Harry walked along the sidewalk, feeling a bit wobbly. He took off his glasses and squeezed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger in an attempt to stop the dizziness. As his head cleared, he took a breath and put them back on. Being on solid ground had never felt so good.
Ron walked beside him, wearing a smirk. He ran his fingers through his mess of ginger hair as the two of them walked up to the door of 12 Grimmauld Place. He jammed his wand into the pocket of his denim shorts. According to his watch, it was 7:15pm. The two of them were right on time.
“Honestly, Ron. I don’t understand why you insisted that we ride to my house in that bloody flying car of yours. There’s this thing called apparating. I’m not sure you’ve heard of it.” Harry said. He fished around in his pocket for his keys.
“I thought you’d want a special ride for your birthday. Besides, I got splinched that one time, remember? It kind of turns you off from apparating if you don’t have to.” Ron said.
“Right, I forgot about that.” Harry tried to shake off the memory. He wasn’t in the mood to reflect on the Battle of Hogwarts. “Still,” he continued, “It’s been what, twenty-three years since I rode in that car with you? If it’s possible, I think you’ve become a worse driver.”
“Remember when we first rode the car and we were seen by a handful of muggles? Snape really blew his cap over that one, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, he did.” Harry said, smiling at the memory. At the time, there was just fear. The fear of getting in trouble, the fear of getting expelled. Many of the things that scared him back then turned into memories that made him laugh. “Are you coming in?”
“Of course. It’s your birthday. I have to see if my sister made a cake, don’t I?”
“I can always count on you to be there for me, Ron. As long as there’s food.” Harry said. He was only joking, of course. Ron was the most loyal person he knew. Harry fumbled through his ring of keys and opened the door.
The house was pitch black and uncharacteristically quiet. It looked like no one was home.
“Merlin’s beard, where is everyone?” Harry asked. He felt around for the light switch and led Ron down the now-lit hallway. He turned more lights on as he moved through the house. In the dark living room, a shuffling noise could be heard. “Hello?” He turned on the lights and his heart practically leapt out of his chest.
“SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRY!” The room full of people shouted. Everyone was there: Ginny and the kids, Hermione, Luna, Neville, Hagrid, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, George, Bill and Fleur, Percy… Even Kingsley Shacklebolt and Professor McGonagall were there.
“What’s the minister of magic doing at my birthday party?” Harry asked. Ron shrugged.
“People don’t forget it when you save the bloody world. You’re a popular bloke, mate. Just enjoy it.”
“You knew about all of this?”
“Happy birthday, Harry!” Hermione said. She wrapped her arms around Harry and squeezed him tight. She pulled away, still keeping a hand on his shoulder. She turned her attention to Ron.
“You guys are just on time. You were brilliant, honey.”
“I try.” Ron said, grinning a huge grin.
“It was Ron’s job to keep you out of the house until we were ready.” She said to Harry.
“That explains the flying car.” Harry said. Hermione gave Ron a playful glare.
“You made him ride around in that deathtrap?” She asked him.
“It worked, didn’t it?” Ron said.
Harry laughed. He couldn’t help but smile. It had been a while since the three of them hung out together. It felt as natural as ever. He adjusted his glasses and noticed for the first time that there was a small crack in his left lens. A biproduct of reckless driving. Hermione noticed, too, and whipped out her wand.
“No matter how old we get, some things never change.” She pointed her wand toward Harry’s face and spoke in her clear, precise voice. “Oculous reparo.” Before he could blink, his lens was fixed. He pulled his glasses away to get a better look and then put them back on. That spell never ceased to amaze him.
“Like old times. Thank you, Hermione.” He said.
“Daddy!” An excited voice squealed. Lily jumped into his arms and wrapped her legs around him like a little monkey. Harry hugged her tight and kissed her hair.
“I missed you today, Princess.” He said. Albus, his youngest son, ran over and clung to his leg. James walked over soon after and presented him with a drawing.
“The three of us made this for you. Happy birthday, Dad.” James said. Harry took the piece of paper and immediately teared up. It was a drawing of their family: him, Ginny, James, Albus and Lily. Harry’s hair was colored blue, Ginny’s face was drawn green, and Lily drew herself with fairy wings. A spell was placed on the drawing (probably by Ginny) that made the figures in the drawing smile, wave and dance around. It was a picture of a happy family. It was the best gift Harry could have asked for.
“Thank you so much. This is brilliant, really.” Harry said. He put Lily down so he could wrap all his kids up in one, giant hug. When he stood up again, he was greeted by Ginny, who wrapped her gentle arms around his waist and kissed him on the cheek.
“I thought we were having a quiet dinner at home” Harry said.
“I may have told a white lie.” Ginny said. She leaned in and kissed Harry on the lips, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her fingers in his hair. She giggled as she pulled away, and he could feel her cool breath on his face. Her breath smelled like peppermint.
“Open up, you.” She said. She held a cookie up to Harry’s mouth and he took a small bite. It was soft, buttery, sweet and delicious.
“That’s amazing. Truly. I don’t know how you do it.” He said.
“I may have had some help from my mum. And from the enchanted spoons.” She said.
“Harry, it’s good to see you.” Mrs. Weasley said.
“You look good, Harry. You don’t look a day over twenty-five.” Mr. Weasley said. Harry hugged his mother and father in law. He was amazed that everyone he loved was together in one place, in his own home.
“It’s good to see you, Harry.” A soft voice said. Harry looked up to see Luna’s sweet, sincere smile.
“I’m glad you could make it, Luna.”
“Oh, yes. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Not to mention, I did miss my adorable godkids. Here, I’ve made you a charm.” She handed him a thin, braided bracelet that held a small, glass amulet with a gentle, yellow glow. “It’s supposed to give you a year’s worth of good luck. You wear it on your ankle when the sun goes down.”
Harry took the charm. It was quite lovely. He wasn’t so sure he would actually wear it, but he appreciated the sentiment.
“Thanks, Luna. I’ll save it for a rainy day.” He said.
Lily reached up for Luna and Luna scooped her up in her arms. She walked over to the snack table and gave Lily a cookie.
Hermione placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “You’ve done so well, Harry. Sirius would be truly proud of you.”
“And your parents, too, mate. They’d all be so proud. I know it.” Ron added. Harry felt a lump rise in his throat.
“Thanks, guys. I think you’re right.” He said. Ginny reached out her hand and Harry held it in his.
“Come on. Let’s go say hi to everyone else so we can get started on dinner. I’ve made all your favorite foods.” She said.
“Brilliant. I’m starving.” Harry replied.
“Me too.” Ron said.
“What else is new?” Hermione joked. She stroked Ron’s hair and looked at him with playful, loving eyes. She rested her head on his shoulder, their fingers intertwined.
Ginny led Harry around the room and he greeted all of his friends and loved ones. All the friends and loved ones who came to be there on his birthday. As he felt Luna’s charm resting in his pocket, he realized how lucky he already was. He had friends. He had a family. He had more than he could ever ask for.
This was the best birthday ever.
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