Man hands on misery to man./

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

—Phillip Larkin, This Be the Verse


"So tell me," Ginny said, her eyes shining with glee, as the Weasleys piled into one of their father's many magically-augmented vehicles. This one was a Ford Anglia that was stylized to look like a wooded groove on the inside. "What was Harry Potter like?"

"Uh," Ron said gracefully. "He was. Uh."

"Now, Ginny," said their mum. "Don't harass your brother. I'm sure Hogwarts is quite a large school, and all sorts of people must've been nipping at Harry Potter's heels."

"Mum, I read Ron's letters," Ginny said. "Ron said he spent loads of time with Harry Potter. Were you lying to me, Ron? Fred, George, was Ron lying to me?"

Ron nervously looked at his brothers, who had not dispersed into the wooded groove within the Ford Anglia. Fred and George were pretending not to hear but also paying a ton of attention, and Percy was hovering over them.

"He was. Uh."

"A faithful believer in Jesus Christ," Percy said.

"Yes, but what kind of believer, really?" Ginny said, looking at Ron.

"Ginny, darling, you've been spending too much time with the Lovegoods," their mum said. "They're putting all sorts of dangerous thoughts into your head."

"Mum, you fought You-Know-Who," Ginny said. Ron admired her spirit. If he'd talked to Mum in that tone, he would have gotten a smack.

"Yes, Ginny, dear," Mum said, "but I wasn't boasting about it. And if Harry Potter's a smart boy I'm sure he wasn't advertising whatever sort of Christian he was to all of Britain."

Percy coughed politely into his hand as Ron's mouth dropped open and Fred and George started giggling.

"You alright back there?" called their father from the tree where the steering wheel was.

"We're fine, Arthur," their mum said. "Oh dear. Am I to assume that this fit of the giggles means that—"

"Yeah, uh, Harry's very Christian," Ron said. He knew his sister had all sorts of odd hero-worship ideas of Harry Potter. Wotan's beard, he'd had certain notions about Harry that had been destroyed within the first ten minutes of their conversation. "Sorry, Gin."

"But is he a Ministry Christian? Does he want to get married in the church?"

"Ginevra Weasley!" Mum said. "You are eleven years old! Why are you thinking of marriage already? Where are you getting such… grown-up ideas?"

"Luna said that getting married in the Church is a way to bind your wild magic and become subservient to the demiurge," Ginny said without a trace of irony. "I figure she doesn't have any idea what she's talking about, but I figure if I do ever get married it won't be in a church."

"Ron, dear," Mum said, turning to him, apparently having decided that Ginny was a lost cause, "Have you spoken much with Harry Potter, or are you hearing these things about him second-hand?"

"Oh, Ron's one of Harry's best friends," Fred said.

"His only real friend, more like," George said.

"Fred. What a horrible thing to say," Mum said.

"I'm Fred," said Fred. "He's George."

"Did you assume I was Fred because I said something mean, mum?" George asked.

"Well. I never. I."

Ron and Ginny started giggling at this. Even Percy cracked a smile.

"I don't think I'm Harry's only friend," Ron said. "Hermione's his friend, too."

Fred snorted. "Miss Granger is your friend, and Harry's debate partner," he said.

"I don't think a normal person would think they had a friendship," George added.

"They could simply have an odd friendship," Mum said.

"They had a debate about the merits of devil-worship in the Great Hall," Percy said.

It was a rare occasion to see mum struck speechless.

"…I think he's friends with Neville," Ron said helplessly.

"Ron, you are his only friend," Fred said.

"Everyone else is more of an apostle, or an accuser," said George.

"I really don't think that's true," Ron said. "I mean…"

"This, I think, is what Fred and George are getting at," Percy said thoughtfully. "As a prefect, younger students often come to me with questions on how they might navigate their friendships, how they should handle certain delicate issues and matters of trust. They tell me, in abstract, that their friends have told them certain secrets or insecurities, and they ask me how to best deal with such delicate matters. What strikes me most about Harry Potter is that the only thing he reveals to most people is his conviction and his faith, but beyond his utter righteousness it's impossible to know what he's thinking."

"That's not true," Ron said. "It's pretty easy to tell when he's about to do something incredibly stupid."

"For you," Percy said. "But in this year alone I learned to be more afraid of Harry Potter's hijinks than Fred and George, simply because he thinks he's on a righteous crusade."

"Is he calling us a known element?" Fred said in disbelief. "He thinks we're predictable. George, he thinks we're predictable."

"That simply won't do at all," George said.

"I am right here," said Mum. "I can hear you. I am your mother and I will ground you for the entire summer, so help me Freya—"

"And what I'm getting," said Ginny, "Is that Harry Potter doesn't have too many friends."

"Ginevra Weasley, you are not going to harass the poor boy—"

"I just want to be his friend, mum," said Ginny sweetly. "He sounds lonelier than Luna. Mostly because Luna has coping mechanisms that don't alienate people, but, well—"

"I hope you know, young lady, that this means I will not be teaching you about love potions until your wedding day."

"I want to be his friend, mum. Merlin! Why do you always think…"

"Because I saw you accidental-magic up a giant heart that said 'Harry + Ginny 5ever' for your fifth birthday."

"I was five."

Mum sighed. "I do hope your father installed a hot spring in this car. Ten minutes with the five of you, and I've the worst headache."