His Only Birthday Wish
His Only Birthday Wish
He could hear laughter, and soft music. Brightly wrapped presents were piled high on the living room floor. A huge iced cake stood ready and waiting on the kitchen table. Seven candles had been burning brightly on top of it for hours, yet no wax had dripped on to the perfect chocolate icing and swirls of cream. Huge balloons were floating in all four corners of the room, and the five people who had been talking quietly looked up and smiled as he padded through the doorway of the living room in his purple slippers and star patterned pyjamas and took in the wonderful sight. It was his birthday.
"Sleepy head!" exclaimed one black haired man, grinning in his direction. "We've been waiting for you to get up for hours!"
"Yes, well, it might not have been hours if a certain someone hadn't kept him up until one in the morning showing him magic tricks," said an exasperated voice. He looked up at the beautiful red haired woman whose amused tone of voice and sparkling green eyes contradicted her annoyed expression as the black haired man reached out and put an affectionate arm around her shoulders.
"Ah, come on Lily, no complaints today, it's his birthday! What are godfathers for anyway?"
"I have a feeling that that's something you have yet to learn Padfoot," came another amused voice, this time from a man with messy black hair, who had been adding the finishing touches to the decorations. He was also smiling broadly. "Sometimes I really don't know what we were thinking when we named you godfather. Moony would have been a far more sensible choice."
A man with brown hair and a tired but gentle face who had been sitting on the sofa nearest the door laughed, "I think that's exactly why you gave Sirius the job." he said. "You can't pretend that you don't want your son to be the biggest mischief maker he can possibly be, and that knowledge is not going to be passed on to him from me I can assure you! Happy birthday!" he added, with a beaming smile, reaching over to pull the young boy into a hug as the red haired woman looked at the other two disapprovingly.
Another man, small and balding with a pale and nervous face that nevertheless lit up a little as he smiled, came forward to add his birthday wishes to the rest.
He went round, one by one, receiving a hug from each person in the room, their arms warm as they wrapped around his small body, and he gazed into their faces as each one looked down on him with the same loving expression. Then, he couldn't help his eyes sliding over to the other side of the room, where the pile of presents sat so temptingly by the beautiful stone fireplace.
"Ah, he's noticed them!" said the dark haired man in amusement. "They're not for you though I'm afraid," he said, his voice becoming solemn.
But he took no notice as he walked towards them. Of course they were for him! The man, Sirius, was making jokes just like he always did. He sat down in front of the pile and tried to work out which one he should open first.
"Remember the days when he was so innocent that he actually believed everything you told him," said the brown haired man fondly.
"Hmmm," said the women called Lily, looking disapproving again, though the amused tone hadn't left her voice. "Some godfather you are to reduce your godson to tears on three birthdays in a row!" The room became alive with the sound of soft laughter, and the five adults watched him as he took the first present from the pile, tore off the silver paper, and laughed in delight as a toy dragon zoomed into the air and flew around the room. Nestling inside the paper was a miniature wooden wand to control it.
"Who gave him that?" Sirius asked interestedly, watching as he picked up the wand and tried to direct the dragon's movements. He didn't succeed terribly well, but the dragon did change direction a little as he waved the wand in random movements through the air.
"Frank and Alice," Lily said, smiling. "We sent Neville something similar for his birthday yesterday. He loved it apparently, but Alice is a bit worried because he can't seem to control it at all. She's still fretting that her son is a squib."
"Highly unlikely, with parents like that," said the brown-haired man at once. "He's probably just a late developer."
"Wish we could say the same for this one," sighed the man with messy hair. "Just last week I made the mistake of leaving him alone in the kitchen. When I got back he'd somehow summoned the chocolate from the top shelf of the highest cupboard and the ice-cream from out of the back of the freezer. He'd eaten a good half of it by then too. And most of the other half was either round his mouth or dripping onto the floor!"
There was more laughter, and the adults continued their conversation, but he was far more interested in attacking the pile of presents, and his face lit up repeatedly as he unwrapped gift after gift. Soon there were just a few left to open, the floor was littered with colored paper, and he sat there, beaming, surrounded by his new gifts which included a beautiful pair of blue shoes, a soft hand knitted jumper, a bright red and yellow scarf with a lion on it, several new story books and a big pile of new toys. Sirius knelt down next to him after a while, almost as preoccupied with his new presents as he was, and he paused in his unwrapping to watch as the man picked up the miniature wand and made the dragon do several beautiful back flips in the air. He wished he could do that. Maybe he could if he tried again. He reached out eagerly for the wand, and Sirius very reluctantly handed it back to him, though it took him several seconds before he was able to prise it out of his strong grip.
"Don't worry Padfoot, you'll get one on your seventh birthday too," joked the other black haired man, who had been watching in amusement, and Sirius sat back and laughed as the boy waved the wand in wild circles, looking crestfallen a few seconds later when the dragon fell to the floor with a thump. His sadness only lasted for a split second, however, and then he put the wand down again and turned his attention to his remaining presents. There were three left; a big one, a small square one, and a medium sized one wrapped in yellow paper, which he picked up next.
"That's from me," said the balding man quietly. "Happy Birthday, little fellow!" He ripped off the paper and found a black box with the words "The ultimate wizard games compendium" written on the lid in silver letters. Opening it expectantly, he found that it contained all manner of exciting games, from wizard chess and exploding snap to a strange looking game involving a miniature cauldron, a phial of pink liquid and a gleaming white hourglass. He took out every component one by one, inspecting each individual item carefully, and then, grinning, put them back all in the box.
"Thanks Peter that's such a great idea!" the other black haired man said with a smile. "we can play some of them later," he promised, smiling down at the boy sitting on the floor, who's happiness at getting so many wonderful presents was making his smile almost touch his ears.
He had now turned back to his two remaining presents, trying to decide which one he should open first. Finally, he reached out and took the small square one, ripping open the paper to find a tiny little box. He tipped it upside down and a delicate golden ball fell into the palm of his hand. He stared at it, taking in its shining surface, its pale gold wings, and the name that was carved delicately onto the front in slanted letters, before it fluttered its wings, rose out of his hand and started darting around his head.
"Remus, is that from you?" Lily asked as he laughed in delight at the gift and reached out a hand in an attempt to catch it. "It's fantastic!"
The man's face broke into a wide smile. "Yes," he said. "He's the first one to hold it, so it'll recognize his touch, which means he won't easily lose it. And it's specially crafted to move slightly slower than the average snitch, so he should be able to catch it without too much trouble. I thought maybe it was time he started practicing with proper material if he wanted to be as good a Quidditch player as his father. And his godfather," he added hurriedly as Sirius cleared his throat loudly.
"It's great," Sirius laughed, catching it deftly and inspecting it the second that the boy's attention had been turned his final present, which turned out to be a large cage containing a soft round yellow ball, which hummed affectionately as he stroked the fur.
"A puffskein," said Remus delightedly. "I always wanted one when I was younger, but - well, my parents were afraid that it wouldn't last a full moon."
The others gave him sympathetic looks. "He was clamoring for a snake, of all things, when we were at Diagon Alley the other day!" said Lily. "We hoped that this might deter him a little bit from that particular train of thought!"
"It had better! If he ends up in Slytherin I will disown him," declared the black haired man in grim amusement. "I'm joking, I'm joking," he added quickly, as Lily's green eyes appeared to emit sparks. "I think.." he muttered under his breath.
"He won't end up in Slytherin," said Sirius decisively, from his position kneeling by the fire place as the boy got up and gave each of them a second hug to thank them for the wonderful gifts. "It's just not a possibility. He's going to be in Gryffindor like we were. Hey, you've forgotten one!" he added with a laugh, and turning around with renewed excitement, he saw that the man was holding out a soft, squishy looking present which he had definitely not seen a minute ago, wrapped in shimmering red paper and tied with a bright golden ribbon.
The woman rolled her eyes at the ceiling.
"Oh for heaven's sake Sirius, I thought I'd told you no!"
"But James told me yes," Sirius said, looking innocently at her exasperated face. "How was I supposed to know which one of you was right?"
"I thought you said you'd got her to agree to it!" James said indignantly, and a few hastily repressed laughs came from the others in the room. Lily frowned accusingly at the two men as they looked guiltily up at her like two naughty children.
"I actually said she was persuadable," Sirius replied with a shrug. "I just didn't quite manage to get round to doing that. But you can't take it away from him now Lily, look at him!"
She sighed in absolute despair, but her gaze softened when she looked at the young boy's excitement as he stared longingly at his final present.
"Anyone would think we'd deprived him of presents completely, looking at his face," she exclaimed. "Fine, on your own head be it, but I hope you know what you're getting us all in for! Do you realize the mischief he'll be able to get up to if you give him that? On second thoughts, don't answer that, I'm perfectly aware that you know what he can get up to and I'm sure that was precisely your intent!" she added, before either man could reply.
"Come on then, open it, you've saved the best until last" he smiled, as he held out the red parcel with golden ribbon, and two small arms reached out in return, desperate find out what was in this last present that was so exciting and special.
Then, suddenly, something happened. Everything seemed to be coming from a very long way off. He reached out all the harder but the present just got further away from him. The smiling faces of the five adults grew blurred. The laughter and music continued but the happy voices got fainter and fainter as a sudden thumping noise echoed in his ears.
Harry Potter woke up abruptly, his arms still stretched in front of him in an attempt to take the gift, the contents of which he would now never know, from the black haired stranger who had seemed so familiar just moments before. Lowering them sadly, he rolled over and saw, by the dull glow of the light on his alarm clock, that it was a minute past midnight. On the July 31st. It was indeed his birthday. But there were no stars on his pyjamas, a plain old striped pair that had once belonged to Dudley, ragged at the edges and fastened with a safety pin to stop them falling down, and he had never owned a pair of slippers in his life. There would be no pile of beautifully wrapped presents waiting for him in the living room the next morning, no huge iced chocolate cake standing on the kitchen table, no balloons strung up around the house. The laughter was coming from the game show on television that had just come to an end. The music was merely the sound of the end credits blaring out from the next room. The thumping had been his Aunt Petunia going upstairs to bed.
Harry sighed as he thought back to the smiling faces that had seemed so close to him just a few seconds before. The memory of the dream was slipping away already. He could just about remember a pile of presents, very unusual presents at that. He could recollect a toy dragon, and a flying golden ball. He vaguely recalled the sound of voices saying many strange names that he did not recognize and had already forgotten. The sight of the warm smiles and open arms of the five adults in the room with their beaming faces full of love as they watched him unwrap his gifts stood out clearly in his mind, but even that beautiful image was seeming less real with every passing second. Harry tried to remember more of the dream, but it was fading fast. He couldn't even picture the adults' faces anymore. He knew that in the dream he had recognized them, but now, back in the harsh reality of his dark little cupboard, he had no idea who they were or where he might have seen them before. His heart gave a little jolt of sadness as he thought how familiar the happy and relaxed atmosphere had felt. He had always longed to have a birthday that was really like that, but he knew that the next morning would be the same as any other morning at number 4 Privet Drive.
He heard the creak of the sofa and then the slight crackle which indicated the television had just been switched off, the click of the light switch that plunged the hallway outside his cupboard into darkness and then the much heavier thumping which resounded above him as his Uncle Vernon mounted the stairs. Brushing out of his eyes the particles of dust and the stray spider that that had just fallen into his face from the cupboard ceiling, he made a birthday wish, the same one that he had made every year for the past four years, and then rolled over and closed his eyes again, quickly falling back to sleep.
When he awoke the next morning he did not remember the dream at all.