“Oi, Harry! You ready to go?” Ron hollered up the stairs. Harry swore as he hit his head on the underside of his bed, still unable to find a matching pair of socks. He never realised he’d have such a hard time getting used to Ron’s penchant for yelling things across the house. He was seriously reconsidering his decision to move in with his best mate.
“Can’t find socks!” Harry yelled back. He dived back under the bed, searching among the old trainers, dust bunnies and a discarded towel. He frowned as he extricated himself, dragging an orange Quidditch sock in his wake. He frowned and scratched the back of his head as he threw the sock towards the doorway.
“You really need to clean your room,” Ron muttered, leaning in the doorway. Harry squinted up at him and blew his fringe off his forehead.
“How’d your sock get in here anyway?” he grumbled. “You should keep your own mess to your own room.” He contemplated his left foot, clad in a red sock with Snitches on, and his bare right foot poking out of the end of slightly frayed jeans.
“I think it was that game of Sock Quidditch when Neville was over last week,” Ron said as he scooped the sock up and sniffed it tentatively. “Wasn’t your bed one of the goals?”
“I don’t remember, because George knocked me out with the Dung Bomb you decided to use as a Bludger,” Harry said. He glared at Ron. “In the first five minutes!” He scrambled to his feet and stomped towards the chest of drawers in the corner, yanking the top drawer open and scowling at the contents.
“We dragged you out of the way,” Ron protested. “It’s not our fault Percy broke your ribs. We didn’t know he was going to open the door or we wouldn’t have left you in the front doorway. Hey, why are you looking for a sock anyway? There’s a pile on your bed. Just grab one or we’re going to be late.”
“They don’t match,” Harry muttered, scrabbling through the drawer and tossing aside a multitude of odd socks and several pairs of underpants.
“So?” Ron sounded confused. “Socks are socks. Here.” Harry felt a balled up sock hit the back of his head and turned to glare at Ron, a pair of bright yellow Y-Fronts in his left hand. Ron frowned.
“I need the other Snitch sock,” Harry grumbled.
“You need someone else to buy your underpants,” Ron said. Harry tossed the Y-Fronts onto his bed.
“I didn’t buy these!” Harry turned and yanked the second drawer open. “Luna did.”
“Why is Luna buying your underpants?”
“Don’t ask,” Harry said shortly.
“But it sounds like such an interesting story,” Ron threw himself on Harry’s bed, twirling the underpants on his index finger and grinning lasciviously. Harry sighed and slammed the second drawer shut.
“Apparently they are to protect your ... private region against Wurfle Lurples,” Harry muttered, pulling the pile of socks out from under Ron one by one.
“What’s a Wurfle Lurple?”
“It probably has wings and attacks bums,” Harry said, exasperated. “I don’t know, I wasn’t actually listening, I was trying to avoid looking at the glaring yellow underpants and hide them under the wrapping paper before George saw them. Would you get off your bum and help me find the other Snitch sock?” Ron just sniggered and swung his feet off the bed, knocking several socks to the floor.
“Why are you suddenly obsessed with matching socks?” Ron queried. “Yesterday you had on a brown one and a blue one.” Harry stopped his frantic searching and sighed.
“Yesterday we were sitting around eating pizza and drinking beer,” he said. “Today we are going to King’s Cross.”
“Yeah, like we’ve done a billion times before and we’re gunna be late,” Ron said, throwing a green sock at Harry’s face. “Just put it on and let’s get going.” Harry sighed.
Ron just didn’t get it. This wasn’t just any trip to King’s Cross. This was the trip that would bring her home. This was the trip to King’s Cross that was the start of the rest of his life.
He couldn’t do it in mis-matched socks.
He hadn’t seen her since Christmas where she’d giggled at the yellow underpants — or the expression on his face, he wasn’t sure which. She’d sent him an Easter Egg and he’d kept it for three weeks until George broke it with a Dung Bomb Bludger during a game of Sock Quidditch.
But he’d been busy a lot. Training. Paperwork. Moving into the flat. Pizza and beer. He tried to write to her but Hermione was at Hogwarts and couldn’t help him and there was something entirely unromantic about the crumpled stained parchment that said ‘Dear Ginny, we came back from training yesterday and I think my blister is infected ...’ so he never sent it to her. He hoped she knew what he meant when he sent her the miniature Snitch pendant.
When he got her letter he was pretty sure she felt the same way he did, but he wasn’t sure. Ron just grinned and thumped him on the arm but Harry didn’t know exactly how to interpret the gesture. So he was reduced to agonising over his choice of socks.
“I just need to ... it just has to be right,” Harry trailed off and shrugged.
“So you want matching socks?” Ron asked. “Well, are you a wizard, or what?” He rolled his eyes and sauntered out of the room. Harry made a gesture at his retreating back that would have earned him a tongue lashing from Mrs Weasley, and pulled his wand from his back pocket, hastily casting a spell to duplicate his sock before pulling on a pair of trainers and grabbing the jacket hanging from his bedroom doorknob.
“Come on, Ron, let’s go!” he hollered. “We’re gunna be late!”
The wind swirled around the platform, whipping along the tracks and whistling through the station, making the discarded rubbish whip around in mini tornadoes as Ron and Harry navigated Platform 10. Harry hunched his shoulders against the chill and ducked his head as Ron shouldered his way through the crowd.
“Bloody cold,” muttered Ron. “Dunno what happened to summer.” Harry just grunted, finding it ludicrous that they were talking about the weather.
He and Ron hadn’t really figured the next part out yet. But somehow they were going to be best mates, flatmates and Harry was going to try and win over Ron’s sister. It was breaking all sorts of unspoken rules but they’d come to a truce over it before. As long as he didn’t snog her in front of Ron, he should be right.
Oh please, let her be interested in the snogging.
The walk to platform nine and three-quarters seemed exceptionally long. Harry ambled along platform 10 slowly. This was where he first saw her eight years ago. They were both children then. So much had changed but Harry needed so much to stay the same.
As they got closer to the barrier steam swirled like tendrils of fine, misty vapour reaching into the oblivious Muggle crowd who slipped through them like Ginny’s hair through his fingers. Harry’s fingers twitched convulsively. Groups of oddly dressed people were clustered along the platform. A Tall man with a long beard dressed in tweed trousers and a floral jacket surrounded by a group of children in flannel pyjamas. A short, dumpy lady wearing a pointed, purple velvet hat that slipped sideways was grasping the arm of a man who was wearing a pirate shirt and a pair of jodphurs. A bald man wearing pink fluffy ear muffs and a leather jacket waited with a young boy in a red football shirt and khaki safari shorts.
Harry spotted Ron a few paces ahead, bouncing near the enchanted barrier as his mother tried to straighten his shirt and Fleur hanging off Bill’s arm with a look of sick adoration on her face while George slipped something into Percy’s pin-striped pocket. Mr Weasley was standing with hands in his pockets, staring intently at the barrier, his left foot shifting impatiently every now and then.
“Mum, gerroff,” Ron grumbled as a tinny voice echoed through the platform from the Muggle PA system, announcing that the 5:10 service to Edinburgh was going to be delayed. Harry glanced at his watch. The students would be coming through the barrier any moment now. Harry felt elated and sick all at the same time. This was a mistake. He’d read her letter all wrong, he hadn’t been direct enough and now her whole family was here. At least he’d have Hermione. It was perfectly natural for him to come and meet his best friend after all.
Thank Merlin for Hermione.
“Are you sure Harry made it?” Mrs Weasley’s voice floated through the crowd the way it had floated out eight years before when he’d first met Ron and his family at King’s Cross.
“He was right behind me, Mum,” Ron said in exasperation. “I’m pretty sure he’s old enough to find the barrier by himself now. He doesn’t need me holding his hand.”
“Nah, that’s Ginny’s prerogative,” George piped up. Harry felt the blush start at the base of his neck and when Fleur spotted him and waved, was positive his face was as scarlet as the Hogwarts Express. Mrs Weasely clucked her tongue impatiently as Harry shuffled towards the Weasleys, hands in his pockets and glaring at George.
“Look at you,” she said, reaching out to brush off his jacket and straighten his hair. “I told Ron not to leave you behind ...” She kept flapping her hands at invisible lint and trying to make his hair lie down flat.
“You two only made it just in time,” Percy said, glancing at an enormous pocket watch before tucking it back into his pin-striped waistcoat. George made a face at him and shoved something else in the other pin-striped pocket. Harry finally shrugged off Mrs Weasley’s ministrations.
“No, wouldn’t want to be late,” he murmured, eyes fixed on his trainers as two blonde girls emerged from the barrier, dragging trunks and giggling madly. A woman with mousy brown hair, dressed in a pair of ballet shoes and a cable knit cardigan waved them over and witches and wizards began to crowd towards the barrier impatiently.
Harry flattened his fringe on his forehead and ducked his face, suddenly uncomfortable.
“Where are they?” Ron whined.
“They’ll be along,” Mr Weasley said patiently, although his foot shifted nervously, betraying his impatience.
Harry studied the ground intently, counting six blobs of dried up chewing gum between his own feet and seven cigarette butts between him and the nearest rubbish bin. Bloody nerve-wracking, that’s what this was. What if Ginny completely ignored him? Or even worse, what if she came out with some other bloke? Harry’s stomach dropped as he imagined some burly idiot escorting Ginny through the enchanted barrier to meet her family.
Impeccable clothing, neat hair, certainly no knobbly knees. Harry stared at the hole in the toe of his left trainer so intently he almost missed Neville’s arrival.
“Have they come through yet, then?” Neville asked, elbowing Harry gently. Harry looked up and shook his head just as Ron shouted Hermione’s name. Harry steeled himself, trying to prepare for the cool look, the polite handshake, the big, burly, better-looking-than-him-bloke ...
Ron closed the gap between him and Hermione swiftly, lifting her off her feet and twirling her around before kissing her soundly. Hermione clung to Ron and wove her fingers into his hair as they kissed, practically blocking the enchanted barrier. Harry watched as two children edged their way past and wondered if it was possible to kiss that long without coming up for air. Someone wolf-whistled and Harry shook his head with a smile.
“Changed his mind about public snogging, hasn’t he?” said Ginny quietly from Harry’s side. “Good to see that he’s refined his technique, somewhat.” Harry turned to gaze down at Ginny as she slipped her hand into his. The Snitch pendant glinted at her throat and as his gaze travelled up past her glistening lips and freckled nose his eyes locked with hers. Harry swallowed and licked his lips reflexively.
“How do you feel about, erm ... public snogging?” Harry asked, nearly stumbling over the word snogging.
“I’m all for it,” Ginny said with a mischievous smirk. “You?”
“Oh yeah,” said Harry breathlessly and then he was kissing her and it was brilliant.