The Sugar Quill
Author: James Bow (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Butterfly Effect  Chapter: Chapter 1: Two Years Later
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The Butterfly Effect, by James Bow

The Butterfly Effect, by James Bow

Chapter One: Two Years Later

"So, to conclude, I'd like to thank Miss Crump for providing several live safety demonstrations for us all," Wesley nodded to young girl squirming in her seat in class. "I'm glad you were able to get out of the infirmary so quickly. The rest of you now know what not to do. You all have your notes; be sure to study them, and I'm sure you will pass your examinations with little problem. Dismissed!"

The class of first year Gryffindors and Slytherins filed out quietly under Wesley's watchful eye. When the last one departed, he allowed himself a smile.

Then he set to work, cleaning the potions off his desk and storing the flasks and bottles in their assigned spaces in the locked cabinet. Returning to the classroom, he sat behind his desk, sorting and marking parchments.

The click of a cane invaded his thoughts, and he looked towards the classroom door. He frowned. Too late to lock the door and pretend to be out. Charming the door closed wouldn't stop her, and would tell her that he was here. He sighed, and stood up.

Ginny pushed open the door, leaning heavily on her cane.

"Aunt Ginny!" Wesley exclaimed.

She smiled at him. "Hello, Wesley."

"What brings you to New Hogwarts?"

Ginny's cane clicked as she eased herself down the stairs between the desks. She grimaced with every step. "Why shouldn't I be here?"

Wesley darted up and, ignoring her first attempts to bat him away, helped her manage the remaining steps. He pulled over a chair and Ginny eased herself in.

"Well," he said after a pause, "there's no reason for you to be here. After all, your nephew, Artie, is three years too young for Hogwarts, and there are no other Weasleys in this institution, either teaching or being taught. Ron's at the Ministry while Hermione's at the Auror Academy. Harry's with you, at the Ministry, ergo, you've come to see me."

"I could be visiting McGonagall." Ginny eased herself into the chair.

"Whom you haven't seen since you left."

"Very well," said Ginny. "So, I don't have an excuse to be here. I came here to see you, and I think you know why."

Wesley stared at her for a long moment. He sat down heavily. "Snape talked to you, did he? I knew I shouldn't have said anything."

"He mentioned that you approached him about the possibility of taking his Potions class back," she replied. "As he's only just taken over Defense Against Dark Arts, his life's dream, he's not interested in going back, but that's not the point. He finds your behaviour most odd. He called you the best Potions Master Hogwarts ever had, and now you suggest that you're resigning?"

"I like to keep my options open. This job isn't a natural fit for me."

"Your students disagree."

"What do students know?"

"Parvati talked to us."

"Ah."

There was a long pause. Then Wesley said, "How is she?"

"A wreck. She called me in tears, said that you wouldn't return her Owls, and that you haven't spoken to her for a month. How could you treat her this way? She loves you."

Wesley looked away.

"Anyway, that was only the first sign we saw that something was wrong, although it was hard not to notice. Then when Snape calls us about you, we start to worry, and do some investigating. Would you like to know what we've found?"

Wesley kept a mutinous silence.

"Through Ron's job at the ministry, we discovered that you're closing your lease on your flat. Investigations with your landlord reveal that you're putting all your possessions in storage. Finally, this morning, I receive an owl from Charlie saying that you've contacted him about a job in Romania."

"The traitorous scumbag!" Wesley muttered. "I specifically swore him to secrecy."

"Why are you looking for a job in Romania, Wesley?"

"I've never been to Romania. I'm curious. Dragon wrangling sounds like fun--"

"Why now?"

Wesley sat silent.

Ginny leaned on the desk and fixed him with Molly's best glare. Wesley could feel it even though he wasn't looking. He drew a shaky breath, but said nothing.

"Parvati is crying her eyes out," Ginny intoned. "Hermione went into labour yesterday and is very disappointed that you're not around. You don't answer Harry's Owls. You owe a lot of people an explanation. Why are you leaving England and not telling anyone?"

"I have to."

"Why?"

"You won't understand."

"Try me!"

Wesley thumped his desk. "Don't you have things you hate explaining?"

"Yes, but it doesn't stop me from telling people what they need to know."

"Oh, really?" he snarled. "Then perhaps you could tell me what happened the night the Death Eaters attacked the Burrow?"

Ginny's eyes flashed. Her mouth was a narrow line. "You know I haven't talked to anyone about that."

"Well, now you know how I feel about this."

But Ginny didn't back down. "Fine!" she said. "You want to make an exchange? My difficult explanation for yours? If it will make you talk, here's what I remember:"

***

"You remember the evening. We had all gathered at the Burrow for Christmas, but you were off at Diagon Alley doing Christmas shopping, and Harry was at Gringots. I had finally managed to get out of the kitchen and from under my mother's thumb when I met Ron on his way back from the Quidditch Pitch.

"Hi, Ginny!" said Ron. "What are you doing out?"

"Oh, God, Ron," said Ginny. "I finally have a chance to breathe. It's a madhouse back there!"

Ron chuckled. "Well, think how Penelope feels. At least you're used to living with a horde of brothers."

Ginny frowned. "What are you saying?"

"She's an only child, beset by in-laws, and in her condition--"

Ginny sighed. "I guess I should have invited her out for a walk. But I needed the time alone. I swear to you, Ron, when I get married, I'm having just one child. Maybe two."

Ron stared at her.

"Okay! Three! But that's all!"

"Hey, ho, you two!" Bill ran up to them. "Brisk afternoon isn't it?"

Ginny fumed. "Do all the Weasley siblings have to take their constitutional at the same time?"

"What's wrong?" Bill gave his sister a quick squeeze. "Aren't you feeling the Christmas love?" He laughed at Ginny's glare.

As Ginny started to protest, Ron stepped away, frowning at the horizon. "Um-- Ginny?"

"What?"

"This path does head east away from the Burrow, doesn't it?"

"Of course it does! Why?"

"Isn't it too late for a sunrise?"

Ginny and Bill stepped up beside Ron. They cast a glance behind them at the Burrow to be sure of their direction, but they weren't mistaken. The darkening sky was overcast, but the eastern horizon was glowing orange. The light reflected off of the cloudbase, turning the sky into a sea of fire.

Ginny pulled out her wand. "There's magic at work, here."

Bill peered into the distance. "Something's moving. Some kind of cloud. It's shaped like a --" He recognized the symbol and paled. "Death Eaters! Back to the Burrow!"

Then came a sound like thunder. A wave of pale light swept over the ground.

"Look out!" Ginny and Bill brought up their wands to protect them. Ron didn't have time. The spell caught him full in the chest. He gasped and pitched back, landing heavily on the ground, unconscious.

"Ron!" Ginny screamed.

Shouts erupted from the house. Ginny could see the Weasley family on the back lawn, staring in horror.

"Ron!" Another scream. Hermione dashed from the crowd and knelt by the fallen boy.

Bill knelt beside her, checking Ron's pulse. He looked up at his family. "Mum, get Percy and Penelope out of here now, do you hear me? Now!"

Molly grabbed Percy and Penelope and hauled them indoors. Arthur and the rest of the siblings ran forward.

Arthur knelt by Ron. "He's out cold. Ginny, get him inside--"

Molly ran out of the house. "Arthur! The Floo Network isn't working!"

"Penelope can't Apparate in her condition!" Ginny gasped.

"Bill, countercurse the fireplace!" shouted Arthur. He pulled out his wand. "Get the Floo Network working!"

"How?" his son cried.

Swearing under his breath, Arthur turned towards his home. "Stay here and hold them off!" he shouted.

Ginny squared her shoulders and stepped towards the distant line of Death Eaters.

"He means me, not you!" Bill yelled. "Get Ron back to the Burrow!" Hermione was struggling to lift Ron to his feet, but he was a deadweight in her arms.

There was another flash, ripping across the landscape like a wave of thunder. Ginny brought up her wand. "Expelliramus!"

She shouldered herself into the spell. It broke over her and held her, straining to reach the Burrow.

Bill stared in horror.

"Don't just stand there!" she gasped through gritted teeth.

Bill fired a countercurse. The spell shattered and dissipated with the winds. Gasping, Ginny turned towards the spellmakers, her mouth set, her feet planted.

"Ginny--" Bill began.

A spell came at them. Bill fired back with his wand. He shouted at his stunned brothers. "Charlie? Fred? George? We could use some help, here!"

Ginny stalked forward. The line of Death Eaters was visible now. There were ten of them, cloaked, their wands raised.

"Ginny, wait!"

"Crucio!" Ginny shouted.

Three of the Death Eaters crumpled, clawing at the air in agony. Ginny held her wand out, keeping the spell on, not bothering to defend herself.

Fred and George ran forward, wands ready. Charlie's curse made one of the Death Eaters stumble and fall.

More spells sang over their heads. Hermione shielded Ron with her body as they passed overhead, hitting the side of the house. The wood and brick shuddered, but stood firm.

"Somebody, help Hermione get Ron out of here!" Bill shouted.

Another spell broke over them. Even with all wands raised, they staggered in the onslaught. The Death Eaters continued their steady advance.

"We can't hold out for long," gasped George.

Ron shifted and groaned. "What happened? Ginny?"

Ginny turned, and the spell caught her in the back. The air flashed red around her. She screamed as it sent her head-over-heels. She landed on her back and kept on screaming.

"No!" Bill shouted something unspeakable, and another Death Eater fell.

Arthur came running out of the house. "I've got the Floo Network working! Percy and Penelope are safe!" He stopped short at the sight of Ginny. "Oh, my God!"

More spells soared overhead to strike the Burrow broadside.

Ginny clawed at the air, grabbing at her leg and screaming incoherently. Arthur pointed his wand at her and muttered a spell. Ginny's struggles ceased and she lay in a daze.

Arthur looked up at the line of Death Eaters. "We can't stay here. We've got to get out."

"Is the Floo Network still working?" Bill shouted. "Ginny can't Apparate in her state."

"Yes," said Arthur. "All of you, back to the Burrow, before it's too late!"

Another spell hit the magicked, ramshackle house. The charms holding the home together began to break. A rooftop extension broke free of its flimsy moorings and crumpled to the ground. The children stared in horror.

"Go!" Arthur shouted. "Get everyone through the Floo Network now!"

With a surge of adrenaline, Hermione hauled Ron to his feet and dragged him towards the home. George scooped up Ginny and he and the rest of the Weasley brothers followed.

Arthur turned towards the Death Eaters, his wand ready. "Okay, you fiends," he muttered. "Let's see you get through this!"

He shouted at the sky. The ground flared white in a circle around his home. Incoming spells bounced harmlessly away.

Behind him, another bedroom broke away and crashed to the ground in splinters.

Arthur turned and ran.

Inside, the house groaned like a mine before a cave-in. The walls trembled visibly. The fireplace glowed green. Bill and George stood beside the opening, Ginny in George's arms.

"Did you get everybody out?" Arthur shouted.

Bill nodded. "Mom wouldn't go, but we shoved her through."

The house snapped. Plaster fell from the ceiling.

"Good lad," said Arthur. "Now you, George. Take Ginny!"

George nodded, white-faced, and dove into the flames. He vanished with Ginny.

Cracks appeared in the wall with the sound of splitting wood.

"Come on, Dad!" Bill yelled.

"You go first," shouted Arthur. "I'll follow!" He shoved his eldest son into the flames.

A beam burst through the ceiling and punched through the floor. Plaster chips fell like snow.

Arthur gave one last look around before diving into the fireplace.

The house gave one more shudder before collapsing entirely.

//
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