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“Welcome to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, where you’re—Oh, hello Harry.”
 

“Hello Fred.  So, got anything new?”
 

Fred shifted uneasily and shared a look with George.  “Well,” George drug out the word, “I suppose you could try our latest.  Mind you, it’s only in experiment form; not sure if it’s really ready for the shelves.”
 

“All right.  Do you mind if I try it?  Whatever it is?”
 

“Suit yourself, mate.  But don’t say we didn’t warn you,” Fred replied, taking a box out from under his desk and grabbing one of the purple gumballs.

 
“Tell us how it goes, eh?” George replied.  “Oh, and before we forget—“

 
“It’ll throw you into your wildest fantasy,” Fred finished.  “So I’d try it at home.”
 

“Cheers,” Harry replied, raising the gumball in salute, a grin plastered on his face, and Disapparating.

   

Bright sunlight snuck in through the cracks in the curtain, and a soft voice was calling his name.  It was gentle, familiar, loving.  He really didn’t want to wake up, but the voice was so persistent.  He tried to wave it off, and that seemed to work.  Sighing contentedly, he snuggled happily under the covers, and was suddenly doused in icy water.

 
Harry sat bolt upright and glared at the woman laughing at him, her wand held aloof now.  “Mum, was that really necessary?” Harry complained, wiping his face.

 
Lily kissed his forehead.  “Yes.  It’s nearly noon, and you’re not even dressed.  Don’t tell me you already forgot your own birthday.  Especially such an important one.”  His mother grinned down at him, hugging him before leaving him to get dressed.

 
Harry flopped back down on his bed, staring up at the ceiling.  The truth was he had forgotten it was his birthday, and now a slow excitement began to bubble inside of him.  He was 17 now; he could finally do magic anytime he wanted.  Harry grinned despite himself and jumped off his bed to grab a towel, deciding that his mother’s Aguamenti Charm was as good as a shower.  One step toward his bathroom Harry stopped.  “Accio towel.”  It sailed across the hall, into his room and outstretched arms, an elegant sail amongst the disaster that was his room.  Harry merely grinned at the blue cloth in his arms.  Oh, he could definitely get used to this. 
 

“17, I’m finally 17!”  Harry danced around his room, making his way to his wardrobe and pulling out a pair of jeans.  He pulled out his favorite green shirt and stared at himself in his long oval mirror.  He didn’t look any different then he did yesterday.  No, he was still Harry Potter, the boy that had great parents and friends who loved him.
 

“I thought I was the vain one, Harry,” called a voice at his door.
 

“Sirius!” Harry cried, all in a jumble of excitement.  “You’re quite early.”

 
“Noon is early then?” Sirius teased.

 
Godfather embraced godson and they stared at each other for a moment, grinning.  “Harry!  Sirius!  Come down here!”  It was Lily, of course; the others must be arriving soon, and so, with a quick glance at the other, Harry and Sirius were racing down the stairs.  The two were very close, and Harry often looked at Sirius as a mix between an uncle and a big brother.  After all, it was Sirius that would teach him things and buy the more dangerous gifts for Harry, when even James couldn’t be persuaded to approve.  Not to mention that Sirius acted childish enough at times, nowhere near mature enough for his age, Harry had found himself thinking more than once. 
 

“Happy birthday, son!” James greeted as Harry skid to a halt in the kitchen.  Even after 17 years, Harry was always slightly taken aback each time he saw his father, more so in the recent years as Harry slowly matured to become a mirror image, almost, of the man before him.  James’ jet-black hair had the occasional grey, but was still as wild as ever, competing with Harry’s own untamed hair. 
 

Harry grinned at his father, both of their eyes crinkling up in excitement.  Harry hugged his Dad, taller than him now, but only just.  “Thanks, Dad,” Harry grinned.

 
“Harry,” Lily called softly.  She never did have to talk loudly, for Harry was as attuned to her voice as he was to his own heartbeat.  She stood slightly off to the side, next to a fair sized pile of presents, beaming at him, and Harry felt his heart swell.  Like a dog called by its master, Harry eagerly sauntered towards his mom.  “Happy birthday, Harry,” she whispered, her arms encircling him, almost as though she was protecting him, a funny notion seeing as Harry was a good six inches taller than her. 

 
“Thanks, Mum,” Harry mumbled back, hugging her close.  Not keen on letting his emotions get the best of him (he was a man now after all), Harry turned away quickly, looking to stare at his hill of presents.

 
“You’ll like mine best,” Sirius snickered, as though it was some great secret.  Sirius had gotten Harry the newest broomstick, just out, and thoroughly trumping the now outdated Firebolt.
 

Harry grinned sardonically.  “I’m sure it will be a great surprise!”    

 
Thick waves of red hair suddenly appeared before Harry’s eyes as his best friend and family flooed in.  “Happy birthday, mate,” Ron grinned, throwing his own gift atop Harry’s pile.

 
“Harry dear, happy birthday!” cried Molly, engulfing him in a hug.  “Lily sweetie, let me help with that.”

 
The guests trickled in quickly after that: Hermione, Tonks and Remus, Neville, Luna, Seamus and Dean, and even Dumbledore.  It was quite a crowd, and the party moved outside so a game of Quidditch could be played.  Harry wasted no time in ripping open his new broomstick from Sirius, and they all spent a few minutes in excited admiration crowded around it.  A rich mahogany colored handle, it was made of cherry wood.  The needles of the broom were all perfectly shaped into a sharp point, the pinnacle of aerodynamic racing secrets.  They had really outdone themselves with the creation of this broomstick.    

 
Hermione absolutely refused to play, so Harry led one team as Seeker, with Ginny, James and Sirius as his Chasers, Fred and Seamus as Beaters and Ron as Keeper.  Charlie was the other team’s Seeker, with Bill, Remus and Dean as Chasers, George and Tonks as Beaters, and Luna as Keeper. 
 

The game began quickly, both teams weaving in and out of each other, and the Quaffle changing hands several times before any points were scored.  James scored twice on Luna, but George managed to stop a third score with one hit to the Bludger.  Soon after, Tonks caused a scene by accidentally knocking the Bludger straight at Bill, breaking his nose, and the game stopped for a few minutes as Tonks patched him up.  (“As clumsy as I am, I’ve had to learn this spell the hard way,” she told Bill, apologizing every other sentence.)
 

The game was soon on again, and Bill was back with a vengeance, scoring five times and severely wounding Ron’s self esteem.  “It’s all right, mate, we’ll get ‘em,” Harry called as he zoomed by in search of the Snitch.  But Harry was wrong, and Charlie’s team kept up a mad spree of scoring.  Ron cursed as yet another Quaffle sailed passed him, Remus having narrowly avoided dropping it prematurely in his attempt to dodge a Bludger sailing towards him from Fred.  Harry glanced Hermione’s way, watching as she changed the ribbons in the air from 220 to 230, a sad score to his team’s 80.  They were severely behind, and the only way to win at this point would be to catch the Snitch. 
 

That’s when Harry spotted it, a flash of gold zooming around the edge of the field.  With a quick glance to make sure Charlie was still high-fiving Remus, Harry shot off in the direction of the Snitch.  Charlie was not so green, however, and shot after Harry, easily catching up and making it a neck and neck race.  It only hit the other players what was happening just as Dean scored a goal, and James cried out in a panic, “Harry, don’t!”
 

But it was too late—a hand had already closed on the walnut-sized gold ball, as both men swerved to avoid a tree.
 

Harry’s pleasure was short lived, however, as he glanced at the score Hermione had diligently been keeping, and realized belatedly that Charlie’s team had won by 10 points, thanks to Dean’s last score.  “Wonderful flying, Harry.  Honestly, you’re a fantastic Seeker,” Charlie encouraged, trying to wipe the glum look off of Harry’s face.

 
“Thanks Charlie, but I’d say you’ve still got your skills as well.  You caught up to me pretty quick,” Harry replied, appreciating Charlie’s effort to cheer him up.

 
“Well, when you work with dragons every day, you have to learn to be quick, or you won’t last,” Charlie answered with a grin.  Harry responded with his own smile.

 
“Good game, Harry.  You’re going to kill them in Quidditch this year,” Dean congratulated. 

 
Hands were shaken and people were patted on the back, as the others caught up to where Harry and Charlie had landed.  The sun was making its descent in the sky now, slowly sinking lower and lower, casting and orange and gold light over everyone.
 

“Great job, mate.  Sorry I couldn’t stop any more Quaffles,” Ron mumbled, his pink ears betraying his shame.
 

“Remus, didn’t know you still had it in you, old boy,” Sirius laughed, clapping his best friend on the back.
 

“Well, one of us still has to be good at Quidditch,” Remus joked, giving James a playful shove. 
 

“Yeah, yeah.  Well you weren’t the one avoiding Tonks’ ill-aimed Bludgers, were you?” James shot back, though his lips were turned up in a smile.
 

“She’s got a good arm, doesn’t she?” George approved, flashing a grin at Tonks.  She smiled in an embarrassed sort of way.
 

“Dinner!” called Mrs. Weasley.
 

The players all shuffled inside, the aroma of pot roast, potatoes and soup invading their noses, and making their stomachs growl.  “They have got to be the two best cooks on the planet,” Ron commented, eyes following his mother and Lily as they levitated their food out of the kitchen and onto the table.
 

Family and friends gathered around the magically enlarged table that was set out in the yard, clearly the work of Dumbledore.  There were little baubles floating in the air, candles within each one, casting a soft light around the area.  Above them hung a red banner, with “Happy 17th Birthday, Harry” set in gold, once again the work of Dumbledore.  As a final touch, Albus had conjured comfortably padded chairs and placed them around the table, making Harry’s into a throne, to the come-of-age wizard’s amusement. 
 

Potato soup, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, steamed vegetables and pot roast adorned the table, setting more than one mouth salivating.  Before anyone could get too settled, however, a loud clatter in the kitchen alerted the diners to another guest.  “Sorry I’m late—had a bit ‘o trouble getting the Krupps all rounded up,” Hagrid explained, placing himself in the enlarged chair clearly meant for him.
 

Ron had no reservations about taking seconds, nor did Seamus or the twins for that matter.  The first was locked in another battle with Dean over the importance of football (or lack of importance in Ron’s view), while the latter were discussing tales of mischief with James and Sirius.  Mr. Weasley was engrossed in a deep conversation with Lily, who was explaining to him exactly how a toaster worked, while Hermione and Bill were discussing different curses of the ancient Egyptians.  Harry looked around at the table, all his family and friends chatting and enjoying themselves, and smiled.  It was so perfect, a holiday from real, if you would.
 

For dessert Molly had baked a large yellow cake covered in chocolate icing and “Happy Birthday Harry!” written in green.  It was sliced and served, Harry having had a bit of trouble blowing out one little candle, to which he discovered Fred and George had been re-igniting just as he blew it, and the guests lounged back to talk more intimately and enjoy their cake.  Harry couldn’t stop grinning as he glanced around at them all; he couldn’t believe how lucky he was.  He had tried to make a wish before blowing out his candles, but found himself incapable of wanting anything more than he already had.
 

Everyone was still enjoying himself or herself, and Harry was sure Ron and Hermione, perhaps even Remus and Sirius would stay the night, and so Harry crept away to sit under his favorite tree.  The ground was warm and the air was thick with the mixed fragrances of the numerous flowers his mother grew around the house.  The sky was splattered with stars, some brighter than others, but all twinkling merrily, as if in accord with Harry’s feelings.  It was perfect, absolutely and completely.  Harry never thought he’d been so happy, so content, in his whole life.

 
“Harry?”

 
It was his favorite voice, ever, soft, but bold and, of course, loving.  He would know it anywhere; he had dreamt of it often enough.  Harry knew that sometimes, late at night, his mother would still sneak into his room to sing him a lullaby.  Yes, it was definitely Harry’s favorite voice.  Lily sat down beside him and stared up at the stars with Harry.

 
“I wish summer would never have to end.  I wish today would never end,” Harry told his mom.

 
She just smiled and put her hand over Harry’s.  It was so soft and warm, a delicate ivory in juxtaposition with his tan skin.  Yet there was something nagging at Harry, something pulling at the end of his mind.  Quickly Harry looked up, just wanting to see his mother’s face again, to make sure.

 
And the long waves of red hair were still there, the pale skin and smiling mouth.  But her eyes were different.  They weren’t the sparkling emeralds Harry knew both he and his mother shared, but a warm shade of hazel, and freckles too.  A face that was too young to be his mothers.

 
“Harry, I think you fell asleep,” Ginny told him gently.
 

Ginny.  He was at the Burrow, and Ginny was tugging his hand, trying to get him up, but Harry shook his head.  “I’d like to stay here a while.”  And Harry couldn’t control that burst of emotion, the sadness that rose up through him and escaped as a strangled sob when he heard Ginny close the door in the distance.
 

It had all been so perfect, so very right; and it had all been a fantasy.  After all, James was dead, Sirius was dead, and Lily, his mom, she was dead too.  A sudden idea burst through Harry’s better judgment, and he had half a mind to go back to the twins and buy a whole box of those purple gumballs, yet just as quickly as his recklessness took over him, another part of him told him no; he knew he would not be able to handle the crash back to reality.  The product was no doubt perfect, phenomenal and genius, but it came with a price as well; and for Harry this price was too cruel, too high to pay.


Harry closed his eyes and lay back down on the ground.  It was still warm, and Mrs. Weasley’s flowers gave off a similar aroma, but there was no happy chatter in the background, and no warmth next to him, only a dull ache in Harry’s heart.  He lay there for a few moments, willing himself slip away into his fantasy once again, and Harry was sure that, when he opened his eyes to stare up at that vast sea of stars, they’d be the same ones he had just been gazing at with Lily.      


A/N: More of the usual craziness.  Thanks to SwissMiss at TDA for the gorgeous chapter image!!

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