Harry, had just turned 15 years old. It was a few minutes past midnight, and he was carefully opening his rather pitiful stack of presents and letters.
First, he thumbed through the postcards from Hermione -- she had gone to Bulgaria this year, with Viktor Krum. There were loads of photographs from her, the moving wizard kind, showing her waving and laughing, along with Krum.
Smiling to himself, he set them down carefully on his bed in a seperate pile, and picked up the first present, a slim wrapped box .. just the right size for a book, he thought wryly. "Must be from Hermione." Harry whispered aloud, peeling off the wrapping quickly -- quickly enough that a small note fell out from inside the wrapping. Picking it off the floor, he read it quickly. 'To Harry, from Snuffles. I had someone pick this up for me in Hogsmeade. I thought it might be useful for you to read, ~your godfather.' Snuffles! er -- Sirius, rather! Snuffles was the code-name that Sirius had instructed Harry and his friends to use, last year.
Harry looked over the book carefully -- it's title was 'Common and Uncommon Moves in Quidditch, and All Seven-Hundred Ways to Commit a Quidditch Foul'. A useful read indeed, considering Harry played Quidditch, his job specifically that of the Seeker.
The rest of the packages seemed to pass by in a blur -- some more photographs of Bulgaria, and Viktor Krum and her waving at Harry from the beautiful secenery, from Hermione .. a cake from Hagrid, in a magic container, one of the kind that appeared small and was really quite large on the inside .. an interesting pamphlet titled '101 Explosive Mixtures' from the Weasely Twins (Typical, thought Harry with a wry smile). Finally, he came to a small wrapped box, with a notecard on the top. Peeling off the note, he scanned over it briefly, 'To Harry, from Ron; Happy Birthday! Do you think you can come to our house for the rest of the summer? We can pick you up in a muggle car this Friday, at nine in the morning, write if you can. We've got loads to fill you in on. ~Ron'
To this message, Harry grinned widely. Escape from the Dursleys! And they just couldn't say no -- after all, this time, they'd be picking Harry up in a car, instead of Floo powder, or some other means .. like flying cars. And since today was Wednesday -- or rather, this early in the morning was Thursday .. Feeling like he could bounce for joy, he picked up a large letter sealed with the Hogwarts crest, and immediately knew what it one was -- his letter about his course books and equipment necessary for the coming year. Out of curiousity, he carefully picked the seal open and read through the letter.



Dear Fifth Year Students of Hogwarts,
This year, we will be introducing three new optional classes for students in the fifth year or above. Incantations, Experimental Magic, and Music is Magic.

COURSE BOOKS
Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5
Introduction to Physiotransfiguration, by Marla Bronze
Dangerous Magical Plants of England, by Phylla Spore
Curses, Hexes, and Countering Them, by Hazlin Saxter
Modern Magical History, by Amerus Williams
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander
Advanced Potions and Draughts, by Dirna Dazling
Dark Arts; Creatures of the Dead, by Moriah Connor

If taking Incantations: Ancient Incantations, by Tando Tizzla
If taking Experimental Magic: The Creation of a Spell, by Yvonne Yirving
If taking Music is Magic: Magical Ballads and Songs, edited by Guthrew Bach
If taking Music is Magic, also purchase one Muggle musical instrument; flute, clarinet, trumpet, guitar, harp, mandolin, trombone, saxaphone, or recorder.

Fifth year students are to bring one set of dress robes, in any style or color.
Students may bring a cat OR an owl OR a toad.


Experimental Magic? Incantations? Music as Magic? He'd have to ask Hermione about it, when he could. All of them sounded a whole lot more interesting than Divination, and his other classes.
No presents from the Dursleys, as to be expected .. but frankly, Harry didn't care a bit. Taking off his glasses, he folded them carefully and set them down beside his best, before curling up under his blanket, and promptly falling asleep, dreams of Hogwarts and The Burrow dancing through his head.

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It seemed that just a moment ago he had shut his eyes, and now he was being awaken to Aunt Petunia's sharp rapping at the door, each one seeming to echo through his head.
"GET UP! GET UP! IT'S SEVEN O'CLOCK! GET DOWN HERE NOW!" she shrilled. Harry knew better than to argue, he simply swung his legs over the side of his bet, felt about for his glasses, and shoved his shoes on. Brushing his unruly hair out of his eyes, he quickly opened the door, to greet his beet-faced Aunt, who looked on the verge of bawling out at him.
"You could at least have tried to look presentable!" she snapped, as she strode down the stairs.
Following along behind her, Harry mused that she might have a point. But, he hadn't had the time, and again, it was not a good moment to argue with her.

Uncle Vernon seemed oddly preoccupied, and Harry was extra-careful when helping his Aunt with the breakfast, and as polite as he could possibly be, even to Dudley, who was wailing that he was going to be starved to death, on this diet.
Aunt Petunia was quick to sooth him with a pocketed sweet, and crooning 'ickle duddlekins' over and over again .. Harry chose the quiet moment to speak up.
"Ex-excuse me, Uncle Vernon .. " he began, as his Uncle gave him a fierce glare. "What?" he snapped.
Harry spoke -- quickly, "Well, my friend said that he'd pick me up tomorrow, and I could spend the rest of the summer with him and you wouldn't see me for another year."
Uncle Vernon seemed to swell with anger, his face starting to turn red at the edges. "And HOW will they pick you UP?" he yelled.
"By car! They've got a muggle car, they'll pick me up in it at nine o'clock!" Harry said. Hopefully, this comment would sate Uncle Vernon's desire to appear 'normal', like a 'nice' family.
Taking a deep breath, Uncle Vernon fixed Harry with a glare. As usual. "Fine." he snapped, and the rest of the family continued to eat in silence.
The day seemed to pass all too slowly for Harry, as he packed his belongings and letters into his trunk, glancing out the window every few minutes, wishing they would come earlier. Naturally, they didn't, but still, it was a hope .. he passed into a fitful sleep, full of dreams about flying cars, and the Weasely family arriving by dragon.

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It was eight thirty in the morning, and Harry was sitting in the living room with his trunk, cauldron, and Hedwig's cage .. fidgeting, with all eyes on him. He managed to withstand the next fifteen minutes, staring at the clock, or stroking Hedwig.
Finally -- at last! -- he heard the roar of a car engine, and a screech of tires right outside. A moment passed, and Fred, George, and Ron, all came into the living room. Fred and George grabbed Harry's stuff and quickly went back outside to the car without a word, as Ron faced Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley. "Uh .. " he stammered. "We'll be leaving now."
Grabbing Harry by the wrist, they both ran out and slammed the door behind them. Harry was exuberant, after all, he was free from the Dursleys for another year! However, he nearly laughed out loud at the car that was parked in the drive way. It looked like it had come out of a junk yard, paint peeling, a flat tire, and the whole thing seemed to be smoking.
"C'mon, Harry!" yelled a grinning George, as he hopped into the front passenger seat, and Fred took the driver's. Harry quickly slid into the backseat along with Ron, as Fred started the car and tore out of Privet Drive.
"Is this another one of their Weasley Wizard Wheezes?" laughed Harry, clinging tightly to the seat, as Fred took another corner sharply.
"Nope!" said both Fred and George cheerfully in unison.
Ron grabbed Hedwig's cage to keep it from tipping over, "Oh, they found it in a muggle junkyard and spent the summer fixing it up, along with their store!"
"Yeah," spoke Fred, turning his head from the road to look at Harry, and give him a wink, "We got our money from Ludo, finally, and we're buying a store down in Hogsmeade once we graduate."
"Oh, that's -- FRED! WATCH THE ROAD!" yelled Harry, ducking instinctively as they narrowly missed being creamed by a truck. Thankfully, Fred turned his attention back to the road, and concentrated on driving and keeping them all in one piece. Including the car.
During the long drive, Harry, Ron, and George were all talking about the current happenings, with the occasional snippet from Fred.
"Yeah, everyone's running. Diagon Alley's practically flooded, and everyone is trying to get into Hogwarts. They figure Dumbledore'll protect them, since the Ministry refuses to acknowledge You-Know-Who is back." spoke George, who was busy fiddling with some wires under the dashboard.
Ron nodded, as he and Harry braced themselves for another sharp turn. "Yeah -- Dad said that Dumbledore's been recruiting like mad .. getting as many people as he can to help, y'know."
They continued to talk until Fred swerved sharply into The Burrow's driveway. Or rather, the yard. He set the brake in, and yanked out another loose wire from under the dashboard.
The Weasley family piled out of the house to greet them, as Ron and George picked up Harry's stuff, Fred was cornered by his father, Arthur Weasley, into an eager discussion about how the car had performed.
Mrs. Weasley engulfed Harry into a giant bear-hug, "I'm so glad you're alright! I was so worried, with that horrible muggle invention, that car, it looks like it's just about to fall apart ... "
Harry managed to disentangle himself, and adjust his glasses. "Oh, no, it was fine. Fred's a great driver -- really!" he said, eyes wandering over to the door of the house, where Ginny was peeking around it, timidly.
"Well, let's all get inside, lunch is on the table." spoke Mrs. Weasley, as she shooed everyone inside. There was a mad rush to the table, and everyone managed to get a seat, to wolf down Mrs. Weasley's excellent cooking.
Harry stuffed himself until he thought he would simply pop, before he excused himself from the tale. Ron munched down another sandwich, before following his friend.
Dragging his things upstairs, Ron and Harry packed his stuff into Ron's room, which sported another bed, for Harry.
"Hey Harry, look, you wouldn't believe what I got from Charlie .. " he said excitedly, as he rummaged under his bed. "Aha!"
"Dragon chess." Ron spoke proudly, as he opened a small case, revealing a normal looking chess board, save for that instead of black and white, it was gray and green. But that wasn't the interesting part about it -- instead of normal pieces, they were tiny minituare dragons, all of them snoozing comfortably at the moment, tiny trails of smoke wisping out their nostrils.
"Wow!" breathed Harry, as he leaned in closer for a good look at them.
"It's different rules than regular chess .. want to play?" Ron grinned. Ron had always beaten Harry at chess -- and Gobstones, and Exploding Chess, and .. well, the list went on a ways. Board games simply were not Harry's forte.
Still, Harry grinned in reply, and they started to set the game up, Ron detailing about the rules.

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Three hours later, Harry had won 2 games, and Ron had won .. a lot. Both of them nursed singed and pricked fingers, as the small pieces could get awfully vicious and inflict damage, even for their size. The little pieces didn't like it when someone lost or bungled a move, apparently.
"Okay, okay, you win." said Harry, grudgingly.
"Aww, just one more game?" pleaded Ron, but Harry shook his head firmly.
"Definately not. I may need a lot of practice at this, but I'm not that eager to get burned or bit. Say, you heard from Hermione lately?" queried Harry, quirking an eyebrow.
"Oh, yeah! She's sent me a load of postcards from Bulgaria, her and Krum." Harry noticed that Ron still wasn't calling Krum 'Viktor', as Harry and Hermione now did.
"Well, at least someone's enjoying themself, right? So, what's the latest news about Voldemort?" Harry asked. Ron winced at the use of the name 'Voldemort'.
"Just, stop saying that name, would you?" he snapped, before continuing .. "Lots of attacks against the Muggles. Dad said the Obliviators are having a horrible time with it. You know, making it look like the muggle stuff went bad and exploded or something." Ron said, with a shudder. "Everybody's bloody terrified. I can't wait to get to Hogwarts, myself. Even with Malfoy and Snape there. I wonder who'll be our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, eh?"
Abruptly, there came a tap-tap-tap at the door, and it opened slowly, to reveal Ginny. Seeing Harry, she blushed. "Er, hello Harry."
Harry nodded, adjusting his glasses, "Er, hello Ginny." he stammered. Ron's youngest, and only sister, Ginny, had certainly grown since the last time he had seen her. And definately filled out quite a bit.
"Ron, mum wants you to come downstairs and help wash the dishes. Oh, and the garden needs to be de-gnomed as well." she spoke hurridly before shutting the door quickly, her footsteps echoing down the hall.
Ron groaned, and got up, as did Harry. "I'll help. I've got lots of practice washing dishes, at the Dursleys." he offered, as they both left Ron's room -- grudgingly.
The chores, like dinner came and went quickly, along with more talks about the current, and the coming darkness ahead of them, in the form of Lord Voldemort.
After they retired to Ron's room, and played several more games of Dragon Chess, followed by a couple games of regular wizard chess, Ginny again entered their room, informing them that since they were all together now, they'd be heading to Diagon Alley in the morning, and that they should get lots of sleep.
Harry was asleep before his head hit his pillow.

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