A/N: This was written some time ago, for the "When Harry Met Ginny Challenge" over at SIYE. The basic premise was Ginny began a correspondence with Harry after she met him for the first time at King's Cross during Harry's first year, thus beginning their friendship long before it actually happened in canon.
Thanks to Chreechree and Sherylyn.
When Ginny Weasley first met Harry Potter at King's Cross station, the very first thing that came to her mind was not the fact that his eyes were unusually striking behind his glasses (they were green, just like the fresh pickled toad that her friend Luna Lovegood had shown her the other day), nor the fact that his clothes were too big for him (indeed – he seemed to be all clothes and not much boy), or the fact that his hair (which was as dark as the blackboard in the kitchen that listed what chores each Weasley had to do for that day) stuck up crazily at the back of his head.
No, Ginny's first thought upon seeing Harry – she did not know yet that he was the hero of the Wizarding world – was this:
He looks lonely.
And being the kind-hearted little girl that she was (never mind what her twin brothers Fred and George said), she immediately felt sorry for him and wondered if this lonely-looking boy clutching an enormous trunk and a massive bird cage with the most beautiful snowy white owl wanted a friend.
So she smiled at him, and, after he looked behind him to see who she was smiling at, Harry tentatively smiled back at her. Before she could introduce herself however, her other brother Ron had another accident with his trolley, and she had to help round up Scabbers, his pet rat, who had scampered underneath a rubbish bin.
When Ginny finally managed to grab the squeaking Scabbers, Harry was already following Ron through the magical barrier that led to platform nine and three-quarters. The Hogwarts Express was waiting to whisk the chattering and excited crowd of students to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
As she watched her brothers load their trunks onto the scarlet train, she came to the abrupt realisation that she would soon be left on her own.
Suddenly, Ginny felt quite lonely herself.
She tried very hard not to cry when Percy (in his prefect glory), Fred, George and Ron said good-bye to her, but she soon gave in to her tears and ran after the train, waving madly and wishing with all her might that she, too, was going to Hogwarts with her crazy brothers.
As the Hogwarts Express rounded the corner and disappeared from view, she caught a last glimpse of the little boy – who had turned out to be Harry Potter, how exciting was that? – peering out of a compartment window, still looking lost, lonely and just a bit frightened.
As running and laughing and crying all at the same time tends to be a bit exhausting, Ginny slowly walked back to where her mother was waiting patiently for her.
"Mum, do you think that Harry Potter will be all right?"
If Mrs. Weasley was astonished by her only daughter's concern for a boy she had never met until today, she did not show it. "I'm sure he'll be fine, dear," she said as they walked back through the barrier.
"But Mum," said Ginny, frowning a little, "you should have seen the look on his face. He seemed really lonely."
"Well, I suppose he's in Ron's year, so maybe he'll be friends with Ron," said Mrs. Weasley, smiling at her daughter's earnestness.
"I hope so," said Ginny solemnly, slipping her hand into her mum's. "Even heroes deserve to have friends, right?"
"Yes, dear," replied Mrs. Weasley. "Everyone deserves to have friends." She squeezed Ginny's hand fondly. "Especially heroes."
Ginny fell silent and did not speak again until they got back to The Burrow. The big rambling house was usually filled with laughter, random explosions and good-natured squabbling, but now it seemed too big, too quiet and too empty.
"Hmm?" answered Mrs. Weasley as she laid out some tea and scones on the kitchen table.
"D'you suppose Harry would like me to be his friend?"
"I'm certain he would like that very much, dear," said Mrs. Weasley, patting her daughter's hand.
Ginny grinned happily and bit into a scone slathered with clotted cream and her mum's homemade raspberry preserves.
She would like to be Harry Potter's friend, too.
And it was not because she fancied him (boys were just gross – Ron was living proof of that), nor was it because he had defeated You-Know-Who (although she was grateful that he had so kindly done that for everyone).
No, she wanted to be his friend simply because he looked like he needed one.
It was not until very late in the following week, when Ron finally wrote home to regale them about the marvellous time that he was having at Hogwarts with his new best mate, Harry Potter, that Ginny decided to stop procrastinating. She had her own letter to send to the lost-looking little boy who had made such an impact on her.
She had been struggling for days on what to put in her first letter to Harry. Ginny was quite dismayed that her normally loquacious – a word that Percy told her meant talkative but Ron claimed that it simply meant she could not shut up – brain could not devise one clever sentiment to put to parchment.
What was she supposed to tell an eleven-year-old boy with whom she had only exchanged the briefest of smiles?
Luna's advice was to start with the comical but highly educational story about why the Crumple-Horned Snorkack's horns were so crumpled, while her mum recommended that she just say hello and ask him if he was eating well enough. Neither suggestion seemed adequate to Ginny, however.
Finally, just when she had nearly run out of clean parchment, Ginny at last came up with something that she thought was suitable enough for her first message to Harry. She double-checked the spelling of a few words in the well-used dictionary that had been Percy's present for her second birthday, hurriedly scratched out her note in her favourite green ink, and sent Errol, the old family owl, on his merry way.
After Harry defeated Voldemort for the final time, he would often regale his children at dinner (much to their consternation) with his fondest memory of his first year at Hogwarts.
Strangely enough, it was not his first sight of the magnificent, enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall, nor was it the time that he stuck his wand up the troll's nose right before their Uncle Ron knocked it out with its own club.
It was not even the first, exhilarating time he got on a broom, or when Professor McGonagall handpicked him for the Gryffindor Quidditch team (making him the youngest Seeker in a century), or when he first held his father's Invisibility Cloak in his hands.
No, his dearest memory was of tromping up to his room after another sumptuous dinner in the Great Hall, flinging open the hangings of his four-poster bed, and nearly having a heart attack at the sight of an elderly, bedraggled owl lying pathetically on his four-poster bed, clutching the first of many letters from his future wife in his fatigued claws.
I'm Ginny Weasley – Ron's sister (unfortunately). I don't know if you remember that we met at King's Cross station, but you looked like you needed a friend. I thought that maybe I could be of help, if I may be so presumptuous (which my brother Percy assures me means 'bold', even though my other brothers Fred and George – I think you met them? – tell me it means 'having bollocks' which I don't quite understand because
I'm a girl and I certainly don't have any bollocks, at least the last time I checked).
By this time, you've probably already made loads of friends, but you can never have enough of them, can you?
My mum hopes that you are well and are eating properly. Don't let Ron nick all the food from you – he's a bottomless pit, that one.
Write back to me, if you can!
Harry was both taken aback and pleased at Ginny's unexpected letter. He had never actually received one – unless you counted the letters from Hogwarts that Uncle Vernon had tried futilely to evade.
Of course he remembered the little redheaded girl who had smiled at him so warmly at the station; very few people ever took time out to be nice to him.
Finding out that she was Ron's little sister seemed appropriate somehow. The Weasley family seemed to have kindness in spades.
Ron came bounding into the dormitory. "Harry, have you seen my Circe Chocolate Frog card? Seamus is willing to trade his Ptolemy for it." He opened his trunk and started ransacking it. "Argh! Look at all this stuff. I'll never find it. I wonder if Ginny took it?" he muttered, flinging shirts, robes and all sorts of objects around the room.
"Ginny's your sister, right?" asked Harry, trying to sound casual, as Ginny's name had never really come up in any of their conversations so far.
"Yeah," was Ron's muffled answer, as half of his body had disappeared into the depths of his trunk. "Where the bloody hell is it?"
"Is she starting Hogwarts next year?" Harry ducked to avoid a trainer that Ron had chucked behind his shoulder.
"Yeah, she'll be eleven by then."
"Isn't it kind of weird to have a sister after all of your brothers?"
"Well, kind of, but Mum and Dad were right chuffed about it. After all, she's the first female Weasley in ages. Ginny's a bit of a pest. She always nicks my stuff and never ever shuts up, but she's all right, really, if you avoid getting her riled up. Aha!"
Ron straightened up, waving a Famous Witches and Wizards card victoriously in one hand and a rather squashed Pumpkin Pasty in the other. "I've got to go see Seamus before he gives his card to Neville. Maybe he'll give me his Agrippa card for this Pumpkin Pasty!" He ran out of the room, shouting out "See you later, Harry!" over his shoulder.
Harry waved to Ron, then read Ginny's note again, blushing slightly at the word "bollocks" that Ginny had so casually used, and chuckling at her accurate description of her brother's appetite. He never had a friend that was a girl before (Well, Hermione Granger was around a lot, but he would not call her a friend as she really was a bossy, pesky know-it-all, as Ron would fervently attest to).
Heck, he never had any friends before Hogwarts, full stop. The Dursleys had seen to that.
It would be nice to have another one, he decided as he rummaged through his bag for a quill and his scarlet ink.
As Ginny said, one could never have enough friends.
"C'mon, you have to wear it," admonished Ginny, attempting to tie a tea towel with a faded pattern of daisies around a feebly struggling Errol's neck. "It's supposed to be You-Know-Who's billowing cloak. Evil wizards need to have billowing cloaks – everyone knows that!"
Ginny was in the middle of re-enacting the night that a one-year-old Harry defeated You-Know-Who (with a reluctant Errol as the evil Dark Lord, her battered teddy bear as baby Harry, and Ginny as Harry's brave, redheaded mother), when an impatient tapping on her bedroom window interrupted her dramatics.
Since Ginny could count on one finger the number of times she had seen a snowy white owl, she immediately let it in, gave it an owl treat and retrieved the note that was imperiously thrust out to her. Harry's owl allowed Ginny to stroke her feathers, then the beautiful bird seemed to eye the tea towel and give Errol a sympathetic tilt of the head before flying noiselessly out of the bedroom.
She sat down on her bed and excitedly opened the parchment, a little surprised and more than thrilled that Harry had actually written to her. Although it was even shorter than the letter that she had sent, she was quite happy with Harry's reply.
Humming quietly to herself, Ginny took a fresh piece of parchment and proceeded to pen a lengthy letter to her newest friend, Harry Potter.
Although Harry had become fast friends with Ron and Hermione Granger – after all, nothing brings people closer together than the shared experience of taking out a twelve-foot mountain troll – his correspondence with Ginny remained one of the high points of his first year at Hogwarts.
Ginny's chatty letters never failed to cheer him up, especially after something dire had happened to him, such as Potions class with Snape. Her stories about growing up in such a large, loving family intrigued him to no end, and Harry found himself asking Ginny all sorts of questions about it.
…since you asked, it's no fun sometimes being the youngest of seven children and the only girl at that, Harry. Most of the time, I want to kill my brothers (especially Fred and George) for teasing me and doing all sorts of pranks on me – like the time they told me that the Daily Prophet was holding a contest and you had to send your most embarrassing photograph in order to win a brand new racing broom. I don't know how I fell for that one; they actually convinced me to shave off all my hair and pose for a picture. It was right on my sixth birthday too. Mum went mental – mental here meaning she screamed her head off and then screamed some more – at the sight of my little bald head.
Come to think of it, it was sort of funny.
I got my revenge anyway. Up to this day, George doesn't know that I take his broom out every night to have a bit of a fly around.
Don't get me wrong though. I love having a large family as there's certainly never a dull moment to be had, and I can always find someone to talk to. I would never trade my mad brothers for anything. Not Bill, not Charlie, not Percy, not the twins, not even Ron – well, maybe I would trade Ron for a Crup, since they eat about the same amount of food, and a Crup is much more useful than Ron will ever be…
"What are you reading, Harry?" asked Ron, looking at him curiously. It was lunch time at the Great Hall.
"Er – I was just looking at the schedule of practices for Quidditch," replied Harry, stuffing Ginny's letter as discreetly as he could in to his bag.
He did not know why he was so reluctant to tell Ron that he was exchanging long, lovely letters with his sister; Harry reckoned that his friendship with Ginny was something that he could call his own, something that he did not have to share with anyone, and that made it even more special.
Ron shrugged, then turned his attention back to the plate of Bubble and Squeak in front of him.
"Ron, what's a Crup again?" asked Harry, hoping that Ron would be too distracted by his food to wonder why he was suddenly asking about Crups.
"A Crup? It's–"
"A magical creature that originated in the southeast of England. It closely resembles a Jack Russell terrier, except for the forked tail," interjected Hermione as she slid into the seat beside a now-scowling Ron. "According to Newt Scamander," she continued in an authoritative voice, "the Crup is almost certainly a wizard-created dog, as it is intensely loyal to wizards and ferocious towards Muggles. It is a great scavenger, eating anything from gnomes to old tyres."
Ron snorted loudly. "That was what I was going to say!"
Hermione sniffed disbelievingly and brought out her copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She opened it and turned a few pages before showing the book to Harry. "See, it's on page eight, right between the entries for 'Clabbert' and 'Demiguise'."
"Show-off," muttered Ron into his goblet of pumpkin juice.
Hermione ignored Ron. "Why do you ask, Harry? If you're thinking of getting one, you should know that it's a Class XXX creature and therefore the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures requires that–"
"Oh no, not me," interrupted Harry hastily. "I don't want a Crup." He smiled and helped himself to a chicken leg. "But I do know someone who was thinking of getting one."
In all the years that she had fallen asleep whilst her dad told her the legend of Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, Ginny had never doubted for an instant that his story had a happy ending.
So she was rather shaken to find out that the opposite was true.
Harry never actually came out and said so, but sometimes his spiky, messy script would inadvertently tell the tale of how difficult his life had been so far.
…that was a funny story about you blowing up like a huge blueberry, Ginny. Fred and George must really be geniuses to be able to invent a sweet that makes the person swell up like a gigantic piece of fruit. They could probably start their own joke shop someday.
That reminds me of the time when my big oaf of a cousin also blew up like a balloon when he nicked the strawberry shortcake that I had got for lunch at school (just my local primary school; I did not go to some posh boarding school in Switzerland – wherever did you get that idea?) Dudley didn't know he was allergic to strawberries; he was laughing at me one minute, and then he suddenly broke out in hives and kind of keeled over and flattened me.
I thought it was hilarious (if a bit painful – Dudley must weigh twenty stone!), but of course my Aunt Petunia didn't think so; she said it was my fault for giving the cake to Dudley, and she sent me to bed without any dinner for the weekend. It didn't matter though; I'm used to going to bed hungry, and
besides, the look of horror on Dudley's swollen face was worth it…
Ginny was incensed at how Harry's Muggle relatives mistreated him. No wonder he looked so skinny and so sad at the station. What perfectly horrid people!
She was startled when fire in the grate suddenly flared up, making the living room uncomfortably warm for a moment before the flames resumed their pleasant, cheery crackling.
Her mum, who was knitting the first batch of Weasley jumpers for Christmas, peered at her concernedly.
"Is something wrong, dear?"
"Did I do that, Mum?" she asked in a slightly frightened voice. She went over and sat beside Mrs. Weasley, who reached out and smoothed her daughter's hair comfortingly.
"It's your accidental magic, Ginny. You do quite a lot of it when you're feeling rather strongly about something – well, stronger than usual, I should say," Mrs. Weasley clarified with a slight smile. "You know, the last time was just last summer, remember? Fred and George didn't want to let you play Exploding Snap with them and you made the cards burst into flames right then and there." Mrs. Weasley gave a little chuckle. "Singed their eyebrows right off. They looked very amusing for a few days."
Ginny smiled back; that had been very funny. She picked up the skein of emerald green yarn that her mum was using and began to untangle it.
"So, what's the matter?" said Mrs. Weasley as she resumed her knitting.
Ginny frowned as she remembered what had upset her so. "Mum, did you know that Harry lives with horrible Muggles and that they make his life miserable?"
"Ginny, I'm sure that's not true," said Mrs. Weasley reprovingly. "Whoever told you that?"
At her mother's raised eyebrows, Ginny's whole face turned scarlet.
"Well, you did say I should make friends with him, so we've been owling each other quite a lot," she said in a rush of words. "He's very nice, and he's really very funny, Mum. I asked him once if it's true that he's got super powers like Martin Miggs, and if he can talk to birds and if he can turn into a stag, like Luna said he could. "
"You shouldn't pester the poor boy with so many questions, Ginny."
"But, Mum, he didn't seem to mind, really," insisted Ginny, deciding that her mother did not need to know that Harry and she had promised to send each other a photograph of themselves. That reminded her, what photograph should she send Harry?
"Really? Well, can he?" The corners of Mrs. Weasley's mouth twitched at the slightly unfocussed expression on Ginny's face. "Can he, dear?" she repeated loudly.
Ginny gave a start. She had been mentally going through all her pictures, and she was appalled to realise that very few of them did not portray her in one embarrassing situation or another. "Can he what, Mum?" she asked, blinking at her mother in confusion.
"Turn into a stag," said Mrs. Weasley, counting stitches to hide her amused smile.
"Oh. No, Luna was wrong – he can't do that. And he can't talk to birds either." Ginny looked at her mother, who was a little surprised at the intensity in her young daughter's brown eyes. "But, after he asked me who Martin Miggs was – imagine that, Mum, he didn't know who Martin Miggs was – he said that if washing dishes and cooking breakfast and pulling weeds from the garden counted, then he reckoned that he did have super powers because he was ace at them by now."
"He has to do all those things by himself?" Mrs. Weasley was aghast. "But he's just a little boy!"
"Yes, Mum," said Ginny darkly. "And he told me that he gets sent to bed without any dinner all the time, usually for some silly reason like forgetting to water the runner beans."
Mrs. Weasley compressed her lips into a thin line. "Hmm. It seems to me that I need to have a little talk with some people about this," she murmured, her needles furiously flashing in her hands.
"The tree's beginning to smoulder," Ginny pointed out.
Little wisps of smoke could be seen emanating from some of the branches of the Christmas tree standing in one corner of the living room. The ornaments were also rattling alarmingly.
Mrs. Weasley took a deep, calming breath, picked up her wand and gave it a flick. The smell of burning pine needles disappeared.
"Never mind, dear. I'm sure that Harry will be all right," said Mrs. Weasley, sounding as if she was trying to convince herself instead of Ginny. "Now, do you think Harry will like this colour of yarn? I think it'll bring out his eyes, don't you?"
The holidays slid past in a whirlwind of snow and frost, and Harry found himself busy with Quidditch, school work and unravelling the mystery of Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone. There was also the added distraction of Professor Quirrell's strange behaviour and the mysterious creature in the Forbidden Forest that may, or may not (but Harry was inclined to think that it was), be Lord Voldemort.
But he was never too busy not to write regularly to Ginny.
Indeed, whenever something good happened to him, like when he received his Nimbus Two Thousand (Draco Malfoy was so jealous he just about had a conniption), or when he caught the Snitch in the match against Hufflepuff, Harry's first thought would be, I need to tell Ginny this or I wonder what Ginny would say.
He especially thought that she would be interested in Norbert; she had gone on and on about the exciting Christmas she had spent with her brother Charlie, who worked in a dragon reserve in far-off Romania. Ginny's rapturous tales of watching and helping Charlie take care of baby dragons gave him the idea that they should write Charlie and ask him to take the rapidly growing and increasingly uncontrollable Norbert off their hands.
When Filch caught him coming down from the tallest tower after sending Norbert off and he lost all those points for Gryffindor, a short note from Ginny (which included the picture of her and her completely shorn head) brightened up his gloomy mood considerably.
Harry sometimes felt that her letters were the only things that linked him to the normal world, where there were no deranged Dark Lords after him and where his lightning-bolt scar did not throb painfully all the time. Because he considered Ginny as separate from the unusual things that were happening to him, he did not tell her all of his adventures, not wanting her to worry about him needlessly.
Although he did feel the occasional twinge of remorse that he was keeping secrets from her when she was so open and honest with him, telling him all sorts of funny stories about her family and life at The Burrow, he rationalized that Ginny need not be bothered by such troublesome matters. He did try to assuage some of his guilt by telling her all about Fluffy and how Hagrid had bought him off a Greek chappie he had met in a pub.
…that's really interesting, Harry. A three-headed dog? It sounds like something my friend Luna would come up with. She's dead keen on all sorts of strange animals. She told me this mad story once, about a giant that lived in a castle in the clouds and who had a hen that laid golden eggs. According to Luna, this Muggle boy climbed up a huge beanstalk to steal the hen, and was able to get past the giant by asking an enchanted harp to play some music so that the giant would fall asleep. I really like Luna even though she's a little – er – unusual at times, but that story's a bit mental, even for her, yeah? I mean, how could the clouds hide a whole castle? Surely someone on a broom would have accidentally crashed into one of its towers at one time or another…
Ginny's letter gave him the odd feeling that he was missing something important, but for the life of him, he could not figure out what it was. Harry forgot about it as he read on, a smile growing on his face as a conspiratorial Ginny recounted that an owl had come from Charlie, telling her of the dragon reserve's newest acquisition, a baby Norwegian Ridgeback dragon named Norbert.
Harry rolled up the parchment and put it in the pocket of his robes. He, Ron and Hermione were under a tree, relaxing after the last of the exams. He watched as the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan tickled the tentacles of the giant squid as it basked in the warm shallows of the lake.
He rubbed his scar, which was throbbing painfully in the stultifying June heat, and wondered about the Philosopher's Stone again…
Several panicked hours later, after he had gathered his Invisibility Cloak and the flute Hagrid had given him for Christmas, he hastily wrote a note to Ginny before dashing back downstairs to the common room where a nervous Ron and Hermione were waiting for him.
It was time to get the Stone.
Ginny was worried.
It was the last day of term at Hogwarts, and she would be accompanying her mother later that day to pick up her brothers from King's Cross. She was anxious about possibly seeing Harry or, worse, learning from Ron that something horrible had happened to Harry.
She had not heard from Harry, except for the cryptic note he had sent several days ago. Normally, its brevity would not have bothered her too much; Harry's letters had never been as lengthy as hers.
However, Ginny felt that a note that only said
Have to do something really important.
Don't worry about me. I'll be fine.
Will write soon.
could not be taken as anything but worrisome.
The fact that her mum had received word from Hogwarts that Ron had been involved in some kind of bizarre chess accident but had since recovered nicely only heightened Ginny's anxiety regarding Harry's well-being.
Harry and Ron were practically joined at the hip, so she automatically assumed that they had been together when Ron had been hurt, and it was only logical to conclude that Harry had been too.
Was he all right? Was he safe? Was his hand so injured that he could not pick up a quill and write to her?
Not for the first time, Ginny cursed her brother's lack of communication skills. Ron could have at least owled his family, since he had been discharged from the school infirmary with a perfectly good working hand that could easily alleviate her fears about Harry with one or two words.
She was also a bit put out that Harry had not seen fit to confide in her whatever adventure he had been about to embark on.
They were friends, right?
Friends told each other everything.
After all, she had told him about that totally humiliating time when, one particularly blustery day, her skirt flew up, exposing her pink polka-dotted knickers. Her brothers had laughed and teased her for weeks. He in turn had related a particularly awkward incident: Dudley had tripped him in the classroom, and, as he tried to keep from falling, he had inadvertently pulled off his teacher's toupee, earning him a detention and a furious scolding from his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.
Ginny sighed despondently as she fed the chickens. She could not shake the disturbing notion that maybe she valued this friendship more than Harry did. Maybe he was just politely humouring her, because he did not want to hurt his best friend's little sister's feelings.
She did not want to further contemplate the dreadful alternative that he had been seriously injured.
Her brooding was cut short when a flash of white suddenly caught her eye. She looked up and relief immediately washed over as Hedwig flew around her head and performed a series of aerial acrobatics that Errol would have been quite envious of, if the old owl had been the slightest bit interested (he was not). Harry's snowy white owl ghosted towards Ginny and brushed her cheek with a soft wing. It had become Hedwig's way of greeting Ginny every time she delivered one of Harry's letters.
"Oh, can you do that again, girl?" Ginny called out delightedly. "I've missed you!"
Hedwig obliged once more before she finally landed on Ginny's outstretched arm.
"Hullo, Hedwig. I hope you've brought me good news." She stroked the owl's soft feathers. "Is he all right?" she asked quietly.
Hedwig's answer was to proffer the letter clamped in her beak. She nipped Ginny affectionately on the ear before taking off in the direction of Hogwarts.
A photograph fluttered to the ground as Ginny pulled out a thick piece of parchment from the envelope. She picked it up and looked at it carefully.
Smiling and waving at her, amidst the background of a great hall adorned with scarlet and gold hangings, was what appeared to be half of Gryffindor House.
In the back row, amongst the other students, which included a dark-skinned boy, two girls (one blonde and one with exotic colouring), and a boy with sandy hair, Ginny could make out her brother Percy with his chest puffed out and his prefect badge shining atrociously bright. Fred and George, together with their friend Lee Jordan, were jumping up and down and making faces behind Percy's back. A round-faced boy was next to Ron, who was grinning like an idiot and standing very close to a bushy-haired witch who also looked immensely pleased. Ginny supposed that this was the Hermione Granger she had heard so much about in the few letters that Ron had actually managed to send home.
In the middle of the picture, with the biggest, widest and happiest smile Ginny had ever seen on anybody's face, was Harry.
His green eyes were positively blazing with joy.
Ginny could not help but smile too. He looked so different from the lonely boy she had first laid eyes on back in September.
She turned back to the parchment. She unfolded it to find what was quite possibly the longest letter she had received from Harry.
I'm so sorry that it's taken this long before I could write back to you. I hope you didn't worry. It wasn't because I didn't want to write you; rather it was because I didn't have the time, considering that I was asleep in the hospital wing for three whole days! I still can't believe it – and it's even more unbelievable that we lost the last Quidditch match because I was out for that long – but I'm getting sidetracked.
Back to the reason why I was in the hospital wing.
Remember I told you that I had to do something important? Well, that something involved Voldemort and this Philosopher's Stone, which could make anyone immortal, that he was after. The Stone was hidden in Hogwarts, and it's a bit too long a story to mention everything that happened in this letter, but it was rather exciting and scary to have to solve all those puzzles so that we could get to the Stone before Voldemort did. I'm sorry to have dragged Ron (and Hermione) into this. Please tell your mum that I never wanted Ron to get hurt, but tell her also that Ron was absolutely amazing and brave and we would never have got through without him. Hermione too. As to what happened to Voldemort, well, let's just say that I hope that he doesn't come back again to drive me mental for a long, long time. We can only hope, right?
Maybe I can tell you all about what happened – do you suppose your mum would mind if I came over to The Burrow during the summer hols? Not that I mind writing to you all the time, but your stories have made me want to experience being a part of such a large and wonderful family like yours. Plus, I really look forward to being able to finally talk to you in person, and to thank you for being such a good friend to me.
PS The picture is from earlier tonight (it's really late as we've been celebrating). We won the House Cup! Go go Gryffindor! It has been the best night of my life. I'm sure you'll have a great time when you start Hogwarts in September – how could you not? You had better be a proper Weasley and be a Gryffindor. I won't get to see you very much if you are in another house.
PPS I hope you're coming to the station when your mum picks up Ron. I can't believe I could be seeing you later today (as I said, it's really late – or early in this case) even if it is only for a few minutes.
PPPS Thanks again, Ginny, for being my friend. It really means a lot.
Ginny looked at the picture again. Fred and George had managed to steal Percy's badge and were throwing it back and forth between them, while Ron, Hermione and the round-faced boy were laughing at Percy as he chased the twins.
She touched the image of Harry, who was still grinning toothily into the camera. "You're quite welcome, Harry Potter. I'm proud to be your friend."
Then, feeling a little silly for blushing because she could have sworn the Harry in the photograph had just winked at her, she carefully slid it back into the envelope together with the letter and ran back to the house, several garden gnomes shaking their tiny fists at her as they dived out of her way.
"Mum!" she shouted as soon as she burst into the kitchen.
"What is it, dear?" Mrs. Weasley came bustling in from the living room, carrying a cup of tea and Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests in her hands.