Disclaimer: Harry Potter isn't mine. This is probably a good thing, as Harry was in much safer hands with JK.

Vacation

Dear Journal,

Today, I buried Dobby by the lake, on the far side.

Professor Dumbledore helped me, and Ron and

Hermione came too. It was really sad. I really

wish Lucius Malfoy were there, so I could have

punched him in the face stomach. As it turns out,

I might not be tall enough to properly punch him in

the face. Exams are starting soon, and Hermione's

making us study hard. I guess I asked her to make

sure I learn a lot, so I can't complain. She's making

me get an 'artistic hobby' so I've decided to play an

instrument. This works out well, since there's not

much I can do about that until after term. Not sure

what I'll pick.

R.I.P. Dobby

!

Petunia Dursley fell to the ground as the portkey deposited her in a small dusty room. Quickly standing up, she brushed herself off before harumphing and standing with her arms folded in front of her chest. She didn't want to move one inch but, considering that she was completely on her own, she knew she would have to.

She was on 'vacation'. Of course, there would have been a time when she would have been perfectly happy to be sent to a tropical island, but how could she be, given the circumstances? Dumbledore had promised her, in the beginning, that she could see her son when she wasn't needed at the school, but now it was just the opposite. Through the school year, she had seen her son a total of three times, and now she wouldn't see him again until she returned there. It was all so that she would think of the school as home. She wouldn't have thought that this would have worked, but the old fool seemed happy enough with the state of his wards.

And so she found herself alone on some island. What was worse was that she had no resources. She had a few changes of clothes, a few necessities, and a very small apartment rented under a false name. The bare necessities of food would be brought to her every week, if the old fool kept his promise. If she wanted anything more, she would have to work for it. As it was, she couldn't even pay for a bus to get her to the beach.

Everything was arranged by Dumbledore. Considering how he had micro-managed her life in the school, and the way his eyes had glittered at her, as though he were laughing at some joke that only he knew, she thought that he rather got off on making her dance to his tune. There was a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant a few blocks away from her that would be expecting her in a few weeks, though she could show up earlier if she wanted. If she didn't show up by the pre-arranged date though, she would have to find a different job on her own.

As she looked around the bare apartment, and looked out the window at a very un-scenic view, she knew that she would cave in eventually and wash the damned dishes. It wasn't as though she could get another job without knowing the local language, and as stubborn as she was, she had no intention of spending her whole summer holed up in this measly apartment, just barely getting by. She wasn't some lay-about, and she would be damned if she lived in squalor. In the meantime though, she would stay put. There was no need to give the old fool the satisfaction of giving in right away. The apartment needed work anyway.

Thoughts that entered her head of finding a British embassy or consulate and getting help, quickly left. It would be useless, she knew. Dumbledore had explained that she would be quite unable to explain her situation to anyone; she would only babble if she tried. Remembering how they had fumbled in explaining away Dudley's pigs tail two years prior, she knew she wouldn't be able to make an even greater fool of herself. She was on her own.

The worst part though was that she didn't even know how long she would be there. She wore a wretched necklace that would spirit her away back to the school when she was needed back, and not one moment sooner or later. Not for the first time, she cursed her wretched life.

!

For the first time in Harry's life, summer break was better than school. Not only were there no Dursley's, but he got to take trips. Spending a whole summer at Hogwarts would have meant no long lists of chores, no pretending he didn't exist, and no one trying to beat the stuffing out of him. He could eat as much as he wanted, use the quidditch pitch and library when he wanted. Most importantly, as long as he stayed away from Snape, which wasn't difficult, no one looked at him as though he were something unpleasant that they had stepped in. Harry wouldn't say that he was happy to have been beaten into a coma, but with his new accommodations, he didn't exactly feel all that bad about it either. For the first time, Harry was starting to think that maybe fate would take a break on him.

However, a suitable standard of care was not the only reason that Harry was enjoying his summer. Seeing no need for Harry to spend his whole summer locked up alone in a castle, Professor McGonagall had made arrangements for Harry to vacation with his classmates. Hogwarts footed the bill, and Harry got to travel. He had first gone to the Amazon with Neville, and his grandmother and great uncle. They had taken a magical river cruise up the length of it, occasionally stopping to visit the local native wizards. Apparently there was a large trade of magical plants and ingredients that could only be found in the Amazon. Neville had been able to bring a couple of plants home, but it was his great uncle who really stocked up on supplies from village to village.

Harry managed to learn a lot more about his roommate, though Neville had secrets of his own. He had told Harry about growing up with his grandmother on the Longbottom estate. He had kept his face perfectly blank when he told Harry that he had lived with her since he had been a baby, and Harry, long experienced in keeping private matters private, knew not to ask what had happened to Neville's parents.

Neville made for a decent conversationalist, being knowledgeable about a lot of aspects of wizarding culture that Ron didn't have experience in, as well as being curious about muggle life. But that was the only thing Harry knew how to talk to Neville about. Neville enjoyed watching quidditch, but didn't have much interest in discussing it. When they played chess or gobstones, Neville didn't really care much about it past killing time. To put it bluntly, Harry really wished that there were other kids their age on the ship. Fortunately, he wasn't dependent on Neville to stave off boredom, as the sights and the local villages were amazing. He even got to interact with some local youths, though there was a language barrier.

Dear Journal,

Today I met people from the Yanomami tribe.

I didn't realize at first, but they were speaking a

different language than the ones I've been hearing

before on the trip. The kids here were pretty friendly

and I got to play with them. But most of the kids my

age were out in the forest. I had fun anyway, and the

kids who were there had fun showing me around.

Later, we went swimming until I had to go back to the

ship. Dinner was real fancy tonight, with fish that the

crew caught.

After that, he was back at Hogwarts for a couple of weeks before he went to the coast with Dean's family and Seamus. Dean and Seamus had managed to drag him into trouble at times, but as it was the kinds of trouble that didn't involve dark lords, Harry considered the trip to be a success. Dean, who behaved reasonably maturely at school, was much less so on vacation. Their first night at the beach home, Harry had walked through his bedroom door to find a bucket of water had been placed over it. Harry reciprocated by shutting off the hot water the next time Dean was taking a shower, only to discover that it had been Seamus inside instead. This had set a trend for the week. Their last night at the beach had led to a game of truth or dare that led to Harry deciding that he hated the taste of beer.

Dear Journal,

Dean and Seamus made me play volleyball

with some girls on the beach today. I wasn't sure

why, since they didn't seem very interested in the

game, before I realized it was a boy-girl thing.

They were really pretty, but we only just played

volleyball with them. Not sure if Seamus had a

plan, but if he did, it didn't work. I think Dean's sister

figured things out quicker than I did, because she

made fun of him later.

Harry had never considered that he would have his first beer by the age of twelve and three-quarters, but he refused to feel guilty about it. The chances were that he was going to die young, so it only made sense that he got some things done early.

Harry returned to the castle for only a few days before he was sent off to Germany with the Finch-Fletchley's. Because of their rather intense argument the year before, their reconciliation not withstanding, Harry and Justin had hardly known what to say to each other, or even if they should be talking. Harry hadn't been sure whose idea Harry's inclusion in the trip had been, but Harry doubted their faculties. However, the situation had vastly improved when Justin discovered that Harry was learning to play the fiddle. Justin had been playing the violin since he had been old enough to stand, and had offered to help him figure the fiddle out. It was only towards the end of the trip that Justin had considered Harry good enough to play a simple accompaniment when Justin practiced, which he had to do every day. He explained that he had thought that he could stop practicing when he had gone to Hogwarts as, unlike Eton, Hogwarts didn't care about how multitalented he was. His parents, he explained, had only laughed when he had explained this to them.

Dear Journal,

Munich has a lot of cool buildings. We saw

a lot of them today.

I had a thought about girls. What if a girl

falls in love with me? I know some girls have

crushes on me, but can I have a girl friend? I

don't think it would be fair for her if I got one, but

it's not fair for me if I don't.

I don't like the food here.

And so, by the end of the Germany trip, though Harry and Justin weren't the best of friends, they were certainly on good terms. Harry expected that the next term, they would be back to teaming up amicably in Herbology. Later, back at the castle, Harry reflected that it would be good to have more friends around the castle. Maybe then it would be harder for the student body to turn against him.

Harry had asked Professor McGonagall if he could maybe go to France with the Grangers, but she had looked scandalized just at the thought of it. She had said something about the impropriety of a young wizard traveling with a young witch. Harry, who so far only had a mild interested in girls, had thought this to be terribly silly, but knew better than to try to argue the point. Before speaking to Professor McGonagall, he had owled Hermione about the possibility. She had cautioned him that should he meet her parents over the summer, he was to mention nothing of the Chamber of Secrets.

For much of the rest of July, Harry was at the castle waiting for the week before his birthday, when he would be going to the Weasleys. The Weasleys weren't going anywhere for the summer, but were happy to have him over regardless, and would hear nothing about Hogwarts paying for them to host him. Harry was looking forward to it more than he had looked forward to any of the other trips that he had taken so far. There weren't any amazing sights to see, but the Weasley's plus Hermione were Harry's favorite people in the world. Harry spent his time waiting for his trip to the Weasley's flying, writing in his new journal, playing his new fiddle, and working on summer homework. The later was not by choice, but by mandate of Professor McGonagall, who had him do homework in her office for an hour a day when she was in the castle, or with Professor Flitwick when she wasn't. The upside of this was that he was mostly finished now, and wouldn't have very much to do by the time he went to stay with the Weasleys.

In addition to his summer assignments, Harry was also spending an hour each day revising Hermione's notes from the last two years. Though she had not yet conceded that Harry had met her conditions to her satisfaction, she had recommended to Harry that he do this before leaving for the summer. She explained that though he had done well enough on his exams, and she had hedged 'well enough' in a tone of voice that made it clear that she would have fallen weeping if she herself had received those marks, he would need to learn the material better, as it was a foundation for everything he wanted to accomplish. Harry was just glad that, since he was at the castle, he was able to use as much magic as he wanted when he was practicing. He focused mostly on Charms, Transfiguration, and Defense, but also worked on Potions and Herbology. Hermione had told him that if he wanted to receive Auror training when he was old enough, he would need a NEWT in Potions, and Hebology would also help with that. Considering that Harry had already faced Voldemort three times in his lifetime, he wasn't sure that he would ever become old enough to receive Auror training, but he supposed that Aurors needed to know potions for a reason, and so he would learn them too.

Finally, Harry was also trying to meditate. For the most part, the only thing he had succeeded in doing was to fall asleep sitting up, but should Hermione ask at the end of the summer, he would honestly be able to tell her that he had devoted an hour each day to trying it. He had read a book about it, but he still hadn't succeeded in achieving the meditative state that it described.

"Harry, what on Earth is that dreadful noise?" asked Professor McGonagall as she walked into the Gryffindor common room.

"I'm practicing my fiddle, professor," Harry answered with a frown. He had thought that he had gotten past the 'noise' stage.

"And when was the last time you tuned it?" his head of house asked. "Or did you spend an entire week and a half with mister Finch-Fletchly without learning how?"

Harry frowned. "Oops," he said, as he started experimentally turning the tuning knobs. "Hold on," he said, "is that why you sent me to Germany with him? So I'd stop making noise?"

"That," conceded Professor McGonagall, "and to perhaps turn a former enemy into a friend."

Harry looked at her askance. Had he perhaps not been the only Gryffindor that the hat had considered for Slytherin? He didn't dare voice the thought aloud.

"Did you just come to tell me to tune my fiddle?"

"No, Harry," she said. "There has been a change of plans, it seems that you will be going to Egypt."

"Egypt?" asked Harry with a frown. "But I thought I was going to see Ron, and his family."

"Mr. Weasley the senior has just won the Daily Prophet's Thousand Galleon Draw," said Professor McGonagall. "They have decided to use the funds to visit their oldest, William, in Egypt."

"And I get to go with them?" asked Harry excitedly.

"Indeed, Mr. Potter."

"I should go pack then," said Harry, turning towards his dorm excitedly. "Um, what should I pack?" he asked sheepishly, turning around to face the professor again.

"What you took to the coast should do nicely," said Professor McGonagall. "Tomorrow, I will take you to buy some appropriate necessities for the desert."

"Thanks, Professor," said Harry.

"It is of little bother, Harry," said Professor McGonagall. "I dare say, we could both do with getting away from the castle. When was the last time you were out in the sun?"

"I went flying yesterday," said Harry.

Professor McGonagall looked at him askance. "Well you're still awfully pale. Are you feeling alright?"

"I um, think I'm coming down with something, actually," Harry admitted.

"You do recall that Madam Pomfrey is back from her vacation, don't you?" asked Professor McGonagall.

As Harry had sat next to her at dinner the night before, it was a rhetorical question. Harry shrugged.

"I didn't want to bother anyone," he said.

Professor McGonagall gave him a stern look. "Yes, Mr. Potter, at a full five minutes, your visit to Madam Pomfrey would have completely disrupted her day. Please go see her after lunch."

"Yes, ma'am," said Harry, a tad abashedly.

"Do remember, Harry, we're here to take care of you," said the Professor.

"I know," said Harry, "but it is summer."

"And as a ward of the castle, you are entitled to our care during the summer. I assure you, you are not so demanding a child as to be an imposition."

Harry knew a certain dungeon dwelling professor whose opinion differed strongly, as the man had a habit of telling him so, but he didn't bring this up.

"So um, when do I leave for Egypt then?" he asked.

"In two days," she answered.

"Oh wow, I should go pack then."

"After lunch, Harry," said Professor McGonagall, with a tone of voice that Harry was starting to recognize as fond exasperation. "It will hardly take you so long to pack."

!

Harry wondered if this was what it was like to have a summer home somewhere. The Dursley's had long talked about having a summer home in Majorca, and though Harry had doubted that he would have been invited, he had wondered what it would be like to live in two places. It had seemed like an odd idea then, but if this was how it felt like, then Harry supposed that he had been wrong. Hogwarts was home, but somehow, so was the Burrow. There was a sense of warm contentment that filled him upon his arrival that he had not felt in the Longbottom, Thomas, or Finch-Fletchley homes.

He, Ron, and the twins had spent the entire day playing quidditch after Harry's arrival, and for a change they were all exhausted before bedtime. As a consequence, the living room was quiet that evening for the first time that Harry could remember. Harry was lying on the carpet perusing a quidditch magazine near Ron, who was sorting through his Chocolate Frog Card collection on the couch. Suddenly, something in the magazine piqued his interest.

"Hey, Ron," he said.

"What's up?" asked Ron.

"You ever seen this before?" he asked, sitting up to show Ron a full paged ad.

Ron blinked at the page a couple of time. "Um, yeah," he said. "Wait, the sloth-grip-roll diagram or the chess-by-mail club?"

"The club," said Harry. "I thought it sounded like something you'd like."

Ron shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "I'd never really thought about it."

Harry went back to reading the ad. "This is perfect for you, you know," he said. "After you beat McGonagall's chess set, I bet you'd rise through the ranks on this."

"You think so?" asked Ron.

"Please," said Harry, leaning up against the couch's armrest. "Besides, who's ever beaten you at chess?"

Ron became pensive. "It's been a long time since anyone has. But I don't think Errol's up to it."

"That settles it then," said Harry, "Hedwig never has anywhere to go anyway. Besides, if I have to have a hobby, then so do you." His face fell. "Which I forgot to do today. Along with meditating and my journal."

"You've really been doing all of that?" asked Ron.

"Yeah," said Harry. "Or, I've been trying, anyway. I mostly just fall asleep when I try to meditate, and I never know what to write about. I've gotten pretty decent with the fiddle though."

Ron snickered. "I still can't picture you playing an instrument."

"Well, you'll be have plenty of opportunities to see it up close and personal coming up," said Harry, standing up. He had a lot to do before bed. "I don't know, I can barely draw a straight line, so I figured music would be a better bet than art."

"Sure," said Ron following after him, "but why the fiddle."

Harry shrugged, heading up to the room that he and Ron shared. "Seemed cool. The witch at the music store told me I had the fingers for the violin, but I thought the fiddle sounded like more fun." In truth, she had played the violin for him, a somber melody that Harry thought complemented him well. This was exactly why he decided against it; he was tired of being somber.

"Well," said Ron, "let's see what you've got."

"Come on then," said Harry. "But mind, I'm just a beginner."

"That doesn't mean I can't tell you if you suck," said Ron.

"Prat," said Harry.

"So what's the difference between the fiddle and the violin?" asked Ron as they entered his room.

"I'm wasn't really sure on that myself," said Harry. "Turns out they're the same thing, I think, but like, if you play classical music, it's a violin, and fun music makes it a fiddle. Or something like that, anyway."

"If you say so," said Ron.

"Mind," said Harry, pulling his fiddle case out of his trunk, "when I played with Justin, we just did classical music, so I guess this was a violin for a little while." He quickly checked to see that the strings were properly tuned, idly wondering if there were a charm that would do it for him, or perhaps one that would keep it tuned forever.

Harry spread out a couple sheets of music and raised the bow at the ready. "Mind," he said again, "I've not even been at this for two months."

"Oh, go on then," said Ron.

"Right," said Harry, before focusing on his music. He started to play.

"Huh," said Ron.

"What's that mean?" asked Harry, stopping.

"Nothing," said Ron. "But don't they play fiddle's faster than that?"

"I suppose you could do better?" asked Harry.

"I was just saying," said Ron, "it wasn't what I was expecting."

Harry started playing again.

"Is that Scottish?" Ron spoke up again.

Again Harry stopped. "Professor McGonagall picked it out for me," he admitted.

Ron snickered. Harry started again.

Ron again interjected, "So, what are-"

Harry glared it him, and Ron pointedly closed his mouth, allowing Harry to continue playing. After a while, Ron lay down on his bed, turning his attention back to his cards.

Harry had three pieces that he was working on, and he cycled through them for the hour he had promised to practice for. One of them was one that Justin had provided, and they were planning to get back together to play now and then at Hogwarts.

Harry wondered at times if playing the fiddle was in good faith of his arrangement with Hermione. She had said specifically that she had wanted him to have an outlet to express himself, and he had deliberately done the opposite. He didn't particularly like who he'd been the last year, and Hermione certainly seemed to have issues with him, so what was the point of playing to that? The fiddle actually was fun sometimes, which Hermione would have to think an improvement. After all, he wasn't doing anything that would risk breaking his own neck.

!

Ron was having a great summer. Harry hadn't died at school; they were heroes again; his mum had been making fantastic puddings ever since what had happened in the Chamber of Secrets. That was all before his dad had won the Daily Prophet's Thousand Galleon Draw. Now Harry had joined them, and they were in Egypt visiting Bill. He just wished that he wasn't pinching knuts.

His parents were planning to get him something nice, he knew, and they'd be happy to fund the entry fee into the chess-by-mail club. But Ron didn't just want something nice, he wanted something nice and practical. That, of course, would cost real galleons. More specifically, he wanted an Olivander wand of his own.

Ron had gotten a few sparks the first time he had held his Uncle Billius's Wand, but it wasn't quite what a wizard wanted in a new wand. His parents were planning to buy him his own wand his OWL year, like they had Percy. With Percy out of the house by then, or at least bringing some money home, they'd be able to afford it with all of their other school supplies. The Twins had been lucky, they hadn't had any reaction from any of the old family wands. Of course, money had been tight their first year as a result.

The problem was that Ron didn't think that he could afford to wait for his fifth year at Hogwarts to get a good wand. With two years at Hogwarts, he had faced down death on four occasions, never mind that Harry regularly kept him on his toes.

"Hey, Mum," said Ron, slowing down as they walked away from the small Cairo portkey hub. They were on their way to their hotel. His mother slowed down to match his speed.

"What is it, Ronnie, you do have everything don't you, because we can't just go back."

"No," said Ron exasperatedly, "I've got everything. It's just that I've been thinking that with the way things have been going at Hogwarts, Ginny and I should have our own wands now, instead of later."

They'd never be able to afford anything extra with two wands to buy with everything else. Ron still had his pocket change though, so he thought he would be able to afford the club by the end of the month. It just meant no treats or souvenirs in the mean time.

!

Egypt was fantastic, though Harry wasn't sure which vacation so far was his favorite. Such uncertainty was something he wasn't quite used to; growing up he had seldom had one good thing happen, let alone enough to compare and contrast. He wasn't sure yet whether Egypt was his favorite place to travel to, but the Weasley's were certainly his favorite people to travel with.

They'd been to see a lot already. Ron's oldest brother Bill, who was just as cool as Ron had described him and more, had taken them first to the Egyptian branch of Gringotts. Though it wasn't as busy anymore, it was the oldest Gringotts in existence, and with gold inlaid columns, and fantastic murals, it was considerably more interesting than the branch in England.

Afterward, they'd gone to see a tomb, which was still being guarded by a sphinx. Bill had answered it's riddle, and this was a good thing, as everyone else in the group looked flummoxed. Harry had heard of the sphinx from the tale of Oedipus, and though this one seemed to have a gentle face, he still wouldn't have wanted to face it's wrath.

Through the trip, Bill made sure to oversee the dining. Everything that they ate was good, in Harry's opinion, though there were some flavors that he had had to get used to. Still, he wondered what local dishes Bill was protecting them from trying. He was tempted to order something at random if he ever got the chance to order for himself. On the whole though, he was happy to eat what Bill arranged. Mrs. Weasley, on the other hand, always had a somewhat anxious look on her face when she sat down to eat restaurant food. She always ate what Bill arranged, sometimes getting seconds, so Harry didn't think that she didn't like the food. Harry supposed that the woman who always cooked such large meals for her family was uncomfortable not being the one cooking.

Only one thing cast a pall on Harry's enjoyment of the trip, and that was Harry himself. He had thought that he was done with fantasizing, but still, he kept daydreaming about miracles happening. Bill was a trained curse breaker after all, so what if he realized what Harry was? What if he knew something about horcruxes that professor Dumbledore didn't? Harry hated himself just a little bit for his never ceasing ability to torture himself with delusions of salvation. Harry was tempted just to approach Bill about it, but he still didn't know how to say those words out loud.

The morning of Harry's birthday dawned with the hot egyptian sun chasing away the cool night temperatures in a hurry. Though he was up by eight, Harry was already sweating when he reached the small courtyard next to the muggle hotel where a simple continental breakfast was served. Harry still hadn't had a real egyptian breakfast, nor was he sure what one consisted of, since they usually ate breakfast at the hotel, which served english food. Harry got some off-brand Cheerios and a couple of pastries before taking a seat at the table.

He started eating on his own, but didn't have long to wait for company. The Weasley's senior and Bill didn't seem capable of sleeping in either, though they were on vacation. Soon enough, Bill was pulling out a seat next to Harry.

"So, Harry," Bill greeted jovially, "how was skinny-dipping in the Amazon?"

Harry choked on his orange juice before spraying it over his breakfast. "How did you know about that?" he asked, coughing.

"Well, I didn't until you told me," said Bill with a cheeky grin. "My ex sent me this, this morning," he said, handing Harry a magazine clipping. "She thought I should know that Witch Weekly is running pieces on all of your little vacations. They're supposed to be writing about Germany in the next issue, and I bet Egypt won't be far behind it."

Harry scowled at the article, which was really more of a blurb. It had a picture of him at the top, which Bill must have put a freezing charm on for the muggles. Harry was smiling as he played, topless, but with trousers on, with some of the native youth.

Now a Ward of the Castle, Harry Potter has no home

to return to for the summer holidays. But that doesn't

mean that The-Boy-Who-Lived is staying inside a

lonely castle all day. A common perk of his current

situation is to travel with his school mates at the

school's expense.

Above is a picture of him on holiday, enjoying a

river cruise on the Amazon River. As you can see,

he's disrobed some to fit in with the other youth.

With multiple stops to visit local tribes, Harry's had

a chance to have fun while learning about the local

cultures. Mr. Sachet, who took the picture of the

boy savior reports that Harry behaved much like

any other boy his age, though he dutifully

practiced playing his violin every day. When asked

if Harry is any good on it, he declined to comment.

We'll have to wish Harry good luck on mastering

this classical instrument.

Mr. Sachet says that Harry often played games

with and learned from the local youth, making easy

friends in spite of the language barrier. Harry

reportedly went swimming nearly every day, though

Mr. Sachet never said whether Mr. Potter swam

as some of the locals sometimes did, that is to say,

with out a stitch on!

Next week, find out about Harry's trip to Germany,

though we're still trying to find out more about the

mystery trip he took in-between.

Harry tamped down his initial reaction of outrage. It wasn't any of their business what he did on holiday. But he didn't want to lose his cool in front of Bill, who was himself very cool.

"I wish I'd brought a camera with me on that trip," he said nonchalantly. "I wonder if they have any other pictures they could give me."

"Smooth, Harry," said Bill, biting into a danish. "Just don't choke next time someone asks."

"Thanks for the heads-up," said Harry with a touch of exasperation leaking in, stuffing the article into his pocket. "So why do they get to gossip about me, but the Longbottoms get their privacy?" he asked.

Bill sighed. "Usually, the assumption is that celebrities are public property," he said. Harry scowled in turn. "Of course, usually, celebrities have sought out the spot-light."

"You know I got ambushed by a reporter when I was in the hospital?" asked Harry peevishly.

"I'm not surprised," said Bill. "It's not fair, of course, but you're going to need to remember that people are going to pay attention to the things you do in public, a lot more than other people. Depending on the popular opinion, you'll either be held to a higher standard, or you'll be able to get away with murder, as long as you do it with a smile and a wink."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Harry, with his head in his hands.

"Look, I'm no expert, but I've seen how they treat the popular quidditch players and radio sensations. Especially the young ones. I get the feeling you don't want anything to do with them, but they're going to write about you whether or not you talk to them. But if you don't help guide them to an image of yourself that you're comfortable with, they'll just make one up. Chances are, you won't be happy with their choices."

Harry had lost his appetite. "Well, bugger them all."

"Oh, they'd eat that image of you right up, though I think you'd grow exhausted from playing it." He waggled his eyebrows.

It took Harry a moment to understand. "No, not that kind of bugger!" he said louder than he should have. He shifted in his seat, looking around to see if anyone else had heard him before he continued in a quitter voice. "I mean, you know, to hell with them."

"I know what you meant," said Bill. "Harry, this isn't the first time you've been in the news, and it won't be the last. Like I said, I'm no media analyst, but I don't think it's going to stay cute and innocent like this Witch Weekly article. You get a little older, and they won't speculate which parts of the local culture you sampled, they'll start speculating on whether you sampled any of the local girls. Take Tacheus Worth on the Wasps. They never saw him with a girl friend, so they started speculating on whether he was having an affair with his best mate. Of course, I think he just didn't have eyes for anything other than the quaffle, but there you go. The next week, he had a little argument with a store owner in Diagon Alley, and it made Quidditch Quarterly, Witch Weekly, and the Daily Prophet. Suddenly he was having a relationship with a married wizard and had an anger management problem, not because any of that was true, but because if you're famous without being interesting enough for them, they'll make you interesting on their own."

Harry put his head in his hands. "So what you're saying is, I should throw myself off the Great Pyramid today?"

"No," said Bill, "what I'm saying is,... well I'm not sure what I'm saying, other than, be careful, and maybe think about how you want the rest of the world to see you."

"Is 'just Harry' an option?" asked Harry.

"Only if he's terribly interesting, and has a roguish grin. You might want to practice in the mirror."

"The mirror would just make fun of me," said Harry.

"Not if you do it right," said Bill, clearly trying to be a little more cheerful. "By the way, happy birthday."

"Thanks," said Harry.

Bill's parents came down soon after, and the rest of his siblings over the next hour. Harry knew Ron at least would have slept in longer, but they had a tour scheduled. It was indeed to the Great Pyramid, and they were going to see all of the interesting parts hidden from the muggles. Harry never did get a chance to stand on top, though.

Mrs. Weasley excused herself part way through, saying that she had to run a quick errand before lunch. Harry wondered if maybe part of the exhibit had been a little too gruesome for her.

The twins tried to seal Percy up in one of the pyramid's hidden rooms, but Bill had caught on and jinxed their hands to stay in their pockets. Afterwards, Mr. Weasley ushered them all to a small park, which was greener than Harry would have expected in the desert. He blinked owlishly when they got to the picnic area that they were going to use for lunch.

It was colorful, for one. Harry's eyes were drawn to a bright banner which read 'Happy Birthday Harry!' There were streamers hanging from a shade tree and a few balloons. Harry gaped.

"Happy Birthday!" the Weasley's chorused.

Harry gaped. "Oh..." he said without grace. "Wow..." He wasn't quite sure what to say. "Is this all for me?" he asked.

"No," said one of the twins.

"It's for our other friend Harry," said the other.

"I... I've never had a birthday party before," Harry admitted.

"Well check it off your list, Harry, you're getting a Weasley Family Birthday," said Ron, who clapped Harry on the back.

"Thank you!" said Harry. "You guys didn't have to though, really."

"Don't be silly," Mrs. Weasley said fondly. "Now come on then, I tracked down a kitchen I could cook in, don't ask me how. We're having your favorites for lunch."

Harry approached the picnic table to see that his favorite foods were indeed there. "I didn't know you knew what I liked," he said.

"Of course I know," said Mrs. Weasley fondly. "Now tuck in."

Though there were a few local flavors, as Mrs. Weasley hadn't been able to access all of her usual ingredients, Harry found that it was almost like sitting down to the kitchen table at the Burrow. His eyes kept on being drawn to the birthday cake that was in the middle of the table. It wasn't his first, of course, Hagrid had brought him that one. Harry hadn't gotten to eat it, though, as Dudley had gotten to it first.

After filling himself on shepherds pie and various side dishes though, he had no room for cake, and so it was time to open presents. Ron had gotten Harry a leather bracelet popular among the Egyptian wizards for securing their wands along their forearms. Meanwhile, the twins had gotten Harry a small set of magical fireworks.

Sitting amongst all of the Weasley's opening his birthday presents, Harry thought that maybe he had found something more magical than Christmas.

!

Back at the hotel that night, Harry found himself ushered into Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's room for a talk. He wracked his brain for a reason why as he took a seat across from them, though he couldn't think of anything.

"Harry," said Mr. Weasley. "There's something that we've been meaning to tell you." Mrs. Weasley made a noise as though to disagree, but she didn't speak up. Mr. Weasley continued on regardless. "It's a matter that does concern you, though being out of the country as we are now, you shouldn't need to worry about it yet."

"What are you talking about?" asked Harry.

"It hasn't made the news here yet," said Mr. Weasley, "as it only happened a couple days ago, but I suspect it will soon. A wizard by the name of Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban. He's a Death Eater, one of You-Know-Who's most infamous followers."

"Oh," said Harry, not sure what to make of that. "And he might come after me?" he asked.

"It's more than likely," said Mr. Weasley. "Remember that picture we took for the Daily Prophet the first day we got here?"

"Yeah," said Harry.

"Black got a copy of the paper the day before he escaped. Apparently he expressed an interest in doing the crossword. He took the page with our picture on it when he left. The guards also heard him saying, 'He's at Hogwarts'."

A cold pit settled in Harry's stomach, but it quickly dissolved. He felt his resolve firm. He had faced worse, after all.

"Now Harry, there's no real need to worry," said Mrs. Weasley. "Black would have a hard time getting to Egypt any time soon, and the wards on Hogwarts are nigh impenetrable. That being said, I don't want you to go looking for trouble, young man. He is a very dangerous wizard, and he will not hesitate to hurt you, if you give him the chance."

"I don't go looking for trouble," Harry said, a touch heatedly, but he wilted under Mrs. Weasley's glare. "Anymore," he tacked onto his statement. "It's pretty good at finding me either way, though."

"Which is why everyone will be working hard to keep you safe, so you don't need to worry about that," said Mr. Weasley.

"Am I going to have to leave early?" asked Harry.

"I'm afraid so," said Mr. Weasley. "Professor Dumbledore says you can stay the rest of the week. Past that, we risk giving Black the time he needs to gather the resources necessary to get to Egypt through unofficial channels."

"What about you?" asked Harry. "What if he finds you here, instead of me?"

Mrs. Weasley sighed. "Which is why we'll be going home too."

Harry frowned and looked down at his lap. He hadn't wanted to wreck things for everyone.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Harry," said Mrs. Weasley with a touch of exasperation. "It's Black who ought to be apologizing for upsetting everyone's plans."

"It's for the best anyway," said Mr. Weasley. "They'll need all hands on deck back at the ministry, and I know this one's been missing her kitchen," he said nudging his wife.

"Still," said Harry. "It feels like a poor way to repay you."

"Honestly," said Mrs. Weasley, "says the boy who rescued our daughter. You can call it even, if you must. Now off to bed with you. We still have some fun planned for tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that."

"Good night, Harry," said Mr. Weasley. "And try not to worry about this."

Going back to his room that night, Harry couldn't help but think that Black would be good practice before Voldemort.

A/N: Terribly sorry that this update was so long in coming. I have no excuse.

In other news, my beta The Lord of Chaos, continues to write his new fic Blood. Anyone who was a fan of Isis's Bane: The Goblet of Fire should go check it out, because he wrote most of it.