The Sugar Quill
Author: Night Zephyr (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Endangered Species  Chapter: Chapter Two: How They Kicked Uranus
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

ES 2 Fin

Disclaimer: All of Harry’s wonderful, magical world belongs to J.K. Rowling, with her truly amazing imagination, and the writing skills to present it perfectly.
(Forgot the disclaimer on the first chapter--hope this will suffice!)

A/N: Loads of thanks again to my talented and amazing betas Christina Teresa, Seakays, and sunshyndaisies!


~ Chapter Two ~

How They Kicked Uranus



Ron was too lethargic to care that the screen door had just slammed shut behind him.
He threw himself into one of the chairs at the kitchen table.

‘Was that you, Ron?” his mother yelled from somewhere in the house.

“Yes, Mum--sorry about the door, Mum!” he droned, yelling back toward the kitchen door. “You’ll have me fixing it by tomorrow anyway, Mum...” he finished under his breath.

The copy of the Daily Prophet that seemed to be open and seated by itself at the table giggled.

“How can it be so hot already?” Ron groaned. “It’s barely--what?--” he asked, squinting at the clock across the room, “--nine o’clock in the morning.” Even working in his jean shorts, trainers, and a sleeveless undershirt hadn’t helped much.

Ron had never been one for getting up early to get a jump on the day. But getting a jump on the heat when he’d been assigned to garden detail was quite another matter. He’d started at daybreak and had practically finished all of the de-gnoming, if the little buggers that were left didn’t help their kin back under the fence while he took a break from the heat. Grabbing the towel that was slung over his shoulder, he mopped his face, then threw it haphazardly over the back of his chair.

Ginny pulled the corner of the paper down long enough to look at her brother and state the obvious. “It is July.” She promptly returned to her reading.

Judging from her tone, Ron thought it safe to ask, but there hadn’t been a morning since he’d been home this summer that he hadn’t felt like either sneaking up on the headlines, if he had to deal with them himself, or letting someone else get to the paper first so he could read their mood instead. Hermione’s never afraid of what she’ll find there, he suddenly thought. She’s probably reading it right now on her beach in --whatever that place was.

“Is there...anything?” Ron asked tentatively.

Ginny seemed to understand quite clearly what he was asking. “No...no...not in the first section anyway. Unless they’ve relegated You-Know-Who to the back and the bottom now. And I doubt he’d stand for that.”

Ron shot her a sour expression. “That’s not even funny, Gin.”

Ginny shrugged and returned to her reading behind the paper as Ron stood and crossed to the icebox to pour a cold glass of pumpkin juice. He drank the glassful straight down, filled it again, and carried it back to the table. Flopping into the chair once more, Ron was distracted by a photo on the very back page of the paper held in front of him.

A very tall, woolly, ape-like creature pounded his chest, then raised his fists angrily for some ten seconds or so, dropping his gigantic arms to run into the woods behind him. From there, the creature ran out of the woods into the clearing once more in the picture and started the process again, this time turning to make a particularly disagreeable face directly at Ron.

Ron stared at the creature in alarm for a moment, then looked away to read the caption. “British zoolowizards to study behavior changes in docile creatures.” He returned his gaze to the photo again, just as the creature threw a fearsome and threatening expression at him. “Nothing docile about you, I don’t think. Hacked off about the heat too, aren’t you?”

Ginny stopped reading and flipped the corner down to look at her brother again. “Who are you talking to?” She glanced with disinterest at the picture he’d been studying and seeing that he was quite involved in the back page, Ginny folded the Prophet backwards and shoved it across the table to him.

“Actually, I was done looking at his pretty face,” Ron said, but he pulled the front page up to read it nonetheless.

Ginny dragged a bowl in front of her from those set out on the table. She grabbed the open box of Flickett’s Flakelets and poured herself some, then got milk from the icebox and filled the bowl, grabbing a spoon and crunching the cereal noisily as Ron read. With apparently nothing else of interest to focus on, Ginny’s eyes inadvertently wandered to her brother’s freckled arms.

He didn’t know how long she’d been looking at the scars before he noticed. “They’re ugly, aren’t they?”

Ginny quickly glanced away. “What?”

“Get off it, Gin,” Ron said. “I saw you looking at them.”

Ordinarily, he took great care to wear long sleeves, even when it had really been too warm for them at the end of school. He wasn’t even comfortable wearing his sleeves rolled up like he used to, but would just leave the long sleeves down, open and loose while everyone else sported their short-sleeved t-shirts. Dr. Ubbly’s Unctious Unction had done what it could, but the trailing red welts left from the slashes had turned into raised, pinkish scars nonetheless.

Ron stared a hole through Ginny until she finally gave in.

“I was just seeing if they were going away at all,” Ginny admitted. “Do they hurt?”

“No. Not really,” Ron said. “It’s kind of odd, though. Sometimes I get these strange pulling sensations, like there were strings in my arms tugging on my brain, if that makes any sense. Madam Pomfrey said that should go away.”

“Should?” Ginny questioned.

“Yeah,” Ron snorted. “Should. I didn’t much like the sound of that, either.”

“But didn’t Madam Pomfrey tell you she could get rid of the scars when we go back to Hogwarts in the fall?” Ginny pushed her cereal bowl out of the way and peered more closely--she seemed to expect him to draw back because this was the first time Ron had let her see the scars at all.

Ron remembered that Harry had told him Ginny was with them when the brain attacked Ron and slashed into his skin, but Ron still wasn’t comfortable with anyone inspecting the scars that studiously--even Ginny. It made him feel...open... somehow--as if they could almost see inside of him and see what he was thinking. As if it wasn’t bad enough just to be self-conscious about how hideous they were...

“That’s what she said,” Ron confirmed. “Said she had to let them heal more and let the skin settle into place, whatever that means. But if she can’t fix them better, don’t bother buying me anything with short sleeves for Christmas--because I won’t be wearing it. And swim shorts are definitely out.”

Ginny tilted her head, looking up at him sincerely. “They’re not that bad.”

“Really?” Ron said. “Wouldn’t you like some then, crawling all the way up around your arms and across your chest?”

Ginny said nothing, but winced at the thought.

“And you know the worst part, Gin?” Ron asked, slapping the newspaper onto the table. “I don’t even remember how they got there aside from they told me it was a brain, whatever that means, and everyone’s been told not to tell me anything else because they might make matters worse. How lucky can I get, eh?” he asked sarcastically.

“Well, people aren’t trying to keep from telling you because they don’t want to, it’s just--” Ginny began.

“I know, I know,” Ron interrupted irritably. “They’re trying to help me, right? Good thing they’re not actually trying to keep me in the dark or anything...Do you know what it’s like to wake up in the hospital wing--your best friend’s godfather is dead, your other best friend is half dead herself, your sister has a broken ankle, two others who were with you are badly injured, you yourself are covered in slashes and you have a headache so bad you can’t see straight--and you don’t remember one bloody thing about how it all happened? It’s enough to drive you completely mad, Gin. You oughtta know.”

“Yeah--I know,” Ginny said dryly. “Now try finding out that you’re the one that caused all the pain and the fear--and you still don’t know how it happened until everyone explains it to you after it’s all over.”

The somber look on his sister’s face tugged at Ron’s heart. He knew he shouldn’t have brought up the Chamber of Secrets the instant it slipped out of his mouth. “But remember that Harry and I were the first ones to fill you in once we were all out of the Chamber. I would have told you before that, though, Gin, if I’d known. I would have gotten through to you somehow--you know I would have. ”

“And I believe you,” Ginny said. “But this could hurt you, Ron--it’s different. Madam Pomfrey told us. It could hurt your mind--your thoughts. Your telling me about the diary could have only helped.”

Ron just shook his head in disgust. “I couldn’t even get Luna to tell me--I thought maybe her mind was off chasing Smoky Kornacks or whatever she calls them when they told everyone else not to talk to me about it.”

“You asked Luna?” Ginny said incredulously, trying to stifle a giggle. Something about her brother trying to avoid Luna’s adoring looks at him while attempting to get information he wanted just struck her funny, in spite of the seriousness of the moment.

“I figured I’d take a shot,” Ron said defensively, sensing her amusement. “Ha ha, Ginny. It’s so funny I think I’d rather go hang out in the heat with the gnomes.” He stood, gulping down the rest of his pumpkin juice, then grabbed the towel from the back of his chair. Throwing it over his shoulder, he stalked across the kitchen and out of the door, letting it slam behind him once again.

Ginny appeared to feel badly after her giggle slipped out. She called out to him once, but he ignored her.

“Ron, stop slamming that door!” Mrs. Weasley called from wherever she’d been earlier.

Ginny sat quietly for a moment, apparently thinking. “It wasn’t him this time, Mum,” she called. “It was me--I slammed the door.”

~~~***~~~

She’d been mulling it over in her mind all day, ever since her talk with Ron this morning. She remembered too well the horrible feeling of helplessness and the complete humiliation that had washed over her afterwards, once she’d found out all that had happened and her part in it. It was she who had been possessed by Voldemort, she who was forced to do his will in the Chamber of Secrets, she who had been used to lure Harry there to face his fate.

Voldemort’s possession of Harry’s mind this past year had brought it all to the surface again. She’d thought that time might make the memories easier to bear. But she was wrong. Perhaps some of the details had dulled a bit in her mind by now; yet like the vines that ever so slowly choked the oak tree outside her window day by day and year by year, the thoughts and emotions never ceased intertwining and striving to smother her. The memories no longer constantly overwhelmed her with blinding pain, but they stabbed at her from time to time with brutal and jagged thrusts--he would never let her forget, and he would never let her be sure it could never happen again....

Ginny found herself on her bare feet, walking the hallway, climbing the stairs to the uppermost landing, and knocking on the door, which swung open at her touch.

No matter how many times she’d been there, the shock of that much orange hitting her senses at once always stunned her. The Cannons players on the ceiling swooped and dove among the stars that Ron had charmed to shine at night in homage to the ceiling of the Great Hall. She focused on the players to bring herself back to the moment at hand.

Ron lay stretched on his side on the bed, his hair still wet from showering after an early-evening dip in the pond out back; his skin was tinged pink from the July sun that had glared down on him for more than half of the day. In shorts and an undershirt again, he seemed to want to make the most of feeling the cool summer breeze that occasionally blew the orange curtains several feet into the room from the wide-open windows.

“If you climbed this far, I reckon I’d better let you come in,” he said to her jokingly, looking up from the Cannons Quarterly lying open on the bed in front of him. Ron threw his feet to the floor and walked to stand in front of one of the windows, his fingers laced behind his head, reveling in the cool air hitting his body. “You know, Ginny, we pay for it with the heat all day, but there is nothing--nothing --that feels as good as the night breeze like this. I hope it’s still nice like this at night when Hermione comes.”

Hermione again, she thought, rolling her eyes though he couldn’t see. “I know,” she said quietly, walking in to settle herself in a tattered old squashy orange chair Ron had rescued from the neighbors’ lawn when they moved. Ginny heard gentle scraping noises beyond the ceiling overhead, then a loud ‘thunk’ followed by a clatter--she had always wondered how Ron managed to sleep with all the racket the ghoul in the attic made. But then, she supposed it was the price one paid to get your own room when you were the last in a long line of Weasley males.

“The house is bloody quiet without Fred and George here a lot of the time, isn’t it?” Ron asked. The twins had taken a small back room in their Diagon Alley joke shop premises and fashioned it into a small apartment of sorts. The two of them often stayed there overnight during the week or when they were up until all hours designing the next new height of trickery. They did, however, have a penchant for showing up to stay at home on those evenings when Mrs. Weasley was cooking what her children thought of as some of her more ‘amazing’ meals--how the twins knew just when that would happen was anybody’s guess. “I reckon most of the time the quiet’s a blessing, but it’s certainly weird.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ginny agreed. “I think my heart’s stronger now, though--not always skipping a beat whenever one of their explosions rock the walls.”

“So what are you up to?” Ron asked her, wandering back to sit on the edge of his bed.
“Mom send you to pass out the chores list for tomorrow?”

“No--don’t remind me,” Ginny said. “I only had to rearrange the bookshelves and wash every little thing on them today--which would have been fine, but the figurines kept coming to life and whining and yelling when I put them in the water. Tomorrow I have to clean out the downstairs closet--you know, the one that my brothers have shoved everything into for years when it was their turn to clean the living room?”

Ron tried his best to look appalled. “Maybe your other brothers did that. But me? You know I’d never--”

“Shut it now,” she said dryly, “before some ancient evil curse comes over you that turns the tongues of all liars to stone.”

Ron looked at her, alarmed. “Ergh! Blimey, Gin. See if I mess with you again.”

Ginny smiled sweetly. “That’s the point.”

“So you’re just in for a visit then? Serious boredom?” Ron asked.

“No. Serious thinking, actually. I came to tell you, you were right.”

He grinned smugly. “Oh, now we’re talking! About what this time?”

“About my first year with the diary--you were right--you would have told me if you’d known--I know you would have. There was no one who could help me then--but I’m someone who can help you now. For that--I’m willing to talk--if you’re sure you want to take the chance on problems later.”

“Not--the DoM?” Ron asked, incredulous and eager. “You will? You are??”

“I’ll tell you what I know--which isn’t all of it, remember,” Ginny warned. “The Death Eaters finally got to me, too--long before it was all over, from what I’ve heard.”

“But at least you’ve heard!” Ron said excitedly. “You can put the whole night together with what you know and what they’ve told you. People have been looking at me oddly since and treating me like they have to pussyfoot around me all the time with what they say--it’s bloody awful! Especially when I don’t know why. It feels like...it feels like I was...I don’t know, like something was really wrong with me--like I’d grown two heads or something.”

Ginny considered what he’d said. “Well, it wasn’t quite that bad.”

Ron reached over and yanked open a drawer in his bedside table. “Here-- special occasion--long as they keep you talking...” He pulled out a bagful of Bertie Bott’s Beans and threw them to Ginny, grabbing another already-opened bag from the drawer for himself. Ron seized his pillows and propped them at the foot of the bed under his elbows, stretching out again and obviously preparing for a good, long listen.

Ginny took a deep breath and let it out. “So how far do you remember?”

He knitted his brows in thought. “Really only up to landing in London with the Thestrals. You know, I’ve never been that afraid of heights, but I remember it being just a bit unnerving when I couldn’t even see what was keeping me aloft. Good thing Harry told me there was some kind of beast I was riding on, because if it had just been those other two--Neville and that mental case Luna--I never would have let those things lift me off the ground.”

She smiled a little. “Do you remember the phone booth?” Ginny asked. “You know, the one Dad takes us in when we go to the Ministry?”

“I remember going in it with Dad a long time ago,” Ron said rather sadly. “But I don’t remember getting in with you and Harry and Hermione and everyone.” He sat up and scrabbled around in the still-open bedside table drawer for a moment. “I have this.”

Ron help up a badly battered little silver badge that had printed on the front:

Ron Weasley
Rescue Miss


“I know it’s supposed to say Rescue Mission, but something nicked off the corner with the ‘i-o-n’,” Ron said, rubbing the badge with his pillowslip to shine off the fingerprints. “Considering how it turned out for Sirius, it’s scarily accurate.” He continued to gaze at it oddly as Ginny continued.

“Well, as far as I know, you seemed awake and aware far longer than landing with the Thestrals,” Ginny said. “But it must have been when they hit you in the head that it erased some of your earlier memories.”

“I rather figured out the ‘blow to the head’ part from the killer headache when I woke up,” Ron said.

“Well, let me tell it in order so I don’t get it all confused.”

Ginny proceeded to recount all of the events of their adventure in the Department of Mysteries, from the elevator through the Atrium, through the whirling circular room of doors. She told Ron of some of the rooms they encountered, with Harry trying to discern with each if it was the one he had seen in his dream or not.

Ginny, who had been tossing a Bertie Botts’ bean in her mouth every once in a while, suddenly made a terrible face.

Ron noticed. “What’d you get? Sardine? Those are bloody awful!”

“No, I wish I could say it was only the sweets,” Ginny said. “I was just thinking about what happened next, our first time through the Brain Room. You’ll find out why I don’t like to think about it too hard--just wait.” Ginny continued on, telling about Hermione marking the doors with her fiery X’s so that they could tell where they’d been.

“Bloody brilliant, she is,” Ron put in.

Somehow Ginny knew her brother wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to say something like that. Hopefully, it would distract him from her description of the Room with the Veil long enough for her to get farther along in the story. She recounted Harry’s and Ron’s attempts to get into the locked room, which were to no avail. Then she told him about the Time Room and she described in detail her own fascination with the hummingbird that continually changed from an egg to a bird to an egg and back again.

Finally, they came to the room that Harry had been looking for: the room from his dream, the room where he believed he’d find Sirius and from where they would rescue him and get away--the Room of Prophecies. Ginny described how heartbroken and yet confused Harry had looked when Sirius was nowhere to be found.

“You found his prophecy then, you know,” Ginny said.

“I did?” Ron asked, shifting onto one elbow. “Neville let something slip about prophecies once. How did I ‘find’ a prophecy?”

Ginny explained about the rows upon rows of glass spheres, towering to the church-high ceiling, telling Ron of how he’d been the only one tall enough to spot Harry’s prophecy. And that the moment Harry had taken it from the shelf, Lucius Malfoy and the Death Eaters appeared, surrounding them.

Trying to make Ron understand the feeling of helplessness they all felt, Ginny watched his brows furrowing deeper as she spoke. “Didn’t we even try to get away?” he asked, sounding rather irritated.

“There were twice as many of them, Ron--grownups-- trained killers,” Ginny explained. “We were cornered--you could see their wand-tips glowing, pointing at our hearts.”

“I should have tried--” Ron began.

“You started to,” Ginny finished. “That horrible Bellatrix woman was talking baby talk, mocking Harry. Harry knew you were getting hacked off because you were squirming next to him--he told you not to do anything yet. If it had been anyone but Harry...”

Ron narrowed his eyes. “Go on,” he said tersely.

Realizing what kind of a mood this was putting her brother in--not that he could do anything about it at the moment--Ginny decided to skip over the part where Bellatrix Lestrange had wanted to torture her. She did tell of how Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy started squabbling with one another as Harry kept them talking, while the rest of their group shifted uncomfortably and tried to think of what in the world they could do to escape. Ginny told Ron what happened when two of the prophecies were smashed.

“Hermione was in the middle, behind Harry. The next thing we knew, Hermione was leaning toward all of us, passing on Harry’s message to be ready for his signal with the Reductor Curse,” Ginny recounted. “So that’s exactly what we did. Once Harry yelled, ‘Now!’ we all blasted the shelves in six different places. All at once it was raining heavy pieces of shelves and glass everywhere. There were voices all around us and wispy white figures, all dancing among the Death Eaters who were trying to get at us.”

“And so we ran?” Ron asked, a strange expression on his face. “I remember running in the dark with pieces of things falling on my head and you were there. But I thought I’d dreamt it.”

“Do you remember stopping and changing directions then?” Ginny asked.

Her brother sat silently for a moment, thinking. “I remember suddenly not knowing what to do. Did that happen--were we lost? Did we go the wrong way?”

“No, we didn’t--” Ginny said, “--Luna did. When we got to the end of the row where the Death Eaters had trapped us, we were all running with our arms over our heads because of everything raining down on us--it was dark and so hard to see. She was a few steps ahead of us and we saw her run to the left instead of the right. We yelled after her, but it was too loud for her to hear. So you grabbed my wrist and yanked me along with you to follow her.”

Ron was grimacing. “Oh, something must have already hit me on the head by then to make me think of following her. Please tell me that’s what happened.”

“No--I’m pretty sure you were still in your right mind then,” Ginny explained. “And you have been known to follow people to make sure they were safe--not that I would know.” She looked at him with eyebrows raised.

Furrowing his brow and ignoring her at first, he returned his gaze to the little silver badge before speaking grumpily. “All right, then what?”

“By the time we’d caught up to Luna, the Death Eaters were right behind us. We ducked into a dark space behind a shelf and they ran right by. We were going to try and double back to head the direction we should have gone in the first place, because we hadn’t even seen Harry or Hermione or Neville. But as soon as we got out into the hallway again, we could hear their footsteps at the end coming back toward us. So we opened the first unlocked door we came to and stepped inside.”

By the end of her description, Ron was thoroughly engrossed again in what she was saying. “Is that the room where the thing attacked me?”

“No, we’re getting to ‘the thing’,” Ginny said. “But I know for a fact that it was in this room where you mentally checked out--in the Planet Room.”

“Uranus!” Ron said loudly, startling even himself. “I remember Uranus!”

“Figures that’d be the part you’d remember,” Ginny said, shaking her head. “By the end of this, we’re in mortal peril, you and I are both injured, Luna has to save us, and you remember Uranus. You told Harry all about Uranus once we got out, too--fixated much, are you?”

But Ron hadn’t even heard the last sentence--his listening had apparently screeched to a halt in the middle somewhere. “Luna had to save us?” Ron said in disbelief. “How did that happen?”

“Well, if you’d shut up for a while, you might find out. I’m trying to tell you,” Ginny said, slightly exasperated.

“All right, all right. I’ll listen,” Ron said, stuffing his chin into the pillow to cover his mouth after throwing in about ten Bertie Botts Beans.

“So we stepped into the Planet Room and there was nothing there--nothing!” Ginny said. “Not even a floor. We stepped off into nothingness and we were floating--there was no gravity--and because we’d pushed off so hard from the doorway without knowing, we were floating apart quickly--in different directions. The door closed and after a short time of floating in pure darkness, the planets started to glow and come into focus--some far away and some very close. It was so, so beautiful if it hadn’t have been so scary. You yelled for us to stay together and when Luna yelled “How?” you told us to wait a minute. So you got out your wand and tried the Relashio Charm. It shot sparks that anyone would be able to see, but we thought we were the only ones in the room and we found the spark jet would push us in a certain direction. You yelled for us to do “Relashio Continuus!” which gave us a slow but steady push. That way we could move ourselves closer together.”

“At least I did something to help get us out,” Ron said quietly, sounding slightly disgusted with himself.

“By then, we were out near the rings of Saturn,” Ginny continued, shifting around in her chair. “There was a flash of light from somewhere--it was like one of the stars exploded or something, but then everything went dark again, the planets, the stars, all of it. We just all held onto one another and floated in the darkness, waiting to see what would happen next because there was nothing else we could do. When it had been silent for a few minutes, you tried “Lumos” to see where we were so that we didn’t crash into a planet. It was a good thing that the planets there didn’t seem to have their own gravity like they do in space.”

“The exploding star did all that?” Ron asked.

“No, because when you lit your wand, someone yelled, “Over there!’ and it was then that we knew it was the Death Eaters opening the door and coming in that had made the light,” Ginny said. “We didn’t know how the Death Eaters were moving so fast in the room, but they’d probably been there before, or at least had been told what to do. But we could see they were coming our way much too fast for us to do anything about it--especially when the only way that we knew to get anywhere was to use sparks and they could see that.”

Ron was shaking his head. “I can’t believe I can’t remember any of this. You’re sure I didn’t get clubbed in the head with something in the Prophecy Room?

“You certainly acted like you knew what you were doing up to this point, so if you can do that after being clubbed, more power to you,” Ginny said. “Anyway, we were very close to Jupiter just from floating and Luna had an idea. There’s this huge storm on Jupiter--on the real planet out in space it’s three hundred eighteen times as big as Earth, right? You probably learned that in Astronomy.”

“Three hundred eighteen times as big as Earth?” Ron asked, looking impressed, but suddenly his demeanor changed to a look of self-assurance. “Yeah--yeah, that’s what we learned. I knew that.”

Ginny furrowed her brow this time--learned it--right. “Luna’s idea was to try and make the Death Eaters believe that we were swallowed up by the storm on Jupiter. It wasn’t as big as the one in space, of course, but we still didn’t dare get too near it because we had no idea what might happen. If we could look like we were on course for it, then hide behind Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, we could wait for the one Death Eater who was way out in front to pass us and then push him in.”

“Luna thought of all that?”

“Well--no. She thought of making it look like we’d been swallowed up by the storm. I thought of actually pushing the Death Eater into it,” Ginny said proudly.

“Good job, Gin,” Ron congratulated. “You’re learning all the right stuff from me.”

Ginny rolled her eyes and stood up to stretch. “If that worked, we figured we had time to get to the backside of Jupiter and float through Uranus to hide.”

“What? Float through Uranus? ” Ron asked. “Whose ruddy idea was that?”

“Luna’s and mine--and yeah, that’s what you said when we suggested it, too,” Ginny assured him. “Uranus is a gas giant, remember. There’s nothing solid about it. But it’s made of poisonous gas, so we had to be able to hold our breath that long or use the Bubble Head Charm Luna conjured, because we didn’t know exactly how long it would take us to get back out again.”

“Wait--wait--hold up here,” Ron said, holding both palms facing forward. “Does anybody but the three of us know that we floated through Uranus?”

“I don’t know--Harry and Hermione, Neville. Probably Dumbledore, he knows everything...” Ginny counted. She stopped to glance at his irritable expression, then sighed in frustration. “It’s a planet, Ron.”

“I know--but it just doesn’t sound too good,” he said, still looking worried. “And the fact that it’s a ‘gas giant’ makes things even worse. Think of what Malfoy could do with that--or, bloody hell--swear to me you’ll never tell Fred and George!”

“Ron, I think you’re the only one who has this problem with Uranus!” Ginny scolded.

“I am not! Harry thinks it’s funny, too. But not when it’s directed at us.”

“Well, after what happened to all of us, I’m pretty sure Harry doesn’t find it very funny any more. Do you want to hear the rest of this or not? Because I’m thirsty and I’m about this close--” Ginny held her thumb and forefinger up about an inch apart, “-- to getting up and leaving, if you’d rather talk to yourself about Uranus.”

“Okay, okay,” Ron said, half sitting and reaching to his bedside table to grab a glass and hand it to her. “And here-- I’ll let you share my pumpkin juice, but it’s sort of, erm...warm.” Ron then settled back down into his pillows. “So her plan didn’t work and then someone banged me over the head...” Ron speculated.

Ginny took a long draught of the pumpkin juice, warm or not, and then held the glass in her lap. “Well..not exactly. Her plan did work, to some extent. We did manage to lure the first Death Eater close enough for him to look into the storm. Then we shot our way out, all shoved with our legs, and pushed him into the middle of the storm. The only thing was, doing that pushed us out of position to just float our way around Jupiter without them seeing, so we almost had to swim through space and hope we were fast enough. Luna conjured her Bubble Head Charm for all of us, but then it was so cloudy and murky through the gases that none of us could see. It was right when we came out that it happened.”

“What? Your ankle?” Ron asked, glancing toward where her leg curled under her in the chair after she sat down once more.

“No. Your head.”

“But how did they-- if I had a Bubble Head on?” Ron questioned.

“That’ll keep gases out, Ron, not other spells,” Ginny said. “What happened was that you wanted to make sure that it was safe for us to emerge from the gases. We were nearing the outer limits of the Solar System and we thought there might be a way out because we had seen the end of the stars and there was no other indication that there was anything besides our own solar system in there with us. So we thought if maybe we could just get to Pluto...We were inside the far side of Uranus, we’d only have Neptune and Pluto to go if the coast was clear, then maybe we could find a door somewhere out there.”

“So then I came out of Uranus--the planet-- first?” Ron cringed at his own words. “I’m trying here, Gin. I’m really trying to maintain.”

“I know. Duly noted,” Ginny said, trying to stifle a giggle at his efforts. “And well, you thought you were going to come out first.”

“I thought I was?”

“Well, the Bubble Head bubble was driving me mad, and I wanted to get it off of me, so even though you wanted me to stay hidden in the gases, I kind of went on out anyway.”

“Before I checked for Death Eaters?”

“I told you--I felt like I couldn’t breathe in there and I had to have it off, so I just sort of floated out first and reversed the charm,” Ginny said. “So you floated out and reversed yours to yell at me, and we never really checked to see if anyone else was about and then--they were right there. You hit one of them with “Stupefy!” before he could get a spell off on you. The other one actually fired at me, but you pushed yourself in front of me and the spell hit you in the back of the head. I think he said Cerebro Quebrado! or something like that, but all I remember was hearing a terrible crunching noise in mid-air, then your head crashed into my chest, and we both went flying off into space, so I held onto your shoulders because you were out--completely.”

“You heard a crunching noise?” Ron asked, wincing, then shuddering at the words.

“From what Madam Pomfrey said, it was probably the bones in your skull--fracturing.”
Ginny said quietly. “I’m so sorry, Ron. It’s one of the reasons I had to tell you--they hit you because they were aiming for me.”

Ron looked as if he wasn’t feeling especially well, but he looked her solidly in the eye when he spoke. “It wasn’t your fault. It was the bloody stinking Death Eaters’.”

“But if I hadn’t--”

“We were doing the best we could do to survive, Gin,” Ron said. “That’s all anyone can ask of themselves--and thank you. But that’s the last time you’ll apologize to me, understand? Is that where I got the slashes, too?

‘No, that came later.” Ginny was shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

“So what happened after that? Did you blast the git who got me, I hope?” Ron asked, looking as if he was really anxious to hear that she had.

Ginny glanced up at her brother and had to give in to a tiny smile at his eager expression. “Right in the face.”

“Now I’m feeling better,” Ron said, sitting back and letting out a great sigh.

“Luna must have been able to see what was going on and she stayed hidden, so the Death Eater that hit you didn’t even see her. When I saw that he was following us to where we’d floated away, I pretended to be knocked out, too--until he came right up on us. And then--blam!--a Firestorm Hex, right in the kisser,” she said quietly, but feeling rather proud of herself.

“A Firestorm Hex? Who taught you that? That’s a sixth-year lesson!” Ron said suspiciously.

Ginny didn’t want to get anyone in trouble--but then, this was Ron--she was probably safe. “Just because Fred and George have left school doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten everything, you know. I was going to show everyone at the next DA meeting--and we did end up needing it.”

Suddenly Ron’s face broke into a wide grin. “Excellent, Gin! Couldn’t have done better myself! So that took care of the Death Eaters, right? And then we got out?”

“It took care of that Death Eater--I think I blasted him back to Mars--he looked like a comet all on his own with the fiery trail and all. But there were more coming.”

“Bloody hell, how many were there?”

“Four--by our count at the end,” Ginny said. “The one we pushed into the storm, the one I blasted in the face...But there were still two more, and we knew they were there even though we couldn’t see them because we heard them shouting to each other after they saw all the blasts between us and the other Death Eaters.”

The tension of recalling it all was getting to Ginny. She couldn’t stay seated any more and stood, throwing her bag of Bertie Botts beans into the chair and beginning to pace back and forth in front of Ron’s spot on the bed. At first she carried the glass of pumpkin juice along, but then she set it down on the bedside table; she wrung her hands as she spoke and wandered back and forth in the room.

“I dragged you back toward Luna. I didn’t want to fire sparks and show the Death Eaters exactly where we were, but there was no other way to move you. You were awake and talking mad by then, so I knew you were in trouble. Once we met up, Luna and I dragged you between us, but we figured there was no way you could do magic well enough to perform the Relashio Charm, so things went a bit slower than planned with only the two of us. The two Death Eaters behind us almost caught up by the time we got to Pluto. In fact, one of them got close enough to grab my ankle and when I kept trying to kick him in the face, he twisted it so hard that I felt it break. Luna hit him with “Stupefy!”, then she pulled you and I both back out of the way. She waited for them to move closer again, then she cast Reducto Magnamus! and blew up Pluto right in the one bloke’s face! It was incredible, Ron! You’d never suppose Luna could blow up a planet...”

“So I was awake then? What was I doing--just floating along?” Ron said, irritable again.

“You had a skull fracture, Ron,” Ginny explained exasperatedly. “You weren’t in any condition to go playing the hero.”

Ron’s grim expression didn’t change. “That’s all I was doing?”

“Basically, just floating along, yes.” Ginny wasn’t about to bring up his blibbering topics of conversation or his giggling, not if she could get around it. “The fourth Death Eater was blasted away by the explosion, so we had a little bit of time, if nothing else. We kept moving outward past Pluto’s orbit and finally we felt a wall, where we crawled along until we found a door handle. That’s when we spilled through onto the floor of the room with all the doors. And that’s where the others were.”






//
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