the things he’d finally have the courage to say and do. He was determined to make this the best year he ever had. Perhaps it was too much to wish for, but at the moment he didn’t care.
A/N: Coming next, reading of the will, trouble at the ministry, changes at Grimmauld place. Look for it soon!
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