The Sugar Quill
Author: ishie (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Weasleys Walking: Two Bushes under the Rain  Chapter: 2. Old Majestic Things
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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 Two: Old Majestic Things

 

Footsteps thundered down the stairs, sounding for all the world like a herd of Erumpents had just escaped from the attic. Ginny raised bleary eyes to the kitchen doorway just as Ron galumphed into view. She groaned as he flopped into a chair across the table.

 

“Do you have to make so much noise? Some of us are still trying to wake up,” she growled.

 

“Well, then, maybe some of us shouldn’t stay up half the night reading someone else’s Martin Miggs!” Ron piled his plate high with sausage and eggs then took an enormous bite of toast and chewed with his mouth open. “Wanngotapondaday?”

 

“Can’t. Mum wants me to help her in the garden. Some of the vegetables are ready to pick and she reckons it would be good practice for Herbology.” She pulled a face and Ron laughed, spraying crumbs all over the table.

 

“I’ll help,” he said after washing down the toast with half a glass of milk.

 

Ginny goggled at him. “Who are you and what have you done with my brother?”

 

“Har har. Stop before I burst something laughing. Anyway, if I help, you’ll be done faster. And since I don’t have any other chores, we can spend the rest of the day at the pond.” He shrugged. “Simple, really.”

 

“All right. Just so long as you don’t stick me with the tomatoes.”

 

Confused, Ron asked, “What do you have against tomatoes?”

 

“Eurgh! They’re so squishy and leaky and I always pop some and wind up with tomato guts mashed under my nails and then my hands smell funny for hours. Plus, last time, I grabbed one with a huge wormy thing hanging out of it and it bit me. See? I’ve got a scar.” She flapped her hand in front of his face.

 

“What, all I see are freckles! You just don’t want to lug the heavy baskets around.”

 

“Nuh uh.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“Nuh UH!”

 

“That’s enough!” Molly slapped two pairs of gardening gloves onto the table. “Honestly, all you two ever do is bicker! Ron’s been home for two days and you’re already at each other’s throats. Aren’t you glad to see each other?”

 

“Yes,” they muttered in unison.

 

Molly walked away, still haranguing them under her breath. She started washing the dishes in the sink, a jet of soapy water shooting from the end of her wand.

 

Ginny looked across the table and caught Ron’s eye. They both started giggling. In truth, they really only spent about half their time fighting. It was inevitable when they spent so much time together; they both had the Prewett temper and were horribly stubborn. What Molly didn’t seem to understand though was that their petty arguments never lasted for very long. Unlike the twins and Percy, who had once spent an entire fortnight communicating through everyone else, Ron and Ginny were quick to forgive and forget. One of them would eventually tire of the silent treatment, start talking to the other, and before long, everything was completely normal again.

 

Ron dug into his breakfast, practically inhaling his food as though it had been days since he’d last eaten, rather than a matter of hours. Mildly disgusted, Ginny picked up her empty porridge bowl and carried it to the sink. One thing she hadn’t missed about having boys in the house was how gross they were. Mealtimes had been civilised, the bathroom only needed cleaning occasionally instead of nearly every day and she hadn’t once stuck her hand in a puddle of unidentifiable goo. (Unless you counted the time she had stumbled and fallen onto a large garden slug because she had been busy daydreaming about being rescued by a certain dashing, bespectacled boy-hero, which Ginny most certainly did not.)

 

Impulsively, Ginny grabbed her mother and hugged her hard. “Sorry, Mum,” she mumbled into Molly’s soft shoulder.

 

Molly patted the hands clasped around her waist and sighed softly. “That’s all right, dear. Now, why don’t you go get the tools out of the garden shed? We’ll be out as soon as your brother’s done eating.”

 

“Okay.” Ginny gave her one last squeeze and dashed out the kitchen door. By the time she’d lugged the heavy equipment to the vegetable patch, the sun had burned off the last wisps of morning mist and the gnomes were stirring under the roses. She sat on the ground for a few minutes, tossing acorns and pebbles into the rosebushes. When the others joined her, she donned the gloves Ron had brought out and set to work filling bushel baskets with crisp green peapods and fat runner beans. While they worked, Molly and Ginny peppered Ron with questions about his first year at Hogwarts. He told story after story about his classes and friends, some of them, Ginny could tell, heavily censored for parental ears. Around mid-morning, Fred and George appeared and helped carry the overflowing baskets into the kitchen. Molly ordered the twins to string the beans and rinse the rhubarb and dismissed Ron and Ginny after handing them a refillable plate for sandwiches and a bottle of Millie Nomah’s Sun Shield. They raced upstairs to change into swimming costumes, gathered towels and a ratty old bedspread, and set out for the pond.

 

While they walked, Ginny pointed out some of her recent discoveries: the half-fallen rowan that hid a largish molehill, the bright orange flowers that had sprouted over their pet cemetery and the ring of yellow-grey stones where she had written her letters to Hogwarts. Ron, in turn, described for her the school grounds, painting a vivid picture of the Whomping Willow and Hagrid’s hut.

 

“… and he’s got all these birds and things, just hanging from the rafters. And Fang, I wrote you ‘bout him, the enormous boarhound? The one that practically licked my ears off? He’s got a bed as big as mine in one corner-”

 

“Did Hagrid really hatch a dragon in his house?” Ginny interrupted. “That would be so neat to see! Charlie promised I could come visit him and name one of the hatchlings, but Mum said we couldn’t, since Uncle Bedevere was coming and we need to save for my school things. And I’m too young to go by myself.”

 

“It was wicked!” Ron practically skipped with excitement as he started telling the story, which he had already explained over the course of several letters, but Ginny didn’t mind. She oohed and aahed in all the right places and gasped when he got to the part about Harry and Hermione getting caught by Professor McGonagall.

 

By the time they’d reached the muddy shore of the pond, Ron had segued into a story about the Gryffindor’s first flying lesson. He dropped his bundle and swooped around her, arms flung out to his sides, as he recreated Harry’s daring rescue of the Remembrall.

 

Ginny sat down on a scrubby patch of grass and hugged her knees to her chest. How wonderful, that Harry would step up for someone he barely knew! He was surely the bravest boy in the world.

 

Flopping down next to her, Ron rested his chin on the pile of towels and started picking at a clump of dandelions. “Of course, the whole time he was up there, Hermione was gasping and muttering and pulling Lavender’s arm half off.” He pitched his voice higher. “‘Oooh, he’s going to get in so much trouble! Madam Hooch said to stay on the ground; I can’t believe he’s so openly flouting a teacher’s rules!’ She actually said ‘flouting!’ Who says that?”

 

Ginny giggled as Ron made a face at her. Hermione sounded like a terrible prig, but she couldn’t be all that bad if Ron was friends with her now. “So, what happened to Neville? Was he all right? Oooh, I’d like to get my hands on that Draco Malfoy. What a prat! Did he get in trouble?”

 

“Nah, nobody told on him. By the time Madam Hooch got back, I think everybody just forgot. Plus, then we found out that Harry was our new Seeker, and that’s all anybody was talking about. Oh, and Neville was all right. Madam Pomfrey fixed him up, good as new.

 

“I still can’t believe that Harry just jumped on his broom like that. It was awesome. You know Muggles raised him, right? So, the first time he ever held a broom, he flew as if he’d been doing it all his life! Wish I could fly like that....”

 

“Hey! You’re not so bad, yourself, you know. Didn’t Charlie say you had a good seat? At least they let you fly with them here. I have to -” She stopped herself before she gave away her one big non-girly secret, that she’d been sneaking their brooms out for years.

 

“You have to what?” Ron asked suspiciously.

 

“Sit on the ground and watch you lot have all the fun,” Ginny replied, with just a hint of bitterness in her voice.

 

To his credit, Ron gave her a sheepish look. “I’d let you fly with us if I could, right? But I can hardly argue with five brothers who’re all bigger than me, plus Mum!”

 

“I know, I know. It’s just,” she paused, trying to find the right words, “sometimes I wish I weren’t a girl! You boys get to do just about whatever you want, while I have to act like a little lady.”

 

“At least you don’t have to wear everyone else’s clothes after they’ve grown out of them. I don’t have anything that didn’t belong to somebody else first. Even my wand was somebody else’s!” Ron scowled. “Bits of hair sticking out the tip….”

 

“Being poor stinks,” Ginny commiserated. She might not have any hand-me-downs from her brothers, but almost all of her clothes came from second-hand shops, which was even worse. She didn’t even know whose clothes she wore.

 

They both sat there for a few minutes, staring at the brackish water in the pond and generally feeling sorry for themselves. Ginny loved her brothers and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but sometimes…. Sometimes, she wanted to be the only child, doted on and spoiled with shiny new toys and allowed to pick out whatever she wanted from the shops. Then again, she thought, how lonely that would be! The past year had been miserable, the only Weasley child left in the house. Imagine living her whole life like that!

 

“Still,” Ron drawled, finally, “at least we get schoolbooks with some of the answers already written in them.”

 

Ginny nodded. “And we almost never get in trouble, what with five brothers who’ve already done it all. Mum and Dad are so busy yelling at the twins that they hardly notice us!”

 

“Yeah! Just think how dead we would have been when you fell off the roof, if Fred’n’George hadn’t practically burned down the shed!”

 

“Or that time that you singed all of the cat’s fur off with Mum’s curling potion because you wan- wanted to make him p-pretty!” Ginny was laughing so hard she could hardly get the words out. “F-for his bir- hirthday!”

 

“Oi!” Ron yelped, his ears slowly turning red. “I thought we agreed to never talk about that!”

 

Ginny squealed as he leapt on her, fingers tickling wherever he could reach. She rolled out of his grasp and ran for the pond, still laughing and gasping for breath. Plunging into the warm water, she swam for the middle. She heard a loud splash as Ron followed her in, but when she turned to look for him, he had disappeared.

 

“Oh, no you don’t!” she yelled and took a big breath, preparing to sink under the water. She felt a tug on her leg and went under before she’d finished inhaling. She kicked out and connected with Ron’s shoulder. He darted away from her flailing legs and she surfaced, spitting and muttering darkly.

 

Ron popped to the surface a few metres away, his wet hair plastered to his head. “Gotcha!”

 

“Prat.”

 

“You love it – aagh!” He zoomed away as she splashed toward him. The war was on. They chased each other up and down the length of the pond, splashing and dunking and yelling, until they were both so winded they could barely keep their heads above water.

 

Ron put his hands up in the air and started sinking. “Truce,” he gasped just before his mouth went under.

 

Nodding, Ginny agreed and struck out for the muddy shore where they’d left their things. She wrapped a towel around herself and helped Ron unfold the bedspread. They sprawled out on the ground and helped themselves to thick sandwiches from the refillable plate.

 

Bellies pleasantly bloated, they drowsed in the warm early-afternoon sun, a light breeze ruffling their hair as it dried. Ginny rolled to her back and watched the clouds float across the clear blue sky. There was a fat dragon, with cloud-steam rolling from its snout. Behind it came a fluffy puffskein, which slowly changed into a lumpy, lopsided Snitch, one wing larger than the other. It reminded her of Ron’s promise to teach her all he’d learned in his flying lessons.

 

“So, you’re really going to show me how to fly?”

 

“’f course,” Ron mumbled into the bedspread. “Said I would, didn’t I? What kind of big brother would I be if I didn’t?”

 

She could hear the note of pride in his voice when he called himself her ‘big brother.’ Growing up as the youngest boy, Ron hadn’t had many moments where he got to be the authority on anything. She swallowed a wiggle of guilt for keeping her flying sessions secret from him and resolved to act as ignorant as possible when he taught her.

 

“The Percy kind,” she answered, half-joking. Ron humphed in response. They were quiet for long moments; Ron’s breath gradually slowed and grew shallower as he started to fall asleep. Ginny’s mind wandered. The bright landscape melted away as she imagined standing next to Ron on the flying field at Hogwarts, watching as two boys chased each other across the sky, looping around trees and skimming past the castle.

 

“Tell me about Harry Potter,” she said suddenly.

 

“Huh? Wha-” Ron started, and then rolled to one side to peer at her. “You can just call him Harry, you know. It’s not like he’s got a title or anything.”

 

Ginny blushed and sat up, tucking her legs under her. “I know that. It’s just that we’ve been calling him ‘Harry Potter’ forever. It’s hard to think of him as a regular boy.”

 

“Well, he is. Sometimes I even forget that he’s the Boy-Who-Lived. Well, until some lunatic with a smelly old towel on his head tries to murder him.” Ron sat up and reached for another sandwich. He started picking bits of lettuce out and shredding them.

 

“What?” Ginny gasped. “Did that really happen?”

 

“Yeah. Didn’t Mum or Dad tell you?” She shook her head and Ron sighed. “Of course they wouldn’t. Okay, do you remember what I wrote to you about Snape?”

 

“Greasy, evil, ugly? Tried to throw Harry off his broom?”

 

“That’s the one,” Ron crowed. “Well, turns out, he wasn’t trying to hurt Harry. At that Quidditch match, he was actually using a counter-curse. Quirrell was the one who made Harry’s broom go all wonky. And he let the troll into the dungeon during the Hallowe’en feast, so everyone would be distracted long enough that he could sneak past Fluffy.”

 

“Fluffy, the three-headed dog?”

 

“Uh huh. He was guarding the Philosopher’s Stone and Quirrell was trying to steal it.” Ron looked all around them, as if making sure no one was eavesdropping before continuing in a whisper, “For You-Know-Who!”

 

Ginny shivered. The sun was still shining overhead, but the wind was suddenly icy against her damp skin and hair and the bright summer colours seemed pale and insubstantial. She pulled her knees to her chest and draped her towel around her shoulders, rocking slightly as Ron finished the story. Apparently, it had taken all three of them to get through the professors’ obstacles around the Stone; Hermione provided the means to escape the Venomous Tentacula and solved the Potions puzzle, Harry had used his unbelievable flying skills and Ron… Ron had risked life and limb to usher the others safely past the giant Wizard Chess game.

 

“Weren’t you scared?” she whispered, thinking of him intentionally sacrificing himself, lying on the cold stone floor, unconscious, helpless. Tears pricked at her eyes and she sniffed them back, not wanting him to stop talking.

 

He shrugged, trying to act as if it hadn’t bothered him at all, but there was a haunted look in his eyes. “I didn’t really think about it, honestly. I knew I was the only one who could win the game, so I just did it. The last thing I remember is watching the Queen come toward me. Next thing I knew, Hermione was shaking me awake.” A small smile curved across his lips. “She said she wouldn’t ever let me copy her notes again if I died.”

 

The world melted, colours running together as the tears spilled down Ginny’s face. They were coming too fast to hold back and she gave up with a loud sob. She threw herself forward, wrapping her arms around Ron’s neck and hugging him tightly, as if to reassure herself that he was whole and healthy. He landed hard on his back, Ginny draped awkwardly over him. The towel covered them both like a tent.

 

She couldn’t stop blubbering. Her chest heaved as the sobs tore out of her. She could feel Ron’s collarbone poking her in the eye, his thin chest warm under her cheek and his hand awkwardly patting her on the back. His heart thumped, the beat reassuringly steady and strong. She cried even harder, thinking of that steady beat silenced forever.

 

“It’s okay, Gin,” he said softly. “Hey, I’m okay. Takes more than that to knock a Weasley down.”

 

“I- I kn-know! But you got hurt and could have d-died and none of us were there and you were all alone!” she wailed.

 

“But I didn’t! I’m fine, just a nasty knock to the head and a night in the Hospital Wing. Harry had to spend three days. C’mon, Ginny, stop crying.” He had always been helpless when she cried, which she didn’t do too often. In a family of all boys, it wasn’t wise to show any weakness. Plus, she’d just never been the sort of girl to go all teary. When she was upset, her usual behaviour was more like her brothers, blustery and eager for revenge.

 

Ginny sniffled, aware that her nose was running as profusely as her tears. “Promise me you won’t do anything like that again,” she mumbled against his skin.

 

“I promise I won’t follow any more possessed madmen into the depths of Hogwarts. Satisfied? Now, get off me. I can hardly breathe!” He rolled her to one side of him, then sat up, whipped the towel off her shoulders and used it to wipe off his chest.

 

“I’m going to hold you to that promise, Ronald Bilius Weasley. You just see if I don’t!” Ginny wiped at her eyes and nose and gave him a watery smile before thumping him on the arm.

 

“Hey! What’s that for?” he cried.

 

“Scaring us,” she said. “Mum cried for hours.”

 

Ron started picking at the grass, pulling up clumps of plant and earth and crumbling them in one hand. “I know,” he muttered, staring blankly at the ground.

 

Ginny wanted to yell at him for the stupid things he and his friends had done, but looking at him, she saw that it would be pointless. He blamed himself enough already and he’d no doubt already had an earful from both parents. She sniffled again, irritated by the congestion that lingered behind her nose and the tightness in her skin where her tears had fallen.

 

“It’s no use moping about it now,” she said. “C’mon, want to race to the rowan? Loser’s a Dark Wizard!” She leapt to her feet and took off running, not bothering to check that Ron was following. The wind whistled past her ears as she ran, hair streaming behind her. The ground was warm and springy beneath her feet. The faint tang of broken blades of grass enveloped her. Everything seemed brighter and sweeter and sharper after the darkness of Ron’s tale. She leaned forward slightly and put on a burst of speed as she heard his heavy footfalls behind her.

 

She smiled, her mouth so wide she almost thought she could fit the whole world inside.

 

Ron would always follow her. All she had to do was ask.

---------

 

A/N: Muchas gracias to my SQ beta Ada Kensington, for her encouragement and for helping Ron to stop his dreadful Hagrid impersonation. ;) And you were right; erumpents work much better!

 

Chapter title comes from the poem “Kinship” by George William Russell:

 

            In summer time, with high imaginings

            Of proud Crusaders and of Paynim kings,

            The children crowned themselves with famous names,

            And fought there, building up their merry games,

            Their mimic war, from old majestic things.

 

(Read the full text at Bartleby: http://www.bartleby.com/253/154.html )

 

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