Harry walked down the empty street, kicking a stone along as he walked. He waved to old Mrs. Figg who watched him from her garden.
"Everything okay, Harry?" she asked as he passed her overgrown garden.
"Er, yeah." Harry answered. "I'm just going to the shop to pick up some bread for my Aunt. Don't worry," he continued. "I don't fancy Voldemort will be there."
Mrs. Figg flinched at the sound of Voldemort's name. "No, I'm sure he's not going to be, but you can't be too cautious. Mundungus! Where are you?" she shouted at the garden.
"I'm right here, Arabella. Don't get your proverbial knickers in a twist. Good afternoon, Harry," he added.
"Dung, Harry needs to go to the store for that lazy aunt of his. Go with him and make sure he stays safe," said old Mrs. Figg.
"Your wish is my command, fair lady," said Mundungus, bowing low and doffing his non-existent hat. "Come along, my boy," he said turning around. "Harry? Harry, where have you gone to?"
"You old fool, there he is," said Mrs. Figg, pointing down the street. "Now get that cloak on, and follow him."
Harry looked over his shoulder, certain that he had lost Mundungus. At the store, he picked up a loaf of bread, and the jar of Bovril that his aunt had requested. His purchases made, Harry walked back down the street, slowly, trying to delay his return to Privet Drive. It had been a long summer already, and he hadn't even had his sixteenth birthday yet. That was tomorrow, but he didn't foresee much changing after that.
The sky began to darken, as evening fell, and Harry hurried, slightly nervous, despite his show of bravado earlier. He started as he heard a branch snap, and whirled around, quickly. Emerging from the alley, Harry saw a large black shaggy dog. His heart pounded in his chest.
Sirius, he thought to himself. Almost against his will, he found himself moving towards the dog.
"Snuffles?" he said softly. "Is it really you?"
The dog looked at him, and bounded into the woods. Harry started to follow, but felt his arm being pulled by an invisible source.
"Mundungus, is that you?" he whispered.
"Aye, boy, it is. Now get yourself home, before Arabella has my head!"
"But, Dung, did you see him?" Harry whispered, excitedly.
"See what, Harry? Are there Dementors about again?"
"Never mind," said Harry. "I better get this home, before my aunt has a fit."
Later that night, Harry sat on his bed, and gazed out into the dark night. He concentrated fiercely, hoping to catch another glimpse of Sirius.
"Come on," he muttered to the darkness. "Come on Sirius, where are you?" Hours later, Harry fell asleep, still looking out the window, hoping for another glimpse of the large black dog.
A tapping on the window woke him up. He opened his eyes, and saw Hedwig outside the window, tapping on the glass. He opened the window, and she swooped, followed by Pig, as well as several other owls that he couldn't identify.
Harry passed out owl treats to all the animals, and removed the packages that they carried. Pig's package contained gifts from Ron, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, as well as a cake, and a card from Ginny. One of the unidentified owls had a card and a bundle of rock candy from Hagrid. The third owl had a card and book token to Flourish and Blotts from Hermione. A fourth owl had a letter from Hogwarts, which contained his O.W.L. scores.
Care of Magical Creatures...Outstanding
History of Magic...Poor
Defense Against the Dark Arts...Outstanding
Harry barely glanced at his scores. He grabbed the package that Hedwig had brought and tore into it. He lifted out a model of a Quidditch pitch, complete with two teams, flying around, playing a rather intense game of Quidditch. Harry jumped, as a miniature Golden Snitch flew past his face, knocking the wrappings on the ground.
Harry reached down and picked up the wrappings, not noticing the small folded piece of paper that slid out from the wrappers and under the bed. Harry opened the card, wondering who could have sent him such a fantastic gift.
Harry, when I saw this, I thought of you.
The card began to tremble in Harry's hand. It was Sirius, he thought to himself. I knew he was alive. I just knew it! He jumped off the bed, and thundered down the stairs, and out of the house, ignoring the startled looks on the faces of the Dursleys.
Harry spent the entire day walking around Little Whinging, searching for the dog, but he couldn't find him anywhere. Hot, tired and hungry, he made his way back to number four as darkness fell. He ignored the Dursleys and wearily climbed the stairs to his bedroom. He sat on his bed, and watched the small figures zooming around the pitch. He sighed, and picked up the model, and moved it over to his desk. As he did, the card slid off the bed, and came to rest halfway under his bed. He knelt down to retrieve the card, and spied another small piece of paper lying next to it. He pulled it out and opened it, and found a note from Professor Lupin.
Sirius had ordered this for you months ago. I knew he would want me to send it to you. I hope you enjoy it. Sirius was so excited when he found it. He was positive you would love it. Happy Birthday, Harry, and remember to contact me if you need anything.
Tears filled Harry's eyes, and spilled down his cheeks. Sirius wasn't here; he wasn't alive. He was never going to see his godfather again. His glance strayed over to the model pitch. He stood up, crossed the room and looked at it. A small grin formed on his lips and he scrubbed the tears from his cheeks. No, Sirius wasn't alive, but Harry was, and above all, Sirius would have wanted him to go on living, and enjoying life. His gift showed him that. Sirius could have given him something that would have been useful in the fight against Voldemort, but instead had given him something fun. Something he was sure Harry would love. Something to remind him life wasn't just about fighting, it was about living. Something Harry was going to remember, forever.