Harry wouldn't be coming back to Hogwarts.
He knew that, of course; there were only seven years in the program. Instead of ordinary school, he would graduate from Hogwarts and be a fully licensed wizard ready to do whatever it was fully licensed wizards did. After seven years Harry still wasn't sure.
He knew he had to leave, and yet it had never really occured to him what leaving actually meant. Harry hadn't spent so much as a day of his last year in the old boys' room with Seamus, Dean, Neville and Ron. Now that he looked at it for he last time, he realized how much he was going to miss it.
This has been the only home I've ever known.
It was with that fact in mind that the boys had decided to buy each other presents. The girls had started it, and while the boys would rather poke their eyes out with sticks than admit they'd been touched by the idea, they did it anyways. However, four presents per person seemed like entirely too much effort, they pooled all their cash together and bought one really freakin' awesome present each for everybody.
The unveiling ceremony took place the last day before the Hogwarts Express arrived. Harry had tried not to think about it too much, but it had been hard to ignore the increasingly long parade of lasts: the last meal in the Great Hall, the last day spent dicking around on the Quidditch field, the last time he walked into any of his classrooms as a student. He had spent the last night in his bed, with the other boys in theirs, and together they found that their conversation had changed. No one had anything to say about teachers or classes or girls anymore. All of that suddenly seemed very unimportant.
It hurt to say goodbye. What little of his happiness Voldemort had left was being taken by time.
Growing up was lousy.
The boys had rarely slept that night, if at all; Harry strongly suspected Dean and Seamus hadn't even nodded off. Even without rest, they were all filled with a strange adrenaline that brought them out of their beds and onto their feet, ready to share some last touches before they parted ways.
"And for you, Seamus," Ron began, the Designated Seamus Present Presenter, "we got..."
He held out a package in his gawky arms. Seamus took it and eagerly pulled the shoddy string tie.
"...a photo album..."
"It's every good photo from the past seven years!" Ron said proudly. "...and every bad one, too," he added. "We found a Hufflepuff who captured the ferret incident. And there's our first dinner in the Great Hall, and there's that time when we hexed the doors and we got the girls in our bath..."
"Don't show anybody that one, it's technically illegal now that you're of age," Harry warned.
Seamus ran his hands over the album's heavy cover and gilded trim. "Thanks," he said softly. He had always been something of a sentimentalist. "I mean...thanks. Thanks a lot."
Dean gave him a thumbs up. "Hey, no problem," he said. "We're glad to give it to you." And they were: it hadn't cost them anything.
"Right, well..." He set the album aside and crossed the room to pick up another similarly shaped package. "For you, Dean-O. Hope it'll be of use to you, eh? If not, maybe you'll at least have some fun."
"Oh, sure." Dean raised an eyebrow. After seven years he knew all too well what sorts of things Seamus considered entertaining. "Fun." But he willingly opened the package, and gasped with shock as he saw what he held. It looked like a book with a single thick page. "Holy hell, this is a---"
"It's a Psychic Pop-Up Painter's Pal! It can make your every reference object come up out of the page. Cool, huh?"
Dean flipped it open and closed his eyes. A cluster of flowers in a lavender vase sprang up at him. "Oh my god," he said, "I can't believe you found this..."
"Ehh, never mind that. All for a good friend, right, Dean? Right?"
He moved to shut the book and the vase disappeared. "I love you," he said sincerely, and suddenly everyone was somewhat uncomfortable.
"Moving on!" Neville announced. He held out a sleek-looking silver box. "Ron, for you we got a..."
Ron immediately recognized the name stamped atop the box. "From Captain Hastings's? You didn't! He makes the best wizarding clothes in all England..."
"Don't get too excited," Neville said, but it was too late. Ron had ripped the box open and found himself staring at---
"...an apron?" he said, holding it by the frilly pink strings. The boys roared with laughter.
"Now, I wouldn't say this," Neville began, "but your blokes here think that, well..."
"That you'd better get used to wearing it!" Dean howled.
Ron took the gift with surprising good grace. "It'll look damned good on me," he declared, inspecting the quality of the fringe ribbons. "I can wear lace with the best of 'em. Besides, you're all just jealous that she's the only girl in our year---scratch that, our school--- worth having."
The boys promptly stopped laughing. "Yeah, pretty much," Seamus admitted, scratching his head.
"I'm glad you're not mad, Ron," Neville went on, "but look in the pocket. That's your real gift, fifty Galleons towards something you want at Captain Hastings's! They make really great Belgian robes---people say they're French, but they're really Belgian---and they last ages, too."
"Better stock up, 'cause you're never wearing pants again,"Harry grinned. They had been teasing him for more than half a decade now, and the payoff was truly gorgeous. Ron modeled the apron dramatically for a minute before putting it back in its box.
"Neville, you're next," Dean said. "Now this was Harry's idea, and once he told us about it we decided you had to have it. We've been hiding it in Ginny's room, she's been a real sport about it all, so if you'll let me pop off and get it."
Neville drew back bashfully. "All that trouble for me? You shouldn't have..."
"Shut your eyes and wait, you git," Seamus ordered. Neville obediently held both hands over his eyes while Dean went running.
"Okay, Neville, now get ready...and look!"
Neville looked. The boys had given him something large and terrifying and made of metal.
"What is this?" he asked, a little afraid.
"It's a motorcycle," Dean explained.
"A...motor..." Neville gingerly ran his hands over the sides. "What do I do with it?"
"You ride it. It's way better than a broom, and cooler, too. You can go on Muggle roads with it."
"But..." He gulped. His first-year accident with his broken arm had never fully left him. "But why? I don't really...I'm not that kind of guy. Why..."
Dean sighed in exasperation. "Harry? Give him the speech, please."
Harry nodded. The answer was for him alone to give. "Neville," he said solmenly, "it is because you are a badass motherfucker. You are, without a doubt, the most badass motherfucker that has ever been or will ever be in these hallowed halls. As your roommates, we have to recognize this."
"I'm a what?" Neville cried.
"I engraved your name and everything you did in all the boys' bathrooms," Dean said with a wink. "Even got the Slytherins, too. It was the only way we could make sure you got the fame you deserved. Well, that and a motorcycle."
"Also, babes," Seamus reminded. "They dig 'em."
Ron wondered whether or not to mention that Neville wasn't particularly concerned about babes, as Neville's entirely underappreciated feats of heroism had inadvertently gotten him the attention of the one person he'd ever really really wanted, which was impressive considering said person spent most of her time talking to bugs. In the end Ron decided against it, but privately wished the two well.
"And lastly, Harry!"
All the other boys went to their closets and fetched brooms. "Harry," Ron said with a touch of grandeur, putting on his old Quidditch kneepads, "we've decided to give you something very special."
"And different," Dean said.
"And fun," Seamus said.
"And...oh, you already said special," Neville said, disappointed.
Harry looked at his friends, each of whom were holding a broom in one hand and a Bludger in the other. More dangerous looking than the Bludgers were the four enormous grins. "What's all this?" he asked, taking a step backwards just to be safe.
Seamus looked offended. "You don't remember? Friday nights in our second year---All-Star Murder Ball?"
As a matter of fact, Harry did remember, sort of. The blunt force trauma had interfered a bit. Neville had never played, but always covered for the others while they zoomed around on the Quidditch field and gotten their brains smacked out. A tip from Draco had officially ended the game, but most of the staff had been suspicious after the fifth time they all came to the infirmary for crushed vertebrae.
"One last time," Ron goaded. "Come on. Let's get out there and get smashed so bad we'll be thankful for the Hogwarts Express. And no healing wounds with magic, either---the nerve damage should last. Like the memories."
"It can't be worse than the Curses," Neville was saying to himself. "Besides, it's been so long...should be good exercise, anyway..."
Harry looked at the boys who had been his friends, roommates, companions, confidants, and Enchanted Sock Prank victims for more than a third of his life. He swallowed. They'd lost their family and friends in the past few days, but they were determined to set things right again. They couldn't set the world back to the way it had been, so instead they were trying to claim the future with the same reckless spirit with which they had conquered the past.
"Okay," Harry said. "One last game."