DISCLAIMER: I own nothing – it all belongs to JK Rowling.


So far, the summer hadn't been too bad. Lying on his bed, hands behind his head and staring at the ceiling, Harry Potter reflected that he'd had worse – much worse – holidays. At least this time, he'd had visitors from the wizarding world and plenty of owls from his friends, which made the four week sojourn at the Dursley's home at Four, Privet drive, much more bearable.

Even though Harry had experienced a terrible time at the end of his last term at Hogwarts, his headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, had finally come clean and told Harry all about his past. Why the darkest of wizards, Lord Voldemort, had come after him in the first place as a result of a prophecy. Why his parents had died. And finally, why he had to come back to the horrible Dursley's every year.

It turned out that in order to protect him, Dumbledore had placed a charm on him which meant that while he could call home the place where his blood relatives lived (in this case, Aunt Petunia, his mother's sister), Voldemort couldn't touch him there. And of course, while he was at Hogwarts, he was under Dumbledore's protection, which made him, he thought bitterly, the most over-protected, under-aged wizard on the planet.

On top of that protection, he had Mad-Eye Moody, Nymphadora Tonks, Remus Lupin and Mundungus Fletcher dropping in on him regularly – "just to say hello", they said, and to keep an eye on the Dursleys. Fortunately, the Dursleys were so terrified of this motley crew that they had pretty much avoided Harry for the first four weeks of the summer holidays. Harry knew that Dudley, his fat, bullying cousin, was convinced that Moody wanted to complete the job that Hagrid had started years ago and completely transfigure him into a pig.

What annoyed Harry, though, was that no-one (as usual) had asked him what he wanted. In fact, all he wanted was to be left alone. Haunted by the death of his godfather, Sirius Black, Harry felt himself sliding into the darkest depression of his life. For the first two weeks of the holiday, it had felt like he had slept for 20 hours a day. Before his departure from Hogwarts, Madame Pomfrey, the school nurse, had pressed a bottle of Dreamless Sleep potion on him and he had used it every day. The last thing he had needed was to remember Sirius's death in his dreams. He was having a hard enough time forgetting when he was awake.

And tomorrow – well, tomorrow was his sixteenth birthday. Harry stretched and stood up, feeling hunger pangs for the first time in days. He'd been eating mechanically – good thing too, as Dudley Diddikins was still on a severe diet, which meant that the whole family was living on celery and watercress. Fortunately for Harry, he'd gone out to eat a few times with Tonks, who was determined in a strangely maternal way that he would not fade away on her watch.

Harry loped out of his room and down to the kitchen, making as little noise as possible. At 11:30, the whole household was already asleep, as the Dursleys were getting ready for an early start. They were heading off to Brighton for a few days, meeting up with Aunt Marge for, as Uncle Vernon put it, "some sun, sea and relaxation – without Potter". They had been loathe to leave Harry alone in the house, believing that he would utterly destroy it by the time they returned. Harry supposed they had a point – their few encounters with wizards had resulted in some nasty mishaps, such as the utter destruction of their fireplace when the Weasleys used it on the Floo Network.

So when Harry received the owl from Ron inviting him to spend the last four weeks of his holiday at The Burrow with the rest of the Weasleys, the Dursleys were delighted to pack him off. Normally Harry would have been delighted too – only this time, he didn't really feel like dealing with the happy chaos that normally reigned in the Weasley household. He didn't feel like having to be cheerful and make conversation – he just wanted to lie around and not talk to anyone. However, the deed was done and Moody was going to escort him to The Burrow the next morning at 8am.

Entering the kitchen, Harry switched on the lights as quietly as possible. He pulled out a loaf of bread and made himself a cheese sandwich, cleaning up the crumbs he left behind so Aunt Petunia wouldn't have anything to screech about the next morning. Heading back upstairs, he caught a glimpse of himself in the hallway mirror and paused, startled. Was this himself - Harry Potter, "the Boy Who Lived", looking back at him?

He seemed to have shot up a few inches recently and was fast heading for six feet. Lean and lanky, he was still wearing Dudley's massive cast-offs, which made him look even thinner. But it was his face that made him pause the longest. Dark shadows under his normally brilliant green eyes made his face seem older, and his cheeks seemed thin and pale. "Time to get some sun," he thought savagely. "Wouldn't want anyone to worry about whether I'm eating properly or anything." For a moment he felt a pang of guilt – that was exactly what Mrs Weasley would say, and he knew she only said that sort of thing because she cared.

Back in his room, he glumly ate his sandwich in bed and started glancing through the Daily Prophet. At 12pm, there was a tapping on his window. Jumping up, he found Errol, the Weasley's dilapidated owl, and Pigwidgeon, Ron's miniature owl, sitting on the windowsill. He opened the window to let them in, and Errol promptly flopped onto the floor with a loud thud. Pig, true to form, started flying around the room like a maniac, twittering and clicking his beak. Once Harry had relieved Errol of his letter and given him some water from Hedwig's cage (to Hedwig's disgust – she wasn't a fan of the Weasley's owls), he managed to pin Pig down in a corner and take the letter off his leg.

The letter on Errol's leg read:

Hello Harry and Happy Birthday!
Just to let you know we're thinking of you and looking forward to seeing you later today. We didn't send your present with Errol as he would probably expire on the way, so we thought we'd hang on to it until you get here.
Have a good trip and see you in the morning!

Grinning, as he remembered Errol's last trip with a big parcel (it had taken him five days to recover) Harry opened the second letter.

Hiya Harry!
Happy Birthday mate – 16 at last! Hope that it's a better year for you than the last.
We're looking forward to seeing you! It's a lot quieter than usual, as Fred and George are now living in London to be closer to their shop, and Percy still hasn't made up with Mum and Dad and is also still in London (git). We're expecting Hermione to arrive next week, so we've got a week of peace before she gets here and expects us to do homework we haven't even got yet.
Anyway, see you in the morning! Don't forget the Firebolt (ha, ha – as if you would!) because I'm looking forward to a few practice games of Quidditch with you!

(PS: Dumbledore lifted that life ban on you for playing Quidditch, so you're back in the driving seat as Seeker this year!)

Harry felt his spirits lift a bit – actually, being around Ron and the other Weasleys was sure to be a bit of a tonic… wasn't it? He hadn't heard too much from Hermione, as she was off in Spain with her parents, but he knew she'd be thinking of him. Taking off his glasses, he settled in for the night, letting Pig and Errol go first. He'd decided from now on to take it all one day at a time, and after all, tomorrow was just another day.