The Awakening Power


Story Summary:
Complete! Challenges fill Harry's busy sixth year: growing powers, Snape becomes defense teacher (and Harry's not in the mood for abuse), a new Potions teacher, a girl with a new crush on him, Quidditch, Voldemort, and a certain redheaded girl named Ginny who may help him through all of it. What are the goblins up to? Will Ron win Hermione back? And what exactly is Voldemort's diabolical plan to kill Harry and plunge magical society into anarchy? Lots of romance, drama, action and humor! Voted Phoenix Song's Best Novel-Length Story (along with Best Harry and Best Kiss).

Chapter 03

Chapter Summary:
Harry’s powers are growing very strong, and Dumbledore is worried about his control. Meanwhile, Snape has become the new Defense teacher, and Harry resolves not to take his abuse this year… Will Harry notice Ginny? Will Ron win Hermione back? Who has a new crush on Harry? Who is the new Potions teacher? And what exactly is Voldemort’s diabolical plan to kill Harry and plunge magical society into anarchy? Lots of humor, drama, action and romance as all these questions are answered and much more in Harry’s busy sixth year.
Author's Note:
Harry sixth year, after OotP. H/G, R/Hr, PG-13 rating.

Chapter 3: Birthday Surprises

* * *

Harry dashed down the stairs, excited to see Hermione. He met Ron coming down the stairs, and he was amused as Ron's face actually seemed to show a bit of nervousness about the meeting.

As they entered the main room, Harry asked, "How is she getting here, anyway?"

"By car. Dad arranged for a special ministry car to pick her up. Dad's got a lot more pull over there nowadays since the fiasco with You-Know-Who strolling right into the middle of Ministry Central. Dad thinks that Fudge might even be replaced, but I don't pretend to understand the politics over there. Anyway, they know that we're all, uh..." Ron's speech faltered, as he glanced nervously at Harry.

Harry's eyes narrowed. "You're what?" he demanded, glancing between Ron and Ginny, who was standing nearby.

"Well, we're all targets for You-Know-Who because we're friends with you, so they thought it would be safer to send Hermione in a ministry car." Ron said anxiously.

Harry looked angry with this. "I guess that makes sense," he said grudgingly.

Ron looked relieved at Harry's reaction. "Right, mate! With everything going on, the more protection the better, right? Especially with Hermione."

"Why especially with Hermione, Ron?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

Ron's face fell and he looked like he was trying to think of a good answer. Harry was amused at his reaction, but then felt some pity, particularly after his bout with teasing the other day. He decided to help Ron out a bit. "Hermione's parents, Ron?"

"Yes! Right, mate. That's what I meant!" Ron looked like a drowning man grasping at a life preserver that had suddenly materialized. "Hermione's parents are muggles! That makes Hermione a special target." He shot a superior look at Ginny.

Ginny walked past Harry to sit on the couch to wait. As she passed, she whispered, "spoilsport," and grinned at him.

Harry fought back a grin of his own and then another thought occurred to him. "Come to think of it, what about Hermione's parents? Are they getting some protection?"

"Yeah, dad mentioned that the Ministry set up some special wards around the house, as well a lot of secret alarms. I think there's even some surveillance, but they obviously didn't go too much into detail about all that," Ron replied.

Although Harry didn't like the idea that people were following his friends around, it did give him some comfort to know that there was attention being paid to providing security. He felt a stab of guilt that he hadn't spared much time thinking about the danger that everyone was in.

They all sat down to wait. A short time later, they heard a car pull up to the Burrow. The group got up and walked out the door to greet Hermione. She was exiting a long, black Muggle limousine and several men were pulling her trunk out of the back. Wow, Hermione is traveling in style, Harry thought, amused. She looked rather tanned from her trip and practically leaped out of the car with an excited bounce. Crookshanks exited the car as well and sat down on the driveway, licking his paws.

Hermione's face broke into a huge smile as she saw them. Harry got to her first and she gave him a big hug. She spoke quickly, "Harry! It's so good to see you! I'm so happy you're going to be spending your birthday here rather than with those awful Dursleys. Did they treat you dreadfully? You look rather thin. I'm certain Mrs. Weasley is taking care of that, though."

"I'm fine, Hermione, really. It's good to see you, too," said Harry with a big smile of his own. It really was good to have everyone together.

"Ron!" Hermione said excitedly as she embraced him. Harry noticed the hug she gave him lingered a little bit longer. She gave him a small peck on the cheek and looked away quickly.

Hmm, is she trying to send a message to Ron? thought Harry. He glanced over at Ginny and she inclined her head at the two of them, giving him a little wink. She had apparently noticed it, too.

Ron stood stunned, as if he didn't quite know what to make of Hermione's greeting. "Um, hi, Hermione. Did you have a nice trip?"

"Oh, it was quite exciting! I can't wait to tell you all about it, although I think I've probably given you most of the highlights in my letters."

Hermione moved onto Ginny and gave her a hug as well. "Hi, Ginny! The boys haven't driven you mad, have they?"

"Not yet; I think I'm holding my own," said Ginny.

Harry made a snorting sound.

"What?" said Hermione.

"Never mind. Let's just say that Ginny isn't the one being driven to the nut house around here," said Harry.

Ginny gave him a wide-eyed look of innocence. "I don't know what he's talking about."

Hermione looked between the two of them and then looked at Ron, who just shrugged. Ginny quickly broke in. "Come on, Hermione," she said, taking her arm. "Let's get you settled in. Mum's in the house; she wants to say hello, too."

Hermione cast a curious glance at Harry, but let herself be led away. "I'll see you boys in a bit, after I get unpacked, all right?"

Ron appeared to wake up out of his stupor. "Yeah, that sounds good. Chess, Harry?"

"Ron! How about you and Harry take Hermione's trunk up to my room?" Ginny said crossly. Harry was amused by how much she sounded like Mrs. Weasley.

"Oh! Er, right, then. Come on, Harry," Ron said, walking to the trunk.

* * *

Hermione followed Ginny down the Hall towards Ginny's room. As they approached the Twins' room, she peered through the open door and noticed Harry's trunk sitting on the floor.

"Harry's not staying with Ron this year?" she asked Ginny.

"He's staying in there." Ginny pointed a thumb at the room as they passed. "I think mum thought that Harry could use a little privacy this year."

"I'm certain Harry was grateful for it, although I'm not convinced being alone is really what he needs. But um, the Twins' room? Was that really a good idea?" Hermione said, worried.

Ginny laughed. "We all thought the same thing, including Harry. But Fred and George only left one prank for him and Harry managed to dodge that. So it's safe, or at least I think it is. So far there haven't been any... incidents besides the first one."

Hermione opened up her trunk and began to unpack. A second bed had been put in Ginny's room making a tight fit, but they had managed before.

"I cleared out some space in the bottom two drawers," said Ginny.

"Thanks." Hermione began to put away her clothes. "Um, Ginny, what was all that between you and Harry?"

Ginny froze. "What do you mean?" she said cautiously.

"Well, outside you both seemed rather... friendly."

"Hermione! You're joking, right?" Ginny said.

"I just mean that he seemed a bit, well, different than usual. Not that Harry isn't always different, but..."

"All right, I know what you mean." Ginny sighed and got up to close the door to her room. She dropped her voice and said, "Hermione, the truth is that I don't know what to think. Harry and I had started to become friends last year and I was happy with that. But the last week, he's been... I don't know what to call it. I wouldn't say he's been flirting, because Harry wouldn't know how to flirt if he had the step-by-step chart from The Dating Guide for Young Wizards in front of him."

Hermione giggled at that. "He is rather hopeless in that area, I agree."

"But the other day, I was out back reading. I glanced up and caught him looking at me. I mean, like it had just occurred to him that I'm a girl. Somewhat like how Ron looked with you two years ago." They both laughed at that.

"I'm not certain that's really sunk into Ron even yet," sighed Hermione.

"Oh, Hermione, I think it has," said Ginny, snickering. "But I'll tell you about that later."

"You better!" said Hermione, with a very interested look. "But go ahead."

"Anyway, I thought I was going mad. Harry's never looked at me like that in his life. And when he saw me looking back, he got very nervous. He sat down next to me and we actually talked and had fun together. And it wasn't the first time - we've probably talked more this week than all the previous years combined."

Ginny rubbed her forehead with her hand. "Oh, Hermione, what do I do? I waited so long for him to notice me, before I gave up. I don't want to go back to pining for him. What if it all means nothing?"

"Do you want it to mean something?" Hermione asked.

Ginny looked down and gave a long pause. "You know I do," she said finally.

"Look, Ginny, I've known Harry for a long time. I doubt he's even aware of what he's feeling. Anything he ends up doing is going to be long and drawn out and we both know that Harry doesn't get close to people very easily. Do you want my advice?"

Ginny raised her head and sighed. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"Give Harry some time to sort it out. You must be doing something right if he's this relaxed around you. Let things happen naturally. One thing about Harry is that he's either impenetrably hidden, or he's painfully obvious. There isn't much middle ground." Hermione and Ginny both laughed at that.

Hermione went on. "He wasn't exactly difficult to figure out with Cho, was he? But if Harry does start getting 'obvious,' it's a certain bet that he won't do anything about it until he's forced to. You might have to give him a bit of a subtle push, if you know what I mean. That strategy appeared to work for Cho, at least."

"What did Cho do?" asked Ginny.

Hermione grinned. "Harry would kill me for telling you, but I suppose it doesn't matter anymore. Cho trapped Harry after a DA meeting, probably using the mistletoe."

"She didn't! Um, how did it - er, go?" asked Ginny awkwardly, trying not to appear too interested.

"Oh, don't worry, Harry won't be fondly recalling Cho's kissing abilities." Hermione said, scoffing. "She was crying about Cedric at the same time."

Ginny wrinkled her face up. "If I was kissing Harry, I certainly wouldn't be crying," she said in a low voice. She grimaced, realizing what she said. "Hermione, forget I just said that."

Hermione smiled at her. "I would say to just go easy. No one says you have to sit around waiting for him. In fact, spend time with some other boys. It might help," she said, chuckling.

"You're right. There's no sense in worrying about it. I'll just keep on the same road and see what happens."

"Good. Now tell me about Ron!" Hermione leaned forward.

"Ha! I think my brother may be close to cracking."

"How do you mean?" Hermione said, suddenly looking shy and insecure.

"Hermione, he likes you. A lot," Ginny said confidently.

"Do you really think so?" Hermione appeared to want to be convinced.

"He's been walking around in a daze for weeks. He read your letters over and over when he thought we weren't watching him. I'm telling you, the git fancies you."

"I want to believe it, but... he's just so thick sometimes," said Hermione, with frustration.

"I wish I could help you, but I don't know what it's going to take with my brother. He has the Weasley stubbornness, along with a thick head all his own. He'll probably go about it in the most difficult way possible," Ginny said, rolling her eyes. "He'll come around, if you don't kill him first."

"I hope you're right. Thanks, Ginny. It really helps to hear that."

"No problem. I'll keep an eye on him for you."

"And I'll keep an eye on Harry for you and see if I can prod him a bit. For what it's worth, I think you would be so good for Harry. You were able to pull him out of his moods better than anyone last year."

Ginny looked embarrassed. "Well, I don't know about that. Anyway, we'll see." Looking for a change in subject, she said, "So let me tell you about Harry's party tomorrow! Mum really went all out," and she went on to fill Hermione in on all the details.

* * *

Feeling very excited, Harry looked at the clock. There was a little over half an hour to go before the guests were due to arrive at 11am. It was to be the first birthday party of his life and he couldn't wait. Dudley had always had birthday parties, of course, and the Dursleys would banish Harry to his cupboard under the stairs.

Mrs. Weasley, Ginny and Hermione were busy in the kitchen cooking an enormous amount of food for the guests. Every so often Mrs. Weasley would order Ron or Mr. Weasley to move a table or otherwise arrange things. Harry had tried to help, but Mrs. Weasley wouldn't hear of it.

Sitting on the couch, Harry heard a loud "Pop!" and Fred and George apparated into the room. They were carrying a wrapped gift and a suspicious looking box.

"Happy Birthday, partner!" said Fred.

"We decided to come a little early before the crowds arrive..." said George

"...and make it tricky for us to set up a little birthday entertainment," Fred finished.

An ominous feeling came over Harry. "Er, birthday entertainment?" he asked weakly.

"Not to worry, Harry," said Fred.

"We wouldn't do anything to spoil your big day. Our little Harrykins..." said George.

"His first birthday party!" they said together.

"It kind of chokes us up, frankly, old man," said Fred.

"We felt like we needed to make your party special," said George

"Indeed, as my good looking brother says. Very special," said Fred.

They grinned at each other and strolled out of the room.

Harry shook his head. There was nothing to do except wait for the inevitable excitement.

Harry watched the clock as it seemed agonizingly slow to reach the appointed hour. Eventually it approached eleven and the guests started to arrive. Harry headed out to the back where several large tables were set up with a large variety of picnic food.

Harry spotted Tonks first. "Happy birthday, Harry!" Tonks said.

"Hi, Tonks!" Harry was delighted to see her. Today she had morphed her hair to be long and brown, with golden streaks.

"Were those Dursleys a bit better this year?" she asked darkly.

"Yes, much better," Harry smiled.

"Well, I'm just glad you could finally get out of that place. It was just so - clean. Unnatural, it was." Tonks made a disgusted face.

Harry grinned at the word, as it was the word that the Dursleys always used with the wizarding world. "Well, enjoy the party, and I'll talk to you later."

"Okay, Harry. That picnic table is looking very inviting," Tonks said, walking away.

Harry was surprised at the number of people showing up. Bill and Charlie Weasley made it in, as well as several of the Aurors that picked up Harry last year. Kingsley Shacklebolt wished him a happy birthday in a deep voice. Mad-Eye Moody growled a greeting as well.

It occurred to Harry that there were a few too many Aurors about to be entirely coincidental, and he thought that there might be some security precautions made for the party.

Harry spotted Neville and Luna across the yard and ran over to greet them. "Neville! Luna! I didn't know you two were coming!"

"Hi, Harry!" said Neville.

"Hello, Harry. Happy birthday," said Luna, in her usual dreamy voice.

"I got an invitation from Mrs. Weasley," said Neville. "I guess after the Ministry last year, she figured we were friends." Neville looked a bit nervous at this.

"Of course we are!" Harry said, looking at the two of them. "I'm glad you're here. I was wondering if she would invite some friends from school."

Harry suddenly remembered his conversation with Dumbledore about Neville. "By the way, happy birthday, Neville."

Neville looked shocked. "How did you know it was my birthday, too?"

Harry definitely didn't want to get into how he knew. "Oh, er, I guess I heard it somewhere."

"Happy birthday, Neville," said Luna, looking curiously at him.

Just then, Harry spotted Remus Lupin entering the yard. "Pardon me, I see someone I want to greet. I'll talk to you two later, then."

"Professor Lupin!" Harry hurried over and hugged his old teacher. Lupin appeared to stiffen in surprise, and then he embraced Harry back warmly. Lupin looked older than the last time Harry had seen him, and Lupin had looked older than his years before that. Harry felt a flash of guilt that he hadn't spent much time thinking about Lupin, who must be suffering over Sirius's death as much as Harry, if not more.

"Hello, Harry!" Lupin smiled broadly, which seemed to make him a bit younger. "Happy birthday to you. Are you well?" he asked the last question as if he expected a serious answer.

"Yes, I'm doing better," Harry said. He looked worriedly at Lupin. "How are you doing?"

"Oh, Harry," he smiled, "some days are better than others. You know how it is." He leaned in a bit. "We're at a half-moon right now, which is always a good time for me."

Harry felt touched that Lupin had given him a serious answer to his question.

"Harry, we have a little bit of private business to discuss today. Would you like to do it now and get it out of the way?" he said.

"Um, all right. In the house?" Harry led Lupin into The Burrow, and they sat down alone in the living room. Lupin appeared to deflate and revert back to his older, worn self.

"Unfortunately, this is unpleasant business, Harry. I'm the executor of Sirius's last will and testament," he said grimly. "I hate having to do this on your birthday, but it really can't wait. There is a lot of pressure to get the will declared null and void."

Harry just sat, stunned. The last thing he wanted to think about was Sirius's will.

Lupin continued. "I've broken it all down for you, but the bottom line is that Sirius divided his estate between you and me. As the last remaining Black, it's quite a - substantial sum."

"I don't care about his money!" Harry said savagely. "You keep it all!"

Lupin smiled gently. "Well, I feel the same way, frankly. I don't particularly want it, either, but there is a good reason to take it."

"What's that?" Harry said. He couldn't imagine any reason that would make him want to take Sirius's money.

"If the will is not executed in accordance with Sirius's wishes, the property will be divided among the closest living relatives."

Harry grew cold. "You mean - "

"Yes, Harry. Relatives such as Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy," he said.

They both grew silent as they let that thought settle between them.

"You said there was some pressure to have the will declared null and void." Harry said.

"Yes. Although Lucius is in Azkaban, his attorneys are attempting to take control of the Black estate. It's not as if he needs the money, but it amuses him that he might be able to seize Sirius's assets."

Harry felt rage rising within him. "Professor, tell me what I need to do. I don't want it, but I'll be bloody well damned if Malfoy will get it!"

Lupin laughed at Harry's language. After a few seconds, Harry broke a smile himself and laughed along with him, breaking the tension.

"My sentiments exactly. Fortunately, Harry, it's pretty well a done deal. You just need to sign this document," he said as he pulled out a bundle of legal-looking sheets of parchment, "and it should be fine. Dumbledore is making certain things go smoothly at the Ministry. It's best if I get these in tomorrow, though."

Lupin produced a quill and Harry signed where it was indicated.

"Right, then. That business is done - I'll just get Bill Weasley to sign as a witness before I leave. I will leave a copy of the will for you to review at your leisure. A new vault will be set up in your name with your share of the assets."

Harry nodded, not really listening.

"Harry, there is one more thing, I hope a bit more pleasant," Lupin said hesitantly.

Harry looked up.

"Sirius knew that he was in danger and might not survive the battles. You know, he cared a great deal for you. He made - a request of me. If anything should happen to him, I would continue to look after you in his place." Lupin looked rather shy at this.

"I would never presume to replace Sirius - I just wanted you to know that I'm here if you need me, and that I'd like to check in on you from time to time."

Harry smiled brilliantly at him. "That would be great, Professor!"

Lupin looked gratified at Harry's reaction. "Well, Harry, if we're to be friends, perhaps it's time to drop that 'Professor' business, considering I haven't been your professor in two years. Please call me Remus."

"Okay." Harry smiled at him.

"Well then, shall we rejoin the party?" Lupin said jovially. "Hagrid sends his birthday regards, by the way. He would be here, but he's on a special mission for Dumbledore."

They both walked out into the bright sunshine. Lupin waved at Harry and headed off to speak with Mr. Weasley. Harry noticed that everyone appeared to be having a good time, as laughter and conversation filled the yard. The mountain of food had been reduced to some extent, although Harry doubted that it would be conquered, even with Ron in attendance. He chuckled at the thought.

As if on cue, Ron came up with a plate of food. "Oi, mate!" he said with a mouthful of food.

Hermione also approached and shot Ron a dirty look. "Ron, don't talk with your mouth full. It's disgusting!"

Ron grinned at her. "I'm a talented bloke. I can chew food and talk at the same time. You just don't appreciate my talents."

Hermione rolled her eyes, letting it go. "Are you having fun, Harry?"

"Well, I haven't been out here much yet. Professor Lupin wanted to speak to me," Harry lowered his voice, "about Sirius's estate and his will."

Hermione gave him a sympathetic look.

"It's okay, really. It was a bit of a surprise, but we worked it out. There was a good reason to do it today," Harry said.

"Oh? What was that?" Ron asked.

Hermione quickly interceded. "Ron, we don't need to talk about this now. Let Harry enjoy his party."

"It was just a question! Harry knows I'm not prying into anything!" Ron said, peeved.

Harry gave a small sigh. Before they could get started, he quickly said, "Look, let's talk about this later, all right? It's all handled. It just needed to be done quickly."

"Okay, mate." Ron looked satisfied with that and Hermione appeared to be happy as well.

Harry left them and loaded up a plate of food for himself. He walked through the yard, speaking to people and catching up on everyone's news. Charlie Weasley said he was still tending Dragons in Romania. He displayed a new burn scar, which caused Harry to wince. He wondered not for the first time what Charlie saw in dragons. His one experience was quite enough for one lifetime.

Bill Weasley still had his long hair and fang earring, which Harry noticed was getting the usual looks of disapproval from his mother. He was just finishing telling Harry a funny story from his work in Egypt when - BOOM!

A cake had blown apart and several large fireworks were spinning over the table. Blinding rays of lights shot out as people ran away from the table in fright and sparks rained down on the table. The Aurors had thrown themselves to the ground with their wands drawn.

The fireworks finally started to slow down a bit. Glowing smoke in the air began to join together into a series of letters, forming a message over the table. It read,

His nerves are as strong as a cold steel bar
His mind is as bright as the full moon
In cupboards he stays, he's sixteen today
The idol who makes all the girls swoon

Harry laughed, a bit embarrassed. He applauded along with everyone else, although he noticed the Aurors weren't applauding quite as enthusiastically as the others. He breathed a sigh of relief as the message finally faded away. It could have been much, much worse. The silly poem was tame by Fred and George's standards. He was glad they were on his side. Come to think of it, something about that poem seemed a little familiar, he thought, puzzled.

He felt someone touch his arm. He turned around and found Ginny behind him. She was wearing a very pretty white blouse with some sort of elaborate red stitching, and Harry felt a bit flustered. "Er, hello, Ginny."

"Happy Birthday, Harry! What do you think? Charlie brought these clothes back from Romania for me." She proceeded to spin around, giving him a full look. "Apparently it's traditional folk garb for young ladies," she giggled. "I thought I'd try it out."

She looks really nice, he thought. The outfit was very feminine, with light sleeves and a red skirt decorated with flowers. The colors brought out her hair very well. His mouth seemed to go dry for no apparent reason and he found it difficult to speak. "It's very nice, I mean, you look nice. In it."

She beamed at him. "Why, thank you, Harry. It's not something I would wear every day, of course. They might try and put me on the cover of certain books," she said, giving him a laughing smile. "I feel a little silly, to tell you the truth. Charlie said it's one of the less elaborate, more normal looking ones. But it's fun to wear once."

Suddenly the paper plate Harry had been holding burst into flames. Harry quickly snatched his hand away, dropping the flaming plate and food onto the ground. He stomped on the plate, putting it out.

"What happened?" Ginny said, looking around suspiciously. "Fred and George are over there, talking to Bill. If it was them, they don't seem very interested in their prank."

"You know," Harry said curiously, "I felt kind of odd just before it happened. The only time I've felt like that is during accidental magic, but this felt a little different." He then regretted opening his mouth as he realized what had possibly triggered the magic.

"Accidental magic?" Ginny said, raising an eyebrow. She then grinned at him. "You know, Harry, I would have been happy with just being told that I looked nice; you didn't need to set things on fire."

Harry felt his face burning in embarrassment.

"Oh, Harry, I'm just teasing. Don't worry about it; it was probably just the excitement of the fireworks," Ginny said.

Harry wasn't certain about that, but was mercifully spared further thought on the subject when Mr. Weasley stood at the front of the yard and called for everyone's attention.

"Thank you all for coming. First off, let's all give a big 'happy birthday' to Harry!" Everyone gave a huge 'happy birthday' in response. Harry squirmed with embarrassment. "Molly and I also want give special birthday wishes to Harry."

He turned his attention to Harry. "Harry, we want you to know that you'll always have a home here at the Burrow. We love you like one of our own children. We are proud to have you as part of the family." Mrs. Weasley walked over, embraced him, and everyone applauded.

Harry stood stunned, a lump rising in his throat. He fought down a wave of emotion.

"Now, on to important matters." Mr. Weasley continued. "Namely, gifts! Harry, would you do the honors?" He gestured at a table with a large pile of gifts.

Harry, relieved with the distraction, walked over and picked one up off the pile.

"That's from me, mate!" Ron said.

Harry opened it and pulled out a Chuddley Cannons poster, complete with moving pictures of each player. "Thanks, Ron! This is the new poster, isn't it?"

Ron nodded, pleased.

Harry moved through the rest of his gifts. Hermione got him a book, Secret Quidditch Strategies. Ginny gave him a framed picture of himself, in a dive catching the Snitch at the Gryffindor versus Slytherin game last year. He grinned as he watched the picture-Harry snatching it away from Malfoy.

Tonks gave him an official Auror Training Guide ("We're not really supposed to let those get out, but you're already an unofficial Auror anyway," she said to Harry's embarrassment). Mad-Eye Moody gave him a well-worn book, Defeating the Dark Arts. ("That book has saved my bacon more than once, Potter. Read it," he growled. Harry felt like saluting in return). Remus Lupin gave him a framed picture of Harry and Sirius taken back at Grimmauld place, which he carefully avoided lingering on too long. He would look more closely in private. The Twins gave him an assortment of their products, including a pair of Extendible Ears.

Harry received several more defense books from various people. Apparently everyone thinks I need the study, he thought. I suppose having Voldemort try and kill you several times is a pretty big hint.

Finally when all the gifts were opened, Lupin came up to Harry. "One more to open, Harry. Dumbledore gave me this to give to you."

He handed Harry a package, wrapped in a blue wrapping paper decorated with little white beards. He carefully opened the package and held up a shallow stone basin, decorated with runes along the edge. A small instruction pamphlet was included as well. It looked a lot like Dumbledore's Pensieve, except the shape was slightly different.

Harry looked up and noticed everyone staring at him in shock.

"What?" Harry said, puzzled. "This is a Pensieve, right?"

Lupin appeared as shocked as everyone else. "Yes, Harry, that's a Pensieve. I'm not certain you realize what you're holding. Pensieves are very, very rare and valuable objects. You can't even buy them, really. They are normally only passed down within families. Only the greatest magicsmiths can make them and it takes a lifetime of work. Most people have never even seen one, much less used one. I knew Dumbledore has one, of course, but I can't even imagine where Dumbledore got another one."

"Er, why did he give me one?" Harry said, embarrassed.

"Dumbledore usually has a purpose for what he does. He must have a good reason," Lupin said.

Harry looked closer in the wrapping. "Oh wait, here's a note."

Dear Harry,

Happy birthday! I have found my Pensieve to be quite valuable in helping to calm my thoughts and emotions. Please take advantage of yours. When you return to school, I would be happy to keep it safe for you.

All My Best,

Albus Dumbledore

P.S. They also make for quite good party entertainment.

The message didn't seem private, so Harry read it out loud to everyone. "What did he mean that they make for good party entertainment?"

Lupin laughed. "That's Dumbledore for you. I have no idea - I don't get invited to those sort of parties."

Hermione spoke up. "I know! You can put a memory into the Pensieve and share it with others, right? How about if we take turns sharing funny or exciting memories?"

An excited murmur went up from everyone. It appeared very few had ever used a Pensieve and everyone wanted to try it.

"Well, what do you think, Harry? It's your gift," said Lupin.

"All right by me. It sounds like fun and it would help me practice using it," replied Harry.

"Perhaps I could go first," said Lupin. "I'm certain I have a few memories Harry might like to see. How about it, Harry? I think I have a few amusing incidents with the Marauders that might be entertaining."

Harry felt excited, but then became apprehensive. The last time he had seen his father in the Pensieve, he'd seen things he really hadn't wanted to know. And to see Sirius...

Lupin noticed his hesitation and smiled at him. He spoke low so that only Harry could hear. "Don't worry, Harry, I won't show any memories where your dad acted like a prat. And I think it might do both of us some good to see Sirius... in better days. But it's up to you. You don't have to if you don't want to. I'll quite understand if you want to pass."

Harry hesitated and then nodded his approval. Lupin took the Pensieve from him and cleared out a space in the middle of the table. "I think we'll probably need to take turns with each memory; only so many people can fit around the Pensieve. How about Harry and his friends first?"

Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna walked over and stood with Harry around the Pensieve. They looked a bit nervous, having never used one before.

"Hmm. I think I might have a good one." Lupin suddenly lit up with a very mischievous look on his face. He smirked at the memory and brought out his wand. "Er, Harry, let me see that pamphlet. It's been some time since I've done this."

He skimmed through the pamphlet quickly. "I think I'm ready." He held his wand to his temple and withdrew silvery, fine threads of thought. He gently deposited them into the basin. He touched his wand to the swirling, cloudy substance, and it began to swirl very fast. The surface settled and became a clear window. Harry could see a room below the surface of the Pensieve and could almost make out four figures.

"Right, then. Everyone bring your face down to the Pensieve's window and enter the memory," Lupin said.

Harry and his friends leaned down next to Lupin and they all pierced the window of the Pensieve. He felt himself pitch forward into an icy, black coldness. He landed on his feet in front of a very young James Potter, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew.

Author notes: A/N: Thanks to my beta readers Allie Kiwi and DM. The flaming plate is dedicated to my reviewer who requested, “Could we have some accidental magic, and could it be really, really embarrassing?” I hope this was embarrassing enough for you. Now, see what happens when you review? I listen! :-)

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