Harry was in agony as he moved slowly and stiffly to let the owls into his bedroom. The tiniest movement caused painful protest from his abused muscles. His "tent" leftover from the Ginnyness didn't help his comfort level either. The odd procession of birds ended with a pile of letters and presents much smaller than the dream pile had been but at least this one was real. Hedwig went to her cage and the rest all flew off. A quick inventory showed letters from Sirius and Hogwarts and packages from Hermione, Ron, the twins, Ginny, Mrs. Weasley, and Hagrid.
Anxious for any words from Sirius, Harry read that one first:
Happy Birthday! Fifteen already eh? It was a wonderful time of my life and I hope it will be for you as well. Don't let current events spoil this age for you. The Marauders were at their mischievous peak then and I must say I was in very rare form. I am well, as is Moony, who also sends his warmest birthday wishes. Still very busy with work for Dumbledore so I am afraid I let your birthday kind of sneak up on me. I didn't realize until it was two weeks away and by then, with my current circumstances, my time had more or less run out. Luckily, in a conversation with Albus, he mentioned your experience in his pensieve and I had an idea. I have asked him to acquire a pensieve for you and keep it in his office for now. When you return to school it will be waiting for you and it is my hope that it will not be empty. Albus has managed to contact a couple dozen people that knew your parents and many have agreed to donate some of their memories to your pensieve. Of course, Moony and I will also contribute. I have a few in mind that I know you'll get a laugh or two out of. Albus is attempting to modify the magic involved so that the memories are actually copied instead of moved and says it is progressing well. No one wants to give up their memories of your parents permanently, Harry. They were wonderful people and I hope this will let you know them a bit better. I will also understand if you would prefer not to see these memories. Whether you do or not the pensieve is yours to keep. I am sorry I couldn't deliver it to you on time but I know you understand. Let me know if you want the pensieve full or not.
"Wow, Sirius! That's just tremendous!" Seeing his parents live and laugh. How they walked and talked. How could he not want to see that?! Harry started to reach for some writing material immediately but then decided to open the other mail first and answer it all at once. He grabbed the package from Ron and almost began to open it when he noticed the note just under the address, "Open Hermione's first."
Harry shrugged and put Ron's back down and snatched up Hermione's. He smiled, it was obviously included a book. There were two other parcels besides the obvious one. He picked up the accompanying note:
Happy Birthday, Harry! I hope this finds you well and in time. I am in Portugal at the moment. The last letter I sent you I think I mentioned I was in Belgium. Portugal is a beautiful country as well and has many sights for Muggles as well as wizards and witches. For some reason a lot of common potions ingredients are very inexpensive here. I bought extra for everyone so please check with me before restocking in Diagon Alley.
Ron still thinks I'm in Bulgaria I suppose. I wouldn't know since I refuse to even open his mail anymore. He's just so infuriating, Harry. As I wrote you before, please let him go on thinking whatever he wants. He's the one who jumped to the wrong conclusion. Look at me putting you in the middle of this mess.
Anyway, I know you'll be surprised that my present to you includes a book. Hah! I thought this one was just excellent and it will do you a lot of good if you follow it this year. The other part of my gift is something that I could not have done without on this trip so I bought one for you as well, the interior has been magically expanded and it reduces the weight of what's inside to less than a quarter of what it should be. All during our holiday I have been able carry every one our texts for the coming year as well as the previous ones and not worry about stunting my growth (further that is, I had hoped for a bit of a growth spurt). Enjoy the sweets too. Mum and dad said I had to get rid of them but they didn't say how. Dinner starts in an hour so I need to finish this up and wrap the package for shipping.
With love from Hermione
He realized as he finished the letter that he was blushing furiously. Memories of previous night's dreams were flashing in his hormonally befuddled brain. Harry picked up and unwrapped the book for a distraction and then rolled his eyes at the title, Plucking the O.W.L.s Clean: A Comprehensive Study Workbook. The second item appeared to be an ordinary leather backpack but it was indeed cavernous on the inside, almost as big as his school trunk.
‘Now that's cool, Hermione!' Harry smiled to himself. Like the Muggle money he had stashed in his trunk, this would be dead useful if he ever needed to run again. Harry was quite sure that he would need to run at some point. Whether from danger or to danger, he wasn't so sure but probably both eventually. The third parcel held some assorted candies and he poured them into his new pack.
Having followed Ron's request to open Hermione's first he now picked Ron's back up. It felt like a book too but Harry guessed it wasn't about the upcoming O.W.L.s. Ron's note read:
Hope your relatives aren't treating you too badly. Afraid Professor Dumbledore isn't going to let you come stay any time soon, if at all, this summer. He says you're safer where you are. I've been trying to keep busy by helping Fred and George with some new inventions. They might genuinely appreciate it too because they bought me new dress robes, dark blue with light blue trim and NO BLOODY LACE! Still, it is Fred and George. It took me a week to work up the courage to try them on but nothing happened. I'm still afraid they're likely to disintegrate or grow pink lace in the middle of a crowd. I think I'll ask Professor Flitwick to check them out when we get back to school.
Hermione has stopped answering my letters or even opening them for that matter. I guess she and Krum are having too much fun to bother writing to us?
‘Us?! Ron, you are so thick.'
Well, I hope she found time to send you a present and if she did, I'll bet it's a book. One of the ideas I came up with for Fred and George is a glamoured book jacket. Here's how it works, put the jacket around a book you don't particularly want to read (Hermione's) and tap it with your wand once. Then, take the jacket and put it on a book you would like to read (mine) and tap it twice. To anyone looking at the cover or reading over your shoulder, it will look like you have the first book but you'll be reading the second. Works with magazines too. Fred and George say they'll give me a percentage of all sales. Oh, to end the glamour, tap it three times.
Ginny just asked if she can send her present along with mine. Since when is she sending you presents? I wish she'd get over that crush on you already but then I imagine you find it much more annoying than the rest of us. Perhaps you better have a talk with her, Harry. She's my sister and I don't want her feelings hurt but the sooner she accepts things the better it will be in the long run.
Enjoy the book, Ron
Harry had to clamp his pillow over his mouth to keep the laughter quiet. Ron Weasley was giving love life advice? Too rich. Was Ron not reading his own letters? It was so obvious he liked Hermione "that way" but he was a savant at finding ways to hack her off. Even Ron's present to him was an attempt to irritate Hermione even further. Messing around with the sanctity of books would be an unforgivable offence to Hermione. If Harry ever wanted the three of them to be in the same room at the same time again, he'd have to do something soon but decided to work that out later.
Harry managed to stop laughing and opened the package from Ron. There was a completely blank book jacket and a large book, So You're the New Captain: 12 Brilliant Tips for an Aspiring Quidditch Captain and 88 Rather Ordinary Ones. Harry's brow furrowed at the book. Captain? Not likely. He wrapped Hermione's book in the Jacket and tapped it with his wand. The book's cover seemed to slowly bleed onto the blank jacket from underneath until it was a perfect copy. Harry then wrapped the jacket around Ron's book and tapped it twice. Nothing seemed to happen until Harry picked the book up. When his hands touched it, the jacket seemed to fade away and reveal the Quidditch cover. Looking over to the reflection in the bedroom window it looked like he still had Hermione's book in hand. He flipped through a few pages and saw several plays outlined with moving pictures. Captain or not it would be an interesting read.
‘Not bad, Ron. Not bad. You might make a bit of money off that one.'
He picked up Ginny's present but then set it aside and gingerly reached for Fred and George's:
Business first, we got Ron his new robes. We seriously considered hexing them but we wanted you to know that we really do appreciate the funding so we left them alone. It was great fun watching him poke them with a stick for a week before he tried them on so we got our laughs anyway. Ron is actually a welcome addition to our little venture. Truly devious mind that one, we're so proud, wasted on too much chess if you ask us.
Looks like we won't be able to slip your git cousin any new surprises this summer as Ron as probably told you. Still, we have enclosed a few things that will let him know he is still in our thoughts. Our first Muggle, how very special he is to us. First, please notice the rather official looking parchment stating that due to the mortal danger that Harry Potter now faces, all restrictions on the use of magic are waived effective immediately. It's rubbish, of course, but perhaps if you leave it lying about some prying eyes will read it and get the wrong idea. Second, you will find a wand located within. It's a fake also but it does shoot pretty sparks and makes quite a show for those who don't know any better. The magic we used is so slight, we're quite certain it can't be detected by those Underage killjoys. Lastly, there's a bit of candy that you should leave for him to find after you depart for Hogwarts. It wears off eventually but it should brighten his day until then (bright pink).
Happy Birthday, Fred and George
PS Start reading the book Ron gave you. Hint bloody hint.
‘But I don't want to be the damned Captain. Do I?'
The bogus magic waiver was a masterpiece. It looked exactly like Harry pictured an official Ministry document would look. Fred and George probably viewed similar things from their dad's work. Where to leave it though? Desk? Chair? Toilet? Trouble was it looked too much like a Ministry of Magic document. The Dursleys would avoid it like the disease they thought magic was. Harry shrugged and resolved to table that problem as well.
Mrs. Weasley had sent yet another package of meat pies along with some cakes this time. She wrote:
Happy Birthday. Here is a bit more food for you so that you don't starve to death. I am afraid that Arthur and I must agree with Albus on your safety taking precedence over any visit to the Burrow. We are working on a way for you and the others to spend some time together before the school year starts but please don't get your hopes up.
Love, Molly Weasley
Hagrid had sent him some extremely nice dragon hide gloves that Hagrid's father had owned. They were obviously too small for the half-giant but were large enough for Harry to wear and with some growing room as well. They just so happened to be Horntail dragon hide as well so Hagrid thought it especially appropriate.
His Hogwarts letter was standard fare but with McGonagall requesting his presence after the Welcoming Feast for a few moments.
Harry sat on his bed with one package left, Ginny's. He stared at it for several minutes wondering why he was so excited about it. The dreams he'd been having seemed to make him feel closer to her but that was silly. It wasn't really Ginny in those dreams. In reality, they'd said maybe fifty words to each other, ever? And he guessed he had credit for forty of those. He knew he still made her uncomfortable, that was obvious. Now with those dreams running around his head, he wondered how HE would act around HER. He had turned beat red while only reading Hermione's letter. How would he act around Ginny or Hermione or any of the others in person?
Finally, with a shaky hand he reached for the parcel. There didn't seem to be a note attached. The twine and paper came away to reveal a white box. The lid came off the box and inside was a jade figurine. A jade frog? No, he decided as he picked it out of the box, it was shaped more like a toad. Underneath was a short note:
It's not fresh pickled but I think it matches your eyes to perfection. Ginny