The Sugar Quill
Author: ishie (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Weasleys Walking: Two Bushes under the Rain  Chapter: 01. Arrivals
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Two Bushes under the Rain

Two Bushes under the Rain

 

Alone and alone nine nights I lay
Between two bushes under the rain

            William Butler Yeats,

“Two Songs Rewritten for the Tune’s Sake”

 

------------------

 

Chapter One: Arrivals

 

20 June 1993

 

Late afternoon sunlight streamed through the skylights over the tracks inside King’s Cross Station. The platform was mostly deserted, due in part to the placard posted at the entrance that notified travellers of delayed arrivals on tracks nine and ten. A few people had ignored the sign and stood in small groups along the length of the platform. Three-quarters of the way to the end, two redheads sat cross-legged on the floor, backs against a concrete pillar. The smaller of the two, a little girl about eleven years old, was rolling a large clear globe back and forth as she stared across the tracks.

 

“Mum?” she asked.

 

“Yes, dear,” her mother replied distractedly. She was rooting around in a ludicrously oversized crocheted bag, pulling items out seemingly at random and stuffing them back inside.

 

“Does it hurt?”

 

“I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about, Ginny. Where is that…? I know your father put a packet of those crimps in here somewhere!”

 

Ginny scooped the globe up in one hand and tucked it into her trouser pocket. She started picking at her nails. “Crisps, Mum. He said they’re called crisps because they’re crispy potatoes. So, does the Sorting hurt? I heard Fred tell Ron before school started that it’s scary and it only smarts for a few minutes, but when Ron wrote to me he never said anything about it hurting, just that he didn’t like everybody staring at him.”

 

Her mother sighed, “No, dear, it doesn’t hurt. Honestly, I don’t know why you two insist on believing everything Fred tells you.”

 

Abandoning her quest for the crisps, Molly Weasley set aside her bag and looked at her youngest child. “The Sorting is a very simple ritual. They’ll put the Sorting Hat on your head and it will rummage around your mind a bit; the Founders themselves enchanted it, you know. The Hat will decide which House you will join then shout it for the entire hall to hear. You might feel a bit of a tickle while it’s talking, but it’s quite pleasant, as I recall. Why do you ask? Are you worried about starting Hogwarts in the fall?”

 

“Not really.” But Ginny was worried. It was exciting, finally leaving the Burrow and joining her brothers at school, but it frightened her all the same. She wished she had someone she could talk to about it, but her mother just wouldn’t understand. For the past three months, she had been scolding her for poor posture and unladylike behaviour (“Really, what will your professors think of you, slumping in your seat and picking at your nails!”) or sniffling loudly while hugging Ginny to her breast. And when she took a break from that, she was reminding Ginny how much fun she would have, making new friends and learning new spells.

 

Ginny’s heart sped up a little as she thought about the coming year. It had been lonely at the Burrow, even with her parents in residence. For as long as Ginny could remember, Ron had always been right there with her. They had sat lessons together at the kitchen table, giggling over the graffiti their older brothers had left in the tatty old books, and raced through their chores in order to spend more time playing Aurors by the pond. They snuck into their dad’s workshop to play with his Muggle artefacts. They spied on their brothers when they came home for holidays, especially when girlfriends came to visit. Ginny even missed arguing with Ron over dumb stuff, like whose turn it was to de-gnome the garden and who should take the blame for breaking a picture of Horrid Great-Aunt Helewys during a particularly heated wrestling match.

 

Then, suddenly, Ron was gone and Ginny was all alone. He was at school, making friends (with Harry Potter, even!), learning how to do magic and having so much fun without her that she could have cried. Ron’s letters home were full of stories about flying lessons, poltergeists pelting students in the hallways, adventures with Harry, cheering with the rest of Gryffindor at Quidditch matches and long-winded rants about Hermione’s bossiness. He always ended each letter the same way: trying to answer Ginny’s never-ending questions and asking about all the things he had left behind, like the patch of baby horklumps they had found near the house.

 

It wasn’t the same, though, and it never would be again. Her Ron was gone. He had been her best and only friend (and she his) for as long as she could remember. She loved her other brothers, but they were all so much older than she was and didn’t spend much time with her on the rare occasions they were at home. Ron, though, he’d protected her from the twins until she learned how to defend herself. They had stomped across the tall summer grass and learned to skate on the frozen pond. Together they’d found the darkest hiding places, the muddiest puddles, the perfect branch for watching clouds float by.

 

Now, though, he had other friends. A whole other life, one where Ginny only existed as a person in letters and a character in childhood stories. In just a little while, Ron would step out through the barricade from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, and Ginny didn’t know what to expect.

 

She fidgeted around, uncrossing and stretching out her legs, trying to ignore the jiggle of anxiety that had suddenly crept into her belly. Eventually, her mother glanced at the large station clock overhead, marvelled at the time and told Ginny to stand up and act like a lady.

 

Heaving a long-suffering sigh, Ginny did as she was told, smoothing down her shirt and straightening her hair. She gasped as a thought suddenly popped into her mind.

 

“Oh! Do you think He’ll be with Ron?” she asked.

 

“Who, dear? Percy? I would imagine he’ll be with his own friends on the train.”

 

“No, Mum, Him!” Ginny rolled her eyes, before continuing in an exaggerated whisper. “Harry Potter!”

 

“Yes, he probably will be. Stop squealing! People will think you have no manners at all. Now, you leave that poor boy alone, do you hear me? He has enough to deal with as it is.”

 

As always when Molly mentioned Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, her voice softened slightly. It was the same tone she used when discussing injured animals and sick relatives. Ginny sometimes thought her mother would just take Harry home with them if she could. She had a habit of doing that, adopting people and creatures and tucking them into the family as though it wasn’t crowded enough already. It was as if she wanted to be everyone’s mother, even if they had a perfectly good one already.

 

Ginny didn’t mind, really. She knew her mother loved her and her brothers and that some people had no one like that in their lives. It warmed her to see her mother fussing over everyone, like the world couldn’t possibly be a bad place with so much love to spare.

 

“Come along, now. They’re starting to come through.”

 

Molly hurried toward where the first group of students were appearing through the barricade. Ginny lagged behind, scuffing her feet on the tiles and watching as several Ministry officials created an illusory train on track nine to fool any Muggles who might wander by and see the crowd. Soon, she was swallowed up by the clusters of students and families and lost sight of her mother. All around her, parents were hugging their children and stowing belongings on carts. She saw one tall boy walking along with at least three much smaller boys hanging from his arms and chattering away. He looked up and grinned when he noticed Ginny staring. She blushed and looked away.

 

A gap opened in the crowd ahead of her and she pushed her way through. A round-faced boy, who was struggling to pull his trunk while clamping an oversized toad to his chest, had blocked Molly’s path. By the time he was past, Ginny had managed to squeeze in next to her mother.

 

“There you are, Ginny. Do try to stick close; I don’t want you being swept away in this crush.”

 

“Yes, Mum.” Ginny rolled her eyes. It wasn’t as if anything bad would happen here, with so many people milling about and the Ministry wizards nearby.

 

“Oh, I can’t see anything in a crowd this size. Let me know if you see your brothers. Your father will be waiting with the car by the time we collect everyone.” Molly craned her neck to see around a tall, elegant wizard and down to the end of the platform. Ginny turned in the opposite direction and watched as small groups of students materialised nearby. Just then, Ron walked through the gateway and stepped onto the platform next to a bushy-haired girl. And standing on the other side of him was Harry Potter! His dark hair was sticking out all over his head and she could just make out the scar on his forehead.

 

“There he is, Mum, there he is, look! Harry Potter!” She pointed straight at him and bounced a little on the edges of her feet. “Look, Mum! I can see --”

 

“Be quiet, Ginny, and it’s rude to point.” Molly turned to greet the trio.

 

Ginny hung back, her face reddened with embarrassment, both at squealing like a little girl and at being reprimanded in front of Ron’s new friends. Harry looked at her briefly then politely thanked Molly for the Christmas gifts she had sent. The bushy-haired girl – Hermione Granger, no doubt about it, she’d recognize her anywhere what with that wild tangle of hair – smiled shyly at her but said nothing.

 

“Mini-Ginny!” Two identical voices called from either side of her and someone tugged at a lock of her hair. Grinning madly, Ginny launched herself toward the nearest voice and nearly knocked her brother George to the ground.

 

“You’re home, you’re home! Oh, I’ve missed you all terribly, but not those pranks you play. Well, maybe some of them. It was soooo boring all year. The gnomes did manage to take over the entire back garden, but that’s nothing, really. Dad and I had them sorted out in no time. Did you know Uncle Bedevere came to visit? He was even more boring than last summer. And I couldn’t even ignore him, since I was the only one there... Did you bring me any sweets from Hogsmeade?” She giggled as George clapped his hands over his ears and groaned.

 

“Please! Stop, it’s too much –” He staggered backward, still clutching his ears.

 

“Take a breath, Gin. His widdle brain can’t keep up!” Fred grabbed her up in a big bear hug while his friend Lee Jordan snickered beside him.

 

“It’s the same brain you have, dear Twin-of-Mine,” George retorted. “And yes, we did bring sweets, but you can’t have any yet. They’re packed up in our trunks. Now, Ginny, turn my lesser half loose; we’ve business to transact.” George, Fred and Lee sauntered away, calling out good-natured insults to friends as they passed.

 

Ginny turned back to where her mother was standing, hoping for another, maybe closer, glimpse of Harry Potter. But, he had already said his goodbyes and was walking into the station terminal with a bony woman, a terrifically fat boy and a grumpy-looking man. Hermione Granger was still there, although her parents were waiting right behind her, her father checking his watch impatiently. She was bossily lecturing Ron about doing homework during the holidays, and judging from the mutinous look on his face, Ron didn’t like what he heard.

 

Finally, Hermione’s parents managed to drag her away, still dispensing essay-writing tips. Mum and Percy, who had just stepped onto the platform, were piling everyone’s trunks onto several carts. Ron was staring after Hermione, shaking his head and muttering.

 

“Absolutely mental, she is. What does she expect? I’m s’posed to sit inside all summer and read boring old texts?”

 

“I hope not! You promised to teach me how to fly,” Ginny burst out. Oh, why was she so nervous! Ron couldn’t possibly have changed so much that he wouldn’t want to spend every waking moment outside like they used to.

 

“Ginny!” Ron looked at her in mock indignation. “Of course, I’m not going to! I’ve got big plans for us this summer. Wouldn’t want to learn too much anyway. My head might get too heavy and roll right off.”

 

Ginny giggled, the jiggle of anxiety in her belly finally quieting. She tucked her hand into Ron’s and squeezed. “I’m so glad you’re home, Ron,” she said quietly, looking at the ground.

 

He squeezed back. “Me too, Gin.”

 

“All right, let’s go!” Molly barked, pushing the cart in front of her as she strode down the platform. “Fred! George! We’re leaving you here if you don’t hurry up!”

 

Ron rolled his eyes and pulled at Ginny’s hand. “Come on! I want to get back to the Burrow and check on those horklumps. Did you get to see them eat anything this year?”

 

They raced along the platform, dodging carts and people. Ginny tried to tell him about the horklumps and the funny way they stalked lacewings while barely moving, but she could not squeeze the words past the bubble of giddiness rising in her throat.

 

---

 

After dinner, Ginny took a glass of milk from the icebox and walked out to sit in the garden. The meal had been a noisy affair; the kitchen didn’t feel empty anymore with four boys jockeying for position around the table. Instead of the boring conversations her parents usually had, talk had mostly centred on Hogwarts gossip: who was failing Charms, who was the best Chaser, and plenty of stories about the horrible, greasy Potions professor who apparently lived to make his students’ lives miserable. Ginny shuddered at the thought of having to sit lessons with him.

 

Ron had tried several times to talk about Harry Potter, or his other friend, Hermione Granger, but gave up when the twins wouldn’t stop teasing him. Ginny was fascinated by what little she did hear, though. Harry Potter was a legend to her and every other wizarding child in Britain. As a very small girl, she had begged for Harry stories at bedtime. On the rare occasions that she played by herself, she imagined she was a beautiful princess imprisoned in a slimy dungeon by an evil wizard. Harry Potter was always the handsome prince who rescued her. He was the bravest, smartest, most talented wizard she’d ever heard of. He’d even defeated You-Know-Who before he was out of nappies! 

 

She couldn’t wait to get Ron alone so she could hear all about what had happened at the end of the school term. She didn’t know much; her parents wouldn’t tell her anything about it, just that Ron had gotten into a spot of trouble but not injured too badly. Arthur had merely added that Ron was lucky he had such good friends, although they might be a bit too adventurous for their own safety. The night the owl had come from Hogwarts, Ginny had hidden on the stairs, listening to her mother cry in the kitchen and worrying that Ron was hurt badly. She heard the low murmur of her father’s voice as he comforted his wife, though, and that quieted her fears more than anything could. If Ron were hurt, the only sound from Arthur Weasley would be a firm command and the pop of Disapparation. That soft rumble under Molly’s quiet sobs meant that everything was fine.

 

Now, though, things were better than fine. The air was warm, the moon was full and her best friend (and favourite brother) was back home, where he belonged.

 

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Thanks to texasmagic and jaswanson for the use of their eyes for a few pages. You guys totally rox my sox! Special thanks to my SQ beta and fellow Snape-fan, Ada Kensington, for her kind words and helpful hints.

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