Happy Birthday, Harry

A short AU fanfic snippet where James, Lily and Harry talk about his impending enrollment at Hogwarts, and then give him a surprise on his birthday. I own nothing related to Potter etc, this is just for a bit of fun.

Happy Birthday, Harry.

Harry looked up as the front door to the house clicked open. His head had been buried deep in the pages of Hogwarts: A History, as his mother busied herself hanging a picture frame on the wall. Inside it, a poster had been tacked with great care. It was a most unusual thing for one to hang in the living room for two reasons. Firstly, the poster carried a Wanted: Dead or Alive message, urging members of the public to disclose information on the whereabouts of vicious serial killer, who had been on the run for some time.

The second, more wondrous aspect, was that the subject of the picture was moving.

Harry watched, enchanted, as Sirius Black writhed and screamed dramatically in the image, which James had swiped from a shop window during their trip to Diagon Alley. His mother and father insisted Sirius was play acting the whole time, hamming it up for the cameras. He was just a showman like that. Still, it was almost hypnotic to watch, somehow more real and visceral than television or movies.

Or, perhaps, it was more to do with the fact that Harry’s godfather was a wanted murderer.

As extended family members went, Harry could think of few other ways in which Sirius Black could be more interesting. Of course, he hadn’t killed his parents – as the Wizarding World believed – but Harry’s father had suggested that Sirius had done something equally as dubious, though he had been very firm in denying all Harry’s subsequent entreaties for more details. Which, naturally, simply stoked Harry’s burning curiosity about the man.

Harry watched his mother, as she looked fondly at Sirius’ face in the picture, which winked at her when it thought the camera wasn’t looking.

“Why do you think they are still looking for him?” Harry asked. “You’d think they’d just give up, being as it’s so long now.”

“You don’t know the Ministry of Magic,” Lily replied darkly. “Did I mention there’s a Ministry of Magic? Well, there is one. And they were hugely shamed when Sirius escaped from Azkaban, the Wizard Prison. They lost so much face over that you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Why?” Harry pressed. “People break free from prison all the time.”

“Not this one,” Lily hushed, her tone dropping from grey to black. “You see, it’s guarded by the most horrid of magical creatures, things called Dementors.”

Harry felt a prickle of icy anxiety kiss at his skin at the mere mention of these things. His mother’s words were laced with the sort of terror a young child should never have to hear in their parent’s voice. Harry shuddered as frosty tendrils of fear inched and crept across the tender flesh at the back of his neck, causing him to tremble involuntarily.

“What are they?”

“Best description? Soul leeches,” Lily explained. Harry gulped hard at the suggestion. “They feed on human emotions, and positive ones are their absolute favourite. They leave only darkness and despair behind. They are the most unpleasant things, Harry. I truly hope you never have to meet one.”

Harry nodded in hearty agreement. “I can see why thy guard the prison, though.”

“So do most people,” Lily continued. “But they are a topic of controversy, because when they punish a prisoner, a Dementor performs a Kiss on them … and essentially eats the poor devil’s soul. There is no recovering from that, and a person usually dies shortly after. Lots of magical people would prefer that they didn’t guard the prison, that they were rounded up and kept away from the public. But because Azkaban never has any break-outs, the Dementors are permitted to stay. But Sirius showed that they weren’t the flawless guards the Ministry would have the world believe. He embarrasses them, so they wont stop hunting him until a Dementor is sucking out his soul through his nostrils.”

Harry shivered from his toenails to his eyelashes. He was quite sure now that his biggest fear – being afraid of the dark – had been firmly supplanted in his mind by these new terrors. He bit his lip in his fretful anxiety.

“But, you see, Sirius was able to escape Azkaban,” Lily ploughed on. “Dementors are supposed to sap the will from people, making escape impossible, because the prisoners simply don’t have it in them to try.”

“But Sirius did?” Harry asked reverently, re-imagining his Godfather now as a sort of Dementor-defying superhero. “How?”

“Like your father, Sirius is an Animagus,” Lily explained. “In his animal form, the Dementors didn’t have anything like the same effect on him. He was able to endure it much more than when he was a wizard. The Dementors stopped sensing him, and when they opened his cell to see where he was, he slipped right past them and trotted merrily out of the front door, picking up a juicy slab of steak, that had been left to taunt another prisoner who was on hunger strike, on his way to freedom.”

Harry heard a laugh from the hallway and his father followed his own chuckle into the living room.

“Are you telling tales about my brother from another mother?” James quipped, ruffling Harry’s already messy hair as he passed, causing the boy to scowl in frustration. It was a scowl that turned to a grimace a moment later, as James approached Lily and kissed her so deeply it was borderline indecent.

“Eww, disgusting!” Harry mewled in protest. “Must you?”

James just laughed as he finally broke apart from his wife, whose lips were slightly swollen from the pressure. She whipped out her wand and performed a little cooling spell to heal them.

“You know, Harry, if you are very lucky in life, you too will be plagued with the restless urge to kiss a girl like that some day,” James retorted wisely.

“No, I will not!” Harry shot back, feeling violated by the mere concept.

“A boy, then!” James teased.

“James,” Lily hushed warningly. “No taunting before dinner, please.”

“Sorry, Mum,” James grinned at his wife, whose eyes shone with amusement. “So, Harry, what are you reading today, son?”

“More about Hogwarts,” Harry replied, relieved at the chance to change subject. “Dad … what’s Quidditch?”

“Oh, sweet Merlin!” James cried. “It’s only the best sport in the world, son! I’ve been so looking forward to telling you about it.”

And he was off, explaining all about the positions – which were filled by seven players on broomsticks, something that Harry struggled to even imagine – and the three balls, and the scoring system, and that each of the four Houses of Hogwarts had a team, and that they competed for a Cup every year, and how it was much more important to win the Quidditch Cup than the House Cup, something Lily vehemently disagreed with. But then she’d been hopeless on a broom, apparently.

“And I played Chaser,” James babbled away excitedly. “And I was the best. Just ask your Mum. She never missed a game of mine. Though, I reckon she was just there to watch me rather than the match.”

“You know, I sometimes wonder how you manage, lugging that massive head of yours around all day,” Lily laughed. “It’s staggering that you even manage to get it through the door!”

Harry guffawed behind his hand, as James blew Lily a cheeky kiss, which she promptly mimicked catching and putting in her pocket.

“So, which House were you in?” Harry asked.

“Gryffindor,” James and Lily chorused together.

“And that really is the best House,” James added.

“What are the others?” Harry pressed.

“Well, there’s Ravenclaw for all the brainy people, then Hufflepuff for all the duffers,” James ticked off on his fingers.

“Hufflepuff are not duffers,” Lily admonished with a little frown. “Don’t listen to your father. I had lots of good friends from Hufflepuff House. I do miss them a lot.”

A sad smile crossed Lily’s eyes and James wore of look of suitable chastisement.

“I thought there were four Houses?” Harry pointed out, confused. “What’s the other one?”

“That would be Slytherin,” James answered in a spiky tone. “Or, as they are also known, The Hogwarts House o’ Evil!”

“Evil?” Harry blurted. “Are they really?”

“No, of course they aren’t,” Lily replied, but she didn’t quite meet Harry’s eye when she said that.

“Though there is an old saying in the magical world,” James added. “It goes – ‘Not all Slytherins are Dark Wizards, but All Dark Wizards are Slytherins.”

“There is no such saying!” Lily admonished crossly. “Stop putting ideas into your son’s impressionable young head, James Potter!”

“There is such a saying,” James argued cheekily. “I invented it. So there.”

“Why did I marry you?” Lily thought glumly. “There must have been another option somewhere.”

“Yeah … and he was a Slytherin,” James replied cryptically.

The angry, blazing look Lily sent at James just then would have incinerated a normal man, Harry was certain of that. He searched around for a quick change of subject.

“So, will I be a Gryffindor when I go to Hogwarts?” Harry asked breezily. “Because both of you were?”

“That isn’t how it works, sweetheart,” said Lily, throwing a last dagger-laden look at James.

“Then how do you get picked?” Harry insisted. “Is it like eeny, meany, miney, mo?

Lily giggled at that. “Sort of … only a magic Wizard’s hat chooses where to place you, and tells you so on your first day at school.”

“Oh, okay,” said Harry, who was starting to doubt and argue less and less about the nuances of the magical world. If there were talking hats, there were talking hats. That was just how it was. Then a worrying thought kicked into his mind. “But … what if I’m not picked? What if it looks into my head, sees there’s been some terrible mistake or something, and sends me right back home?”

Lily and James laughed fondly. Lily assumed the mantle of reassuring their son. “That wont happen, trust me. You’ve already demonstrated magical skill with the runes and with my wand. You are magical, you’ll be placed in a house, don’t worry.”

“And what if it’s Hufflepuff?” Harry mumbled.

“Then Hufflepuff House will have gained a wonderful young wizard who will be a credit to their rich history,” Lily smiled.

“And whose parents are extremely proud of him and love him very, very much,” James added warmly. “No matter which House he gets put in.”

“Even if it’s Slytherin?”

James chanced a testing look at Lily, then replied, “Even if it’s Slytherin. Though we wont love you quite as much if you don’t get Sorted into Gryffindor!”

“James Potter!” Lily reprimanded falsely. “Leave the poor boy alone! Yes, Harry, we will love you just as much if you get Sorted into Slytherin.”

“Though, if you do, you’ll have to leave your school robes at Hogwarts,” James said in mock seriousness. “I wont have that badge in the house!”

There was a knock at the door.

“Speaking of having things in the house …”

Harry looked up curiously at his father. “I thought we weren’t going to have any guests for my birthday?”

“Well, we weren’t,” James grinned. “But we’ve seen you spending a lot of time with that girl next door this Summer, so we thought we’d invite her and her family to join us. What was her name again?”

“Hermione,” Harry gulped, licking his lips nervously. “Hermione Granger.”

“Go and welcome them in then,” Lily urged with a little smile. “It never does to keep a girl waiting, Harry.”

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