Chapter 9

Harry glanced quickly around the Weasley's kitchen. The fire was dying in the hearth. There were no candles lit, no pots and pans clanging. The most chilling thing was there was absolutely no noise coming from anywhere inside the house.

Harry's hand automatically went to his wand. He looked at Remus who was watching Harry intensely but listening at the same time.

Harry whispered, "Where is everyone?"

Lupin shook his head.

"We better get out of the house. Come on."

He guided Harry to the garden door. When Harry pulled the door open he was assaulted by a unanimous roar of, "SURPRISE!" Then a small red-head wrapped her arms around his neck.

It took him a moment to realize what was going on. The garden was lit up brilliantly with floating candles and paper lanterns in the trees. There was a huge banner that read, "HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY, HARRY", hanging over the table full of food.

There was a deafening amount of cheers and Harry surveyed the group of people packed into the garden. Everyone he knew was there. The entire Weasley family, half of the Order of the Phoenix (including Dumbledore), Professor McGonagall, and to Harry's great surprise, Neville and Luna waved at him from next to Ron and Hermione.

Ginny pulled away from him and said, "Happy Birthday!"

She took his hand and pulled him over to her parents. Mrs. Weasley smiled at Harry and said, "Are you surprised?"

He laughed and said, "I'm shocked! I thought you had all been kidnapped!"

"I'm sorry about that. We were afraid if you dropped in out here, you might run into someone!"

Harry turned to Remus.

"Did you know about this?"

He smiled. "Of course! It was my job to keep you away long enough for the party to get set up. Luckily, I enjoy spending time with you."

Harry laughed and watched Tonks appear next to Remus. She winked at Harry and took Remus's arm to drag him away. He couldn't believe this much planning had been done for him.

Harry looked at the Weasleys and spoke, his voice filled with awe, "Wow. Thank you so much!"

They smiled at him and when Mrs. Weasley began to tear up, her husband put an arm around her and led her away, comforting her quietly.

Ginny squeezed his hand. He looked at her.

"Did you have something to do with this?"

She grinned.

"Of course not! I was just as surprised as you…that's why I've been making lists behind your back for a week. Oh, and me keeping you confined to the bathroom and kitchen this morning so you wouldn't see any of the decorations…that had nothing to do with this."

She laughed and Harry gazed at her in a way that made her blush. Suddenly Harry remembered they were anything but alone. Ginny cringed as four hands grabbed Harry and turned him around.

"Now, Harry – do you really think it is appropriate to be looking at our sister like that in the presence of all these guests?" Fred Weasley turned to his brother George who shook his head.

"Honestly, Harry…if it wasn't your birthday we'd make you pay for that."

"Not to mention it was making me a bit nauseous." Fred said, pulling a face.

Harry realized he hadn't been ribbed by the twins yet for dating Ginny. He knew they had probably waited until they were in front of everyone to bring it up. He ran a hand through his hair, uncomfortably.

"Uh…sorry, guys. I guess I got carried away."

"Right. Well, you better watch yourself."

"Although, I'm sure our randy little sister has no complaints!" George leaned in to make a face at Ginny behind Harry's back.

"GEORGE!" Ginny began pulling on Harry.

"What, Ginny? Don't you think Harry should know all the things you used to say about his beautiful eyes?" Fred said, batting his eyelashes.

Ginny began to panic, "ARGH! Shut UP, Fred! Let me have my boyfriend!"

She was pulling on him harder now. Harry couldn't help but join in the fun.

"Wait! I think I would love to hear about that." He said grinning at Ginny's horrified face.

Fred leaned in conspiratorially. "Don't worry Harry; we've had a full arsenal of embarrassing information prepared in case you two ever got together."

Harry laughed and Ginny finally dropped Harry's arm and put both hands on her hips.

"Boys, do you really want to know the things I plan to tell Harry? It is his birthday after all…" She shot Harry a seductive look and then turned with a satisfied grin and a great flip of her hair, leaving the three of them totally speechless.

Fred and George released their grip on Harry and George sputtered out, "That's it. I'm scarred for life now."

Fred shook his head. "I could have lived my entire life without hearing her say that."

The two of them retreated, leaving Harry feeling like he should tell all of these nice people, "Thank you, please leave, I have some business with a beautiful girl to attend to."

He was gearing himself up to chase after her when Neville appeared.

"Happy Birthday, Harry!"

"Oh, thanks Neville! How are you?"

"I'm great. My nose is completely straight now and Gran even bought me a new wand!"

"Oh, fantastic!"

Luna floated into view next to Neville and dreamily glanced around at all the decorations.

"You know, all this candlelight might attract some angry fairies." She said vaguely.

"Uh…hi, Luna."

"Hello Harry. Happy Birthday." Her eyes finally found Harry's face.

"Thanks!"

Suddenly, Hermione appeared and Harry's face was lost in a sea of brown curls.

"Happy Birthday, Harry." She said, as she gave him a hug.

Harry squeezed her back. "Thanks."

She pulled away and Harry could tell she had been crying. "Are you ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just happy for you."

Ron came over and put an arm around Hermione's waist. He whispered in her ear and she smiled. Ron turned to Harry.

"Happy Birthday, mate."

"Thanks."

"Did you have a good day today?"

"Actually, it was pretty fantastic. I'll have to tell you guys about it later. Right now I really need to find Ginny. Excuse me."

Harry felt bad for cutting his friends short but he could not get his mind off Ginny. The comment she made had intrigued him to the point of distraction. He began wandering through the crowd, passing well-wishers and many pats on the back, looking for Ginny.

He walked right through a conversation between Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Professor McGonagall and all he caught was a mention of a meeting of the Wizengamot and a question about the Minister of Magic.

Harry almost turned to ask more but he saw something that brought his feet to a dead halt. At least he thought he saw it. He knew he had seen Tonks and Remus sitting close together behind a hedgerow and was almost positive that Tonks had been kissing Remus's neck. As soon as he stopped and looked at them, they were merely talking quietly.

Harry felt a little disturbed at the thought of Remus and Tonks snogging, but he figured he might have been seeing things. Before he could take more time to figure it out, he saw the object of his desire standing five feet away.

Ginny was talking to Mrs. Weasley and Bill, the tip of her hair wrapped around her finger distractedly. He wondered if she was thinking about him. He didn't waste time and walked right up and said, "Mind if I steal her away?"

"Not at all, Harry." Mrs. Weasley smiled and Harry grabbed Ginny's hand and began pulling her away.

He looked around to see if anyone was watching and pulled her toward the house.

"Harry, what is it?"

He didn't answer and opened the door. Once they were alone in the dark kitchen he pulled her close and backed her up against the kitchen table. She managed to breathe out his name before he captured her lips with his.

His mind was filled with the feel of her body against his, her soft lips, her even softer tongue. Kissing in the dark, while the garden was full of people, made them both feel the need to be quiet. They kissed for a few minutes, pausing only to breathe.

Harry kept thinking that he could do this for the rest of his life and be happy. He moved his hands over her back and pulled her as close as he could. Ginny had both her hands in his hair and she kept making soft little noises that sounded both happy and scared, which was exactly how Harry felt.

He slowed the kissing down and pulled away to look at her in the dying firelight. She looked up at him, her cheeks flushed with pink, and smiled. Harry had no idea what to say. He just knew that being with her felt right. He knew there was a group of people outside waiting for him but he didn't want to move.

Ginny spoke quietly, "You know, there's a party outside for you."

Harry felt warm and content. "I don't care. I want to be with you. Right here. Alone. Kiss me."

He didn't wait for her to move, but leaned in and kissed her with the kind of urgency and passion he did not fully understand. He felt the heat begin to build between them and realized that this was the last place he should be starting this with Ginny.

He pulled away reluctantly and said, "I'm sorry. I just…"

She shushed him. "You don't have to explain."

"I love you."

"I love you too. Think you could join the party?"

"Yeah. Give me a minute; I'll meet you out there."

She smiled. "Ok, Happy Birthday, love."

He beamed at her. She left and he sat down at the table. This day had been pretty taxing, but he couldn't be happier. He did feel a little sad all of the sudden, wishing that Sirius was here.

"Harry?"

He looked up and saw Remus standing in the doorway.

"Hi."

"What are you doing in here? The party is outside."

"I know. I just needed a minute to calm down."

"Ah, I see – Ginny just left?"

Harry grinned sheepishly. "Yeah."

Remus sat down next to him. "It's amazing; the affect of a beautiful woman. It can make you crazy…"

"Tell me about it. Speaking of which…did I see…" he trailed off and felt like he was overstepping his bounds.

"Did you see what?"

"Nothing. It's none of my business."

"Harry, you can ask me anything."

"It's just…well, is something going on between you and Tonks?"

Remus looked surprised. "Um, well…what makes you think there might be?"

"I just, well I sorta put two-and-two together when I saw her kissing your neck."

Lupin let out an embarrassed and uncomfortable laugh.

"Wow. I'm sorry; I didn't know anyone was watching."

"I wasn't, I just…I'm sorry. It's none of my business."

"No, I would like to tell you about it if you want to know."

"Ok."

"Well, first of all, I'm not sure what's going on between us exactly. I mean, I never really expected her to see me that way."

"Why not?"

"I'm so much older than her, and I'm sort of a boring professor type and she's so…full of life."

"You are not boring. Sometimes men and women are opposites and it's a good thing. Just look at Ron and Hermione."

"I don't really think they are opposites. They seem like a good fit."

"Exactly. Besides, I can tell she really likes you."

"That much I am clear on. She really helped me deal with losing Sirius. She misses him too."

"Yeah, well I'm glad you have someone."

"Me too, surprisingly. She makes me feel…young again."

"How can that be a bad thing?"

"Well, with my condition I had given up on all of those feelings. I had committed myself to dying alone."

"You are not going to die any time soon. At least, you better not. I couldn't deal with that. As far as Tonks goes, she can handle herself. She's tough and she knows about your condition. So do I - and I still love you, right?"

Remus smiled, "Yeah, you do. Alright, well I'm not going to keep you from your party any longer. Let's go."

The two of them got up from the table and walked out into the garden. Mrs. Weasley greeted them with open arms.

"Just in time for cake, Birthday Boy!"

Harry blushed as everyone cheered and allowed her to lead him over to the table with the banner above it. A giant birthday cake with a number 16 made out of icing and border of golden snitches on it sat on the table. Mrs. Weasley lit the candles with her wand. Everyone gathered around and began singing 'Happy Birthday' to Harry.

He blew out the candles and after a great cheer, Fred and George began yelling for Harry to make a speech.

Harry blushed again and shrugged.

"Alright, alright…um, I want to thank everyone for coming to my very first birthday party. This is one of the greatest days of my life, and I'm really glad you are all here to share it. I want to thank the Weasley family for putting all of this together. I love you all. Um…so, yeah. Enjoy the party!"

Everyone clapped and cheered and Mrs. Weasley hugged Harry while dabbing her eyes.

"We love you too, dear."

Ginny began cutting the cake and passing it out. Harry ate two pieces while chatting with Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna. Ginny came over and joined in once her hostess duties were through.

They all speculated as to who the new defense against the dark arts teacher would be.

"Harry, are you going to keep up the DA meetings this year?" Neville asked.

"I don't know. I suppose I'll have to ask Dumbledore for permission. I don't know if I'll have time."

"Well, I think you should do it. I know I would have been useless – well, more useless – at the Department of Mysteries if we hadn't had all those meetings." Neville looked at the plate he held in his lap and half-heartedly poked at the pile of icing left on it with his fork.

Harry considered Neville's statement and said, "I wanted to tell you, Neville…you were really great that night. You helped out a lot."

"Wow! Thanks, Harry!" Neville blushed but was beaming.

Hermione and Ginny both smiled approvingly at Harry.

"Hey, maybe Professor Dumbledore already knows who the new DADA teacher is. Do you think he'd tell us?" Hermione wondered aloud.

Harry looked over at the Headmaster and said, "It's worth a shot. I'll ask him later."

"It's pretty amazing that he would take the time to come to your birthday party, Harry." Neville said.

"Yeah, I know."

"You are looking very nice this evening, Ronald."

Every head turned toward Luna who looked as though she had merely commented about the weather. Ron looked at Hermione and then back to Luna.

"Er…thanks."

"Your scars from that brain hardly show at all."

"Uh…no, they are fading. That's true."

Ron looked as though he wasn't sure if he should be answering or not. He glanced nervously back at Hermione, who was simply looking back at him with her lips pursed.

Harry was a bit afraid of what Luna would say next, but her attention was already elsewhere. She was watching Fred and George showing their fake wands to Bill.

Ron leaned over and kissed Hermione's shoulder. She blinked and smiled at him. Neville looked away, apparently embarrassed by the obvious show of affection.

Harry felt Ginny's hand slide down his forearm and then her fingers intertwined with his. She scooted closer to him and whispered in his ear.

"That was quite a kiss earlier."

He smiled, but merely nodded.

"Do I get more later?"

He turned to look her in the face. "It wasn't too much?"

She blushed slightly and slowly shook her head.

"I liked it."

Those three words echoed in Harry's head and he felt like dragging her off again.

He knew he couldn't, so he merely swallowed and said, "Later."

She leaned over and put her head on his shoulder and pulled herself as close as she could.

Soon Fred and George dragged Harry over to a pile of presents and insisted that he open them. Harry felt a bit overwhelmed by all the attention but he complied as long as Ginny would sit next to him while he opened them. The rest of the guests gathered around to see.

His first present was from Ron, who gave him a book entitled, Classic Quidditch Strategies: A practical guide to tactical maneuvers on the pitch. His next gift was from Hermione. She gave him a refill for his broom care kit.

Harry was starting to get a little peeved that they had forgotten about his lack of Firebolt and Lifetime Quidditch Ban.

They were smiling at him though, so he muttered, "Thanks, guys."

Dumbledore said, "Why don't you open mine next?"

"You got me something?"

"Well, open it up and see."

Ginny handed him a roll of parchment. Harry unrolled it carefully and read over a document signed by the entire Wizengamot and Cornelius Fudge, lifting Harry's lifetime Quidditch ban.

Harry looked up at Dumbledore, beaming.

"Thank you, sir."

Dumbledore said, "I just had to pull a few strings. I expect you might need this, then?"

He pulled from behind his back Harry's Firebolt. Harry hopped up and quickly crossed to meet the Headmaster. He reached out and gingerly touched his broom.

He remembered suddenly that this had been Sirius's gift to him to make up for all the missed holidays. He felt a surge of gratitude and as he took the broom in one hand, he lunged forward and captured Dumbledore in a one-armed hug.

It took him a moment to realize what he had done. Many sniffles and coughs alerted him to the fact that he had just hugged Dumbledore in front of a garden full of people.

He quickly pulled away and began trying to wipe his face. He looked up into Dumbledore's face and saw a soft expression and tear-rimmed eyes looking back at him.

Harry said quietly, "Thank you."

"It's my pleasure, Harry."

Harry turned to walk back to Ginny and saw many hankies being put back into robes. Ginny looked at him as he sat down and he knew she was wondering if he was alright. He squeezed her hand as he sat back down to reassure her.

Suddenly Mrs. Weasley sprang to life and said, "Why don't you open some more gifts, Harry?"

Bill piped up. "Yeah, this one's from me."

Harry took the small package from Bill, unwrapping it quickly. It was a small metal box with symbols engraved all over it.

"It's a puzzle box. You can make the code anything you want and put your valuables inside. The trick is: you have to figure out the code to get it open the first time."

"Cool. Thanks, Bill."

Harry kept opening presents. Tonks gave him a book entitled, The Unauthorized History of Ministry Aurors.

"They left all the juicy bits in." Tonks said with a wink.

Remus gave him a couple of practical books on defense against the dark arts. Mr. & Mrs. Weasley gave him a knitted blanket with a picture of the Burrow on it. Harry was overwhelmed by it all.

Fred & George announced that their present was to be used tonight in honor of the festivities. They moved their wands in an exaggerated way and said in unison, "Weasley's Wildfire Whiz-bangs!"

Harry recognized the name and prepared himself for the boom what would surely follow. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised as a giant birthday cake appeared in the sky with a soft sizzle. The candles on the cake spelled out "16" and as they burned, a tinny hum that sounded like, "Happy Birthday" began to play. Then suddenly the cake exploded into a million red sparks and the garden was filled with cheers.

Sparklers lit of their own accord and began writing words about Harry in the sky:

"Loyal", "Brave", "Seeker", "Courageous", "Scar-head"…

"Oops! How'd that get in there?" Fred looked at Harry innocently.

Next, the sky was filled with red and gold rockets that sailed around the garden, apparently knowing not to leave the immediate area. Finally, white sparks erupted in the sky, punctuated by soft booms, and formed the words, "Happy Birthday, Harry", before fizzling and dying out.

The garden exploded with cheers and Fred and George took a quick bow before saying together, "Happy Birthday."

"Thanks guys, that was brilliant!" Harry said, and meant it.

After the fireworks, the party began to die down. Neville and Luna said their goodbyes; Neville made Harry promise to at least think about starting up the D.A. once they were back at Hogwarts. Harry smiled and tried to ignore the strange feeling he kept getting while Neville spoke. Was that pride he felt? Neville certainly seemed more confident nowadays, and Harry had a feeling the events at the Ministry of Magic had been responsible. If he believed Neville, the D.A. meetings were the reason he was alive. Harry promised to at least discuss the matter with Dumbledore.

After Neville and Luna's departure, Harry noticed the crowd was thinning even more. Harry opened a few more presents, including a card from Hagrid, explaining that he couldn't leave Grawp just now, and a huge thumbprint marked Grawp's apparent birthday wishes.

"What do you think, Hermy? Looking forward to seeing your little friend?" Ron poked Hermione in the side and grinned at her.

Hermione rolled her eyes fervently and sighed. Harry spotted Dumbledore saying his goodbyes to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

"Be right back, guys." He hopped up and met Dumbledore as he turned.

"Harry, I was just coming to say goodnight."

"Actually, sir…I was wondering if I could talk to you about something."

"Of course. Let's go over here." Dumbledore motioned to a deserted spot by the empty food table. "Now, what would you like to talk about?"

"I know you said that I would be starting up extra lessons with you once the term starts…"

"Yes."

"…and tonight, after your gift, I'm assuming I will be occupied with Quidditch again…"

"If that's what you'd like to do, yes."

"…plus I will have lots of homework if I actually get into the NEWT level classes I requested…"

"I expect so, yes."

"…so, is it completely out of the question for me to continue holding D.A. meetings?"

Dumbledore surveyed Harry carefully, and Harry was sure he'd say no.

"Harry, you are getting older now, and it is important for you to understand that some things which sound like fun can actually become burdensome."

"I know that, sir." Harry looked at the ground, avoiding the Headmaster's eyes. It was embarrassing to be told that he didn't understand what he had asked.

"In my absence last year, I know the meetings you held had a profound impact on many of your classmates. Upon my return, I could see a difference, and I know that is because of your influence and your instruction. I haven't told you, but I am very proud of you for that." His voice softened.

"Thank you, sir." Harry looked back up at Dumbledore. "It's not something I ever would have pictured myself enjoying…but I do. I feel like I'm helping."

"You are, Harry. I just want to make sure that you are not going to take on too many responsibilities this year. I want you to enjoy yourself, but you need to remember your studies as well. The lessons I have planned for you are not going to be easy, either. Do you understand all that?"

"Yes, sir. I do. I promise you, if things start to wear on me…I'll do something about it."

"Good. You have my permission to start meetings when you return to Hogwarts, but let's give it a few weeks to make sure you're settled in. Is that acceptable to you?" He said, smiling.

"Of course it is. Thank you." Harry said.

Dumbledore nodded and said, "I better be going now. Happy Birthday."

Harry smiled, "Thank you. Oh! One more thing…"

"Yes?"

"Have you found a new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher yet?"

"As a matter of fact, I approached someone about it today."

"Any chance you'll tell me who it is?"

"Not until I get an answer. Sorry, Harry. I have to respect their privacy."

"I understand. Thank you for coming tonight and thanks for…everything." Harry felt truly humbled by his friendship with this man. He had thought he would never feel anything but anger, but there it was.

"You are more than welcome. It gave me an excuse to break out my good robes!" He winked and said, "I'll see you soon."

"Goodnight, Professor."

"Bye, Harry. Enjoy the rest of your summer."

Harry smiled and turned to rejoin Ginny, Ron and Hermione. He heard Dumbledore disapparate behind him as he walked away. For the next 10 minutes he sat quietly, holding Ginny's hand, as Ron argued with his mother about wanting to fly tonight.

As silence fell over the garden, the party winding down finally, Ginny pulled Harry aside. She sat down on the grass and looked up at him. He sat down next to her.

"I wanted to give you my present. It's not much." She revealed a small bundle.

Harry kissed her cheek and said, "You didn't have to get me anything at all."

"Oh, stop it. Just open it up!"

He smiled and unwrapped a small picture frame. The frame had a pattern of red and gold stripes, but there was no picture inside.

"Where's the picture?"

"Well, that's the thing…It's for the first picture of us together…which hasn't been taken yet." She blushed slightly.

Harry smiled at her and said, "Thank you. It's a wonderful gift. Do we know anyone with a camera besides Colin Creevey?"

She laughed, "Yeah, we have an old one, but the pictures come out pretty good. I'll go get it." She got up and jogged toward the house.

Harry looked around at the remaining guests at his party. Hermione and Ron were sitting in shadow, cuddling and looking content. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were dancing slowly to a soft tune coming from the wireless. Fred, George and Bill were sitting next to the empty food table, laughing about something. Tonks and Lupin were nowhere to be seen. Harry wondered if they had left without saying goodbye.

Just then, the two of them emerged from the hedgerow looking a bit winded. They walked towards Harry, casting a few sideways glances at each other. Remus smiled and said, "We've checked the wards, so I think we're going to head home now."

"Oh ok. Thanks for coming, and thanks for the books!"

"No problem, Harry." Tonks said. "Happy Birthday." She reached out and pulled him into a sideways hug. When she released him, Harry looked up at Remus.

"Thank you for today. It was great."

"It was for me too." He reached out and hugged Harry tight. Harry heard him say softly, "I love you, son."

Harry felt a pleasant lurch in his stomach. He just nodded in response. Remus released him.

"Happy Birthday, we'll see you soon."

"Ok, bye guys."

"Oh wait! Are you leaving?" Ginny returned with the camera.

"Yes." Tonks said.

"Before you go, would you mind taking a picture of me and Harry?"

"Sure." Tonks took the camera from Ginny's hand.

Ginny came over to Harry and put her arms around his waist. He kissed her forehead and then they both smiled at the camera as Tonks took the picture.

"Thanks." Ginny said.

Tonks made to give the camera back, but Harry said, "Hey, could you take a picture of me and Remus?"

"Sure, Harry."

Remus looked a bit surprised but then he smiled and walked over to Harry. They looked at each other and Remus swung an arm over Harry's shoulders. Harry smiled broadly and then turned to the camera.

Tonks handed the camera back and she and Remus waved goodbye again and headed towards the Weasleys to say goodnight.

Ginny ran a hand over Harry's arm and said, "I love you."

He looked down at her and said, "Remember how I promised a repeat of our moment alone?"

She nodded, her eyes sparkling at him.

"I doubt anybody would miss us just now…" He grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bushes, as she struggled to keep giggles at bay.

They spent a glorious fifteen minutes alone in the bushes before they heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley calling to round everyone up for bed. Ginny broke away and looked over her shoulder.

"We better get back before they notice anything." She began to walk away, but Harry grabbed her hand.

"Gin, I just want you to know how much this night meant to me. Thank you."

She looked into his eyes and said softly, "I love you, Harry."

"I love you too." He hugged her close before saying, "Ok, we better go."

They tried to enter the garden as inconspicuously as possible, one at a time. Luckily, nobody had noticed they were missing. Mrs. Weasley was arguing with Fred and George about something they had said. Bill had decided to stay the night, so Fred and George followed suit. Mrs. Weasley told them they were lucky she was in such a good mood or else she'd force them to go to their own beds.

Ginny laughed quietly and said in Harry's ear, "This is a good mood, but she would never force them to leave."

The group meandered into the house, the conversation gradually dying out. Everyone slowly climbed the stairs, stopping at each landing for a goodnight. Once they reached the girls' stop, Harry gave Ginny a quick kiss and turned to go upstairs. Ron and Hermione hesitated, clearly wanting a moment alone. Harry winked at Ginny and they left the two of them alone to say goodnight.

Harry was already under the covers when Ron finally walked into his room. The goofy grin was back.

"Wonderful evening, wasn't it?" Ron said as he walked dreamily to his bed.

Harry covered his face with a pillow. "Are you going to look like that all the time?"

"What? Do I say something about you look after you're with my sister?"

"Ok, ok. I'm sorry."

Ron plopped down on his bed, rolling over to look at Harry.

"Did you enjoy your party?"

"Oh yeah. It was brilliant. Thanks for the book."

"Hey, no problem. I just want to make sure our new captain is up on his strategies."

Harry rolled his eyes. "You do realize you are being overly optimistic about that."

"Nah."

"Ron, I haven't been on a broom in over six months. I mean, what if I'm not a good flier anymore?"

Ron looked him dead in the eye. "That is clearly the stupidest thing you have ever said."

"I'm serious!"

"Alright, fine. We are just going to have to get you back in shape, staring tomorrow morning."

"Oh man, I can't wait. If I wasn't so afraid of getting that ban reinstated I'd suggest we go right now and start practicing."

"I would totally support that normally, but yeah…you have to play this year."

"Let's go to bed and stop talking about it."

"Good idea." Ron said, rolling over onto his back. "Goodnight, Harry. Happy Birthday."

"Thanks. Night." Harry nestled himself under the covers as Ron turned out the light. He began to replay the events of the day over in his head.

Grimmauld Place really did look better. In fact, he was a bit excited about going back with everyone. He thought briefly about Tonks and Remus all alone at number twelve, but quickly shoved that thought out of his head.

He thought instead about his reconciliation with Dumbledore. He knew he could probably stay mad at him, but apologizing had made him feel loads better than he had felt when he was angry. He just felt like it was time to move on – like he was sure Sirius would have wanted him to.

Sirius. Being in his room, surrounded by his things had been so comforting. He wasn't sure why he had avoided it. After reading his letter, Harry felt like he had the final word from Sirius: "I love you and I want you to be happy." He was looking forward to telling Ron, Hermione and Ginny all about his afternoon at Grimmauld Place.

He could not believe all the festivities in his honor tonight. He had always imagined what it would be like to have a mountain of presents and a huge cake like Dudley always did on his birthday. With all those people gathered to celebrate him, a huge cake like Dudley always did on his birthday. With all those people gathered to celebrate him, a huge cake, a table full of wonderful presents, a fireworks display and those amazing moments alone with Ginny. Harry knew this birthday was infinitely better than anything Dudley could ever have.

He felt like the luckiest person alive, plus he was going to ride his Firebolt in the morning. Harry suddenly decided the morning couldn't come quick enough. He thought about blocking his mind, but silently dared Voldemort to set foot near his thoughts tonight. This had been the best day of his life.

"No, tonight you couldn't touch me - even if you wanted to."

He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.


A/N: Oh my goodness, guys! Faithful readers! I am so sorry it took so long to get an update up. Life interfered with art. My hope is that you will read this before book 6 is out, and hopefully even after we find out the fate of our hero's sixth year…I hope you will come back to see how my story finishes. Happy reading!