Author's Note: I can't take all the credit for this story. I originally got the idea from the OC thread at FAP, and the “Lucky You” thread at SQ. Thanks for the idea...this is dedicated to all of you!
I've always loved the first Platform scene, with Ginny running after the train. I think JKR might bring it around full-circle in a similar fashion, but in a much more brilliant way than I ever could (of course).
I would be remiss if I didn't mention my beta...the wonderful, talented, funny and beautiful Katinka. She helped and encouraged me immensely, and I learned so, so much from her. All the good lines in here are hers! ;-)
Of course, all the thanks and credit ultimately goes to JKR for inventing this wonderful world. It all belongs to her, and she makes all the money off of it, not me.
~Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, Revisited~
Platform nine and three-quarters looked the same as ever, Harry mused as he gathered around one of the train entrances with the Weasley family and Hermione. The wrought-iron archway displaying the platform's unusual name was still strong and welcoming, the Hogwarts Express was still a shiny, scarlet red, and the place was crowded as ever with all manner of magical folk, creatures and such. And yet, Harry reflected as he looked at the Weasleys themselves, so much had changed.
As the final minutes before departure passed, they started forming a line of sorts so Ginny could hug each one before she boarded the train for her last year at Hogwarts. Hermione, who happened to be the closest, grabbed Ginny in a tight, emotional embrace. Both Hermione and Ginny became a bit teary-eyed as Hermione started talking non-stop about how much she was going to miss her, giving her advice on being a Prefect, and offering to lend Ginny her N.E.W.T. practice exams. Harry smiled, knowing how they had become close friends and surrogate sisters to each other over the last few years.
"Hermione, you're hugging her so tightly, she's leaking -- look at her eyes!" Ron teased.
"Oh, stop," Hermione said as she gave Ron a soft slap on the arm. She finally let Ginny go, both of them wiping their grinning cheeks. Ron, the tallest in the group, was next. "Well...see you later, titch!”
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him, then reached up on tip-toes to hug Ron around his neck. He responded by picking her up off the ground, while she protested jokingly. It was nice to see those two siblings get along so well, Harry thought, so different from that one year when Ron kicked Ginny out of their train compartment. Hermione watched, laughing and leaking a few more happy tears. Harry recalled the first time his two best friends met on this very train, and how Ron had said he hoped he wasn't in the same house as Hermione.
As Ginny moved on to the twins, Hermione started fussing with Ron’s hair, which was messed up from the hug. The action reminded Harry forcefully of the dirt that was on Ron's nose that first train ride, and Hermione's snappish comment about it. She wasn't being snappish now -- quite the opposite, in fact.
Harry nonchalantly stepped backwards a couple of steps, enough to catch Ginny's eye while she was group-hugging the twins, and flicked his eyes towards Hermione's current fussing over Ron's hair, and Ron's obvious enjoyment of the attention. Ginny looked at them quickly, then back to Harry's quirked eyebrow and crooked smile, and they both started to laugh. Ron, hearing this, glanced over at them, narrowing his eyes. Harry covered his laugh with a cough, while Ginny tried to hide her giggles in George's shoulder.
"Hey!" George looked indignantly at the side of Ginny's head, apparently missing the exchange. "I know I'm funny, but looks and smells aren't everything!" This made Ginny and Harry laugh out-right.
"They are for you, twin-of-mine," Fred laughed, then frowned a moment later. "Hold on...I look just like you...."
"Yeah, mate...so you look and smell funny as well!" George punched Fred's arm good-naturedly, while Fred looked seriously affronted.
"No way, George...you're the one that insists on wearing your 'Weasley's Whimsical Wooing Cologne', which happens to smell like a pile of dirty old Quidditch socks!"
George sniffed his shirt, scrunching up his nose at the scent. "Well, it's a little strong on the skunk pheromones, I'll admit...but I'm telling you, it works on the ladies!"
Ignoring the twins' bantering, Ron crossed his arms, looking back and forth between Harry and Ginny. "Are you taking the mickey?" he asked them, looking a bit self-conscious. Harry shrugged, while Ginny took on an air of unblushing innocence.
"Ah, they're just jealous, Ron...ignore them," Hermione said in amusement, patting Ron's arm and taking his hand in hers, which took Ron's attention away from everyone else altogether. Jealous? Harry chuckled to himself. Of what, fussing and nagging? No, he immediately realised, as he watched Ron smile down at Hermione's hand. Of what they had found with each other. Something he hadn't taken the time over the last two years to find for himself, not since his failed romance with Cho. Well, he justified to himself, he had been rather busy getting rid of Voldemort during that time, so romantic stuff had taken a back seat.
Fred caught Ginny unawares with a quick tickle, which made her yelp and rush over to Charlie, next in line. Okay, so Fred and George really hadn't changed much, Harry thought, but they had redeemed themselves a bit in their mother's eyes during the war, using their Weasley Wizard Wheezes to great effect against Voldemort's minions. Charlie and his cohorts had provided fire-power from the sky, literally, by flying on fire-breathing dragons while casting curses during the final battle. Too bad the rest of the family couldn't make it today, Harry thought. He was brought out of this reverie by a giggle from Ginny, which caused Harry to look in her direction.
They had finished embracing, and Charlie was putting one arm around Ginny's shoulders, immediately delving into copious amounts of Quidditch advice. Ginny looked especially tiny next to the muscle-toned Charlie, but then she'd always been petite. Yet she wasn't a little freckled girl anymore, blushing and running away from him, Harry observed. She had grown into a young woman now, and was entering her final year of magical schooling. Yeah, Ginny was great, he thought. Always ready with a smile and a laugh. Supporting and helping him, without fussing or nagging. Sympathetic, but definitely not a push-over. She'd even helped pull him out of a few of his dark moods, usually induced from thinking about Voldemort.
Harry thought back to what she did to help defeat the Dark Lord…she had found a way from her experience with Tom Riddle to exploit Voldemort’s weakness. She had bravely fought in the final battle along with all the other members of the DA, which had grown to a sizeable and formidable group since fifth year. And now she was leaving. He felt himself frown while he watched Ginny nodding at Charlie. Why was he frowning? He couldn't quite put his finger on exactly why, but he was feeling a bit...sad. A little bereft, even. Certainly not excited and happy, leaking tears of joy like everyone else. Why wasn't he feeling excited for Ginny to be going back to Hogwarts, the place where he'd spent the best years of his life? It was the greatest place in the world, with the Burrow a close second. Yet he couldn't help feeling like he was missing something here. Missing an opportunity, even. Missing her.
That was it...he was going to miss her.
Of course you're going to miss her, you dummy! She's nice, funny, clever...pretty...hold on, Potter, don't start! You're not developing feelings here, are you? You haven't allowed yourself to do that for so long, you wouldn't even know where to start. So just stop. Talk about the emotional range of a teaspoon....
Harry sighed inwardly. Ginny's a friend. Only a friend? another voice in his head niggled. Yes, just a friend. She gave up on me ages ago...remember fifth year? So yes. Only a friend.
Ginny was now facing Harry, her eyes bright. Harry suddenly felt very formal and a bit awkward. "Er..." He seemed to have a little trouble speaking; he cleared the frog out his throat and tried again. "Um...have a good year at Hogwarts, Ginny," he said stiffly. Ginny looked quizzically at his outstretched hand, then grabbed it and gently pulled so that the rest of him followed into her arms for a hug. Harry clumsily put his arms around her, wondering when his arms had suddenly become rubbery and too long for his body. He wasn't quite sure what to do, so he patted her back a little bit. This was...nice, he thought. No wet stuff flowing down the front of his shirt with this hug. She seems to fit just right, too. He quietly sighed and relaxed a little.
After a moment or two of simply enjoying the hug, his brain registered that they weren't alone. He glanced quickly over at his two best friends: Hermione was smirking and looking as if she was trying very hard not to roll her eyes, but Ron had a knowing -- almost triumphant -- grin on his face. He then looked at the rest of the Weasleys...Fred and George quickly turned what sounded suspiciously like quiet laughter into coughing fits. Charlie was looking curiously at the two of them hugging, while to his left, Molly was dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
"See you later, Harry," Ginny whispered, giving Harry a slight shiver. He took that as his cue, feeling the need to give her one final pat before they broke apart. She looked up into his face and gave him a small, shy smile; Harry's stomach flip-flopped. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), Molly pounced upon Ginny the moment she was free and pulled her out of Harry's line of sight, directly into a bone-crushing hug.
Harry felt a bit dazed, his mind forming rambling thoughts. I think I'll write to her while she's away...friends can write, can't they? But what would I say? I guess I could start with "thank you". Hold on...did I even tell her thanks for helping me? I've been a git, so wrapped up in my own problems, I've barely talked to her these last couple of months. Scratch that...last couple of years. Insensitive wart. Did I even tell her I'll miss her? Good luck on the N.E.W.T.'s? I could help her study...I did fairly well. With Hermione's help, of course, but still.... Great, you just had her in your arms moments ago, and now you think to tell her
these things? Write her a letter when you get home, you prat, you've already missed your chance!
All too soon, Molly finished her motherly hug, giving Ginny a few last reminders and an admonishment to hurry and climb aboard. With an appeasing "Yes, mum!" and a commiserating smirk with the rest of the clan, Ginny boarded the train. She reappeared a moment later at a window two up from the train entrance.
"Bye, everyone! Thanks for seeing me off!"
"Bye, Ginny dear!" said Molly, sniffling and dabbing again. Fred and George glanced at Molly, then at each other. The twinkle in their identical eyes was visible for a split second before they simultaneously screwed up their faces, pretending to cry.
"Oh, boo-hoo...whatever shall we do without our ickle Ginnikins?" said Fred, clinging to George in exaggerated emotion.
"Mum, c-c-can't we g-g-go t-t-toooooo?" George wailed. Molly reached behind an amused Charlie and gave the closest twin an exasperated swat with her handkerchief, while Ginny just laughed.
"Oh, don't cry!" she said with sudden seriousness. "How about a pair of Hogwarts toilet seats for my favorite twin brothers?"
Everyone laughed, but something she'd just said made Harry suddenly recall the day he boarded the Hogwarts Express for the first time. Fred and George had said something similar to Ginny on that occasion, and he remembered watching a little freckled girl, half-laughing, half-crying, chasing after the train and waving like crazy. The train whistled loudly, and the wheels started moving, bringing Harry to the present. "Bye!" Ginny waved once more, then retreated inside the compartment.
There was something about that train leaving -- with her on it -- that propelled his legs forward without him realizing, until he had caught up to her window three seconds later. The train was leaving -- she was leaving -- and he had to talk to her NOW!
"Hey, Ginny!" Harry called out, walking beside the train as it slowly gained momentum. He had to swerve left to avoid walking into some remaining stragglers on the platform.
Ginny's face reappeared at the open window, looking a little surprised "Harry?" She seemed to quickly recover, however. "Oh...did you want a toilet seat as well?" she grinned at him cheekily.
"Yes...wait...I mean...er...." His mind went blank as he broke out into a trot, inadvertantly passing straight through a group of witches conversing on the platform. "Sorry!" he called back to them. Now that he had Ginny within listening distance, he didn't know exactly what he was going to say, even though he'd thought of a million things moments ago. Well, whatever he had to say, he'd better say it fast, because she'd be gone in a minute. "I just wanted to tell you...something..."
"Yes?" She looked down at him expectantly. Almost hopefully.
"Um...well, I...I...er...hope you have a great year -- whoa --" He narrowly avoided an elderly witch and wizard, still waving to a departing student. Thank goodness for his Seeker reflexes.
"Thanks, but..." her face was a mixture of confusion and amusement,"... you just told me that...back there, remember?" She pointed to her family, who was looking at Harry with great interest, along with everyone else, he quickly noted during his momentary glance.
For once, he appreciated all that running he did in his youth, escaping from Dudley and company. "Yeah, but...(he broke into a jog)...what I meant...(a bit faster)...to say was...(it was getting harder to talk now) ...thanks for...everything...(faster still)...you...were brilliant...really...and I couldn't...(running now) have done it...without...you...(puff, puff)...and I'll...I'll...miss you...(he vaulted over a stray package)...a lot, in fact...."
Brilliant...he sounded like a raving lunatic. But at least he had told her how he felt before she left, for whatever it was worth. Those individuals still on the platform in front of him started jumping out of the way, giving him a clear path. He glanced to his right, expecting to see her laughing at what a spectacle he was making of himself.
Ginny's cheeks were flushed almost as red as her hair as she gave Harry a shocked, but very nice, smile. She seemed to not be altogether there, having a slightly glazed look about her eyes. "Thanks," she finally said – vaguely, almost dreamily. "I'll miss you too, Harry." Harry felt a giant smile break out across his face. Well...maybe she didn't think he was crazy after all. When the train whistled again, she seemed to shake the glazed look off, then cupped her hands around her mouth to speak over the noise. "Let's write to each other, okay?"
"Okay......but......no......toilet......seats.....!" Harry called back, gasping, yet grinning. He was running full tilt now, yet he was still falling behind the train.
She laughed back. "Bye!" she called out and waved at Harry, who had finally stopped running, bending slightly to catch his breath. He straightened as best he could with the horrible stitch he now had in his side, and waved back until Ginny's red hair and waving hand disappeared around the first bend.
Harry was still out of breath, but feeling very much alive and content. He turned to walk back to the Weasleys, and froze. Everyone on the platform -- Weasleys and bystanders included -- were all staring at him, mouths agape. Then, from their end of the platform, Fred and George started applauding and whistling very loudly.
"Brav-o!" yelled Fred with emphasis.
"Good show, old chap!" chimed in George.
Ron gave a loud "Whoop!", throwing a fist high up in the air.
As Harry started to walk back to the Weasleys, he could hear much laughter with a smattering of applause echo throughout the platform, presumedly from a few of the remaining bystanders who'd witnessed the entire spectacle. Harry felt his entire face heat up, and he knew he had a silly grin plastered on his face, but he didn't care.
"Well, really Harry...it was about time!" Hermione chided, but she was smiling broadly.
"Too true, mate!" Ron said, beaming as much as Hermione.
Mrs. Weasley was explaining something to Charlie, who was chuckling and nodding his head. He gave Harry a thumbs-up as he approached. As the noise died down, the bystanders, still giggling and chatting to themselves about what they'd just witnessed, started to Apparate out.
When Harry was within grabbing distance, Mrs. Weasley pulled him into a his own bone-crushing hug, as the twins started pounding him on the back. Ron and Hermione were still smiling at him, looking almost like proud parents. He realized the irony of it all...in the beginning, it was Ginny running after his train, yet now, he was the one running after Ginny's. Funny how life changes. But he was very glad that even though many things had changed, some things –Ginny’s blushing smile flashed before him again – were still very, very much the same.