"Wands out, d'you reckon?" suggested a voice to his left.
He expressed his agreement in a nod.
Before any spells could be cast, however, a shrill, cold voice sounded in his ears. But he was not just hearing the voice; it was part of him, making him shiver in its coldness; twinge in its shrillness; the voice was dreadful. It said, "Kill the spare!"
Another voice was then heard. Not instructions to be carried out, but an incantation. "Avada Kedavra!"
He saw a flash of green light and heard a rushing sound. He closed his eyes to shield them from the light, and when he opened them, he saw himself holding his wand before him with a thread of golden light extending toward and connecting with another wand. Emerging from it was a ghostly figure. A figure resembling that of the 18-year-old boy just killed by the Killing Curse.
It dropped from the wand. It walked over to him. It said, "He killed me. You could have saved me, but you didn't. I'm dead now, and it's all your fault. YOUR FAULT!"
The voice of Cedric Diggory resounded painfully in his ears. He shut his eyes to block the accusing ghost-image of his former competitor and fellow Seeker, only to open them and see Barty Crouch Jr. lying on the floor of Mad-Eye Moody's office. Albus Dumbledore was leaning over Crouch with a flask of clear liquid in his hand.
"What happened tonight?" asked Dumbledore calmly.
Crouch opened his eyes slowly and directed them towards Harry. "They killed the boy, but it's Harry's fault. Harry's fault. Harry's fault. . ."
Harry's eyes snapped open as he sat bolt upright in his bed in his second-story bedroom of number 4, Privet Drive. He put a hand to his forehead, only to take it away, damp with sweat. Harry had grown more or less used to the nightmares by now. He had been having them ever since he had returned to the Dursley's house from his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yet they had not ceased to wake him up sweating every night for the past month.
He reached over to his bedside table to put on his glasses, noticing that his alarm clock read 1:30. Harry groaned, pulling his feet over the side of his bead. What a wonderful way to start out his birthday, for today was July 31st, 1995. Today was Harry James Potter's fifteenth birthday.
He got up out of his bed and walked over to his desk. He picked up a quill and set out a piece of parchment, and began to write:
Hey, It's Harry. How's the summer going? Have you finished that essay on poisons for Snape yet? I can't quite figure out that stuff with the ground manticore teeth yet.
Just then, he heard a soft but persistent tapping on his window. He looked up from his letter to see four owls through the glass. He opened the window, and they all flew in, finding perches on his bed and dresser. One of the owls he noticed was his own snowy owl, Hedwig, who perched on his arm. The last owl Harry recognized to be his friend Ron's owl, Pigwidgeon, or Pig. He just flew around Harry's room like a lunatic as usual. On his next pass at Harry, he dropped a letter and two parcels. Harry opened the letter first.
Happy birthday, mate! Man, you should see the twins this summer! Apparently, they got hold of a bloody lot of money somehow, meaning that new jokes of theirs are turning up everywhere! Yesterday, I opened my dresser only for it to explode in my face! (Mum cleared it up though with a handy little anti-burn charm, not to mention what she did to the twins!) Any ideas as to where they could have gotten all that money? By the way, did you hear? Hermione decided not to go to see Krum in Bulgaria! Wonder why.
Anyway, I hope you like your present. I saw it and thought ‘Harry.' Hope to see you later this summer! (According to Mum though, Dumbledore wants you to stay with the Muggles for now.)
P.S. Ginny wanted me to tell you happy birthday for her, although you'd think she'd have got over her crush on you ages ago!
Harry flushed slightly at the thought of Ron little sister giving him this unneeded attention, but he put Ron's letter aside and unwrapped his gift. To his surprise, it turned out to be a book. Ron never sent him books as presents. But when he saw the title, he understood: Seeking Better Seeker Skills: A Guide to More Efficient Snitch-Catching. Harry grinned as the moving picture on the cover showed a man in bright orange Chudley Cannon Quidditch robes chasing a walnut-size, winged golden ball, the Golden Snitch. Smiling, he put Seeking Better Seeker Skills on his desk and unwrapped his second Weasley gift. It was a package from Mrs. Weasley filled to the brim with sweets.
Hiding it under the loose floorboard under his bed, he detached the letter from the owl sitting on his bed, and read it:
Happy birthday! I hope the Dursleys aren't being too horrible to you. My summer is going pretty well, although I decided not to go to Bulgaria. Don't tell Ron this, but I couldn't bring myself to go. When I thought of how he felt about me going to the Yule ball with Krum last year, he probably won't like the idea of me spending the summer with him.
Anyway, I hope you will find my gift useful this year what with all the extra work studying for our O.W.L.s. I may have to borrow it from you, if you don't mind. So, happy birthday, and I'll see you at Hogwarts if not the Burrow or Diagon Alley! Keep in touch!
Harry grinned again at finishing his friend's letter. Only she, Hermione Granger, would give him a book on studying for O.W.L.s for a birthday gift, for from the context of the letter, that is what she made it out to be. But when Harry opened the parcel, the book's title was not Scoring Higher on O.W.L's, but Dr. Nereese Tsoos's Guide to Stress and Relationships.
Harry frowned slightly, not in disappointment, but in confusion. Hermione had no reason to send him a book on relationships, as he had never really had any, and he wasn't quite sure what to think about it. But as he thought of all of the extra work they would be facing that year like Hermione had said, Harry expected that the book might come in handy
He then took a particularly lumpy and slightly heavier parcel from the owl on his dresser, who flew away once free of its burden. The present, Harry deduced from the untidy scrawl on the front of the letter, was from Hagrid. It was very short:
Happy birthday! Can't be too long, got work to do for Dumbledore. Just so you know, this gift is a chain maille shirt, or hauberk, made from the scales of dragons. Magically enhanced for extra protection. Hope you enjoy!
Perplexed, Harry pulled the hauberk from the packaging. It was fairly heavy, probably about six or seven kilograms, but he could feel its magic tingling under his fingers. Harry knew what chain maille was, of course. He had read about how medieval muggles had used wire to make circular links to link together to make armour, but he had never seen any real maille before other than in pictures. The dragon scales used as links had holes punched in them so that they could be linked together. He was quite intrigued by the idea of dragon maille, because he knew of the protective qualities already possessed by dragonhide. So, he deduced, if it were enhanced with further protective qualities, it must work quite well.
Curiosity got the better of him as he slipped his dragon maille shirt over his head. For a moment, it looked much too big, but then he saw it magically shrink to fit him just right. Harry was happily surprised by Hagrid's gift, but really quite pleased when he thought of the advantages this could have in his Care of Magical Creatures class. In past years, Hagrid had featured very dangerous monsters to study: Blast-Ended Skrewts and Hippogriffs, just to name a few.
Still wearing his hauberk, Harry turned to Hedwig with his last letter. It was from his godfather, Sirius.
I CAUGHT HIM!! I finally tracked down and caught Wormtail, so I am taking him to the Ministry today. Unfortunately, in all of this, I have neglected to buy you a birthday gift. I hope you understand and I promise to make it up to you. But I do sincerely wish you a very happy 15th birthday. See you soon!
Upon seeing the first two sentences in Sirius's letter, Harry had almost cheered out loud, but fear of his Aunt Petunia's and Uncle Vernon's retaliation at being woken at 2:00 in the morning kept him quiet. Wormtail being on the loose was the reason his godfather was a wanted man, but Wormtail having been caught meant that Sirius would soon be free. Harry thought that his godfather's freedom was a good enough gift to forgive him of his not giving him a physical gift.
Having finally finished reading all of his letters, he resumed his letter to Hermione.
Anyway, thanks for the gift. It looks to be an interesting read. And don't worry, I won't tell Ron why you didn't go to Bulgaria.
The real reason I'm writing this letter, however, is because I need your advice on something. I'm bloody sick of the nightmares I've been having lately. In every one of them, someone is telling me that Cedric's death is my fault! Do you know any anti-nightmare spells I could try?
I hope to see you in Diagon Alley if I can't go to the Burrow. (Ron says Dumbledore wants me to stay with the Dursleys for now.) Maybe the week before the first? Let's talk to Ron about setting a date. At any rate, I'll see you in a month or less!
After proofreading his letter, he gave it to Hedwig along with an affectionate stroke and sent her off.
Not wanting to go to bed just yet, he saw Pig still flying around his room absentmindedly, and he remembered something from Ron's letter. Setting out a new piece of parchment, he began to write a letter to Ginny.
When he finished, he put down his quill and folded up the letter. Fatigue finally consuming him, he sent the letter back to the Burrow with Pig, took off his dragon maille shirt and his glasses, and returned to his bed to fall asleep.
Ginny awoke early that morning. She was eager to see if Harry had, by some miraculous circumstance, written back to her. She had asked Ron to tell him happy birthday for her, and was hoping desperately for him to write back. Ever since she had seen him that first time on platform nine and three-quarters, she had fancied him. Then, in her first year, Harry had saved her life, thus increasing her respect and infatuation for him. Her hopes were somewhat shattered in her third year, however, when he had not asked her to the Yule Ball like she had dreamed. Instead, Harry had gone with Parvati Patil, and she had gone with Neville. She winced as she remembered the pain in her toes from Neville's dancing. She had no doubt that Harry was quite a good dancer. Not only that, but he was bloody handsome, too. She just was glad Ron didn't know how she felt about his best friend.
She got out of bed and went down to the kitchen. Her mum was already there preparing a pot of coffee. When she saw her daughter, she said, "Ginny, dear, what are you doing up so early? It's not even seven yet!"
Ginny sat down at the table and sighed. "I know, Mum, I just couldn't get back to sleep." She daren't tell her mum about her thoughts about Harry. She knew she would be upset, as she was almost his mum, too. "Can I have some coffee?"
Her mum looked skeptically at her. "You've never liked coffee before, dear."
"I know," Ginny said. "But I think I need something to get me going this morning. Ron had me up late last night playing chess."
Ginny's mum shook her head. "Dear, I don't want you drinking coffee. It's not good for you at this age." Before Ginny could protest, her mum added "Here, dear. Have some orange juice." Ginny sighed as her mum brought it to her.
At that moment, Pig flew in through the kitchen window, clutching a letter in his claws. He dropped it on the table and then landed on the counter where Ginny's mum quickly prepared him a bowl of water. Ginny, however, saw none of this. She was staring at the letter Pig has brought on which was written her own name in Harry's handwriting. She gave an excited squeal and tore open the letter.
Hey, I got your message and I would like to thank you for being so thoughtful as to think of me. But I must say this. I know how you've admired me since I saved your life in your first year, and I don't really mind that. But you're Ron's little sister, and I don't think it's right for you to have a crush on me like you do. I just don't think anything could happen between us. I mean, with Voldemort running around again, he's bound to go after anything dear to me. If you want my advice, you should try to get over this crush of yours, for your own sake.
See you later,
‘A crush?!' thought Ginny indignantly. She felt tears begin to spill down her cheeks as her indignity turned into despair. She covered her face in her hands. Her mum noticed and came over to comfort her.
"What's wrong, dear?" she said tenderly. But Ginny didn't answer. Instead, she threw the letter down on the table and bolted back up the stairs.
Mrs. Weasley heard her daughter's door slam.
She turned her eyes to the letter on the table, and she picked it up to read. What could possibly have upset her daughter so much? But as she read the letter, all became clear. As she finished, she looked up to see Ron, Fred, and George, all looking exhausted and in their pajamas, standing at the stair landing, staring at her.
"What's up with Ginny, mum?" asked Ron. "She woke us all up slamming her door."
"Really, I thought we were the troublemakers in this house," said Fred indignantly. "We can't have Ginny stealing our job by waking us all up at seven in the morning!"
"By the way, mum, have you seen any of my socks?" said George. "I couldn't seem to find any last night. Is the ghoul in the attic getting that desperate for cozy toes?"
Mrs. Weasley ignored George's remark and strode over to her three boys. She handed the letter to Ron. "Harry sent her this," she said.
Mrs. Weasley watched as her three boys read the letter together. When they finished, they all had assumed shocked expressions on their faces.
"Harry wrote this?" asked Ron. "I thought he was better than this!" he said, brandishing the letter.
"This calls for drastic action, mum," said George.
"My thoughts exactly," said Mrs. Weasley.
A/N This is my first fanfic. I've been reading others, and now it's my turn to try one. And I know I made Harry out to be a prat with Ginny. But don't worry. Things will turn out for them…