Author's Notes: Whee...*clears throat* Ahem...Please enjoy this chapter.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ = Scene/Time change

----------------------------- = Next day

~*~***************************~*~

The days had passed quite quickly for Harry. Before he knew it, he was packing up his stuff and heading out on his way to the Weasley's. When he finally arrived, Ron took his friend up to his room and helped him unpack.

The summer had done much to Ron. His red hair had lightened greatly, while he had sprouted upward a lot. He was a little taller than Harry now, both boys reaching close to around six feet. It was quite surprising. While Ron helped Harry to put his stuff away, he cleared his throat.

"So how've you been doing lately?"

Harry turned around and shrugged. "Doing alright, I suppose. Thanks for the picture!"

Ron smiled a bit and sighed. "I apologize for it being so small. We were facing a bit of a tightened budget..."

"Don't worry about it. I still like it. I just need a picture of you, me and Hermione together and I'll be happy. My two best friends and my favorite family."

Ron chuckled a bit as he pulled out Hermione's robes that she had bought for Harry, gawking at them. "Harry, who bought these for you?!" He examined the hems of the robes with an amazed glint in his eyes.

Instantly knowing that Ron was looking at, Harry couldn't really say. He didn't want to hurt his friend's feelings, but he couldn't exactly lie either. "Just a gift from Hermione."

"Oh...Well, it's really neat! It's quite dashing!"

"Well, when we see her I can tell her. But uh...It's just for school. I stick with regular clothes like everyone else."

Ron nodded and smiled a little. "Well, I'd say someone's got a little twinkle in their eyes for you, Harry. I doubt she's done this for anyone else."

"Oh Ron, that's not true. She's Hermione. She doesn't have time to do anything but study."

"But she's always had time to help you, Harry."

"You know..." Harry began, "now that I think about it, you're right. Except for when she was mad at us..."

"More so me than you."

"Yes, I suppose..." Harry sighed, folding up a few of his shirts and setting them in the dresser next to Ron's clothes. "Thanks for letting me stay with you, Ron. And I apologize for-"

"Ah don't worry about it, Harry. Not your fault."

"Well then, wanna go play some Wizard Chess?"

"I'd love to."

-----------------------------------------

The next few days, as usual, had passed by rather quickly. Ron and Harry were acting as if they had never spent any time apart, and after dinner, Harry helped Ron with some of his holiday homework. Though it was relatively easy doing it the second time around, Ron seemed to be having problems with the Potions reports. As much as he wanted to just throw it aside, Harry wouldn't let him. After finally finishing the report a day or two later, owls from the school came bearing the Weasley's and Harry's schedules. It wasas time for the them to go to Diagon Alley so they could get their school shopping done.

It didn't take them long to get there, and once they arrived, Mrs. Weasley's first stop with the kids was Gringott's Bank. Upon walking in, Mrs. Weasley led Harry and the others to the front desk.

"Good morning," Mrs. Weasley said warmly, the goblin looking over her with a slightly annoyed impression. They always looked like that. "We need to go to the Weasley and Potter funds."

The goblin nodded, and his eyes peered over the group. "Come with me."

"You all stay here and I'll be back in a few minutes, alright?" Mrs. Weasley asked, smiling over all of them before she disappeared into the vaults.

"I say," Fred began, "this year should be more interesting than last..."

"Why d'you say that, Fred?" Ron asked, looking slightly confused. "It's nothing new..."

George chuckled. "Well, think about it! You've got your O.W.L.'s to work for! The school year will be mad for you!"

Harry's expression didn't change much, but his stomach fell. O.W.L.s....Fred and George had those, and they didn't do too well...But then again, they were jokers at heart and they probably didn't study much. Now, for the trio, this would be a tiny task. They spent so much time working on homework (when they had free time) and studying that Harry figured they would pass with over the highest amount.

Harry wasn't quite paying any attention to the goings on about him, and when he brought himself back to, Mrs. Weasley was there, two separate, but quite different sized bags with her.

"Now," she sighed, "Fred and George, I want you to take Ginny around and get her stuff, and yours as well. Ron and Harry, I saw Hermione earlier, and I'm sure that you'll want to speak with her and stay around for a while. Fred, George, I want you to keep an eye on them, but don't crowd them, alright? Get your stuff and come back to the Burrow safely! I've got to get going back home, though, I have to go home and get some things done. I'll see you when you return!" With that, there was a pop! and Mrs. Weasley had disapparated.

Setting his hand on Ginny's shoulder, Fred looked over the others. "Come on, then. We'll meet you guys at Flourish and Blotts in an hour. Give you some time to spend with Hermione..." he had a sing song tone to his voice. The three Weasley's wandered off, leaving Harry and Ron in front of Gringotts.

"Where d'you think she is?" Ron inquired, scratching his chin. Hermione did enjoy a stop at the ice cream parlor... "Think maybe she's at the ice cream parlor?"

"Most likely," Harry replied as he looked over his schedule. He had decided to take Arithmancy this year, along with the study of Ancient Runes. His schedule was fuller than last year by far. Ron had signed up for the same two classes as Harry, having all but one class together with Hermione. The two boys walked along the busy streets of Diagon Alley, brushed against by people that seemed to have no care in mind as to others' well being. When they had finally reached their destination, they noticed Hermione sitting in the corner at a table with her mother.

She was quite different than the year before, looks wise. Her bushy hair had been grown out, curling just a bit. She had gained an inch or two over the summer, since her feet were no longer dangling on the ground but planted firmly against it. She wore a deep royal blue colored sweater and a skirt that was down to her feet. She was beginning to take on the look of her mother.

"Hermione!" Harry called out as he stepped up the steps.

Turning her attention to the door, Hermione smiled brightly and waved to him. "Harry! Ron! Over here!"

Both boys had arrived at the table and sat down, nodding a greeting to Mrs. Granger. She smiled at them and stood, heading off to the bathroom so they could be alone.

"How're you doing?" Hermione asked anxiously.

"Rather well," Harry began, "thanks for the robes. They're really wonderful. Where'd you find them?"

With a smile, Hermione leaned in and whispered, "I enchanted them, actually. I got a little pardon, though, by Mr. Weasley."

"My dad gave you a pardon on it!?" Ron exclaimed in a whisper, curious. "He never did that for me...!"

"Well, I asked him to...But he liked the idea of having a robe like that. He thought that he might try to bring it into the ideas for the Ministry. That's why," Hermione explained.

"It -is- a nice idea..." Ron added, a light sigh coming from him. He was going to talk to his father later. As much as Ron liked the idea, he couldn't help but notice his father had played favorites with his two best friends, but not him. What was with that?

"What about you?" Harry asked as he looked to Hermione. She had obviously been through some changes. Her skin was a bit tanner that Harry remembered it being.

"Just got back from France a bit ago. Mum and Dad had told me that I would need to start studying for some muggle things as well. Besides flying a broom, I need to learn to drive a car."

"Shouldn't be that hard for you," Ron muttered, "you understand everything the first time you read it."

"Some of these laws are rather strange though. All the color matching and everything, you'd think it would be less of a challenge..." With a shake of her head, Hermione sighed and ran a hand through her hair.

"Decided to let your hair grow out?" Harry asked, receiving a nod from Hermione.

"I didn't want to cut it this year. It seems to be less bushy...It's one of those strange things in life, you know?

"Well, that's good. Looks nice." Ron smiled a bit and ruffled up his short hair.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Before the trio had known it, the hour had flown past them. Harry, Ron and Hermione all traveled down the road to Flourish and Blotts, their school schedules in hand. Most of the things to get were relatively simple, The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 5, Defense Against the Dark Arts: Level 5 and so on. Less crowded than it had been the last time they were here, the three noticed Fred, George and Ginny standing inside near the Encyclopedias.

"Hullo," Harry said as he walked up to them. Ron and Hermione walked up beside him.

"Ah! There you all are. We've been waiting." Fred had his books all ready, George and Ginny as well, all set in a stack nearby them. "Going to get yours, then?"

Harry nodded. The three fifth year students gave the bookkeeper their schedules, the man hurriedly running about to pick up all the copies they needed. He set down seven books with each trip he took, returning with a huffing breath after his third and final trip. They each payed the man the money dued and then wandered back over to Fred, George and Ginny, carrying the surprisingly heavy amount of books with them.

"Shall we be going back to the Burrow then, Fred?" George asked.

Fred nodded, a smirk playing his face. "Looks like your books might be a bit much for you, eh Ronnie?"

Ron grumbled a little and peered out from the giant mountain of books in his arms, giving Fred a glare before hiding his face once again. Harry thought it was time for him to intervene.

"We should be going. Your mum is going to be expecting us soon, you know."

When he turned to Hermione, he noted the look on her face before she quickly changed it. She looked...well, disappointed. Harry hated to leave so soon after only seeing her for a bit, but they needed to be at the Burrow soon. Mrs. Weasley was making dinner a bit earlier than she usually did.

"D'you reckon your mum would mind if Hermione came with us? She probably wouldn't like to stay at home and study, of course."

She gave a small huff, though Harry knew that it was just a bit of a front. She wanted to go and spend some time with her friends...Why wouldn't Mrs. Weasley say yes to that? The woman loved to cook...The more, the merrier.

Fred gave George a curious look before shrugging. "Don't think mum'd mind, d'you?"

George shook his head and snickered. "She absolutely adores Hermione. Like an extra daughter. Lord knows she has enough sons to deal with."

Ginny glared at both Fred and George before smiling at Hermione. "Mum would love to see you again, Hermione. Let's just go, shall we?"

"Wait...I've got to ask my mother. She's at the ice-cream shop, waiting for me." With that, Hermione set her books down and disappeared. Moments later she returned, Crookshanks in her arms. "Well, my mum said it was alright..." She gave them a big smile before leaning down to try and pick up her books.

Fred chortled and then eyed Hermione. "You know you can't carry all that...Just let the cat walk beside you, eh?"

Crookshanks purred a little and let himself be dropped from Hermione's arms, rubbing up against her skirted leg. She picked up her books again with a small grunt, nodding. "He'll be a good cat. Let's be going, then!"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Mum, we're home!" Fred pushed open the door and stood in its way, letting everyone in before stepping in himself. All the boys just dropped their books onto the couch, Ginny and Hermione -placing- them in front of the piece of furniture. The Weasley boys wandered into the kitchen, Mrs. Weasley working away on cleaning dishes.

"In here!" she called, letting out a surprised gasp when she saw Hermione wander in politely. "Oh Hermione! What a pleasure seeing you here! Did you come to stay with us? Did you need some clothes? I noticed you didn't have any! I'll send an owl to your mum and get you some! Oh wait, I forgot they're muggles...Well, you can borrow some of Ginny's clothes. You two are about the same size, aren't you?"

From the looks of it, Hermione was still about the same width that she was last year, just a bit taller. Ginny's clothes should fit her. She just nodded, Mrs. Weasley telling Ginny to take the other girl upstairs. Ginny gave her mom a light nod before taking Hermione up to her room. With that, Mrs. Weasley turned ehr attention to the boys.

"Alright then, boys. We'll be having dinner soon...Go get washed up, hm? Fred, George, I want you to two to go rid the lawn of all those annoying gnomes. It'll be a nice night and I want us to eat outside. As for you, Harry and Ron, you too take the books and put them upstairs in your room. Take Hermione's with you. Dinner will be ready in a while, so you just enjoy yourselves until then." She clapped her hands together rather loudly. "Vamoosh!"

Fred and George both gave an over-dramatic groan before heading outside while Harry and Ron moved into the living room and grabbed ahold of their own stack of books, each taking half of Hermione's. Felt like the weight of the world was in their arms...

"Jeez, they assume we need to learn more the older we get!" Ron grunted as he took a step up the winding staircase. "I think I might pull a muscle!"

"I think so too, Ron," Harry said in a strained voice. He didn't want to feel that...Must've been hell.

It only took them a few minutes before they arrived at the entrance to Ron's room. He kicked the door open and hurriedly scuttled over to his bed, dropping the books down and collapsing beside them. He was beat. Harry did the same, dropping the books beside Ron's. He fell to the ground and let his form lay against the bed, taking in a deep breath.

"Those books are absolutely horrid," Ron huffed.

"You're telling me," Harry groaned, lifting a hand to his forehead.

"Want to play a game of wizard chess, Harry?" Ron asked as he sat up.

"Yeah, sure, why not." Harry gazed across the room, a light smile crawling onto his face. That'd pass the time.

And it did just that. Ron and Harry played a few games, one taking a good hour before a winner had been decided. Hermione wandered in just as they finished their last game, her face looking a bit flushed.

"Dinner's ready."

Harry set his pieces back onto their original positions and then stood, blood rushing to his head. He really shouldn't have stood up so quickly. "Thanks, Hermione." With the door now open, Harry took a whif at the cooked food's smell, finding it now traveling upward into Ron's bedroom. Smelled heavenly.

She smiled, nodding. "Not a problem. We should be going downstairs..." She lowered her arms and pointed toward the door, turning around and beginning to head down them.

Ron sniggered a little and nudged Harry in the shoulder. "You see, Harry? She was all aflutter upon seeing you..."

Harry gave Ron and eyeroll and grabbed ahold of his robes. He dragged the Weasley boy downstairs. When they arrived in the kitchen, dishes of food were floating about haphazardly. They floated outside, landing on the giant table that was sitting in the middle of their yard. Hermione had wandered outside and was petting Crookshanks who was sitting in her lap.

"Mum, if you're not careful, you're going to hit somebody upside the head." Ron smirked at Harry before quickly wiping it off of his face when his mother looked at him.

"Ronald, just go outside and take Harry with you. Dinner will be outside in less than a minute."

Ron knew better than to not listen to his mother. He and Harry stepped outside, the evening air warm with a gentle breeze. There were lanterns hanging around the area, giving it just enough light to seem like they were inside. Hermione had moved to the table while Crookshanks went off to chase one of the many gnomes that Fred and George had missed. They took a seat on the opposite side of the table, Harry tapping his fingers against it. This was what he enjoyed...Just spending time at the Burrow with the people who cared about him and those who he cared about. Hermione shifted and moved her feet under the table, a content sigh escaping her.

"This is nice," she said while giving the both of them a smile.

Harry nodded while Ron watched as the food float outside and onto the table. It was nearly finished...Not often did he get to see something like that happen. He just continued to watch it while the rest traveled out, taking its rightful place on the table.

"You know what I've been wondering?" Harry asked, staring blankly over Hermione's head into the forest. They both looked at him and he lowered his head. "Who's going to be our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?"

"We've been through enough of them," Ron muttered. "We could probably teach the class."

"Oh Ron," Hermione sighed, "I don't think any of us would ever be that good. But you're right, Harry...I wonder too..."

"Maybe it'll be Lockhart again," Ron stated.

"Let's hope not," Harry said flatly.

"Whoever it is," Hermione began, "I surely hope they know what they're doing..."

Harry nodded in agreement, Ron just watching as his mum waddled outside. Mr. Weasley was waltzing out behind her, messing with his robes. Percy was also walking behind them rather stifly, as if someone had stuck a pin up his bum.

"Alright everyone!" Mrs. Weasley called out as she stepped toward the table, "Time to eat!"

Each other Weasley took their seat at the table before Mrs. Weasley gasped. "Forgot the dinnerware!" She waved her wand toward the back door and within a few seconds, the door slipped open and nine plates came floating out, followed by a set of knives and forks for each of them. They each landed in front of each person, organizing themselves neatly only to be hurriedly grabbed ahold of and jabbed into the food. They dished up and began to chat with oneanother, Harry Ron and Hermione sitting near the edge now.

"What if it's a woman this time?" Ron asked as he plopped some mashed potatoes onto his plate.

"That'd be a welcome change!" Hermione said. She poked at a slice of ham and set it on her plate ride beside the corn that she had. That was apparently all she was eating.

"Just because it's been four men so far," Harry started, taking a bite out of his roll, "doesn't mean it won't be another man. I wouldn't doubt if they got some young person in there like Quirrell..."

"Who knows," Ron said with a shrug. They never kept a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for more than a year at a time, as if the job carried some sort of curse. The whole school knew just how much Professor Snape, the potions master wanted the job. If he was their teacher this year, there would be some highly angry students.

The lot of them continued their dinner for quite some longer time. The food gradually began to disappear and bellies grew outward until finally each and every person sitting at the table was full to the brim. Harry and Hermione thanked Mrs. Weasley for the wonderful dinner, the older woman nearly tearing up before turning a bit angry and giving Fred and George a glare. One of the gnomes had stolen a piece of cake that was for dessert, but Crookshanks chased it down. The creature didn't exactly prevail, however, the gnome dragging the tasty sweet into his hole. Harry reached for his plate, but Mrs. Weasley shook her head and told him, Ron and Hermione to go upstairs and enjoy themselves. "These are your last few days of the holiday break," she told them, "and they shouldn't be wasted working on cleaning dishes."

Not too eager to disagree, the trio went upstairs and relocated to Ron's room. Hermione took a seat near the window while Harry and Ron 'pushed' the books gently to the floor, causing a rather loud thump to sound through the house. They then took a seat on the top of the messed up covers, a content smile upon each of their faces.

"Can't believe we've only got a week longer before we go back to Hogwarts," Hermione sighed, gazing out the window into the starry sky. Both Ron and Harry nodded, feeling the disbelief as well. They'd be in their fifth year...time seemed to sure pass quickly.

"I know..." Harry said as he began to stare out the window as well. It seemed like they had just started their first year the year before...It was strange how much life seemed to change and twist.

Ron just nodded, plopping his head onto his pillow. His arms fell onto his chest as he yawned a little.

"Tired already?" Hermione laughed, giving Fred a curious look before returning her gaze to the night sky. She was feeling so a bit herself, especially after a meal like that. After spending all that time in France, she found that not even the sweetest truffle or the tastiest escargot could compare to how much she missed being in the wizarding world. She felt like she was at home again.

"Actually..." Harry said before giving into a yawn himself, "I'm sort of tired myself..."

Hermione glanced at Harry and then smiled, looking down to the floor. "I'll go then so you two sleepy-heads can get a wink or two."

Ron gave Hermione a weak chortle before chuckling sincerely. He wouldn't admit it, but he missed her rather sweet, caring nature. He fell to another yawn. "Thanks, Hermione...If you go downstairs, tell mum that Harry and I decided to hit the sack early, would you?"

She just nodded, slipping off of the window sill and moving over toward the door. She grasped the knob before speaking. "Yes, I'll let her know. I do think Percy's going to enjoy the quietness...See you both in the morning. Sleep well." Both Ron and Harry gave Hermione her good night before she exited, Harry just plopping backward on Ron's bed.

"I think I might just fall asleep here."

"There's another bed, you know. There isn't enough room for the both of us." Ron gave Harry an overly rude scoff. He was only playing.

Harry sat up and then jumped toward his designated bed, spreading out on it. "Well fine then! I see how it is...You just want me to leave you alone. I can take a hint. Geez, Ron..."

Ron laughed before throwing his pillow at Harry. He shouldn't've done that, though, because Harry threw it back rather fast, causing the boy to fall backward onto his bed.

"Good night, Ron," Harry yawned. He stretched out and pulled the pillow close to his cheek. He removed his glasses and set them on the nightstand.

"G'night, Harry," Ron said softly. He just rolled over and buried his face into the pillow.

~*~**********************************~*~

Author's notes: Ooh...Hope you liked it! ^_^ Review, if you'd be so kind...