The Birthday Present

By Blue Yeti

AN: This is not in anyway fluffy. This is opposite to fluffy or cliched. Harry does not get a pet snake for his birthday, nor does he meet a girl who is impossibly magical with perfect style summer love. This is something else, which I hope you'll still read.

Disclaimer: All that stuff you recognize belongs to JK and all the other rich buggers who bought a slice of Harry Potter.

In a compartment just along from the end of the Hogwarts express sounds of exchanging holiday stories was audible. "…And then George went chasing after a bewitched apple that was charging for this Muggle agenty person. His broom swerved and just missed the ugly git's head. It was a pity - he would have looked a whole lot better after face reconstruction, I can tell you."

"Dad had quite a bit of trouble with the memory charm on him after, too. Harry, tell us what you did to your cousin over the hols. It was crap that Dumbledore didn't let you come over to our place to stay. Come on tell us every boring detail." Fred enthused.

"Nup. Nothing much." Harry didn't want to tell them. It made him feel horrible inside just thinking about all that had happened. He was responsible for the deaths of five muggles. The residents of 2 and 6 Privet Drive. Voldemort couldn't touch him when he was with the Dursleys so he had simply reassured his presence nearby. He's there…waiting.

"Come on, Harry, we heard that some stuff had happened to muggles over in Sussex." The Dark Mark had been launched over the street at Midnight of his Birthday. His birthday present was a sharp pain in his forehead for an hour, hysterically accusing Dursleys and then a visit from a Ministry official wanting a statement from him.

"Cut it out Ron. Can't you see that he doesn't want to talk about it." Harry felt immense gratitude towards Hermione, or maybe it was Ginny. He wasn't thinking too straight – and he didn't care. The man, Rupert Krook, had sat down in front of him on the plush neat couches of Petuna Dursley. 'Last night five muggles were found dead by Avada Kedavra under the Dark Mark.' He had said in a neutral tone. 'Could you, as the only person of wizarding blood in the area, tell us if you noticed anything – unusual – last night.'

"Okay, Okay! Don't get all huffy. We won't insist Harry. I just don't think it's good to keep it all bottled up." Harry didn't bother to notice who said this, and if he did, he didn't acknowledge it. He stared out the window and shuddered. 'Yep, I think I noticed something unusual about last night…BLOODY VOLDEMORT WAS HERE KILLING OFF INNOCENT MUGGLES, THAT'S WHAT!! It was a birthday present.' Mr Krook had been taken aback by the blunt use of the feared name, and by the self-loathing and despise in his voice.

"Thanks, guys." And that was the first thing he had said in over an hour. The other waited hopefully for more, but it wasn't going to come. 'Now, now Harry, there's no reason to be afraid. The rumors about You-Know-Who returning are untruthful. I know that you in particular must be afraid.' His grey eyes flicked to the lightning bolt on his forehead, 'But he's not back. The Minister has reassured us of this. This attack on your neighbours was the work of Death Eaters, but not the Dark Lord himself. They are organizing these attacks to create fear. They are terrorists who are trying to convince the public that He has returned. Now tell me Harry, what did you see?'

The group sat in silence for a few minutes. All looking at Harry, but he couldn't even feel their gaze. 'He came at midnight. Two Death Eaters went into old Mrs Spensers house. Then Voldemort and another went and killed Mr and Mrs Plumer who just moved into number 2 with their little daughters. Voldemort can't get me when I'm here - he told me - but he can get close enough. My scar burnt for an hour afterwards.' Harry's gaunt and unemotional voice had then fallen into the extreme end of silence.

"Ohhhh, guys, I know what on Harry's mind. He's meet a girl, summer love an' all that, and now he's got to leave her…or him?" The twins were trying to get a rise out of him, but the words whistled through his ears unnoticed. Mr Krook had heard most of the stories from the first crews on the scene. Harry Potter, the small and slight boy in front of him, had been sitting with his back against the exterior wall when the magical teams had come to investigate. He had stumbled outside and seen the Dark Mark hovering in the sky and then he had collapsed. He had sat there till sunrise laying his head on arms crossed because of the cold, his left hand clasped over his scar, shaking.

"Harry, I know you don't want to talk, but don't beat yourself up over whatever it is. Lets talk about…um…Quidditch!" Mr Krook had read an article a few months ago by Rita Skeeter. Something about Harry Potter being mentally unstable and even, a Parseltongue. He sighed and scribbled a few notes of what Harry had said with a footnote questioning the validity of the statement – pitying the teen who had had it so hard.

"Bigonville won the European championships in July and the Portuguese had a really good team this year too. Which was surprising 'coz they haven't had a win in ages." The one-sided conversation was strained and then evaporated. 'Harry,' he said, as the boy's attention had drifted out the window where the ghostly remains of the Dark Mark hovered. Harry shivered with the suppressed memories that haunted his mind, but responded to the crooning call. 'Harry, I'll be going now - to complete the investigation and report to the Ministry. I know that this won't be your happiest birthday ever, but maybe you'll get some good presents to make up for it. Good luck, Harry.' He then left the room so he didn't hear the muttered response. 'I already got a present. I got Death.'