Author's Notes: Credit for the method of Harry and Ginny's meeting goes to Intromit and his story, Fate's Debt. Likewise, I should admit that Intromit's story was where I first encountered the idea of re-telling canon.
Thanks to my pre-beta and sometime co-conspirator, Moshpit, for helping me think things through, and to my beta, Jonathan Avery, for making this story less of a mess in general. Thanks also to Sherylyn for checking this before posting.
Harry Potter sat on his bed in the smallest bedroom of Number Four, Privet Drive. He was an exceptionally small boy, standing only a few inches over four feet tall. He had striking green eyes behind glasses with battered round frames, and the fringe of his unruly black hair concealed a lightning-shaped scar above his right eye. According to Harry, the scar was the only remotely interesting feature he possessed, though he had recently learned that it was far more significant than he had believed.
His Uncle Vernon had grudgingly agreed to drive him to King’s Cross Station the following morning. There he was to board a train that would take him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had already packed everything he would not need in the next twelve hours, so he was sitting on his lumpy mattress and letting time go by until he could sleep.
Harry was very good at letting time go by. Living in a cupboard for ten years had provided plenty of opportunities for practice. When he had nothing else to do, he would sit almost perfectly still and let his mind wander, unaware of his surroundings. Now, he had less than a day with his dreadful relatives before he left to spend nine months at a literally magical place. Everything was changing, and he hoped his life would be different from now on.
If Harry had been allowed to have friends, they would have said that he was generally very quiet and somewhat boring. He rarely expressed interest in things other boys thoroughly enjoyed, and in fact he seemed rather distant from the world around him. This was, in fact, quite true. His life with the Dursleys had taught him that his circumstances would rarely be pleasant and that the people he came into contact with would almost universally be hostile towards him. As a result, he’d learned to withdraw.
The world passed him by, and he interacted with it as little as possible. He finished his work quickly and silently, he answered when addressed directly, and he never spoke more than was necessary. The Dursleys wanted him to be invisible, so he rarely asked questions or offered information.
In primary school, his teachers found him to be quiet, serious, and somewhat dense. He could remember names and dates as well as the average student, and he had learned to read and the basics of mathematics well enough after thorough instruction, but he had never discovered the intellectual connections that had come so naturally to other students. He could follow a process he had been taught, but he never managed to work out a new process on his own, even when he was carefully guided towards logical conclusions.
His teachers reported that he lacked creativity. In art classes, he drew precise geometric figures and then carefully subdivided them into precisely symmetrical parts. He had never understood that his drawings were fundamentally different from his classmates’ fanciful sketches of animals, loving renditions of family members, or grandiose pictures of mansions they would someday inhabit.
Despite appearances, Harry was not cold or lifeless. In the absence of most other emotions, he was consumed by a burning desire to someday be more than he was now. He knew that the Dursleys were not good people, and he was committed to finding a way to be better than they were. Eventually, he would be old enough to leave his aunt and uncle’s home, and once he had done so he would make something of himself that had nothing to do with dark cupboards or endless chores. Harry, however, kept this desire strictly to himself and never let the world see what motivated him to continue his dreary existence.
Harry was well aware that he did not seem to feel many of the things his classmates did, such as affection, frustration, or joy. He had been embarrassed several times in the past, largely due to his cousin’s targeting him for ridicule, so he had learned to suppress such feelings, and eventually they had faded away. His most recent happy memory was when his relatives had been frightened by a boa constrictor at the zoo, but good feelings like that one were especially rare.
Dudley’s last birthday, the day of the zoo expedition, had been a highlight of Harry’s life so far. All of the unpleasant people who might have been persuaded to mind Harry while the Dursleys took such a trip had been unavailable for various reasons. Relieved at avoiding Mrs. Figg and her pictorial parade of deceased felines, Harry was looking forward to visiting the zoo itself. Rather than changing expression or manner, though, he stood quietly in a corner while the Dursleys contemplated and rejected various ways to prevent his accompanying them.
At last, Uncle Vernon settled for threatening Harry with a long stay in the cupboard if he did not behave himself. Harry knew that speaking would not help him, regardless of what he said, so he nodded at each of his uncle’s instructions and threats. He rode to the zoo in silence, ignoring the conversation around him and letting the scenery flow past. He counted the cars in the opposing lanes of traffic as they drove. Years ago Harry had discovered that counting was an excellent way to pass the time without the need for excesses of effort or attention. One thousand, two hundred and forty-six cars later, they arrived in the parking lot.
The zoo was interesting and almost enjoyable, at first. At lunch, he tried ice cream for the first time because Dudley wanted a better sundae. Although it was more than half melted, he liked it well enough. There was little chance he would taste it again for a very long time, though, so he did not allow the prospect to excite him.
Later, he had a rather peculiar conversation with a large snake. The conversation was pleasant, but when Dudley shoved Harry out of the way the glass protecting the snake’s enclosure vanished, allowing the large serpent to wander away towards Brazil. Enraged, Uncle Vernon declared the trip over and bundled them all back to the car, blaming Harry all the way. Harry could not imagine how he could have vanished the glass, but Uncle Vernon listened to Piers’ accusations, and Harry accepted Vernon’s punishment impassively.
As he sat waiting in his room, Harry decided that overall the day had been quite good, in balance. Had the day been a normal one at home with the Dursleys, he would undoubtedly have incurred much the same punishment for an equally ridiculous offense. Therefore, the ice cream and the spectacle of his relatives’ reaction to the wandering boa constrictor could be counted as favorable experiences. He added the memory to the short list of things that gave him a pleasant feeling.
Now, on the last day of August, he had found a way to begin the journey away from his childhood. The magical community had found him, forced his relatives to allow him to be contacted, and arranged for him to attend Hogwarts. He had met Hagrid, who had told him that he was something of a celebrity, though Harry still was not sure quite why. More importantly, Hagrid seemed to like him, and Harry was beginning to think he might like Hagrid in return. It was an entirely new sensation.
Unfortunately, Hagrid had also told Harry the truth about his parents. They had been murdered by an evil wizard, not killed in a car accident caused by his father’s drunkenness. Harry had always known, somehow, that his parents were more than common alcoholics. Now, knowing that the Dursleys had been lying to him for ten years and denying him the one source of comfort he felt truly entitled to, Harry’s anger began to rise. He quickly sought to calm himself, but it was more difficult than it had been in the past.
Anger was an old friend to Harry. It was the one emotion he felt fully and regularly. He never got angry about little things as the other children did. He reserved his anger for more important issues. Primarily, he had always been angry at his aunt and uncle for the injustices they had heaped upon him. Every time he thought of being injured and left untreated, of being locked in his cupboard without food or light for days, or of being ridiculed about his status or parentage, his anger flared.
Early on, he learned to control that anger. If he did not, odd things happened. Objects rattled in the room around him, metal surfaces heated, or the air in the room stirred restlessly. Being blamed for these events only made him angrier, and the effects more severe, which lead to longer, harsher punishments. So instead of allowing himself to be angry, he channeled his rage into his ambition, focusing on his long-term goal of freedom and betterment. His fantasies were simple. He dreamed of more than one piece of toast for breakfast, a light for his cupboard, and a pair of trainers that fit him without Dudley's old socks stuffed into the toes. When he had those things, he would think about new goals.
Thus, Harry Potter sat in silence, the realization of his most fervent desire only hours away. He stared into nothingness and waited patiently for those hours to pass.
The next morning, Harry found himself abandoned at King’s Cross station, looking for a platform which apparently did not exist.
Over a hundred miles away, another child was sitting in silence. But it was a different sitting, and it was a different silence.
Ginny Weasley was a petite girl, even for one who had only just passed her tenth birthday. In her case, however, size had nothing to do with her impact on the world around her. The first thing anyone remarked upon when they noticed her – it was ridiculous to ask if they noticed her – was her waist-length, wavy red hair. It was not orange, which polite company calls red, nor was it auburn, which is lovely in its own right. In fact, Ginny’s hair contained both of these colors and all the many shades of red between them. The overall effect was a shimmering, flowing curtain of crimson that defied humanity to find a suitable comparison to its color. Her brothers could easily be said to have hair the color of flames. If that were the case, then Ginny’s hair was the color of what fire endlessly strives and fails to become.
Peeking out from her flowing tresses were large, chocolate-brown eyes that glowed with the spirit of the person behind them. They shone in her face, catching the attention of anyone who met her gaze and holding them, spellbound, in their depths. Her face was pleasant and open. Her nose was small and round, and across its bridge and over her cheeks, there were scattered a few delicate freckles.
Usually, when anyone saw Ginny, she was smiling. Her smile was a part of her as much as her unique hair or remarkable eyes, because she was a naturally happy and cheerful person. She brightened spirits and lifted hearts with her smile, even if no one knew exactly why she was happy.
As a child, Ginny had run around her home and the nearby village with endless energy, spreading happiness wherever she went. When she encountered one of her brothers, provided he had not vexed her lately, she would hug him and run on. When she would pass her father in his shed, she would climb into his lap, careful to avoid disrupting his work, and kiss his cheek before leaping away to run in another direction. On her way through the kitchen where her mother worked, she would stop to appreciate the smells permeating the air, then smile brightly at her mother and continue on her way. If the weather was warm, she would inevitably end up swimming or floating in the pond behind her parents’ house.
Occasionally, Ginny would stop running to listen to her family talk to each other. With so many members and so many interests, there was always an interesting conversation going on somewhere in or around The Burrow. She listened to her parents talk about her brothers’ accomplishments at Hogwarts. Later, she listened raptly as Bill or Charlie spoke of their careers in Curse-Breaking and dragon keeping. On rare and wonderful occasions, she would sit and listen to her entire family discuss the events and issues of the magical world.
Sometimes, after all of this listening, Ginny would provide simple responses that showed remarkable insight and inevitably seemed to help the speaker with whatever problem they were facing.
On one occasion, when she was eight, Ginny had found Bill staring into the fire. She sat silently next to him for a few minutes until he began to talk to her about his latest girlfriend. Bill had been growing his hair out, much to their mother’s consternation. Apparently, Susan was not too fond of the change either. Bill really cared for the girl, and to all appearances she cared for him, but she never stopped encouraging him to cut his hair to a more normal length. Bill was trying to decide if he should accede to her wishes in an effort to preserve and strengthen their relationship.
Ginny sat next to him for a minute more in silence, to ensure that he had said everything he needed to say. Then she turned to him and asked, “Bill, are you growing your hair to make yourself happy, or to make someone else happy?” Bill stared at her for a long moment, then quietly went off to bed. Several weeks later, Bill’s hair was still long, and he was looking forward to a date with a girl named Elisabeth.
Happiness and insight did not fill Ginny’s time completely, of course. She felt all of the emotions that any child felt, and she felt them all with the same boundless energy. Her temper was famous within the family. When provoked, usually by some prank or teasing by her brothers, the sheer force of her anger left even the bravest of Weasley men cowering and ashamed. Once she was convinced that her victim was suitably miserable, she forgave them and instantly returned to her normal affectionate disposition.
Likewise, when something made her sad, she would sob uncontrollably until she ran out of tears. Then she would dry her eyes, wash her face, and begin to smile again. When she was embarrassed, she blushed from her hairline to her neck. Then she remained silent with her eyes downcast until she was sure that the mortifying topic had been abandoned. Then, as always, her smile would reappear.
Every now and then, the smile would shift into a grin, and if someone saw that grin they knew that Ginny was up to some mischief. She might have Bill’s good looks, Charlie’s inexhaustible energy, and Percy’s intellect, but she also had the twins’ sense of humor and their talent for pranks and jokes. Unlike Fred and George, however, Ginny was very good at hiding her efforts. Her brothers usually only knew their sister had been responsible for something if she admitted it, and she rarely saw any reason to confess.
Years later, grown men who knew her would see moving pictures of Ginny at ten and say that if they had only met her at that age, they would have given up on romance until she was older. When saying such things, however, they knew that their patience would have always been in vain.
Ginny Weasley was a beautiful child in many ways. She sat on the back porch of her parents’ home and watched the sunset, thoroughly enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the evening and the temporary silence of the house behind her. The setting sun glowed in shades of red and gold, and she glowed with the same shades back into the darkening sky.
Molly Weasley tidied the kitchen and watched her daughter from the window. She was elated to have such a lovely child and proud beyond expression that her family’s simple life provided Ginny with so much happiness. She was also somewhat surprised by her little girl’s brilliance.
After Bill’s successes as Head Boy and Percy’s zeal for all things academic, Molly had thought she had found the most intelligent of her offspring. Her other children were wonderfully gifted in various ways, but she expected her youngest four to find their talents elsewhere.
But when Ginny had started her schooling program, she had absorbed everything presented to her after hearing it once. She constantly pestered her brothers about their schoolwork, and amazingly she even understood the concepts in Bill’s classes during his final year at Hogwarts. Ginny did not have Percy’s near-perfect memory, but she had an amazing capacity to learn. Theories, concepts, and applications seemed to flow together in her mind with no apparent effort, and when she got her first wand Molly had no doubt that Ginny would excel in the application of her learning as well. Oddly, the girl rarely read anything except leisure books and the texts she was assigned for her ‘official’ classes. Instead, she preferred to learn things that various members of her family could tell her or show her.
Occasionally, Ginny would find a new way to put separate pieces of information together, even though she had never actually used any of the information in the first place. Once, Molly had seen her enraged daughter wielding Bill’s wand and shouting, “Vespertilius Mucilagus!” at one of the twins, who had charmed all her clothes pink. After watching the rather gruesome results of her daughter’s new hex, Molly had been forced to scold the girl quite severely. Secretly, she had been proud of Ginny and slightly awed by the small girl’s creative display of the infamous Weasley temper.
That memory led her back to her current train of thought. The Bat-Bogey Hex, for which no one else had been able to master the incantation, embodied Ginny herself quite nicely. The spell was ingenious and debilitating, but required little power to cast effectively. Ginny was brilliant and inventive, but she had little power available for use.
The Weasleys and the Prewetts, Molly’s family, had always been powerfully magical families. They did not hold with the nonsense that their ability was a result of pure wizarding blood, but as chance would have it, the Weasleys were purebloods, and they were quite powerful. Her sons’ displays of accidental magic had ranged from shocking to terrifying in their scope and power. The twins had once managed to decorate the convoluted roof of the Burrow with a consistent pattern of rainbow stripes. The color scheme was surprising enough, but what was truly frightening was that they had actually changed the color of the shingles, rather than simply adding the new colors to the outer surface. This subtle difference was cause for considerable concern.
Ginny, however, had performed only very small feats of accidental magic, even when she was completely enraged.
It was traditional among old wizarding families to have their children tested for magical power on their fifth birthday. Albus Dumbledore himself, the Headmaster of Hogwarts and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, had performed the test on the youngest Weasley, expecting dramatic results from the only daughter of a family known for rare and powerful females.
The spell worked by causing a sphere of multicolored light to appear around the target. The size and brightness of the sphere reflected the amount of power the child would someday wield if properly trained. Each individual produced a unique combination of colors and patterns, though base colors were often shared among families. Rather surprisingly, the Weasley children’s colors were dominated by browns and greens.
Everyone expected Ginny's magical signature to be exceptional, and in its way it certainly was. Where her brothers had all produced large, bright brown spheres with veins of various pale greens, Ginny had emitted a dim, emerald-green sphere so small that it appeared as no more than an aura around her torso.
Those present at the time had been shocked into silence. Ginny herself had remained calm and cheerful, saying that she found the consistency and color of the light to be very pretty.
Her daughter's serenity, then and now, did nothing to ease Molly's worry. Ginny would be strong enough to attend Hogwarts, but she would always be one of the weakest students at the school. The girl's natural intelligence would serve her well, but the lack of power behind her spells would become more and more frustrating as her education continued.
Sadly, even Ginny's relative magical weakness was not Molly's chief source of worry. The plain fact was that Ginny was missing something even more vital than power. She lacked passion. She was wonderfully vivacious and took great pleasure in many things, but she had not found anything she was truly interested in pursuing.
Ginny liked to fly, for example, and Molly knew the girl had been sneaking out of the house at night for years to fly her brothers’ brooms. As long as Ginny followed the usual rules for safe flying around the Burrow, the Weasley matriarch did not mind. She remembered being the only girl in a family, and she knew that Ginny got something important from the minor act of rebellion, in addition to the pleasure of soaring over the paddock.
As much as she clearly enjoyed riding a broomstick, she lacked the fervor that Charlie had for flying in general and Ron had for Quidditch in particular. Similarly, for all her brilliance and pleasure in learning, she was not actively interested in pursuing her studies on her own.
Strangely, the only thing Ginny showed consistent, active interest in was a bedtime story. Arthur Weasley had been telling his daughter the story of the Boy Who Lived for nearly as long Ginny had been alive. The story itself was tragically short. The boy had been born, had lived happily for a little over a year, and had then lost his home and family in a single night of terror. Little Harry Potter had somehow caused You-Know-Who’s Killing Curse to rebound, apparently destroying its caster. Then the infant had been carried to his Muggle relatives’ house, and he had not been seen or heard from since.
Many parents enthralled their children with fantastic stories of the Boy Who Lived having amazing adventures as a child. Arthur had told Ginny such stories at first, but she quickly tired of them and insisted on hearing only the real story, with as much factual detail as possible and only as much speculation as was reasonable. Arthur had told her the same simple tale several times a week for years until she had outgrown bedtime stories. Ginny, at ten, would still discuss the story whenever there was an opportunity to do so.
One night the previous summer, in the course of an evening together, Molly had carefully asked her daughter the two questions that most concerned her.
“Ginny, dear, what do you suppose you might like to do when you grow up?” Molly had asked this question of all of her children at about the same age, and she had always received emphatic replies. Some of her sons’ ambitions had been rather far-fetched, but when she thought about it, those ambitions were no more outlandish than the careers her two oldest boys had finally chosen.
“I don’t know, Mum. There are lots of things to do in the world,” Ginny replied.
“But isn’t there something that you’re especially interested in, or that you think might be fun?” Molly asked.
“Loads of things are fun, but I don’t think I’ve done anything that I’d want to do all day, every day for the rest of my life,” Ginny said thoughtfully.
Molly, knowing she would get no clearer answer, gave up. “Well, dear, keep your eyes open. You never know what might really catch your interest.”
Surprisingly, Ginny volunteered more information. “Oh, I know there’s something. I haven’t found it, but I’m sure I’ll know it the minute I see it.”
This answer had bothered Molly even more. Ginny had sounded so calm and certain, as though the perfect life would simply appear one day, fully formed and waiting for her to claim it.
Some time later, Molly had ventured to ask her another question, “Ginny, why do you always want to hear about the Boy Who Lived? There are lots of other stories with great adventures and happy endings.”
Ginny did not hesitate for a moment before saying, “Because someone should pay attention to his story, Mum.”
“But everyone knows about the Boy Who Lived, dear. Hundreds of children all over the world hear his story every night.”
Molly’s nine-year-old daughter turned to her and looked into her eyes with the gravity of a much older person. “It’s not the Boy Who Lived whose story needs to be remembered, Mum. The one that matters is the story of Harry Potter, a boy who lost his parents and his home, a boy who was sent to live with people who can’t possibly understand him, surrounded by people who can’t tell him who he is. There ought to be one person in the world who thinks about that boy.”
Her eyes shining with unshed tears, Molly had sent Ginny off to bed. It had been an early night, but she had needed to escape the depth of her daughter’s gaze. She had thought that it was all well and good for a person to be wise, but not before their ninth birthday.
Molly shook herself from her reverie, returning to her cleaning. The daily ritual soothed her, which was why she did it. Ginny still sat on the back porch, staring out at the moonlit landscape. The mother of seven lively Weasleys still worried about her youngest child.
Ginny knew that her mother was concerned for her. She remembered the day Headmaster Dumbledore had tested her magical potential, and she knew what the results meant as well as anyone. She realized it might be an inconvenience later on, but she did not see any reason to let it rule her life in the meantime. She would deal with that problem, if it really became a problem, when the time came.
Over the last few months, she had also realized that her mother worried about what Ginny would do with her life. Ginny thought that, given her age, that particular worry was a bit premature, but she realized that worrying made her mother feel connected to the family. Molly Weasley was a great parent, and if worrying was part of that, then Ginny could accept it.
Ginny had always been very impressed by her mother, but as she had grown old enough to seek independence, she had realized that Molly was as human as anyone else. She worried constantly, which was probably not a bad thing for a parent. Unfortunately, she seemed very close to letting her concerns take over her life. The Weasley Family Clock had been custom-designed for Molly Weasley, and in spite of appearances, it was the one thing the family owned which was truly valuable. Most parents used simple injury alarm charms to ensure their children’s health. Molly wanted to know where her children were and what they were doing at all times.
Knowing that, Ginny had discovered, much to her surprise, that her mother had come to worry by rote. She checked the clock, she kept watch for suspicious activities she had discovered in the past, and she made sure that obviously dangerous or disruptive items were unavailable to her children. Having done those things, she concluded that her children were safe and not causing trouble.
As far as she knew, her brothers had never learned this crucial fact. Ginny was too young to remember when Bill and Charlie had lived at the Burrow, and Percy avoided danger and trouble in all their forms. Fred and George, however, were always planning or executing a prank or joke, and they were almost always caught by their mother at some point. They did their mischief anyway and accepted the punishments that resulted. Ron had been dragged into the twins’ schemes a few times, largely against his will, but for the most part he had found his own ways to displease the Weasley matriarch. Minor injuries, lack of manners, a nearly constant need for a bath had ensured that Ron had never waited long for his mother’s next stern look.
Ginny, however, had learned how her mother operated at an early age. Thus, her hand on the clock never strayed into undesirable territory, she never got caught doing something her mother could look for in the future, and she steered clear of anything her mother might consider dangerous or unsuitable for a young girl. She had once taken a small box of Chocolate Frogs from Ron’s dresser and hidden it under George’s bed, with predictable results. Another time, she had walked up to her mother wearing the most innocent expression she could muster and asked a simple question. All four of the boys living at home at the time had been punished severely.
Molly, knowing that Ginny could never be anything but innocent, worried about her daughter’s future and did not notice all of the details of what was happening in her own house.
Ginny herself worried about things that were going to happen much sooner. The next day, four of her brothers would leave for Hogwarts without her, and she would spend the next nine months at home with only her parents for company. She loved her parents, but for most of her life, one or more of her brothers had always been around, and she was not quite sure what the Burrow would be like without any of them at all.
At the same time, she knew that the next nine months would pass at the same pace whether she was happy or depressed, so she resolved to be happy and to find whatever enjoyment there was in being the only child in the house. If nothing else, she would travel to King’s Cross station the following day to see her brothers off. Ginny always enjoyed her visits to the train station. She wondered idly if, by the time she finished her seventh year at Hogwarts, she would hold some sort of record for the most trips to Platform 9 ¾ before turning eighteen.
In spite of her resolve to be calm and happy, Ginny admitted to herself that tomorrow was special in one other way. Harry Potter would be leaving for Hogwarts for the first time along with her brother, Ron. She carried a bit of affection for the unknown boy, though she really did not think it was any sort of crush, in spite of the twins’ teasing.
Instead, she imagined him going to Hogwarts and discovering all the wonderful things she knew could be found there. She saw him making friends and finding out about the world that he had been removed from as a baby. She resolved to be a friend to him when she enrolled in the school next year. That way, she could be sure he always had at least one person who cared for him. She was certain Harry Potter would be worth knowing in his own right, regardless of what the rest of the magical world thought of the Boy Who Lived.
With the sun long gone and her mind at ease once more, Ginny went back into the house. Tomorrow, like today, would be a good day.
Looking back and forth between platforms nine and ten, Harry was beginning to think that he might end up back with the Dursleys after all. He could not imagine why Hagrid would send him to find a platform that did not exist, but it appeared that he had. Resigned and only slightly disappointed, Harry steered his trolley back towards the parking lot in hopes of catching his uncle before he left.
He had been strangely excited during the trip to King’s Cross, and he was not entirely sure why. He was definitely very eager to get away from the Dursleys and to Hogwarts, but he felt something more than that. He had desperately wanted to get to the train station, and even now, as he gave up his search, he felt drawn towards something nearby.
As he turned to leave, he caught sight of a large group of people in slightly odd clothing, all of whom had red hair of various shades. A middle-aged woman was herding four boys, each with a trunk like Harry’s, as a tiny girl walked calmly along beside her. As they approached, Harry picked up their conversation.
“… packed with Muggles, of course. How they can wander around without noticing anything, I’ll never understand. Fred! George! I don’t know what that is you’re hiding, but if you cause any trouble here, you’ll regret it!”
No one but a wizard or witch would be mentioning Muggles, which gave Harry some hope. The woman’s yelling at two of the red-haired boys reminded him a bit too much of his uncle, though, so he was hesitant to approach her. She might decide he was doing something to cause trouble, just as Vernon always did when Harry was trying his best to do nothing at all. Harry decided to watch them and see if they could lead him to the mysterious Platform 9 ¾.
As he observed them, the small girl turned away from her mother’s tirade and noticed Harry standing nearby. She was even shorter than he, which typically indicated someone several years younger, but she looked at him without the wariness of a younger child. She had very long red hair and was wearing a worn blue sundress. None of these things, with the possible exception of her hair, were particularly unusual, but he found himself fascinated by her.
The girl studied him for a moment in return, then smiled brightly at him. He felt more cheerful, and he grinned slightly in return. He could not explain why he would suddenly be happier than before, but he was. He found himself curious about the red-haired girl, and he took a step toward her without conscious thought.
As he realized that he had moved, leaving Hedwig and his trunk behind, he was surprised to find that she had also stepped closer to him. She was now only an arm’s length away, still smiling easily, and he felt even more cheerful for no apparent reason. She watched him quietly. He realized that he had approached her and her family, which meant he should say something first.
“Hi,” she replied.
“Do you, err… do you know how to get to Platform 9 ¾?”
“Sure,” she said, “It’s easy. I can show you.” She held her hand out to him, and he surprised himself by taking it.