By Musings of Apathy
Here is my attempt at participating in the National Novel Writing Month. You can find more information on that here: NaNoWriMo
My goal will be to write 50,000 words in the month of November. What will be posted here wlll be un-beta'd. Upon completion of reformatting and Beta work, it will be reposted under it's correct sub-heading.
Appologies before hand on the quality of the writing of this story, as it will be written at such speed as to be a stream of conciousness, with little contemplation of each little detail. Correction of mistakes will be taken care of after the NaNoWriMo deadline for reposting as an edited work.
I was inspired to this plot bunny while reading Meteoricshipyards story 'Luna's Hubby'.
I thank them for inspiring this story. Inspiration was also found in many other stories, including 'Fate's Debt' by Intromit, a recommended story for all readers.
Disclaimer: I do not own the intellectual property rights for any of the characters in this story. Those belong to JK Rowling and any corporations that she has licensed the rights to. I thank them for their generous permission to the fan fiction community for use of their characters and fictional world. I intend no harm and gain no profit.
Family Inseparable: Chapter 1
By: Musings of Apathy
Ginevra Weasley woke to an unusual sensation. In her seven years, she had woke in many ways, usually to her mother's coaxing voice, but sometimes to the raucous sounds that were common in the household of two loving parents and seven children; six sons, all older than the sole daughter; the baby of the family.
Rolling away from whatever was playing with her ear, her thoughts groggily drifted to her family. There were no large age gaps from one child to the next, but when you have seven, with only one set of twins, there is bound to be a large gap between the first and the last. Bill Weasley, the first, was graduated from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in just a few weeks. Charlie, just two years behind, wrote her a few weeks ago about the nightmare that his OWL exams were turning out to be, and even had a present for her when he got back from school. Percy, her ever correct brother, just finished his second year and expressed his eagerness to select his elective classes in his letters to their mum, and then in person as soon as they returned to the Burrow, as their house was called. Fred and George, the twins, were eager to start Hogwarts on September the first, but Ginny had a suspicion that they only wanted to learn more ways to prank. Ron was a year older than her, though he would point out that right now he was two years older, as he was nine to her seven, regardless that it was a matter of months.
Her slow process of waking ended on a sudden screamed note, as the something that was lightly playing with her ear, suddenly made a wide swath on her opposite cheek, leaving a wet trail. Her scream was triggered by a golden orange ball of fuzz not an inch from her nose when her eyes sprung open. She shrieked with terror that was not wholly unexpected, were another in her place.
The entire house was alerted, as only a little girl's terrified shriek would do.
Ginny scrambled back from the hairy monstrosity, clutching her long stuffed dragon to her chest. Perhaps Puff, a stuffed animal as big as her, would protect her from the monster that attacked her in her sleep. The present from her brother Charlie had been a treasured sleeping companion for a year and a half; since the Christmas after Charlie had returned from a year of Care of Magical Creatures and not just a few conversations with the Hogwarts Game Keeper, Rubeus Hagrid.
Arthur, her father, entered her room with his wand at the ready and a curse on his lips. Although he had never been a fighter, a stunner was a hair's breadth from being cast as he assessed the threat. Piling up behind him were his wife and, quickly, each of his sons. What greeted them was not exactly a threat, however. What it was appeared to be a mess of matted, thick, tassled hair with the vague shape of a dog, or at least they could tell that it had a tail, a mass at the other end that must have been a head and four legs.
Ginny was scrunched at the headboard of her bed, far removed from the hairy beast.
Arthur laughed. He laughed at the absurdity of the mess. The 'dog', he assumed, was covered in dried mud over his hairy legs, but you could easily see that the woolly hair covering the rest of his body was an orange-red colour that his cousin, the dog lover, would have called chestnut in colour. Arthur turned around, assuming that Ginny had nothing to do with the dog that terrified her being in the house, much less her room.
"Okay," Arthur said, eying his sons. "Who knows anything about this dog terrifying your sister so early this morning?"
Seeing his twin sons, both eleven, but not yet in school, holding wands ready to defend their sister, Arthur gave them a look and gestured to their mother at the other side of the crowd at the door. The fact was that they had not visited Ollivander's wand shop, but he knew that they had discovered his twin brother-in-law's trunks in the attic, where they, no doubt, obtained wands ages ago, not to mention whatever else. They quickly stashed their illegal wands up their sleeves, where they would still be accessible should any need arise.
"Dog?" a voice came from the back. "Oh, no!" Ron said, pushing his way through his brothers.
"Gudgeon!" Ron exclaimed as he rushed forward. "What are you doing in here? You were supposed to stay in my room!"
"He was!" Mrs. Weasley stormed. "Ronald Weasley! What is the meaning of bringing a dog into this house? A stray no less."
"But mum...!" Ron whined.
Arthur could easily tell that an audience was not needed for the next bit of parental conversation, so he quickly ushered the rest of his boys out of Ginny's room. While Ron and Molly debated the benefits of dog ownership verses the responsibilities, Arthur moved to comfort Ginny, who looked much more calm and balanced now that the mop of cur was identified, after a fashion. Seeing as Ginny was good after a hug from her father (and doesn't that lift any father's spirit), Arthur knelt down to check the condition of the canine.
"But Mum," Ron continued, "He's perfect. He's big and he likes to swim. That's where I found him, in the pond chasing birds. And he's orange! Isn't that great? He's already a Cannons supporter! Can't I keep him, Mum, please?"
"Molly," Arthur interrupted. "The dog, Gudgeon did you say? Has a collar with a tag and a fellytone number, in case he's lost. Oh, Honey, that must mean that his owners are Muggles. Isn't that exciting? I wonder if they use batteries?" he asked. He looked closer to the identification tag and read, "According to this, his name is Rolf."
"Rolf?" Molly asked, unsure of the name's suitability for a dog, even one so...
"Rolf, Mum," Ron exerted. "See, they can't even be trusted to name their dog properly. He'll be much better with me. Cum'on Mum, I'll take good care of him."
"Pfft," Ginny exclaimed. "And Gudgeon is such a better name than Rolf? That's it, you're no longer allowed to name anything."
"I'll have you know that Galvin Gudgeon is the seeker for the Cannons," Ron asserted.
"Kids," Mrs. Weasley stopped the building argument. "Ron, dear," she said gently, "Rolf, or Gudgeon, has a family already. He has to go back to his family."
"But," Ron tried again, "what if his family doesn't like him? What if they don't play with him and take care of him?"
"Ron," Molly said, "he has a family and he must be returned to them. They must be missing him something terrible, by now."
Molly stood and led her son out of the room, hugging his shoulders in comfort, leaving Arthur to conjure a rope to use as a leash for the dog.
"Hmm," Arthur said absentmindedly as he led the dog out of the room. "Dog must weigh near four stone. Come along, Rolf, let's find your owners. We can call them on the fellytone in the town square. I'll just have to nip into the bedroom for some Muggle coins."
Ginny was left with her well developed sense of right and wrong that had her wondering if Ron was right that the dog might not have been well taken care of, and whether that changed her parents being right to say that Rolf had to go back to his family either way. She didn't know, but if the family wasn't good, Rolf shouldn't have to stay with them. She hoped for the best for the shaggy dog.
"Ginny, honey," Molly Weasley said at the breakfast table. "I'll be taking Bill to London to get a suit for his new job at Gringotts, if you'd like to come, dear."
"What about..." George started.
"...us?" Fred finished.
"You two still haven't finished cleaning up the shed out back where your little experiment went wrong yesterday," she reminded them. "Besides, we're going to Muggle London, so I don't want too many of us along. Ginny got a rude awakening, thanks to that muddy dog, so I thought it fair that she go along for an outing. Charlie, you're in charge while I am away. You're father is going straight to work from dropping Rolf off at his owner's house."
"You mean Gudgeon," Ron grumbled. "It's much better name, anyway. Just shows they don't treat him right."
"Ronald Weasley," his mother scolded. "You're just lucky that you didn't get punished for trying to bring a dog into this house without permission. I should have had you wash that poor dog before your father took him back. Looked as if he had half the mud from the pond on his legs."
"Yes, Mum," Ron said before excusing himself in the direction of the outside door with a shout of, "I'm going to play, Mum."
Molly watched him fly out the door, his feet pounding the floor.
"Oh dear," she said with concern. "It's alright, Charlie, if he plays outside today, but would you keep an eye on him, just in case? Hasn't even had a lesson on riding a broom yet, but I swear, the minute my back is turned he'll try to jimmy the broom shed."
She caught sight of Fred and George whispering and knew that it could only be trouble. "And don't you two try and help him. And no causing trouble for Charlie. He's in charge and you'll do what he says." She eyed her boys, including Percy, to emphasize her point, even though she didn't have to worry about what her third son would do.
"Yes, Mum," Percy agreed. The twins were looking their most innocent, which was enough of a reason to worry in the first place.
Ginny Weasley burst into the shop with gusto. They were at the clothier to find a suit for her brother, whatever kind of clothes that was. All Ginny cared about was that they were looking at and buying clothes. She liked pretty clothes.
Ginny looked around for all of the wonderful clothes and pretty things that she always liked to look at whenever she got to go with her mum to the clothiers. She quickly flitted here and there around the entire shop before she figured out that none of the clothes were any good at all. They were all dark and flat and striped or...or...no patterns at all! Where were all the lacy things and frilly things? Where was the pink and the flowers and the polka-dots? She liked the polka-dots. She didn't ever get to buy the clothes that she liked to look at, but she could look. She could look at all of the pretty dresses and skirts and sometimes pants, because dresses and skirts didn't work all of that well for riding brooms, and she loved riding brooms, when she could sneak them from the broom shed. But, this shop was boring. It only had dress up clothes for men, nothing for pretty princess girls. And how was she supposed to pretend that she was a pretty princess if they didn't have any pretty princess dresses?
"Mummy," Ginny said, tugging on her mother's dress. "Mummy, they don't have any pretty clothes."
Molly Weasley looked down at her disappointed daughter and offered a sympathetic smile. "I know, baby," she consoled. "This shop has handsome clothes for your brother so that he can look proper for his first day at Gringotts. We want him to look nice for work, don't we?"
"Sure, mummy!" Ginny said enthusiastically. "Bill'll be the handsomest of all explorers in the Egyptian Deserts. He'll be the smartest and the bravest and he'll bring me back a princess's tiara so that I can be a princess too!"
Molly shot her eldest child a reproachful look. "Bill, you shouldn't be filling her head with all that talk about those tombs. You've got her thinking that you're going to bring her back a tiara or something and you never know when those things are cursed or hexed."
"Mum, first," Bill explained to his mother. "I never told her that I would be bringing her back any sort of jewelery. Anything I bring back is for Gringotts, as they're the ones who are hiring me and training me to find the treasures. Second, they didn't wear tiaras in Egypt. Third, they're going to train me to find and break curses and whatever else you're worried about."
"Hmm," Mrs. Weasley sounded less than convinced. Not that she didn't believe in her son's potential and skill, but that he wouldn't have promised her some sort of boon. Ginny was the darling of her older brothers. Both Bill and Charlie, she knew, would split the Earth to get her anything she wanted. At seven she had them both firmly wrapped around her finger. Of course, Molly knew, they both had no flaws in her eyes, as well. No doubt, she would become an expert in curse breaking as Bill was going into and whatever profession Charlie chose in two years when he completed his NEWT's.
"Ginny, dear," Mrs. Weasley said to her bouncing little girl, "why don't you wait for us over by the door. I think I saw a bench there." She turned to her eldest, "Bill, please give her her drawing book and crayons, this could take some time. I really don't know how the Muggles get by without magic."
Ginny sidled up to her brother and held her hands up for the promised supplies. If she couldn't have pretty things to look at, she could at least draw something. Charlie had been talking about dragons at breakfast and he made them sound so wonderful. Maybe she could draw her brother a picture so that he would have a dragon of his own.
"Here you go, dragonfly," Bill said, holding out a book of loosely bound parchment and a rough cotton bag filled with the coloured wax sticks that could entertain her for at least an hour or more. She took the offered supplies and flitted off back to the front door. Bill's eyes trailed after the ball of energy. "Did any of us boys ever have that much energy?" he asked his mother. "I swear that she only has one way to approach anything; with both feet forward."
"The twins came close, but they use their energy for other things," Mrs. Weasley testified. "When they get as excited as Ginevra, you know they've done something."
"True." Bill said. He noticed a store girl coming over to them. She looked harried, but the large young boy that she had been trying to help earlier seemed to have been handed off to the tailor and no longer her problem. Hmm, Bill thought, she's cute. I wonder...
Ginny approached the bench with her supplies in hand, to find that the bench was already occupied by a boy. He seemed to be about her age, with deep black hair that seemed to have been in a storm recently, as it flew off to every direction but flat.
"Hello," she greeted the boy.
He looked up from his lap and graced her with the brightest pair of eyes she had ever seen, which was not all that many outside her family, but they were still remarkable.
The boy nervously brushed his fingers through his messy hair, not improving its style one bit, not that Ginny minded his exciting hair, mind you. When he did, though, he revealed his forehead, which was previously covered by his fringe. There she saw what had become an icon to the wizarding world, of which her family was a part. The remnant of his parents' death and the changing of his life completely, his lightning bolt shaped scar would have him recognized in any magical household in the British Isles, greater than the whole world to the seven year old girl. But, as her father taught her, fame doesn't make a person great. Still, after hearing her father tell her the story of how Harry had survived that night, she hoped that he was as decent of a person as her father thought.
"Hello," Harry replied.
"Um...I'm Ginny," she introduced herself. She was pretty sure of who he was, but her parents taught her better than to be rude.
"I'm Harry," he responded. "What's that?" he pointed to her drawing supplies.
"Ooh, they're my colouring things," she said. "Do you like to draw?"
For a brief moment, Harry had an elated look about his face, but it quickly diminished before he responded. "I do in school," he said. "But I'm not allowed at home."
"Why not?" she asked.
"Paper's expensive," he said, "And they won't be wasting money for such things on me."
"But," she stammered, "you can't? At least you get to draw in school. Do they like your drawings from school?"
"I don't bring them home anymore," Harry said. "They don't like what I do."
"What do you do that they don't like?" she asked.
"They don't like anything I do," he clarified.
"They don't?" she was confused. The concept of a less than loving family was foreign to her. "They don't like to play with you?"
"I have too many chores to play," he told her. "After cooking and cleaning, and the yard is a lot to take care of. The yard has to look good, or else everyone'll think Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were of the wrong sort, or something."
Ginny was distressed and confused about what he was telling her. She didn't know much about Muggle life, but what she was hearing didn't sound right.
"But..." she said, "What about your friends? Surely you can play when they come over. I have this friend, Luna, she comes over and we play house, or tea, or dolls. What do you play when your friends come over?"
"I..." Harry started, the words choking in his throat. "I don't have any. At school, they're all afraid of my cousin and his friends, and at home, well, I don't get out much. I go to the park, but everyone there knows that if they're my friends, Dudley'll pick on them more."
"Oh," Ginny said, absorbing his depression. "I...," she paused, the thought hanging on the back of her teeth. "Can I be your friend?"
Harry brightened for another moment, then his mood fell again. "But, Dudley. He'll pick on you too if you're my friend."
"He'll never see me," she assured him.
"Oh, yeah," he acknowledged. "But, I'll never see you either. I've never seen you before around Little Whinging. Where do you live?"
"In the country," she told him. "In Ottery St. Catchpole."
"Oh," Harry replied. "I don't know where that is."
"Well, um," she started. "Where's Little Whinging?"
"It's in Surrey," Harry said. "We took the train in and then the underground to here."
"I could send you a letter," she offered hopefully. "And I'll send some parchment so you could write back."
"That'd be nice," Harry replied, "But I don't think my Aunt and Uncle would like me getting post."
"Do you work in the garden every day?" she asked.
"Yeah," he affirmed. "If the garden wasn't perfect, my Aunt would be the shame of the neighborhood."
"Well," she said, "that'll be alright then."
They settled down to draw in Ginny's book of parchment, the book placed across their laps, where they sat close together on the bench. Ginny persuaded Harry to draw a dragon with her, which was hard for Harry, as he didn't know what a dragon was supposed to look like. After he started on a dragon as he saw for a moment on the telly news coverage of a street parade for the Chinese New Year. She corrected him, gently, and showed him what her idea of a real dragon was. Harry accepted this as her imagination, but, in truth, she was pretty accurate to what dragons used to inhabit Southern England, all of which had since moved to the more remote reaches of the Scottish Highlands. Ginny knew this, from her brother Charlie, but Harry had no idea of the truth of dragons.
"Boy," the word interrupted their good time. Harry looked up to see his Aunt and Cousin were near the cash register paying the counter girl for something. His Aunt Petunia must have tried to get his attention. Harry knew that this was a bad time to keep his aunt waiting; she usually had a short temper by the time they returned from an outing, and any mistake he made, real or vague, would be visited when they returned to Privet Drive, if not sooner. Harry placed the supplies that he had been using of Ginny's in her bag and placed the book back solely on her lap.
"Sorry, Ginny," he said quickly as Dudley obviously became board with his mother paying for his next thing and started to look at Harry, moving to torment his freak cousin. "I have to go."
Harry quickly got up and left her with a small smile; one laced with a melancholy that left her heart sore at the desertion of happiness that she could see in him in that instant.
Harry intercepted his cousin before Dudley could really see him with the beautiful red head angel that he had spent some of the best moments of his life with just minutes before. Ginny was truly a wonderful girl, one that he thought for a second could be a friend, as long as none of his family ever knew of her. He wasn't ashamed of his new friend, just afraid of what his family would do if he had found that sliver of happiness, especially if they knew she had such a wonderful imagination.
"I thought you were buying some clothes," Harry said to his cousin, distracting the whale of a child.
"Keep that up, freak," Dudley said, "and I might just have to wipe that little smile from your face for you."
"But we both know you can't do anything to me here," Harry told him with a hint of smugness.
"We'll be home soon," Dudley said. "And when we get there, you know that Mum won't care if I take you into the back garden for some fun, if I want to."
Their discussion was ended when Petunia finished her business with the girl. She gathered them up with a loving hand on Dudley's shoulder and a shove to Harry's.
"Come along, Boy," she said in a condescending tone. "They won't have Dudder's suit tailored until Friday, the loafers. Now we'll have to come back to collect it. We'll have to come by rail once again as these layabouts are closed on Saturdays."
Ginny was shocked to see the loathing with which Harry was treated. He was a new friend, and to her that, meant something. She divested herself of the supplies on her lap and sprang up to catch him, hoping to give him some hope.
As Ginny caught Harry, he was exiting the shop behind his aunt and cousin. She heard the nasty woman that was with Harry, his aunt, decrying what the country was coming to when so many were so lazy.
"Harry," she said quickly, "you could come home with me. My family would treat you right. They're nice."
"Thank you, Ginny," Harry said, "but..."
She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before he had to exit the shop on a glare from his aunt. Ginny's happiness at having a new friend, one that was such a nice one, was tainted with a heartache at him having to lead such a sad life.
"Come along, Ginny dear," Her mother interrupted her sad thoughts. "Did you have a good time?"
"Yes, Mum," she told her. "I met a nice boy. He's my new friend. We drew a new dragon for Charlie. He had the strangest idea of what a dragon looked like, but I drew one from my book so that we got it right for Charlie. Mum?"
"Yes, dear?" her Mum asked.
"Is paper expensive?" she asked.
"No dragonfly," Bill answered for his Mum, who was pushing the door open. "The Muggles sell it a dozen per Knut. Why?"
"Bill, Mum?" Ginny replied. "I don't think that Harry's family likes him much. I don't think they're very nice to him. Can he live with us?"
"Who's Harry," her mother asked.
"He's my new friend," she replied.
Ginny's Mum stopped at that question. Unfortunately she suffered from the same problem as many good, loving adults; she couldn't conceive of a family as bad as the Dursleys, and that would not change unless she saw it for herself.
"Ginny, dear," she soothed, kneeling and looking directly into her daughter's eyes. "I'm sure that it isn't as bad as all that. If he needs help, I'm sure that the rest of his family or his teachers will make sure that he gets help."
"Come along, dear," Mrs. Weasley called as she rose and started along the sidewalk again. "It's time we got along home."
Bill, ever the conscientious brother, led his sister with a soft hand on her shoulder, protecting her from the harsh world against his side. They walked along the familiar streets to the run down looking antique pub that would provide their return home.
"Daddy, daddy," Ginny said as she ran into the house that evening. She had been in the yard playing when she heard the pop of his arrival from work. "Daddy," she screamed as she flung her arms around his waist. "I met the coolest boy today."
Arthur's life as a father passed before his eyes ten years sooner than he thought it would have. He thought that the first of his children to tell him that they met someone special would have been his first born, not his last. This was his little girl for Merlin's sake.
"Whoa there, Princess," he told his girl. "Try that one again and maybe it'll make more sense and not give your old father a heart attack this time."
"Mum and Bill took me with them to the clothing shop, but they didn't have any pretty clothes. Mummy said that that was because the clothes were hamsome clothes for Bill not pretty clothes for me. Why didn't they have any pretty clothes, Daddy? How am I supposed to be your pretty princess if I don't wear the pretty princess clothes? Can Mummy make me some pretty princess clothes? I could help."
Arthur was buoyed by the distraction that his little girl managed to provide for herself. Maybe the issue of 'boys' could be held off for a half decade or two, as would be his liking.
"Do you think that Harry would like pretty princess clothes?" she asked in wide eyed innocence.
"I assume that Harry is a boy, dear," he guessed, "so I doubt that he would want to dress as a pretty princess."
"Of course not, Daddy," she said. "I'd be the pretty princess in the pretty princess dress and he would be the hamsome prince in armor with a sword and we'll go fight evil wizards and dragons and we'll live happily ever after."
Arthur chuckled. "Sounds like a plan dear. But how are you going to fight the evil wizards and dragons in your pretty princess dresses?"
"Daddy, you're silly," her laughter warmed his heart. "When we fight the evil wizards and dragons, I'll be wearing armor just like Harry, but pretty."
"Of course," he said. "Why didn't I realize that? Now, run outside and have some fun before it gets dark and your mum has supper ready."
"Daddy," Ginny said, suddenly changing from the happy and vibrant girl, her tone now worried and seeking comfort. "I don't think Harry's family likes him," she told her dad in confidence. "He...They're really not nice to him."
Arthur took his little girl in his arms and gave her some comfort while he mulled her words in his mind. He didn't think he could do anything for this anonymous 'Harry', but he could set his daughter at ease.
"Well, Ginny," he said, "not everyone is as lucky as you and I. We have a loving family that takes care of each other and makes us happy. You can only help others as much as you can, and not more. It's good that you care about Harry."
"I do, Daddy," Ginny stated. "Can I send Errol to him with a letter. It might make him happy."
"Does Harry know about magic?" Arthur asked in return.
"No," Ginny answered. "He didn't even know what a proper dragon looked like."
"Then I'm afraid that you can't send a letter by owl if he doesn't know about magic," Arthur told his little girl. "There's laws about that sort of thing."
"What if he's being hurt and needs a friend?" Ginny asked.
Well, then," her father answered, "You'll just have to trust that his teachers and neighbors will help him too. If things are as bad as you say, I'm sure that someone will set things right and give him a good home."
Ginny twisted in his arms and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. "Thank you , Daddy."
"Okay, off you go. Time to run along and play outside," he said with a swat to her retreating behind.
Quite literally she did exactly as he said, running full tilt through the kitchen and out the back door to the garden. He admired the energy she had in her youth, but couldn't remember having half that in his own. Those years of his life were just blurs.
"Seems it was a banner day for romance on this trip amongst the Muggles," Mrs. Weasley interrupted her husband's thoughts. "Your son found the shop girl quite interesting as well, if I know him at all."
"Hmm," Arthur hummed as he encircled his wife in his arms, capturing her waist. "Is this your way of leading up to the revelation that the tailor took a fancy to you and now I have some competition for your affections?"
"Well, the man was quite something," she answered. "Head of gray hair, pronounced paunch, and a distinctively harried look over his entire face, although that could be attributed to the dreadful child that he fitted just before Bill had his turn."
"Do I need to take you upstairs and remind you of why we have seven children?" he asked with a leer.
"Reminders never hurt," Mrs. Weasley smiled saucily back, holding him under the chin.
Arthur got a big grin and nearly bounced on his feet in excitement to her response.
"But dinner won't wait," she declared stroking her thumb down his jaw as she turned and exited to the kitchen, leaving her husband dumbstruck.
Outside, Ginny was absentmindedly playing in the dwindling evening light while she thought about what her Daddy had told her.
Harry's evening after the shopping trip was not as pleasant or comforting. Vernon, Harry's uncle by marriage, came home in a bad mood having to do with being outbid for a government contract that encompassed all of the Queen's Armed Force's drill needs. The procuring official had the audacity to call into question the quality of the merchandise that Grunnings manufactured. After all, Grunnings Drills were wholly manufactured in the UK and it's commonwealths and former territories. Then the man called into question the assertion of a fine company such as Grunnings about its products being made in the UK. The whole thing was unconscionable.
"Where's the boy?" Vernon said upon entering his house. He had parked his company car outside the garage as usual so that the neighbors could see that he and his family were just that much higher in class than they could hope to be.
"In his cupboard," Petunia said from the kitchen stove.
"Well, I distinctly remember telling him this morning to tend to the yard," Mr. Dursley said. "But this evening I come home from a hard day's work to find that he has shirked his chores. He's eight years old. Old enough that we shouldn't have to stand over him to get his chores done. The freak's gonna earn himself a spanking."
"Well," she answered, "He's already earned himself a stay in the cupboard until dinner with how he behaved today. Mrs. Figg is visiting her cousin in Scotland so I had to take the freak with me to get Dudders fitted for a new Sunday suit. I told him to sit on a bench just inside the door and not to bother anyone, and do you know what he did? He sat there and talked to this worthless girl who's parents were obviously poor, the way they dressed her. He even had the temerity to use the poor girl's crayons and paper while he was supposed to be waiting quietly. Well, he's got an evening in the cupboard for taking from those less fortunate. Locked him up as soon as we got home."
"Well, he can stay there until he can tend the yard tomorrow for not mowing the grass like he was supposed to," Vernon declared. "Maybe his hunger will remind him to mind his P's and Q's from now on."
Harry's time in his cupboard, with his mattress and ratty blanket, was taken up the only way he knew how when he was locked in, he thought. There wasn't enough light to read, not that he had anything to read. And there were no toys in the cupboard to play with, not that there were any outside the cupboard for him to play with. All of the toys in the house belonged to his cousin and the punishment was not worth it to sneak one, even if it wouldn't be missed.
So his mind took a wander and came across the oddest topics, such as why the lady that served the lunch at school always had a surly sneer on her face, or why Mrs. Figg's house smelled like cabbage instead of cats. But, increasingly, his thoughts trailed to the red head girl he met at the fancy clothiers. He had his first friend, thanks to meeting her. She was kind and accepting and comforting. She seemed to know a lot about dragons, as if they really existed, but Harry chalked that up to an excellent imagination.
And so Harry was content to lie on his cotton batting filled mattress and allow his thoughts to circle his new friend.
Two weeks had passed since Harry and Ginny had met. In those two weeks Ginny's parents had learned that there really was no limit to the number of times their little girl could ask about 'saving' her friend Harry. Her requests for the use of Errol had not stopped, but she seemed to understand, at least a little, when they told her no. They never really got a clear picture as to what they were saving him from, only that his family was not nice and didn't seem to like him, and that didn't seem enough to galvanize the couple into action. Not that they had enough information if they had felt the need to go rescue the boy, just his first name and not even where he lived. They never thought to ask Ginny if she knew any of this, probably because they had no intention to go steal the boy from his family at their daughter's request.
However, they were effected by her melancholy mood that had descended when she accepted the fact that her parents couldn't or wouldn't help her new friend. At night, after the children had all gone to bed the couple discussed their family, the ups and downs, including their only daughter.
"I'm worried about her," Molly told her husband as she changed into her night clothes. "She seems so depressed lately."
"She's worried about her friend," Arthur replied while he took his sleeping pants from the dresser. "It's hard to imagine a boy's life being so bad as all that, but I've seen what comes through the Child Safety branch of the DMLE and it makes me cringe. I don't like to think that anyone Ginny considers a friend is treated half that bad."
"But what can we do, Arthur?" she inquired with concern lacing her voice.
"Not much," he responded. "Apparently cases are hard to prove, and the laws are not the most modern. Ministry laws basically allow the head of a house to run it as he sees fit, for better or worse."
"And who knows if the Muggle laws are any better," Molly agreed. "They met in a Muggle store. The boy is probably a full blown Muggle, so the Ministry wouldn't be able to do anything from the get go."
"Hmm-hmm," Arthur agreed. "Wouldn't even know where to start."
"Maybe we could cheer her up some," Molly suggested. "I know," she voiced a revelation. "I was going to make her a new summer dress, and a friend suggested this darling little Muggle shop outside of London and the Knight's bus could take us within two blocks even during the day. While we're there, there is supposed to be a quaint used book seller that should have the books Ron will need to study this last year before Hogwarts. You know the last set didn't survive the twin's last attempts at Muggle potions."
"Oh, yes," Arthur perked up. "Quite amazing what Muggles can do with completely non-magical supplies, transmuting one thing into another. If you see any books on plugs, would you see about getting one?"
"The twins take after you, Arthur," she declared. "You and your shed. What experiments you have gotten up to in there with those Muggle contraptions, I'll never understand."
"Perfectly harmless dear," he assured her. "Besides, what father wouldn't want to hear that his son's were taking after him?"
"Ginny," her mother said at the breakfast table. "I'm going to go to buy some fabric from a little store Martha told me about. Would you like to go? You could pick your own fabric for a new dress?"
"Hmm?" a pensive Ginny looked up. She blinked for a second before a smile exploded from her down turned lips. "Really?"
"Sure," Molly returned the smile. "And there's a park to play in while I finish my shopping. Martha says that there are plenty of mum's around with their own children to mind you while I shop."
"Okay," Ginny agreed. "What kind of dress can I have?"
"A summer dress I think," Molly replied. "You'll have to pick out a light cotton, but they should have many that are bright and pretty for you to pick from."
Harry managed to escape Number Four just after he finished his chores, choosing to skip lunch, as he knew that it would be followed by more chores that hadn't be given yet. If an opportunity was provided to his aunt, she would fill his entire day with chores to 'keep him busy.' Luckily she didn't punish him for making himself scarce before the afternoon chores could be assigned. They would most likely end up as tomorrow mornings chores in addition to the regular ones.
Very early tomorrow, if he were crafty, he might be able to sneak into the smallest bedroom, his cousin's second bedroom, and borrow a book or two that Dudley had thrown in there without reading. Harry managed that a couple of times a month, but didn't dare risk it too often, and always put the book back where he found it. While his cousin was not interested in books, he did know what and where all of his things were, and would soon find out if something was missing.
Harry rounded the corner, leaving the line of site where Aunt Petunia could possibly see him from the living room window, and breathed a sigh of relief. He had escaped for another afternoon. Harry liked to take walks, especially to the park in the town center. He liked that park because Dudley's gang would harass him there, what with all of the adults around in the early afternoons. Maybe if he were lucky, Dudley and his gang hadn't graced this park with their presence after dark and the swings would still be intact. Dudley liked to break swings much more than actually play on them. Harry thought his cousin got pleasure from depriving them to the other kids, although Harry could never understand why.
Harry got to the park with only slight hunger pains, but he was used to that. His relatives didn't starve him, well, not often, but he was never given ample amounts, just enough to get him by. While his family ate a giant roast, Harry got some dry trimmings and a boiled potato. His family ate leg of lamb, harry ate cheese on dry toast. Dudley drank the latest sugary fizzy drink, while Harry drank tap water without ice. Harry didn't complain, especially with the consequences of complaints, but what they gave him got him by.
When Harry got to the sandy portion of the park, he tried greeting some of the children around his age with a smile, but they knew of his cousin and what could happen to them if they associated with Harry Potter.
As if it were all perfectly normal, Harry took a seat in a swing far enough away from the other children to keep them safe, and started to swing.
Ginny bounced around the fabric store, with her mother wondering why the owner hadn't put all of the light cotton fabric in one place. Here she could find all of the ones with one logo on the cardboard ends of the bolts, but she had found others two isles away. This gave Ginny license to look through the entire store for the perfect dress fabric.
"Mum, mum!" Ginny yelled. "Here's the perfect one for my dress! Can I have it, please!"
Ginny came careening over to her mother with a partial bolt of fabric. Molly sighed. If it were not the right fabric, they'd never find the right place to put it back.
"Let me see it, Ginny," Molly said.
She examined the fabric. It was indeed the right weight and a good weave. It was amazing to Molly, and certainly her husband, she knew, that Muggles had come up with such ingenious machines and methods. Unacknowledged by most of the wizarding world, Molly knew that the fabric used in the wizarding fashion shops were not made by wizarding hand or wand. For more than two hundred years, the wizarding world had been quietly using Muggle enterprises to weave their fabrics, or in more modern times had just bought their fabrics off the shelf with no need to have most custom made. Some fibers that were used still had to be custom weaved, such as acromantula silk, but that was still done with strict controls, but by Muggle machine and often by Muggle operators.
What she held was a simple light cotton that was dyed in a flower pattern over the white background after the fabric was weaved, no doubt by machine. For the price, she couldn't buy such a thing from wizarding suppliers. They would claim that their's was better, charms and such, but, in truth, a little girl's dress needed no charms. When it was warm enough to wear, she would wear it. Otherwise, she had warmer clothes to be going on with.
"It looks like the right fabric, Ginny," she assessed, rolling the bolt out onto the measuring table, "But it doesn't look like there is much left."
A sales lass that had been hovering far enough away not to be a bother stepped forward. "Pardon, Ma'am," the lass said, "if you buy the last of a bolt that's less than ten yards, the discount is half off."
"Well, now," Molly smiled, "this is just enough for my Ginny's dress, so I'll take it. Please put it with the others."
"Mummy," Ginny called. "Can I go to the park now?"
"Not yet, dear," Mrs. Weasley answered. "When I finish here, I'll take you across to the park and make sure that there is someone to watch over you before I do the rest of my shopping."
"Okay," Ginny agreed, dragging the word out, as if a burden.
"Your dress will need four buttons," Mrs. Weasley said. "Please go and find something to match your fabric."
When Molly and Ginny arrived at the park, she found it satisfying in design, with benches flanking the play equipment for mothers to sit at whilst their children played. The complex was large with climbing structures and several sets of swings. She sent Ginny off to play. Watching her scuttle off in her little jeans and T-Shirt. She knew that she could trust her daughter amongst the Muggles more than perhaps any of her younger boys. Ginny had always seemed to be more able to fit in with the different culture without uttering anything either embarrassing or what the Ministry would consider a secret. Ron or the twins, them she wouldn't trust. Ron had lacked the ability from his first word to think before he said anything, causing the most astonishing and mortifying things to fly out of his mouth. The twins, well, they were just too curious and humorous for general consumption.
Molly made her way over to the other mothers who were keeping a sideways eye on the children as they played. She was greeted as if she were an old friend, which made her more comfortable with leaving Ginny playing here with their children. She talked to them for ten minutes before they offered to watch her little Ginny while she finished her shopping. Before she left, she noticed that Ginny was still running around the large play complex, happy as a clam.
Shortly after her mother left, Ginny saw a familiar head of hair playing on the merry-go-round alone. He was slowly turning the large wheel with one foot while he sat on the metal surface.
Excited, Ginny ran forward with a squeal of, "Harry!"
Harry Potter was minding his own business, playing away from the other children, just in case his cousin was on the prowl with his pack when he thought he heard his name, but wasn't sure. He turned in time to see a red streak just feet away. It barreled into him, sending them both fully onto the metal disk that made up the merry-go-round, which was luckily shaded by a large tree, enough to keep the metal surface from getting scalding hot in the rare clear blue summer day in Surrey.
Harry received his intruder with a great 'oomph' as the air was expelled from his lungs forcefully. In one moment, suddenly, he was sprawled on the flat metal disk of the piece of playground equipment that he had been leisurely playing on, with a body on top of him, hugging his chest for all he was worth.
"What...?" Harry stammered in confusion.
"Harry," the young, feminine voice said close to his ear. "Harry, it's so good to see you. I've been so worried about you. Are you all right? Nothing happened to you? Are you all right?"
Harry managed to pull some distance between them, enough that he could see through his glasses that the person was familiar and acting very happy to see him, a rather new experience for Harry.
"G-Ginny?" he stuttered.
"Yes, Harry," she answered. "I'm so sorry that I didn't write to you. I wanted to write so bad, but mum and dad wouldn't let me. They...they thought you were a stranger, and they wouldn't let me write. I was so worried about you, with your relatives."
"It's okay. Thank you, Ginny," he said. "Thanks for worrying. No one's worried about me before."
Harry smiled as a warm feeling spread through his chest. Worry. She had cared about him. She cared that his family didn't. Here, this pretty girl was nicer to him than any person he could remember had ever been in his eight years. That caused a flame to be ignited in his chest that had been cold before. She cared.
"Are...are you all right, Harry?" she asked, concerned. "They didn't...they didn't hurt you did they?"
"No, well...," Harry started to say, but stopped. His brain couldn't force his mouth to tell this beautiful girl the lies that he had been forced to tell all his life. That he was fine. That his family was fine. She had inserted herself in his heart, behind the lies, at their first meeting and was not dislodged in the slightest ever since. "I mean, they locked me in my cupboard after the last time we met. They were supposed to let me out for dinner, Aunt Petunia had said, but when they were eating, Uncle Vernon said that I could stay in there until I could do my chores like I was supposed to. Since then...well...it's been..." he caught himself again, not able to say that it's been fine. He couldn't lie to Ginny. "I mean, the teacher's wig turned blue at school last week when she had been yelling at this new girl for spilling the paint and Uncle Vernon punished me when he heard. It doesn't hurt that much any more. Bruises go away in a couple of days," Harry told her, his words streaming from his lips, "so that's okay."
"Was..." Ginny started. "Was she your friend, the one being yelled at."
"No," Harry replied. "No, I don't have any friends at school. They...Dudley wouldn't allow it and he's bigger than the rest of the kids in the class, so they stay away. But...she didn't do anything wrong. It was an accident, and she started to cry. I didn't like the teacher yelling at her. She's had a rough time, being new and all."
By now they were sitting side by side on the merry-go-round, Harry's left hand ensconced in Ginny's two in her lap. She removed her right hand and hugged Harry tightly across the ribs.
"I'm proud of you, Harry," she said. "You cared that your teacher was being mean to that girl when it didn't have anything to do with you."
Mean time, Harry had broke out into a light sweat across his forehead and a soft whimper escaped his lips as his ribs creaked, still not healed from his punishment the week previous. Ginny drew back at Harry's obvious pain.
"Harry! What's wrong?" she asked.
"It's...it's fine," Harry told a near truth. "I hurt my chest when I fell during my punishment. Uncle...Uncle Vernon kicked...he kicked me there before he shut me in my cupboard."
The confession obviously took something from Harry, the mask of pretending everything was 'fine' all of this time was gone, useless around this one girl. He could tell that she was getting upset. The reaction was foreign to his experiences.
"Cupboard, Harry?" Ginny asked. "Do...do they lock you in the cupboard in a cupboard when they punish you?"
"It's...not really that bad," Harry assured her. "It has my bed in there and it's my cupboard, where I normally sleep. Nothing unusual."
"Oh, but...oh, Harry," Ginny hugged him, careful of his sensitive ribs. "Nothing like that is supposed to be normal. Come...come live with me. We'll figure out a way. I'll figure a way so my parents will let you stay. They'll love you. Please, Harry."
"I..." Harry choked on his words. "I can't. They're family."
He knew that he couldn't go with her, no mater what he might want. Deep down, Ginny knew, too, but hoped that someday she could help Harry to come to a better home, one where she could love him, where her family would love him.
"I know," Ginny said in a whisper. "But, someday. If you ever need to. Someday you can come live with me."
"Thank you," Harry hugged her back with emotion.
"I'll find a way to write to you," Ginny proclaimed. "I'll write so that it isn't as bad."
"Thank you, Ginny," Harry smiled. "Come on, I'll give you a push on the swings."
Harry jumped up and grabbed her hand. He towed her away at a run, her undisguised glee radiating across the playground and park through her genuine laughter.
An hour later Harry was as happy as he could ever remember being. Ginny had separated from him when her mum's voice rang out over the light din of children playing. Her parting kiss and reiteration of the offer of a safe place to live went unseen and unheard by her mother, but warmed Harry's heart and plastered the biggest smile on the eight-year-old's face that lasted clear to his aunt and uncle's home, at least until his cousin spotted him and his smile.
He hadn't had someone care for him before, not like Ginny did. The thought warmed Harry's heart. Her caring wormed a way into his heart and he found that he cared about her too.
Those thoughts sustained him as his cousin engaged him in Dudley's near favorite activity, Harry Hunting. Harry Hunting involved Dudley, as large as a baby whale, attempted to chase Harry in order to inflict harm on his small cousin. Unless Dudley had his 'gang' involved, Harry had a good chance of escaping a painful conclusion to the chase.
Upon arriving home, Ginny had much to think about; mainly how she was going to keep her promise of writing to Harry. She knew now that he did chores outside each morning, and that might help, as far as she was concerned. After a bit of thought, she raced from her room to the Weasley family's meager library. The bulk of the books that were to be passed down to their family was still in her Grandmother's home over in Lincolnshire. The books would be transferred as a part of her estate if and when she passed. However, no one was anxious for that to happen. The old woman was a bit barmy but was fun loving to a fault. Ginny reminded herself that she should write her Grandmum today, as it had been a week since her last letter and Grandmum loved to get letters from her grandchildren.
Ginny found the book she was looking for on an upper shelf. She scooted her father's desk chair closer and scaled the heights to retrieve the book. She remembered her mother using the book to look up the strangest facts and, therefore, knew that the book would have the information she needed. Stepping down from the chair, she cradled the leather bound book against her chest. She placed in on her father's desk and started to thumb through it, looking for an entry on Owl Post.
She found what she needed without much trouble, but had to smile at her mother when she chortled her approval at Ginny using the family books to find what she wanted. Luckily, for Ginny, Mrs. Weasley didn't know what Ginny wanted information for. Armed with the necessary information, she put the book back where she found it and raced up the stairs to compose a letter to send out the next morning.
It was just the morning after his last chance meeting with the fiery haired beauty, Ginny, that Harry was working in the garden. The task ahead of him looked sure to last until lunch time or after. How one garden could require work each and every day was beyond him. The grass grew at a phenomenal rate, due to his liberal use of the hosepipe at his uncle's instructions. The weeds in the garden seemed to want to race the grass in growth, so they needed tending to nearly every other day. His Aunt Petunia insisted this morning on a bouquet of flowers for her table, where she would be hosting lunch for the neighborhood wives, during which Harry was to be scarce, not even allowed to spend the time in his cupboard, as if he would have wanted to in the first place. No, he could spend his time in the garden shed or find himself at the park, but she left him with a stern warning about causing trouble. If she heard one peep from the others on the neighboring lanes, he wouldn't have dinner for a week.
Harry picked and choosed what he thought to be the best combination of flowers. He cut two dozen flowers low on their stems, careful enough to allow them long stems to reach out of the crystal vase that his aunt had indicated would be used for the center of the table. Harry liked the blues, reds, yellows, purples and oranges that he bunched together with some other cuttings to make his bouquet. Pleasing his aunt was something he desired, somewhere back in his mind, but not something that he counted as likely enough to devote thought to. She would have her flowers, and maybe the neighborhood women would fawn over them enough to make her aunt proud of 'her' garden.
Harry had just returned from setting the arrangement on the dining table, careful not to track any of the garden into the pristine house. He put his shoes back on, which he had taken off to avoid the dirt that was in their tread leaving marks on the white tile floor. He settled down in a bed of dirt that was planted with various bulbs, many secretly to Harry's liking as he knew his mother's name was Lily and this particular bed was planted each year with lilies, although Harry didn't think that his aunt held the significance of the flowers as Harry did.
Suddenly, surprising to Harry, a bird, as far as Harry can tell, impacted his side. The bird, really looking no more than a collection of beleaguered feathers that stuck every which way, held something that seemed completely incongruous to the avian. Tied to his right foot was an envelope, quite a thick one by Harry's estimation. Not knowing what else to do, Harry untied the leather chord, relieving the bird of his burden.
Curious to Harry was the red wax that held the envelope closed with a rather loopy, fancy 'W' pressed into the pressed into the center of the blob. The wax held the flap of the envelope closed, which Harry thought was normally why you licked envelopes, to get the glue to stick the envelope closed. Of course, the envelopes that he had seen his Aunt use for correspondence before were not made of such thick, rough paper. Smoothing his thumb over the strange paper, he found it not to be as rough as he assumed, simply mottled in appearance as the fibers that constructed the papers were not bleached to be the pristine white he was used to. The paper was, however, just as thick as it appeared. In school they were given paper for their writing practice, but it was very thin, nothing like this paper.
Harry slit his index finger under the flap, forcing the wax to separate from the paper and allowing him to pull the contents from the envelope. Harry set the envelope aside, careful to not wrinkle or crease it. What he retrieved was many sheets, at least ten, stacked and folded in half. On the first he found a letter, written in ink in an unsteady hand. Sitting back, careful not to harm the collection of feathers that had picked itself up and was drinking from a watering can Harry had filled earlier.
I finally figured out how to write you. The owl that delivered this is our family owl. We have had her for years and use her for delivering post on occasion. Normally he would be sent out in the evening to deliver the post first thing in the morning, but I know that you can't receive post around your relatives, so I found that if I wait for a day where Errol, that's his name, hasn't been used for a delivery the night before, I can use him in the morning without anyone being he wiser. Also, if you want, you can write a letter on the parchment that I sent with this letter and send it with Errol before he leaves. That way we could stay in contact and I won't worry as much about you.
Life here is good. I do so wish that you could or would come live with me. You'll always be welcome and I'll figure out how to get my mum and dad to allow you too. Ron has been attending lessons during the summer with a family in a neighboring town, much to his objection. He didn't work hard enough this spring, and so he still couldn't write proper when mum tested him last week, so he has to learn over the summer. I attend lessons with a friend of mine just the other side of the meadow, but I worked hard, so I get the summer off from lessons. I've known Luna forever. You'd like her. She's nice and her dad, who gives us the lessons, is so fun. He sees things differently than any of my family, that's for sure, but that's okay.
I think that Percy finally picked his electives for school, or rather picked nearly all of them to take. He thinks that the more he does in school, the better he'll do after he leaves. I don't know how he can consider that! It's going to be five more years of school before he graduates and by then who knows what will have happened. Of course, he wants to be names prefect and then Head Boy, but I think that he's always angled for that. He's so different from the rest of my brothers. Percy has always been the one to follow all of the rules. He does everything mum and dad say and tells us that they are in charge, so the rest of us should too. I don't really disobey, but if I did everything just like Percy does, I wouldn't know you and I wouldn't ever have any fun.
Now, Bill and Charlie, they are cool. Bill has graduated and started work for the bank. That's why we were at the clothier's, to buy a new suit for Bill to wear sometimes to work. I've never seen Bill dress like that before. He really does look good. Mum is so proud of him, so is dad. Charlie got his test results back. He got good marks and dad and mum were so happy. They say that good marks will help him have any job that he wants, although he told me that he wants to work with animals, so I don't know if his grades will matter as much as how he is with the animals.
My brothers Fred and George, they're the twins, they pranked me yesterday. The dress that I was going to wear to go to Luna's house wouldn't fit. They made it smaller. I was trying to think of some way to get back at them, but they are good at pranking, it's almost all that they think about. I don't know if I'll be able to come up with anything good enough. I don't want to just hit them, but I don't know what else to do. Can you think of anything?
I was hoping to see you when we picked Bill's new suit up from the tailor's shop last Friday, but you weren't there. I didn't even see your aunt or cousin there. I hope that your family is treating you nice, but if they aren't, you could always come stay with me. I've got a big bed and there's enough blankets for us both. Have you been eating any better? I could send you some biscuits or a meat pie or something, if you want.
Please write back.
P.S. Just write whatever you want and then tie it to Errol's leg. He knows the way back and he'll bring it to me. I won't get in trouble if I get post, so don't worry about it. Please write!
Her mentioning her return trip to the tailors reminded Harry of the previous day. Aunt Petunia had been complaining earlier as she let out Dudley's new suit around he belly and waist where he already strained the buttons. She complained that the tailors has purposefully tailored it too small, only to collect more quid on top of the outrageous prices they already charged. It was obvious to her that that was their scam, as they had left fabric to make the tailoring easy while they charged a premium for the service. Harry thought it more likely that they looked at the beached whale and knew he wasn't done eating. He held his own council on his comments, not wanting in on his aunt's indignation or anger.
Harry reread the letter to savor the words of his friend. He was confused about why her family wanted to use an owl to correspond with others, but accepted it. He didn't know everything about the world and figured that there was many stranger things out there than he could see from his cupboard. Harry desperately wanted to write back, and now he had the means, with eight sheets of that rich paper that Ginny used to write him her two page letter. He shuffled the paper so he could save her letter to him. He wanted to save the envelope as well, but he didn't have another. He could scratch his name out, which he now realized said the strangest thing:
Harry James Potter
The Garden in the Morning
Number 4 Privet Drive
Little Whinging, Surrey
He couldn't remember telling her his middle name, but passed it off as a flaw in his memory. They had talked about so much, it wouldn't be too inconceivable that he had told her that. He went to write his letter, happy to be communicating with his friend, but was unhappily confronted with the fact that he had no pen to write with.
He could take a pen from his uncle's desk, but his uncle might notice, and, whether there was proof or not, Harry would be blamed. Maybe...maybe if Harry took one of the pens that his uncle abhorred writing with, the man wouldn't notice. Vernon had been given a full set of calligraphy pens, and had not appreciated the gift, as Harry knew full well. The gift had been from the corporate headquarters of the company that owned Grunnings to each of their directors, of which Vernon was one of many. In the privacy of his home, Vernon had railed at the uselessness of such a frivolous gift. Of course, he knew the price of such a set, but that enraged him all the more. With such an exorbitant price the company could have gotten him such a better gift, some fine cognac with a cut crystal dispenser and crystal snifters is the example he used at the time. Harry knew the pens were shoved in a drawer somewhere with the rest of the things that his uncle didn't care for, but couldn't just bin.
Harry brushed himself off and looked to see that Errol, the owl, wasn't in the view of the back windows, as that would get his aunt going on freakish issues, and he just didn't want to waste the time. He wanted to write the letter to Ginny before the owl decided that he had been patient enough waiting.
After shucking his shoes outside the back door, Harry sneaked inside to find the set of pens. He had less trouble than he expected in trying to find the unwanted pens; he found them at the bottom of the junk drawer, underneath the tea cozy Aunt Marge, Vernon's spinster sister, had given Petunia for her last birthday. The knit monstrosity had to be saved for when Aunt Marge visited, but wouldn't see the light of day besides, and even then only if they served her tea, which Harry thought to be unlikely. The corpulent women preferred good brandy to anything as mild as tea.
Harry didn't feel safe with the pens out of place too long, but knew that it would be an absolute tell if the walnut display box with the cut glass window was found not to be full of the four pens that it came with. Removing one would be evident, what with the felt lined indentation for each pen. He removed the entire box, intending to return it to the bottom of the drawer when he was done.
In his stocking feet, he made no sound as he exited the house. He reshoed his feet and took his supplies to a hidden garden table where he could compose his missive.
Harry finished his letter as quickly as using the unusual writing instrument would allow him. He was not used to the quill style writing instrument. He used as much care as he could, but his letter was barely legible, what with the scratching of the nib and the running of the ink. In the end, he hoped that Ginny didn't think less of him for his messy letter.
After finishing his letter, he refolded it as neatly as possible, and put it back in the envelope from Ginny. He readdressed the envelope with as much information as he knew, which wasn't much, but if the owl really knew his way back, it wouldn't matter. As smoothly as possible, he addressed the envelope:
Ottery St. Catchpole, UK
He turned the envelope over and found another problem, the seal. Ginny had, somehow, sealed the envelope originally with a brilliant red wax, one that he imagined closely matched her hair. The problem was that he didn't have anything to reproduce what she did. After a second's thought, Harry went through dusting himself off and returning to the house, leaving his shoes on the step once again. Moments later, he returned with a small magnifying glass from his cousin's second bedroom, originally from an entomology science set that Dudley had received from somewhere last Christmas, but found boring.
Once again hidden from view by the house, Harry used the magnifying glass to remelt the wax and, after some thought, used a small sharp stick to carve his own logo into the molten wax. He couldn't think if his family had any symbol that would have been used, so he came up with one of his own.
The scar on his forehead was the one feature about himself that he especially liked. It set himself apart from his family and especially his cousin. Maybe it was how adamantly his aunt disliked the mark, but to him it was special. Whenever she tried, however unsuccessfully, to cut Harry's hair, she always left his fringe to cover the 'hideous' scar, as she called it. No matter what she did, however, his hair always grew back before breakfast the next day, sometimes before returning from the barber. However, no matter how much she disliked it, Harry liked it, and didn't mind when the wind blew his fringe from covering his scar. It made him different, and when you have a family such as his, you don't want to be the same, no matter how much he is punished for being different.
So what Harry carved into the red wax was a lightning bolt, roughly the same shape as his scar, as he could remember. He didn't have a mirror out in the garden to check, but he thought he got it close.
Harry tied the letter to the owl's leg, just as it had been tied when it came to him, and asked the owl, no matter how silly he felt, to deliver the envelope to Ginny. He hoped, aloud, that she was alone when it was delivered, mainly because he knew that her parents hadn't given permission for her to mail him, and he desperately didn't want to get her in trouble.
With a labored first several beats of his wings, the owl called Errol was back in the air, headed away from Privet Drive, with a skinny boy watching it go until he could see no more. He hoped she got his letter all right.
The letter came with Errol's return flight to find an anxious girl waiting in the garden beneath a plum tree to escape the warm sun. She had been in wait ever since before first light when she had sent the decrepit family owl on his way. She tried to stay away from her family, in hopes that the return message would arrive while she was alone so she didn't have to answer any questions. As luck would have it, Errol was particularly intelligent this day and didn't arrive until after Ron had stopped bugging her.
She was surprised, when it arrived, to find the letter inserted back in the original envelope with the address changed to hers, or at least as close as Harry could be expected to know. She was surprised to find her wax seal, which she had borrowed the wax and the Weasley signet, was remelted and a new symbol was carved into the wax. It was obvious by it's crudity, that the lightning bolt was not an impression of a signet of Harry's, but, rather, something he made himself, completely one of a kind.
Ginny had set the envelope aside and proceeded with the letter.
Sorry if this letter is not as well written or worded as yours, but I haven't had the need to write to anyone before. I was very happy to get a letter from you, especially in such a strange way, but I can only find myself glad for the unique method, because I probably wouldn't have gotten it in the first place if it had come by postman. My uncle would not have abided me sending and receiving mail. I should also apologize for the messiness of the writing. I haven't used a pen with a metal nib before and the only pen I could sneak was a set of calligraphy pens that my uncle wouldn't miss for some time. Maybe, with practice, I'll improve.
I was glad to hear from you about your brothers. I wonder what it would have been like to have such a loving family. It's too bad that your brother Ron has to repeat his schooling in the summer. Will it be too boring there with him away for most of the day? Does your friend Luna come over often? I haven't had any friends come over, or really any friends to invite, but my cousin Dudley has friends around all of the time. They like to play games and cause trouble. My aunt says that he is just a growing boy that likes to be rambunctious. I say that he is a pig in a wig that likes to bully others. He likes to play a game, as he calls it, called Harry Hunting, where him and his friends, if they're around, try to find me. I've gotten better at it. They can hardly catch me anymore unless they corner me in the beginning. When they do, it's not fun. I try to just not get caught, so that Dudley or his friends don't do anything.
My aunt is having the women from the neighborhood over for lunch today, so she told me to do my morning chores in the garden and then make myself scarce, which means that I'm in the garden where they can't see me right now. They won't be over for an hour or two yet, though, so I'll be done with this letter by then and I can go to the park again or something. I think that that would be the best to keep my aunt happy, or at least not mad.
Thanks for saying that I can come stay with you. It means a lot to me. I hope that it doesn't get that bad here, but they're my family. They might not be a good family, but they're mine. I hope that I don't have to leave, but if I do, your family sounds so nice. I can't think of somewhere better that I'd like to live.
I'll think of you, Ginny. You make it easier for me to get through the day. Thank you.
Please write me again.
The letter broke Ginny's heart. Harry was so determined not to give up on his family, so determined not to quit. She felt so much for Harry in the short time that she had known him. She wanted him safe. She wanted him with her where she could help him, keep him happy.
At the same time, she was so happy to be talking to him. She was so happy to ever be talking to him and looked forward to talking to him in the future. For some reason, Harry made her happy.
She got up from under the plum tree and went inside, intent on writing another letter to Harry, hiding the letter inside her blouse.
While Harry was going from one chore to the other, Ginny was trying to think of a way to bring him to the Burrow. She was coming up blank. Even if she got him to the Burrow, she knew what her parents would say. They said it when Ron had a dog that he found. The dog had a family and so it had to go back to its family. It was clear to Ginny; unless Harry was family, he wasn't going to be able to stay with her. But Harry wasn't family.
Ginny had been trying to think of ways to let Harry stay, just in case he did ever decide to leave his aunt and uncle. She was intent on that goal, all the while bugging her mum and dad to check on Harry, to see if he was alright. She knew he was healthy enough from her letters to and from him every few days. She cherished those letters more than anything she owned.
Thank you for your letters. I'm feeling better after my cold. Aunt Petunia even reduced my chores to only the garden until I felt better. She didn't want me to spread my germs over the house, so when I came in after weeding and mowing the lawn, she sent me to my cupboard with a bowl of soup. It was nice. I could just lie under my blanket after eating my lunch and sleep. I was so tired that nothing could have felt better, nothing that I have known before, anyway.
I'm glad to hear that Bill's job at the bank has been going well. His bosses sound like amazing people. They sound like they can fix any problem, the way he talks. He makes running his job sound so fulfilling. I hope that he finds the training to be as good. I don't understand what he will be doing after he is trained, but that must be some interesting bank if they employ treasure hunters. My uncle works for a company that makes drills, and I don't think his banker does anything like that.
What was it Charlie wants to do with animals after he graduates? Will he have to go to university? Working with animals sounds like fun. I'm glad that he can get into a career that he'll like.
Thank you for the continuing invitation. I have to go now. I don't know how much longer my aunt will be busy before she notices me writing this letter, not to mention Errol.
Goodbye for now.
"Mummy," Ginny said. "Luna's birthday is in two weeks. Can we make her a summer dress like the one you made me?"
Molly paused from at the breakfast stove. She had forgot that the fellow wizarding family would be celebrating a birthday in a fortnight. She had received an invitation for the Weasley family to attend. Ginny had always been a considerate girl. A summer dress would be a nice present.
"That'd be nice, Ginny," her mum said. "But we don't have any fabric."
"Could we go back to that shop and get some more?" Ginny asked. "Could I spell it with a nice print?"
"Yes," Molly said. "Yes we can go to the shop and get some more. But you know that you're not allowed to use magic. You can pick a pattern there that she'll like."
"Okay, mummy," she acquiesced.
"Get ready, I'll tell Charlie that we'll be gone for a few hours," Molly agreed. "I'll use the trip to pick up a few more things from the other shops there."
"Can I play in the playground again?"
Harry was having an average day. He was working in the garden again, seemingly a constant job during the summer months. The good news was that he could slip out after the lawn was done again, if he didn't mind missing his lunch. The thought of escape was more powerful than his hunger, so he chose to go to the park rather than eat a couple of slices of bread, dry, with some cheese and water. The walk from Privet Drive to the center of town did nothing to prove him wrong. Years of hunger made the little he had easy to ignore.
Harry looked at the shops that surrounded the village square and the park with curiosity. There were women and men, people going from shop to shop buying this's and that's. Harry was curious about what it would be like to buy what you wanted, to have the new clothes rather than his cousin's cast-offs, but that all seemed a fantasy. His aunt and uncle wouldn't be buying him anything new. He was just a waste of money. The way he had heard his uncle figure it, he cost more than a hundred quid a month, an outrageous amount in his uncle's words.
Rather than go around the shops, as he might want to do, had he any money, Harry headed straight for the park. There were less children today than normal, but there were still several women watching the children play. Somehow, Harry wondered if his own mother would have been with those women watching him play, if she hadn't been killed when he was a baby. Maybe his father would have been there too, as he sometimes saw fathers with the mothers on Saturdays. But it was all a fantasy. His parents were dead and wouldn't be coming back.
Harry approached the more vacant side of the playground, not wanting the other kids to have to steer clear of him if he tried to go amongst them. The kids had started to tease him at school, sort of like how Dudley and his friends did, only without the hitting. It seemed they liked that they could. Harry just chose to avoid the mess.
At the relatively unused side of the playground was the merry-go-round that he had been at a couple of weeks ago when Ginny had showed up. Being around her was nice. It sent waves of joy through him. Not for the first time he considered if he could leave his family and go live with the pretty girl, his friend, his only friend. Less and less was he seeing a problem. Sure the Dursleys were family, but they weren't a good family. When he was younger, he imagined a completely different aunt or uncle showing up to take him in, to remove him from the Dursleys to somewhere else, somewhere better, but that had never happened. Did the somewhere else have to come from some previously unknown family? Could Ginny be his chance at somewhere else, somewhere nice? But Ginny was more than that to him. She was his friend, and if he ever went to live with her, it would mean more to him than just somewhere else.
Harry saw that the merry-go-round that he had used before was occupied, but with only one kid. It took Harry two seconds to realize that this kid, a girl, was familiar. The flaming red hair, the angel like face...it was his Ginny.
"Ginny!" he exclaimed nearly without thought. "You're back!"
"Harry?" she returned, turning around. "Harry! I didn't think I would see you."
Simultaneously, huge smiles broke their faces where a lack there of was previously prevalent. They nearly ran at each other, directly into a great hug. They held on for dear life, happiness pouring from their actions.
"I didn't think I'd see you," Ginny repeated, "when I didn't see you when I got to the playground. You weren't here."
"I'm glad that you're here," Harry told her. "But why are you here?"
"I came to see you, silly," Ginny replied. "Luna's birthday is in two weeks, so I asked my mum if we could buy some fabric so we could make a dress like mine for her. She liked mine. So I got my mum to buy it here so I could see you. I'm so glad you're here."
"But," Harry argued playfully, "doesn't that mean that you came here to buy some cloth?"
"That's just what my mum thought," Ginny said. "I'm only seven years old. I have to have some excuse to come to Surrey."
Harry laughed. "I guess you couldn't exactly tell them that you wanted to visit a really nice park."
"No," Ginny said. "But Luna really did like my dress, so she'll like her birthday present a lot."
Harry and Ginny were having a good time. Harry pushed Ginny on the swings several times and showed her how they could push the merry-go-round until it was going so fast that they had to hold on while they lay on it's flat surface.
They were enjoying themselves on the teeter-totter when a most unwelcome interruption gained their attention. Ginny was on the ground when Harry's cousin and his friends stepped from behind the jungle-gym, taking Harry by surprise. There was nothing he could do from up high on the other end of the board.
"Well, if it isn't my freak cousin," Dudley said loud enough for both Ginny and Harry to hear. They were hidden from the mothers' benches by the same jungle-gym that Dudley had rounded.
Harry was not happy, and was just a bit scared. He would normally just run away, being no match for Dudley and his three friends, but he couldn't do that without Ginny, and she was quickly surrounded.
"And a little friend too, Harry?" Dudley asked. "Resorted to ugly little girls when none of the boys would be your friends? Just pathetic, Potter."
The look in Ginny's eyes was fear. She looked Harry straight in the eye from twelve feet away. Harry returned the gaze and tried to give her some confidence that everything would be alright.
"There's nothing wrong with girls, Dudley," Harry proclaimed. "And Ginny's not ugly. She's very pretty! Just like an angel."
The proclamation warmed Ginny's heart and a smile broke the corner of her lips, but the fear didn't leave her eyes.
"We all know that girls have cooties," Piers, one of Dudley's gang, said. "If you've been touching her, then you have cooties too. Gross!"
Harry bristled. No one would talk bad about Ginny!
"She doesn't have cooties!" Harry yelled. "You're just too stupid to know anything about it!"
Ginny got a look of determination in her eyes, Harry could see. It was as if she had made a decision. She started to straighten up, raising the teeter-totter and lowering Harry just a bit.
Dudley's gang, however, while not smart, could see the movement and sprung into action. Two of them held the low end of the teeter-totter down, leaving Harry in the air and Ginny out of control, while Piers pulled Ginny from the end and held her arms behind her back tightly.
"Well," Dudley said. "If she doesn't have cooties, I guess that she still has to pay for hanging out with a freak!"
Dudley rolled his sleeves up on his right arm, just as he did before hitting Harry when he was held in the same position. Harry was worried for Ginny, a sentiment mirrored in Ginny's eyes as she turned to look at him.
"Don't you touch her!" Harry yelled.
He started to get up from the end of the board he was sitting on, thoughts of leaping into action, no matter the height, dancing in his head.
"Brave now, are you?" Dudley mocked. "Let him down, boys. Let's see what he's got."
The two boys on the low end of the teeter-totter shared a look before both stepping away from the board at the same time. Harry's end rocketed for the ground before Harry could make his escape. He floated above the board while it fell and then impacted just after the board hit ground. His rear end impacted the board just where he had sat seconds before, the impact sending shocks through his body, making something down there seem that it was damaged.
Harry rolled to the side, just missing the board as it sent back up, now devoid of any weight on either end. He fought his way to his hands and knees, mindful of the pains now in his lower back. He looked up at the laughing boys and a very concerned Ginny.
"Well, now," Dudley taunted. "Doesn't seem like he's in much shape to defend his girlfriend now, does it boys?"
"Looks like she'll have to take her punishment alone, then," Piers said, tightening his grip on Ginny's elbows.
"Let go of her!" Harry yelled.
Dudley, after smirking menacingly at Harry, pulled his arm back slowly for a good hit. Harry looked on with too good of a view. The tableau laid out in front of him, a side view of Dudley preparing dramatically for a solid punch, his number two, Piers, holding his target, and Ginny, the target, watching pain as it comes.
Harry surged to his feet and yelled once more, as Dudley wound up, "Let her go!"
Suddenly Ginny wrenched from Piers solid grip and flew through the air, straight into Harry's arms, where he managed to catch the girl that weighed nearly what he did.
Dudley's swing continued as before, the big whale not able to realize that his target was no longer there. The result was him punching the air straight out of his friend. Dudley's big ham of a fist, even at nine years old, sunk into his friend's stomach. Piers doubled over in pain.
Harry spun with Ginny's impact, but managed to keep his feet under him. He looked at the girl in his arms in shock, and up to the four pack of stunned boys, each of which was well larger than either Harry or Ginny.
A slight movement from Dudley shook them both from their shock. Harry went through his fight-or-flight instinct. While Ginny had been in danger and out of his reach, the answer was fight, but now that Ginny was in his arms, it seemed like a better move to get out of there.
"Come on, Ginny," Harry pulled her after him as he took off in the other direction. "Run!"
He was just half a stride ahead of her, with her hand clasp tightly in his to make sure she didn't get left alone with the brutes. They left the sand of the playground with Dudley and his gang a healthy length behind them but not far enough for their safety to be assured. Dudley would be twice as vicious with them now that they had escaped than he would have been before, but that would just be a comparison on number of bruises, nothing more.
Harry led Ginny around a great bush, but it wouldn't be sufficient to protect them from the gang of bully's. There was no place safe to hide. Harry continued around the bush until they were pointed back at the playground, their pursuers still ten yards behind them, but coming on fast.
Harry aimed for the safety of the immediate area where the mothers protected, where the preschoolers played on the elephants and horsies mounted on springs and the colorful rings and slides were low for their smaller bodies.
Harry and Ginny raced for the playground, seeing it as safety. Harry didn't want to run over any of the toddlers, so he aimed around the back of the mothers' benches, but Ginny had another idea, as she steered them for one of the vacant benches not five feet from the group of mothers. She sat them both down and put her arm around his shoulder to prevent him from bolting as the gang came closer. Ginny was used to the protectiveness of adults, where Harry had little reason to trust in it.
Dudley came to a halt just behind the bench, wheezing for his breath after the run. He was just reaching for Harry's head, when Piers caught up and grabbed his friend's arm.
"Big D," Harry heard Piers whisper, "don't! There's adults here. We'll get the freak later!"
Dudley huffed in anger and replied, "Yeah, and his little girlfriend when we see her too."
"Watch out little girl," one of Dudley's more silent heavies whispered as he leaned over between Harry and Ginny's heads. "We catch you again, and you'll hurt."
"Let's get out of here before the little scaredy cat gets us in trouble."
Dudley and his gang stalked off, glancing back at the couple to see if they were going to stay there or run again. Ginny and Harry stayed put, where it was relatively safe.
Harry let out a breath. "Ginny, I don't think its safe for you to come back her again," he told her. "You know they'll hurt you if they get a chance."
"Oh, Harry," she answered. "But what about you? They'll hurt you too!"
Harry tried to comfort her with a hug. "They always try to hurt me. Most of the time they don't catch me."
"That doesn't make me feel better," she said. "Will your aunt keep him from you?"
"Not likely," Harry answered truthfully. "But Dudley never tries anything around her. If she doesn't see it, he's perfect."
"But, Harry," she pleaded. "That just means that you should come live with me even more now. You won't be safe here."
"Have you talked to your parents?" Harry asked.
"Yeah," Ginny moaned. "They won't let you come. They say you already have a family and that your teachers or neighbors will help you if you are having trouble. They think that if you have a family, that's where you should be."
"Well, I guess that's that," Harry frowned. He was really liking the idea of moving in with Ginny.
"Oh, but, Harry," she said, "I'll find a way. Just come stay with me, I'll find a way to keep you, even if they don't really know about it."
"How would that work?" Harry asked dubiously.
"I don't know," Ginny replied. "I don't know, but I figure something out."
"Ginny," Harry told her, taking both of her hands in his. "I don't want to get you in trouble with your parents. I'll be fine here. It'll be okay."
Ginny stifled her threatening tears. "But, Harry," she argued, "what's your uncle going to do tonight? What's your cousin going to tell him?"
"I didn't do anything wrong," Harry said. "Besides, your family loves you. I can't screw that up."
"You won't," she answered.
Harry hugged her again, silently giving his decision. "I love you, Ginny. Thanks for being my friend."
She hugged him back, giving her support. "I love you too, Harry. Please stay safe."
"I will," he assured her.
She steadfastly doubted his ability to make good on his promise.
Harry pulled Ginny to her feet as he rose. He took her hand in his and started toward the shops from the playground. One side of the park was houses, the other shops, and Dudley and his gang went the way of the houses, conveniently for Harry and Ginny.
"Come on," Harry said. "Let's get you back with your mum before Dudley comes back."
"Okay, Harry," Ginny said. "But I'm not staying away."
"Okay, Ginny. But watch out."
Harry stayed out as late as he thought he could. Despite what he told Ginny, he was worried about what his uncle would do when he arrived home. He came home just before dinner should have started to a eerily quiet house. The light from the evening sun was still enough that no one part of the house was brightly lit by electric lamp, so he couldn't judge from the light spilling into the hallway where his family was, but he knew that he would have to face them at the dinner table. That was not an option, especially as he had become extremely hungry in the hours since Ginny left.
He approached the door to the dining room that attached the kitchen cautiously. He slowly pushed the door, trying to see if there was a trap waiting in the form of his seething uncle, but missed any waiting danger.
He stepped inside, only to see that his uncle, aunt and cousin were already sitting to dinner, a large roast and trimmings. Harry had hardly stepped to his place at the table when he saw that there wasn't one. His chair and place setting were missing.
"So the freak thinks he can skip out and not have to help," his uncle said threateningly. A shiver ran down Harry's spine. "Your aunt prepared this lovely meal, took her hours it did, and where were you?"
Harry tried to stammer out a response, but was caught short with a backhand across the cheek. He flew from his feet to the tile floor, cracking the back of his head soundly, eliciting stars to dance around his head.
"Don't even try to lie to me!" his uncle boomed. "Dudley already told us what happened at the park. Says that you were causing trouble, hanging out with some floozy."
"She isn't..." Harry started only to be knocked back again, only this time he had less distance to travel to the floor, although that didn't help his painful impact.
"Don't interrupt me!" his uncle yelled. "And then, apparently, you called him and his friends idiots or the sort."
"I didn't..." he started again, but was back on the floor, this time impacting his forehead solidly, making the stars dance more vividly as his vision swam.
"Now you're interrupting again!" his uncle told him. "Where were we? Oh, yes. You called him names. Me? I'd say that that deserves an answer, but you ran away like a wimp before he could defend his honor, so now you'll take it here."
Harry's aunt didn't protest in the least. Dudley stood and waddled around the table, cracking his knuckles menacingly as he approached Harry's prone position. Petunia even patted her son on the arm as he passed, as if he were doing a good thing. Harry lay vulnerable on the floor, waiting.
"Get up," Dudley said with an added kick to Harry's midsection. "Get up so we can do this proper."
Harry struggled to his feet after another kick, if only to get whatever it was over with. He really wished now that he had been able to take Ginny's offer for another place to live when she was offering earlier. It appeared that she had been perfectly correct in her worry for Harry's safety.
Dudley wound back, just as he did earlier, and let his fist come forward, putting as much force behind it as a nine year old could. Harry was hit in the stomach, right on his bellybutton, which doubled him over and evacuated his lungs. Harry put his hands on his knees as he coughed and coughed. The impact complemented the kicks quite horribly from his perspective, leaving his insides feeling like they were on fire with pain.
Dudley, never one for patience, lifted Harry's face with his left hand, obviously planning more than one hit. Harry's face was already starting to swell from his uncle's earlier ministrations, but apparently Harry's intact glasses insulted Dudley somehow, as Harry's nose was his next target. He wound back and came in with a great jab punch, aimed at the center of his face, right at the bridge of his nose and his glasses.
Harry winced as he knew the punch was coming, but something stopped it. Fist stopped inches from Harry's intact nose, pressing against a curtain of light that stood between the fist and Harry, extending in bolts several inches from the fist. Everything stayed that way for half a second, until Dudley was repelled, flying across the room and impacting with the wall just under the hanging telephone. His head hit with a solid thump and he sank down to the floor, unmoving.
Vernon, seeing this, turned a deeper shade of purple. He rotated on his feet until his rage was aimed at Harry, who stood shocked, again, for the second time that day as something strange and unexpected happened around him.
"How dare you!?!" Vernon raged. "How dare you, you freak!"
Vernon rushed forward with red in his eyes. Harry stood no chance.
Two hours later, Ginny was pulling the light summer covers over her pajama clad body. She hoped that Harry was alright, but she had her doubts. If his family was only as bad as he said, he would be in trouble, but if they were any worse, it could be extremely bad.
Next time she would convince him to stay with her. She'd find a way.
She snuggled down, but sleep would not come anytime soon, as she worried about her friend, Harry Potter and listened to the ghoul in the attic banging the pipes in protest of the quiet house.
Not seconds after the beating stopped, Harry was unceremoniously dumped into his cupboard and the locks were slammed home. He had not eaten anything all day and was unlucky in his beating to not have been knocked unconscious, although his head was still hurting with bruises and knots all around. Sleep would not come for him, as the pains in his face, chest and torso warred with his wish that he was elsewhere, that he had taken one of the many opportunities over the years to run away.
He had hoped for most of his life, ever since he learned that all families didn't treat their children like he was treated, that some other family member, one that he didn't know about before, would come along to take him away, would give him a nice home where he could be loved. Then Ginny, a friend, but not much more than a stranger, came along and offered just that. Harry was reluctant because Ginny had a family and he wasn't it. He knew that he was supposed to be with family, but that didn't seem so important now. After their first meeting, they had gotten to know each other well through letters and two more meetings. Harry meant it earlier when he said he loved her. He hadn't loved anyone before, in his memory, but he loved Ginny, and she loved him back.
Now, lying on his lumpy cotton mattress, bleeding and in dire pain, the reasons that he had turned Ginny down, at her invitation and insistences, were not coming to Harry. He should have accepted. He should have gone and lived with someone that loved him, rather than his family who hated him.
Harry wished with all his might that he could live elsewhere. Harry wished with everything he had that he were living with Ginny. He wished that he was with Ginny, where ever that was. Harry concentrated on Ginny, hoping that she could assuage his pain and make it all right.
Harry's concentration on a single minded goal did something with a part of him that he didn't know about. It had worked twice today already, but it was called on again.
With a crack, Harry James Potter disappeared from Number Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, with just the bloodied clothes on his back.
Ginny was startled from her worry with the crack of apparition just beside her bed. She had heard it many times before, and probably wouldn't have this time, what with the ghoul making a racket, if the sound hadn't come from right beside her bed.
She jumped in fright and hurdled herself away from the noise, off the side of the bed and onto the floor. Being untrained, she didn't come up swinging or hexing, but she was frightened, until, that is, she heard a moan come from the far side of her bed, where the apparition happened.
Curiosity getting the better of her, she slowly crept around the foot of her bed to see the intruder.
What she saw was a bloodied and beaten figure, but she could tell that it was her friend Harry, the one she had been worrying about, in one way or another, since they met nearly a month ago. She immediately rushed to his side.
"Harry! What happened?" she asked.
He tried to answer, not understanding where he was or why Ginny was there, but not caring through the pain. He was unable to form the words, other than a weak, "Help."
Ginny checked him over and came to a conclusion. She had to help him, but if she told her mum or dad, Harry would be healed, but returned to his family. Who knows if he could survive that. But her mum and dad had sent that dog back, not even showing concern in their decision about whether he had a good home, just whether he was supposed to be living with his family. So if they knew, Harry would go back to Little Whinging. Same with her brothers. She loved them, but couldn't trust that they wouldn't tell their parents.
Ginny made the decision to go against her parents without their knowledge, alone if she had to, to keep Harry safe, which meant keeping him away from his family. She would be his family and she would take care of him.
In the immediate future, she needed to get him healed. For bruises and thumps, potions would do, Ginny knew from her mum treating her and the boys for their accidents. The breaks in skin that were bleeding would be taken care of by a general healing potion as well. Luckily her mum kept a cupboard in the kitchen stocked in case of injury, as they happened often.
She steeled to the ground floor, making sure to be silent and skip the noisy steps and to walk at the sides of the stair case to not arouse her mum and dad as she passed their bedroom. She didn't take the candle from her room, so the light wouldn't alert anyone in the house as she moved to the kitchen. There, she retrieved a candle and whispered the wandless word to light it, a spell that was even activated by small children in wizarding houses. The candles were spelled for safety and longevity and sold by the dozen in Diagon Alley.
She reached the cupboard and quickly found the general healing potion, one for knocks and bruises and one for pain. She took two of each, one dose for tonight and one for the morning, to set Harry right. After a moment's thought, she also grabbed a light sleeping compound that her mum kept for emergencies. Harry would heal better if he would sleep and this would give him the necessary nudge.
Before leaving for her room, Ginny checked the laundry for what had been freshly cleaned but not put back in their respective rooms yet, and found a t-shirt and boxers that her bothers would unknowingly contribute to Harry's aid, the boxers from Ron and t-shirt from Bill for Harry to sleep in. With a second thought, Ginny grabbed an old pair of shorts and a t-shirt from Ron's stack for Harry for the next day, along with a wash cloth and towel to get cleaned up tonight. Harry hadn't come with any luggage and what he had on needed to be burnt, and would be.
Dowsing the candle, Ginny retraced her steps back to her room, where Harry still lay on the wood floor on the far side of her bed from the door.
"Harry," she touched his shoulder. "I'm back, Harry."
"Ginny," Harry said deliriously. "You're real? Not a dream?"
"Yes, Harry," she answered. "I'm real."
"Good," he drawled through the pain.
"You need to drink these," she told him. "They don't taste good, but they'll help."
"Med-cin?" Harry asked groggily.
"Yes, medicine," she agreed, close enough.
He swallowed as she poured the first, a pain relief potion, down his throat. He sputtered a bit at the rancid taste, but swallowed it all. The same happened with the two healing potions, although the knocks and bruises potion was particularly like month old cabbage and turned his stomach.
"Before the last of the medicine, let me get you cleaned up," she said.
She helped the groggy boy with removing his bloodied clothes, but was surprised to find him without underwear of any kind.
"Dudley's wouldn't fit," Harry explained, "so I went without."
"Of course," Ginny agreed with his logic, having learned long ago about his family never buying him clothes.
Shrugging, it wasn't anything she hadn't seen before, living in a house with two females and seven males. It was different than when it wasn't your own brother, but it didn't bother her in the least, and Harry was in no condition for any of his bother to register in his own mind.
She quickly helped him into boxers and Bill's over-sized t-shirt, prepping him for bed. When he was ready, she could only see the ends of the orange tartan boxers below the hem of blue Puddlemere United t-shirt. The orange clashed horribly with the gold on the Puddlemere logo, but it was good enough to sleep in after dark.
"Harry," she said. "You need to get into bed before I give you something to make you sleep."
"Bed?" he asked. "Okay."
He climbed from the floor and into the waiting bed. He took the place of the large stuffed dragon that Ginny took from him. She placed it in the closet before taking her place on the other side of the bed. She pulled the covers over them both, covering Harry's head completely. Her arm draped over his healing body just as she always did with the stuffed dragon that was usually in his place. She soon fell into a deep sleep, no longer plagued with worry.
Thanks to pfeil for spotting a typo and taking the time to tell me about it.