Chapter 1

Birthday Gifts

Today was Harry's 16th birthday, and for the first time this summer, he was actually having a pleasant day. He had woken up at 7:00 AM to the sound of an owl pounding on his window, trying to get in. Under most circumstances, being awoken at 7:00 during the summer would have been cause for being extremely annoyed, but as he recognized the owl at once as Pigwidgeon, Harry was all too pleased to roll out of bed and open the window.

Pigwidgeon was carrying a small package, and a letter. Once he was relieved of these things, he immediately began flying around the room in a very loud way. Harry caught him and shoved him in Hedwig's cage (Hedwig had been out for the past couple of days) so that he wouldn't wake the Dursleys. So far this summer, the Dursleys had been being cautious around Harry, no doubt remembering the warning from the members of the Order of the Phoenix. However, Harry still didn't want to press his luck by annoying Uncle Vernon unduly.

Before he had a chance to open the letter from Ron, Hedwig swooped into the still open window with another package as well as a note. And just as he was untying the package from Hedwig, Percy's owl Hermes swooped in the window, also carrying a note and a small package. Harry reflected with some humor that it was a good thing Uncle Vernon wasn't aware of how many owls were currently in his house. He'd have a fit Harry thought, laughing slightly as he imagined just what shade of purple his uncle might turn if he caught wind of this. Harry got up and locked his door, just to make sure that Uncle Vernon wouldn't walk in on this scene. Not that it was likely, as Uncle Vernon had been keeping his distance from Harry so far this summer, but best not to take chances.

Just because he was curious to see what Percy could have to say to him, Harry opened his letter first. He read:

Young Harry,

I wish to extend my sincerest apologies at having doubted your story about the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I hear from Ron that you saw the letter that I sent him last year about keeping his distance from you. I must say that I am terribly sorry, and not just a little bit embarrassed by this, but I trust that you'll see that I was only trying to give my brother what seemed like sound advice at the time. However, it has now become apparent that it was we at the ministry who were mistaken about the events of last summer.

Cornelius Fudge has also realized the error of his ways, and wishes me to convey his apologies as well (he would write to you himself, but is, at the time, quite busy, as you can well imagine) and would like you to know that the ministry has lifted your life-time ban on playing Quidditch.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I can only hope that you will accept my humble apologies. From now on, I assure you that both I and the other members of the Ministry will be much quicker to believe you.

Sincerely,

Percy Weasely

Well, it was good to know that Percy wasn't too proud to admit that he had been wrong. Of course, it would have been pretty hard for him to continue in his belief that Harry was insane now that it had been proven that Voldemort was coming back after all. Still, it had taken some guts for Percy to actually write the letter. It was also good to see that he was allowed to play Quidditch again. Although Harry had suspected that his ban would be repealed, it was good to see it in writing. Harry opened the package that had accompanied Percy's letter and found that it contained some Bert's Every Flavor Bean. Before opening his next letter, Harry reached into the bag and grabbed a few. He ate a few that looked as if they'd be tasty, and then set a nasty-looking greenish yellow one aside, deciding that he'd give it to Dudley later.

Next, Harry opened the letter that Hedwig had brought in. It was from Hermione and read as follows:

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday! I hope the muggles have been treating you well, and I hope that the Weasleys are able to take you to their house soon. I'm sure they will send you an invitation just as soon as Dumbledore allows it, but he must still feel that you're safest at your Aunt's house. By the way, our O.W.L. results should be coming any time now, we should be getting them by the end of the month. I hope we both did well, and I hope that you enjoy your gift. I figure it should help you figure out other options for a career, in case you need another option than being an auror. Not that I'm not confident you can be one, it's just always good to have a fallback career.

Sincerely,

Hermione Granger

Well, it was good to hear from Hermione, even if she did have to bring up the O.W.L.s in every single one of the letters that she had written him so far this summer. He would be so surprised if she didn't pass every one of the exams that she took that he'd probably have a heart attack.

He opened up the package from Hermione and was not surprised at all to see that it contained a book. It was entitled "Career Options for the Young Wizard." Harry agreed that it would probably be quite a helpful book. He didn't expect to actually qualify to become an Auror, because he was pretty sure that his Potions score wouldn't be "Outstanding" as it had to be for an admittance into Snape's N.E.W.T. class.

Still, this was not the type of thing that Harry wanted to be thinking about over his summer break, and he opened Ron's letter, hoping that he would be thinking more along the lines that Harry wanted to be thinking.

Hullo Harry,

Happy Birthday! I've got great news. Dumbledore has agreed to let you and Hermione come to spend the rest of the summer at the Burrow. Even though there's not the same ancient magic guarding you here as at your aunt's house, but Remus Lupin has agreed to come along to help guard us and everything. He'll stay in Fred and George's old room. They won't be needing it, as they're now living on Diagon Alley. By the way, Mum isn't as mad about them opening the joke shop as we thought she would be. Probably she didn't want to have another row like she had with Percy. By the way, Percy's apologized and is now living with us again, and says that he'll send you a letter to apologize to you. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Hermes were there right now, he's always been a bit faster than Pigwidgeon, and so might have outpaced her. Anyway, my Dad and I are going to come to pick you up tonight at 7:00 by Floo Powder, so be prepared. It might not be a bad idea to warn your Uncle as well, although maybe it'd be more fun if he wasn't expecting it… Well, it's up to you. Oh, by the way, O.W.L. results are going to be coming soon, which is another reason why I'm glad you're coming over tonight. Maybe with you here my parents won't yell as loudly when they find out my scores!

Sincerely,

Ronald Weasely

Harry opened the package then too, although he felt that no matter what it was, it wouldn't be nearly as good of a birthday gift as the fact that he would be able to go back to the Burrow tonight. The gift proved to be merchandise from Weasely Wizard Wheezes. It was fireworks of the type that had been used to vex Umbridge earlier that year. Harry felt that if it wasn't for the fact that it'd violate every Muggle Secrecy law on the books, he'd set them off then and there in celebration of the fact that in just 12 hours he'd be at the Burrow with Ron, Hermione, and Remus Lupin.

Harry opted to tell his uncle about the fact that he would be picked up at 7:00 at the fireplace. After all, he figured it would be a good idea to keep on as good relationships as possible with the Dursleys, as he knew he would have to spend the next summer with them as well. His Uncle didn't seem particularly happy about the arrangement, but still could not hide his gratitude that Harry would be gone for the rest of the summer. Still, Harry was glad that even if he had wanted to, Uncle Dursley knew there was nothing he could do to stop the plan from going into action.

The rest of Harry's day was spent in eager anticipation of living in the bureau for the next month. However, it seemed that depression from the recent death of his godfather was ready to sneak in at any moment. For much of the summer, Harry had been feeling extremely depressed. He tried to keep himself busy by reading his books about Defense Against the Dark Arts, and reading every edition of the Daily Prophet, but nothing seemed able to keep his mind fully off Sirius. Harry could only hope that life at the Burrow would offer enough distractions to keep his mind off Sirius for the rest of the summer.

When 7:00 came, Harry was sitting in front of the fireplace waiting for the Weasleys. He was quite glad that they were prompt. Ron and Mr. Weasley offered him quick greetings but seemed to appreciate that the sooner Harry got out of his uncle's house, the better it would be for all of them. So by 7:02, Harry was back in the Burrow.