The overall response to the film, Harry could report, was broad approval mixed with confusion.
A lot of the confusion was with people who had heard technology didn't work at Hogwarts, and who were wondering why that had changed, and a lot of the rest was with people who were a bit unsure how much of what the movie showed was actually true or based on true facts.
(Harry's best guess was 'not much, but more than the film makers expected, because they probably didn't think Merlin was real.')
After that, though, the term got on with being itself, and Harry's lessons – in Runes, Defence, Charms, Transfiguration and Alchemy – rolled on. He produced some of the modified silver for the Protean Charm in their next Alchemy session, in fact, since the object of the lesson was to try out your own transmutation to see you were getting on, and the result (which was silver with about the melting point of water, and about the same surface tension as well) was one which Professor Dumbledore pronounced to be "quite charming".
"Well, let's see if it works, then," Ron decided, on Wednesday evening after dinner. "Let's see… if I remember correctly, don't you need to know as much as possible about an area if you're going to make the Protean charm reflect it?"
"It's not quite that simple," Hermione replied. "Oh, hold on a moment. Accio."
She held up her wand for several seconds, and a book flew down the stairs from the girls' dorms before ending up neatly in her hand.
Harry caught sight of the cover – The Self Referential Guide To Self Referential Charms Is A Self Referential Guide To Self Referential Charms.
"I got it out a few weeks ago to get a proper grounding on the subject," she explained. "The trick is quite advanced, but as far as I can tell the key point is to cast the spell through itself."
"Is that going to be safe?" Neville checked. "I'm just saying that if you're not sure, then that might mean a problem?"
"Oh, if it doesn't work then it just doesn't work," Hermione reassured him. "Hold on. Flipendnote."
The book pages blurred past until a section near the back was open, and Hermione checked something. Harry leaned over as well, wanting to see what it was – apparently the process involved casting a charm on one half of the relationship, and then you sort of cast the other half of the charm through the first half and relied on self-similarity.
It was all explained with complicated maths, which Harry couldn't entirely follow, but Hermione seemed satisfied. So did Neville, when he gave it a look-over, and half an hour later they had a list of steps to do what should make the tell-where-Ron-is-o-meter.
"I vote that Dean come up with the name for it, he's going to do a better job than that," Neville said. "No offence, Harry."
Harry quite liked tell-where-Ron-is-o-meter, but he had to admit it was a bit clumsy to say.
Then there was a sharp pop outside the window.
"Oh, that's right, it's Fireworks Night," Dean said. "That's going to be the Smiths, then."
"It's not curfew yet, right?" Ron asked. "If they're doing a fireworks display on the lawn I kind of want to see. Who knows what Fred and George and the others have come up with."
The next firework was much louder, exploding seven times in a row, and the one after that put on a real visual spectacle. By now people were crowding to the windows to watch, and the firework burst with a bang and a cloud of red sparks which spread out in streamers going every which way… and one of the streamers then burst itself, with another bang and a cloud of orange streamers.
Successive bangs echoed across the castle with yellow, green, blue and purple sparks, and then the final one went all white before finally fading out.
"That was impressive," Hermione said. "I wonder how it decides which streamer to use? If it's always the one going down then it might hit the ground before it was finished."
"That'd be a problem, but maybe it's fudged a bit," Ron guessed. "You know, looks like it knows what it's doing, but everyone suspects maybe it's getting advice from Dumbledore."
Neville almost fell over laughing.
"Wow," he said, eventually, once he'd recovered his breath. "You should send that to the Quibbler, they'll definitely publish it."
The next firework was a little peculiar, because it came up as a stream of irregular spark showers rising up – like each shower was being fuelled from the ground to make it rise – and they converged together, then there was a big flash and a weird sounding gnab and a single big rocket dropped to the ground.
"...I'm going to try not to think about that one, or my head might start hurting," Dean pronounced.
Harry had to go down to ask the Smiths about it, and found to his slight surprise that they had partners in maybe-not-a-crime. Xenia was helping get the fireworks out and their sticks stuck into the ground, while Angus – a fellow First-Year, in Ravenclaw if Harry remembered right – was being given the responsibility of lighting the fireworks with his wand.
"Before you say anything," Anna began, looking up, "we checked the school rules."
"These aren't actually technically fireworks," Tyler continued. "Technically we're disposing of unwanted Potions byproducts in a safe way, because they're not being burned within twenty feet of a flammable object."
"I'm pretty sure they're fireworks, though," Harry contested. "I know what a firework looks like, and this is a pretty good approximation, and while that only means I'm pretty sure they're fireworks it's good enough for me."
"There's also not any rules against fireworks, besides," Anna told him. "There's rules against Dr. Filibuster's fireworks, and rules against fireworks produced by the Marauders' Magical Miscellany, but these aren't either of those. They're Potions experiments, made at school."
"And Charms experiments," Tyler corrected.
"And Charms experiments, yes," Anna confirmed.
Harry looked up at the latest explosion, which spelled the MMM logo across the sky.
"I see," he said, thinking hard. "However, I believe that in the interests of fairness, I must insist that you stop the display until the fairness problem has been sorted out."
Anna looked confused. "Fairness?"
"You're letting them off somewhere Gryffindor and Hufflepuff can see from their common rooms," Harry pointed out. "But Ravenclaw's the wrong side of the castle, so they don't get a good view, and Slytherin is definitely out. If you could see about scheduling a time that would be much better."
He considered. "I recommend the New Year. That should do nicely."
Three days later, on Saturday evening this time, Hermione raised her wand.
"Vitrefors," she incanted, and the pile of quartz they'd sourced flowed together and transfigured smoothly into the bottom half of a glass sphere. "Wingardium Leviosa. Adhero Maxima."
The hemisphere lifted slightly, then stuck itself smoothly to the inside of the gimbal which Harry had got from Diagon Alley earlier that afternoon.
"All right, let's put the silver in," Dean decided, and Harry poured out the flask.
It splashed like water, briefly forming a wave that went halfway up the side of the glass, but then fell back in a way that water never quite did – a way which was oddly unnerving, really, simply because it wasn't the sort of thing you normally saw metal do.
Neville added an extra ingredient they'd decided on, some of a rather fetching ink Harry liked which changed colour as you wrote – either randomly or on command – and then Hermione performed the next state of the Transfiguration. "Vitrefors."
Thinning out as it changed, the half-sphere Transfigured into a complete sphere.
"And that's going to last, right?" Ron checked. "It's not going to revert, or anything?"
"It shouldn't," Harry replied. "That's why we used quartz, and made sure to use the same amount as before, so it's as firm a Transfiguration as any of us can do – then Hermione did it, because she's the best at it."
Hermione tsked. "Nothing to do with wanting me to do all the work, I'm sure," she said. "All right, next step… the Protean Charm."
She pointed to Ron. "Don't forget, we want this to be a one way charm. I'll handle the self-referential bit, but you'll need to cast the initial charm and we want to make sure it doesn't try to do it the other way around."
"What would happen if it was a two-way charm, again?" Dean asked. "I'm not saying we should, I just want to make sure I know."
"Well, theoretically, you'd be able to change the model to affect the real world," Hermione told him. "Practically speaking, it wouldn't happen that way, partly because the sheer amount you'd have to do with the magic to reflect a small change on the representative object – like the Map – would just break the spell instantly."
"Which is kind of good, really," Dean admitted. "I don't want to think about what it'd be like if someone like Fred or Anna could write on their Marauders' Map and change the real Hogwarts."
They all winced at that, then Ron and Hermione raised their wands.
"Proteus plurimus ut unum," Ron incanted first, which produced a flash, and while the flash was still fading Hermione took her turn.
"Proteus omnibus," she declared, and the liquid silver in the globe shivered for a moment.
"Did it work?" Neville asked.
"Good question," Hermione replied. "Especially because if it didn't work then we must have done something else. Let's see…"
She tapped her wand on the glass. "Start."
The silver trembled, then flowed up to show a very basic map of the local area. It had the shape of the ground okay, Harry could see the hills, but the Forbidden Forest was just sort of fuzzy and Hogwarts was practically a square blob.
It also seemed to be showing the surface as just a very thin layer, with hollow space underneath.
"Is it meant to do that?" Harry asked, waving vaguely at the gap.
"I wondered if it would," Hermione answered. "It's only got so much silver to work with, you see. Now, if I do this…"
She dragged her wand down the outside of the globe, and it blurred for a moment as the area it was showing suddenly went from being the hills around Hogwarts to most of northern Scotland.
"Oops," she added, as the bits that were the sea went blue – some of the ink they'd included flowing to the top, marking out the different sections. "That might be a bit too sensitive."
"It's working, though, right?" Ron checked. "As it should work, I mean, I was a bit worried about how fuzzy Hogwarts was."
"Well, how much detail it shows is based on how much detail you want it to show," Hermione explained. "And when I cast the spell, I wanted it to show lots of detail on things in the air – or in space – but not to really bother with much detail on the ground. About all you need to know is if you're going to crash into it."
Harry supposed that made sense.
"Track," Hermione added, and glowing auras appeared in the air – bright green, this time, as the little ink colouring went a luminescent green which shone past the surface of the tiny silver droplets. "Right, that's the planes…"
Leaning closer, Harry focused on one of the little floating drops. It was too small for him to make out how it was shaped, except that it wasn't just a sphere, but it was clearly moving.
"You know what this is, right?" Neville said. "This is brilliant. It's almost a pity we don't have Geography as a subject here, because this would be great for looking at maps… actually, does it show other magical schools and locations and stuff?"
"Good question," Hermione replied. "I think it'll only show them if Ron or I know where the magical location is. The Protean Charm's weird like that, it can only sort of get around Unplottability… or, at least, that's the conclusion I've reached."
Dean raised a hand. "You mean you didn't find that one in a book?"
"I found bits of it in books," Hermione said, sounding like she was defensive but not sure in what way to be defensive at the moment. "Just, you know… different books, rather than all in the same one. And some of it's from looking at how the Marauders' Map works."
"I've got a much more important question," Ron said. "Does it do the other stuff? The… predict where something's going to be, stuff, and… stuff?"
He shrugged. "I kind of stopped being able to come up with words that weren't stuff, there."
Getting the spells Ron meant sorted out was a bit more fiddling with the globe, but eventually they had two settings put together – one of them showed the path that specific tagged objects would take if they kept moving without power, so for a plane that just meant falling to the ground, and the other showed the path that the objects would take if they kept moving with their current level of engine power or whatever happened to be going on with them.
Those were the easiest two things to describe, and they were the things which were most useful for Ron's plans anyway, and when he was done he enthusiastically suggested that they should move straight on to launching the Ratatoskr the next day.
"I think maybe not," Hermione said, holding up two fingers. "For two reasons."
She ticked one off. "Firstly, it's already late, and we've still got some homework to do for next week – and that and other things are going to keep us busy on Sunday. And secondly – and just as importantly – we need to at least ask Dumbledore if it's okay."
"I think we can ask him pretty soon," Harry volunteered. "But he might not be able to give a reply straight away, so you might not even want to set your heart on next weekend. It might have to be whenever there's good weather for it, or whenever Dumbledore or the Ministry is satisfied it won't break the Statute of Secrecy."
"Oh, yeah, that," Ron admitted. "That is kind of important, now that I think of it…"
Neville sniggered. "I sometimes wonder how we've stayed hidden so long."
"Beats me," said Harry, thinking of how he – a dragon – had attended Little Whinging JMI for several years.
That prompted a laugh from Hermione, who was probably thinking about the same thing. Or possibly her part-time career as a velociraptor.
After Harry had let Dumbledore know, and during the next week of lessons, Harry found himself a bit preoccupied.
He thought that Hermione had had good points. He thought that he'd had good points (obviously, or he wouldn't have said them). And he definitely thought that it was a good idea to wait.
But at the same time, the idea of being ground control for a rocket launch was really neat and he couldn't wait until they got approved.
Well, that wasn't quite correct. Harry could wait. But he didn't have to like waiting… though, once he realized why he was preoccupied, he decided he'd have to content himself with his part-time hobby of teaching a Basilisk older than the Norman Conquest how to read English.
Which should be enough to be going on with.
"I am not entirely sure I follow this one," Empress admitted, and Harry looked at the page they were on.
It was one of the sorts of books he remembered from early Primary School, though they had different books these days and that had affected what Harry had been able to get hold of. They had fairly simple stories in them, but they were proper stories rather than just disconnected sentences – or, rather, they had a story in pictures with just a little bit of text that helped explain what was going on.
"It says that she has a bow in her hair," the basilisk went on. "But I thought that a bow was what the elves used to shoot arrows at the spiders in The Hobbit."
Harry chuckled, suddenly realizing what was going on.
"It's because of what are called homophones," he explained. "Those are words which sound the same or nearly the same in English, but mean different things, or… actually, no, it's not a homophone. I don't know the word for it. They have the same spelling, but different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations. So there's a word bow which means when you show respect to someone by bowing down, then there's a word bow which means the thing you shoot arrows out of, and there's a word bow which is a pretty kind of knot."
Empress was silent for several seconds.
"English has a special word for words which sound the same or almost the same?" she asked. "How peculiar. In Dragonish, we call that Dragonish."
Harry had to hold his muzzle closed, because he felt like he was going to burst out laughing in a way that would wake half of Gryffindor.
"I think you just have to get used to it," he said, once he felt he could speak without laughter. "It's a bit like a puzzle, really, now I think about it."
He stopped, and thought. "Actually, just about all of your learning to read is like solving puzzles, but in your case you're not really learning the language at the same time, you're learning how things are spelled."
"And that is quite enough," Empress told him. "I fear it may be most of the year before we can get back to The Hobbit."
"If we get to the point where you can read me the Hobbit by the end of my seventh year, I will absolutely consider that time well spent," Harry told her.
Then he smiled. "And, come to think of it, at that point you could probably start sending letters to the Daily Prophet. Or the Quibbler, I'm sure Luna would publish them."
"You may need to explain that second one," the ancient basilisk requested. "Is that a homophone?"
"It's a newspaper," Harry said, then thought about how to explain a newspaper. "It's sort of like… hold on."
"Is something wrong?" Empress asked.
"Oh, I'm just trying to work out how to describe this," Harry said. "Okay, so you know how in the Pern books you have Harpers, and they carry news as well as sing songs?"
Empress snorted. "That much I did understand. They are bards, yes."
"Well, a newspaper is kind of like if you had just the news stuff from that, plus some other things the people who write it want you to know about, and it was all written down instead of being carried by a person," Harry summarized. "So you can make lots of them, and it means everyone can get the most modern one every day."
"I can see why it would be popular," Empress decided. "Assuming that people can read at more like your speed than my own current efforts. I believe at the moment I would mostly be able to tell that someone saw the dog run."
Then, in a dry voice which even through the translation effect was still almost a hiss, "Run, dog, run."
That Saturday, about ten in the morning, a Ministry inspection team turned up at Hogwarts.
Ron had got a letter about them being on the way, and that their approval was one of the only two conditions that the Headmaster placed on launching the Ratatoskr (the other being that it take place at a moderately civilized hour, by which he meant at a point between eleven in the morning and four in the evening as those were the only times when he could be absolutely sure nobody in the castle would be asleep – or, at least, he could be absolutely sure that anybody in the castle who was asleep would pretty much be asking for it).
"Good morning, Mr. Weasley," said one of the members of the inspection team. "I am Chief Inspector Thicknesse. Do you have the object in question to be inspected?"
Ron wasn't paying attention to him, though.
"Percy?" he asked, baffled. "I didn't expect you here. Isn't it, um, a conflict of interest or something?"
"Of course not," Percy replied. "Anyone who's met any of my other brothers will know that being related to me is absolutely no guarantee of unfair treatment. Especially not if the ones they've met are my immediately younger brothers."
"Point," Ron admitted. "So… which department are you with?"
Percy adjusted his robes slightly – they were a sort of greyish colour, not quite the black of school robes but without any of the more vivid colours Harry often saw on adult wizards. "The Department of International Magical Co-Operation, of course. The D-I-M-C is chiefly concerned with your project because of any potential for Statute breaches, along with the issues related to flying a magical object over other nations at a high altitude and of course the more general interest in the possibilities of the device."
Harry could hear the dashes, which was sort of what he expected from Percy but still quite impressive.
Thicknesse coughed. "Very good, Weasley. Shall we move on to the introductions, excepting yourself of course."
"Well, there's only two people left, aren't there?" Dean asked. "Are you Magical Law Enforcement or Misuse of Muggle Artefacts?"
"I am Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," Mr. Thicknesse introduced himself. "Weasley from International Magical Co-Operation you know, it seems, though Madam Edgecombe here is actually with the Department of Magical Transportation – we are already satisfied that your conveyance is not a Muggle Artefact."
"How did you work that out, Sir?" Harry said. "If you don't mind my asking, I mean."
"Mr. Potter," Thicknesse said, with a small smile. "If you had in fact managed to procure a Muggle spacecraft, we would be having an entirely different conversation. Who are your friends here?"
"Hermione Granger," Hermione introduced herself, which set off a full round of introductions. Madam Edgecombe, it transpired, was related to Marietta Edgecombe who had been in Ravenclaw a year above them, and she said that Marietta was doing quite well for herself in an introductory position at the Invisibility Task Force.
Speaking of which, the final person who was attending was a man in late middle age who was a member of that self-same Invisibility Task Force. His name was Shane Tremlett, and he said with a smile that if his name sounded familiar it was because his son played bass for the Weird Sisters.
He was also a Muggle, and explained with a chuckle that he'd taken on a part-time job as one of the Designated Muggles for the Invisibility Task Force – one of the people who actually tested whether things that were meant to be hidden from Muggles actually were. He said that he'd heard that Harry was a dragon and that he couldn't tell by sight, which was nice, and that led to a digression for a few minutes as they asked what Hogwarts looked like and how the whole thing worked.
After that, though, they had to get the Ratatoskr out, and Ron and Hermione started explaining the enchantments and runic sequences they'd put on it.
If either Madam Edgecombe or Mr. Thicknesse had had any lingering doubts about whether Percy would be a soft touch for Ron, they were dispelled entirely by the end of a long and quite exhaustive cross-examination in which Percy asked Ron about more than two dozen possibilities.
It was immediately quite clear that Percy had been doing some reading of his own, not only about the relevant international wizarding law but also about the ways in which Muggles might detect or react to the Ratatoskr, and more than once Mr. Tremlett had to be called on to confirm that – for example – the ship was not visible, and not audible, and that the engine flame was quite unremarkable while the scorch marks it left were just the sort of thing that happened anyway.
"That seems in order," Madam Edgecombe said, after a levitated branch, a controlled use of the engines and Mr. Tremlett's help had successfully demonstrated that not only would the Ratatoskr not hit anything but that any Muggles who witnessed it not hitting something would not, in the technical sense, qualify as witnesses.
Did you actually qualify as a witness when what happened was that an obstacle briefly moved out of the way to avoid hitting something else, and you saw neither the object that was moving nor the obstacle's movement?
"Then… is that everything?" Ron checked.
"One final question from me," Madam Edgecombe answered. "You have considered the issue of radar, I assume?"
She nodded towards Percy. "As we have discussed, the consequences of appearing on radar could be quite catastrophic."
"I think we've got that covered," Hermione said, pursing her lips slightly. "I contacted Beauxbatons Academy of Magic for the suite of spells used on their flying carriage, and all the enchantments designed for concealment went on the Ratatoskr."
"I believe we will have to test this a few miles away from Hogwarts proper," Mr. Thicknesse decided. "There is a small radar gun in my suitcase, but as Muggle technology it does not work at Hogwarts."
"It's probably just not going to work because it's got a vacuum tube," Hermione said.
"Yeah, if you don't have one of those it works fine at Hogwarts," Dean agreed. "We watched The Sword in the Stone on a projector a couple of weeks ago."
Thicknesse gave Dean an astonished look, then turned his attention to Percy.
"I warned you," Percy said simply.
Eventually all the 'i's were dotted and all the 't's crossed – a saying which Harry hoped that Empress would understand by herself the next time they ran into it – and it was around lunchtime, so they went to get a quick bit of lunch in Hogsmeade before returning to their launch site.
All the charms on the Ratatoskr had been recently renewed in just the last week, including charming most of the parts Unbreakable to make it unlikely that anything untoward would happen, and on top of that (and as sort of a last-minute thing) they'd put a suitcase with an expanded inside so that Ron could revert to human form if he needed to do any complex spell work while on the mission. Until then, though, and for the launch itself, he was shifted into Nutkin and wearing his headset complete with a mirror for communication.
"Everything seems ready to me," Hermione said, expanding the silver map to show most of Britain before shrinking it back down again. "We've got the tracking spells on constant-acceleration for now, and you should be ready for launch. It isn't even raining."
"Are you sure we've not forgotten anything?" Dean asked. "It's not like Ron can go to the shops up there."
At the mention of 'shops', Ron's tail stood on end. Then he hurriedly pulled off his headset, scurried to the door, opened it, and jumped out before reverting to human form as he landed.
"We did forget something!" he said, looking guilty. "I just realized that Fred and George – and my dad, and Bill, and Charlie if he's in the country – are going to absolutely love this."
"...wow, we're idiots," Hermione groaned. "How did we forget that?"
"In fairness," Harry said, raising his paw, "I think most of us are used to the idea of relatives not being able to come to magical things."
"Yeah, blame it on me," Ron grumbled. "I remembered eventually, didn't I?"
"I was waiting to see if you'd remember," Percy told him. "I happen to know however that Charlie is currently in Hungary, trying to help track down a mislocated Horntail egg, which is quite a delicate issue for international magical co-operation. But everyone else should be available."
"Should I send them Ruth?" Harry asked, getting his wand out.
Ron started to nod gratefully to him, then stopped.
"Actually, can you skip my mum?" he asked. "She wouldn't like watching this."
"She's not going to like hearing about it either, mate," Dean pointed out. "You're not getting out of this."
His friend nodded. "Well, yeah, but the way I see it is that if I do it this way around then I'm feeling uncomfortable after the space mission. And between before or after, I know which one I'm picking."
Because wizards were wizards and all of Ron's older relatives could Apparate, it took only a few minutes for them all to arrive.
Bill gave the Ratatoskr a once-over, inspecting the enchantment work while Ron hovered anxiously – perhaps hoping that Bill wouldn't forget himself and start breaking the charms because that was his day job – and Harry had to admit that he was wondering what Bill thought as well.
He knew he thought they'd done a good job, because if he thought they hadn't then he'd have done something about it, but Bill was definitely more experienced at that sort of thing.
Then again, Mr. Weasley was experienced as well, though rather than giving things an inspection looking for problems he was instead being very excited indeed about the whole idea.
"And this is what Muggles do?" he asked. "It sounds very exciting!"
"Some Muggles do it," Hermione corrected him. "Not a very large number, because for Muggles going to space is very expensive. We're just using magic, so we're cheating."
"Well, I hope this isn't going to be part of your coursework, then," Mr. Weasley said. "I'd hate for you all to be disqualified for cheating."
He said it so blandly that Harry wasn't quite sure if it was a joke or not. Then he was almost physically shoved aside by Fred and George, who both took one look and then exchanged a look.
"Excellent work," said Fred.
"Very impressive," said George.
"So does it fly up and then explode, like a proper rocket?" Fred went on.
"Because if not, we need to make one that does," George concluded.
"Prats," Ron said, with feeling. "Any problems, Bill?"
"Only that it's a bit small, but what do I know, I'm not an Animagus," Bill replied. "Which at this point puts me in the minority."
Making sure that all the Weasleys who were taking time off work were satisfied didn't take too long, fortunately, and then Ron got back in as Nutkin and shut the hatch again.
"Isn't there meant to be a bit where they list off all the jobs and everyone says whether it's a go or not?" Harry asked, who vaguely remembered that that was part of the rocket launches that NASA did.
Hermione considered, but before she answered Neville spoke up.
"I think we've done that stuff already, to be honest," he said. "A lot of it's got to be making sure everything's working, right? And we just went over it with a fine-toothed wand."
"A fine-toothed wand?" Dean repeated. "Is this one of those Wizard sayings I've never heard before?"
"Sort of…" Neville said. "I was trying a new one. Didn't work."
"I can see that in our absence other Gryffindors have nobly stepped up," George said, approvingly.
Fred concurred with a firm nod. "We don't want the strategic supplies of comedy we hid in Gryffindor Tower to go unexploited."
Hermione pointed at Harry, visibly ignoring the jokesters. "That is sort of a good idea, actually. We've covered detection, crashing, life support – which is that Bubble-Head Charm we put over the whole cabin and making sure Ron can cast it himself silently – then there's the fuel supply, which is unlimited… oh, and the crash procedure. Do you remember the crash procedure?"
On the mirror stood left of the silver map, Ron gave a firm – if squirrelly – nod.
"If things go wrong, Ron uses the braking charm," Harry listed off. "If things go more wrong, Ron jumps out and Apparates away. If things go very wrong and Ron passes out, I fly like hell to the edge of the Anti-Disapparition Jinx, Bubble-Head Charm myself and Apparate to near where the Ratatoskr is, then I use the Momentum-Dissipating Charm on it. Then I Apparate it, Ron and myself back to Meade Hill because that's a good Apparition point."
"Correct," Hermione agreed. "That seems like everything."
"We should do a countdown, though," Ginny contributed, making Dean jump. "Everyone loves a countdown."
"Bloody hell, where did you come from?" Dean asked. "Actually, why weren't you here earlier?"
"Homework," Ginny summarized. "I was sort of expecting to miss the launch, but it's all done now and you haven't taken off yet."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "We were just getting there… all right. Ten, nine, eight…"
Ginny grumbled something about how they seemed to have invited all the men in her family but none of the women, but it didn't sound very seriously meant.
On their view from both mirrors in the Ratatoskr – one of them in Ron's headset, the other giving a view of the whole cabin – Ron visibly swallowed before resting both paws on his controls.
As Hermione kept counting down, other people started joining in – Harry included, as well as quite a large crowd of spectators – and by the time they reached ONE it sounded like they were trying to be louder than the rocket would be.
And for a moment, it seemed like they'd been successful by default. The initial takeoff was on the broomstick enchantments, and the Ratatoskr lifted off with the kind of smooth lack of ceremony that Harry – who had now watched several science fiction movies – actually found a bit disappointing. It was okay for something that was meant to be magic, like a broomstick, when it took off without any visual effect or sound, but the loudest thing about the Ratatoskr's takeoff was a little swish of air that even Harry could only barely hear.
That instantly changed when the rocket actually fired up its engines, though. Ron twisted both gears, turning the engine on to a little way up main gear three, and the hissing shriek of the engine echoed out across the Hogwarts grounds along with sending out a cloud of hot water vapour that – deliberately – didn't go anywhere near anything actually important.
It was one of the reasons for the initial magical takeoff, in fact.
"Everything going okay?" Hermione asked, loudly, then waved her wand irritably. The receding sound of the rocket motor abruptly went quiet, and she repeated the question, and Harry looked down to see that Ron was giving a pawed thumbs-up to the bigger mirror.
"Good," Hermione told him. "Harry, can you switch the globe to no-power for a moment?"
Harry did so, then dragged the zoom out so that they could keep the miniature silver-and-red dot of the Ratatoskr in view, and felt a bit disquieted at the glowing red predicted path as it showed the Ratatoskr just plunging right back into the ground again somewhere near Portree.
The line was visibly rising, though, and it really only took a moment for Harry to remember what was going on. As the rocket picked up speed, it meant that if the engine turned off now it would go further before crashing, and eventually they'd reach the point where if the engine went off it'd just do an orbit… which was the whole purpose here, after all.
"Turn left a bit," Hermione asked, and the trajectory changed – shifting towards the Atlantic, now. "Good. Turn down to gear two and five so you get higher before you break the sound barrier."
The engine flame was vanishing into the distance, now, and Hermione took off the silencing spell again. That meant Harry noticed the cheers, applause and general approval from their impromptu audience, and the occasional staccato click of Colin's camera, and he smiled before turning his attention back to the most flying squirrel who ever flew and was a squirrel.
At the same time.
Unfortunately for a lot of the people who were watching, Ron may now have been moving fast but getting to space meant going a long way. While he was now moving faster than the speed of sound - Hermione let him turn back up to 3-4 after deciding the Ratatoskr was probably high enough – he was moving more sideways than up, because really an orbit was going so sideways that you didn't hit the ground any more, and that meant he was rising fairly slowly.
Dean had taken over the silver globe by then, zooming it out a little at a time to keep Ron in the image, and the projected path rose slowly higher and higher – until it went off the map, and Dean zoomed out the rest of the way until there was a little silvery earth floating in the middle of the globe.
The Ratatoskr itself was invisible at that scale, but the red glow around it was still easy enough to spot, and the projected path rose until suddenly it was going all the way around.
"Engines off," Hermione told Ron.
The squirrel in the mirror nodded, and released the calipers that had been keeping the engines on this whole time. Then he slowly floated into the air, spinning around once before curling his tail around one of the convenient handholds (or tailholds) and using that to stay in one place.
Harry was hopefully imagining the distinctly green look on Ron's muzzle.
"What's the plan, exactly?" Dean asked, as Hermione took over the map again. "It looks like he's going to come back quite a long way away from Hogwarts."
"Well, he's over Canada right now," Hermione said, nodding towards the globe, and Harry had to tilt his head a little until Hermione spun it so that the map had north at the top again.
The route Ron had ended up taking was sort of weird, one of those ones that went near the poles so did things you weren't used to seeing on a flat map, and he'd gone over both Iceland and Greenland already. Then his path continued over Canada, and the Hawaiian Islands, and shot over Antarctica before going up Africa from the south and crossing Europe back to the finish line around Hogwarts.
"By the looks of things, he's going to have to start braking over Africa," Hermione explained. "But the constant-acceleration thing is going to let us aim to land in the right place."
She turned her attention to the mirrors. "Everything going okay?"
Ron gave her a thumb-up, and spread his arms out – drifting slightly in the no-gravity of the crew cabin – then grabbed his wand (which had been clipped down during the launch) and unclipped it, waving it at the wall opposite the mirror.
Little flickers of fire stayed hovering in the air as Ron wrote a wobbly message, telling them that it was really cool, and that (after wiping away the previous words a few times) he'd managed the takeoff experience okay, but feeling twice as heavy as normal for minutes on end had been a bit uncomfortable.
"It'd be worse if you were human," Neville said with a shrug. "There's more human to be twice as heavy."
"Good point," Harry agreed.
"Is that much like what a Muggle rocket launch is like?" Mr. Weasley said. "Ron showed me pictures, and they all seem much bigger."
Since Ron wasn't physically present, and Hermione was busy, Harry took it upon himself to explain the differences. "Muggle rockets can't do what this one's doing and just magic fuel out of nowhere," he began. "So they're much bigger, so they can carry enough fuel to get to space, and when they use up a fuel tank they throw it away so they don't need to lift the empty fuel tank. That also means they actually accelerate a lot faster than this one did, because they need to get up into the air quickly to avoid wasting fuel."
"How does that work, exactly?" Mr. Weasley asked, sounding fascinated. "Whenever I go too fast in the car, Molly always reminds me that it makes the car tired out faster."
"With a normal car, that does happen," Harry said. "But with this… if you just had enough engine power for it to hover, it wouldn't be going any higher into the air but it'd still be using up fuel. So every second it's not already in space it's using up fuel, so it tries to make it so it has to do as little of that as possible."
Arthur nodded, his eyes alight.
"Muggle rockets also usually launch in the same direction, off to the east, because that saves fuel," Harry went on. "They sort of get a boost from the way the Earth is spinning. And they have to go at a really precise time, because they don't have the fuel to waste in steering to where they need to go. But this one just breaks all those rules at once and it's a lot easier."
"Well, we now know you still experience zero-gravity, despite the charms we put on," Hermione said, writing that down. "It's always good to confirm these things. And is everything else working okay?"
Ron wrote out that nothing seemed to have broken yet, and that everything otherwise seemed fine.
"Would you be able to tell, actually?" Dean asked.
"Hold on a moment," Hermione requested, and fiddled with the silver globe's controls. This time it zoomed in on the Ratatoskr until it took up most of the glass dome, a flowing silver sculpture in miniature of the spacecraft itself, and Harry leaned closer.
"That's a lot more accurate than it was before, when it was on the ground," he said.
"I thought we might need to do this," Hermione explained. "So I made sure it could. It doesn't look like there's any damage."
Ron made a complicated gesture with his paw, then after a minute or so of charades gave up and wrote it out instead.
"Oh, right," Harry realized, and turned the bigger Mission Control mirror so that Ron could see the silver representation. "You know, maybe if Ron had one of these on the ship he'd be able to do some of this himself – and without us helping him, I mean. Or if we were all onboard."
"That'd be fun," Dean said. "Going on board, I mean. I'd fit, Upstart is small."
He snickered. "Actually, I just had a fun idea. Go to the moon and leave a flag on there, but it's the Gondor flag or something from the Lord of the Rings."
"Probably not a good idea," Neville sighed. "But it is fun, you're right."
"Dare I ask how things are going?" Dumbledore asked, walking up with a smile. "I do apologize for my lateness, my alarm clock was faulty and I overslept."
Ginny was agog. "How could you have possibly slept through that?"
"With a great deal of experience," Dumbledore told her. "Of course, it always helps if in your younger years you happen to have a banshee as a housemate."
Harry felt he was starting to get the hang of Dumbledore, now, and he smiled slightly as he noticed that Dumbledore didn't actually say he'd had a banshee as a housemate.
"I think I'm more impressed that you slept through lunch, Professor," he said.
"I did?" Dumbledore asked, sounding quite surprised. "In that case I will have to go and get some forthwith. Lunch is the most important meal of the day if you sleep through breakfast."
He examined the liquid-silver spaceship, then watched as Hermione zoomed back out again to show the orbital path – now approaching Hawaii. "Remarkable. Can you see out of the window, Mr. Weasley?"
In reply, Ron approached the bigger mirror and unstuck it from the ground. In a display that would probably be very impressive to watch from another mirror but was mostly just confusing from these ones, he spun the mirror so it would look out one of the portholes and show them all a view of the world drifting by below.
It took only about half a minute for Hawaii to come into view, half-a-dozen irregular islands spread out across miles of ocean and partly obscured with cloud, and they seemed to drift past with an odd slowness that made it easy to forget that Ron was moving about five miles a second.
It felt like a long time, and yet hardly any time at all, had passed when the Ratatoskr was coming up over South Africa.
"We're going to want to slow down fairly soon, right?" Neville asked, watching as some conjured water floated around the cabin before Ron Summoned it gently to his wand. "Or, I mean, Ron is."
"You're right," Hermione agreed. "I was doing a lot of thought about this, and I think the best thing to do is going to be to slow down to about six hundred miles per hour before really seriously hitting the atmosphere, and then slow down more gently after that. I think we're going to want to have the trajectory aimed so that if Ron keeps the engine going at that rate permanently he's on course to crash into London."
"...sorry, you what?" Dean asked, after a few seconds of confusion.
Hermione waved her hand. "I don't mean he should crash, I mean he should slow down at that rate – look, we do need to add a few more modes to the silver globe, we know that now, but for now the best we can do is to sort of eyeball it… oh, don't worry, I'm not going to make Ron hit anything."
"It'd be a hell of a way to announce a breakup, though," Fred said.
"Shush," George chided. "They haven't noticed yet."
Hermione gave them both a look of exasperation, then tutted and turned away. "Okay, Ron, you're going to need to turn so that your engine's facing the way you're going."
She zoomed in the silver globe and moved the viewpoint, setting it to track the Ratatoskr in a way Harry hadn't quite yet mastered, and they could see the tiny silver spaceship right at the top of the globe and the ground passing by right at the bottom. The rocket turned visibly, and quite quickly, and seemed to overcorrect a couple of times before Ron had it facing in the right direction.
The nose was up a bit, but Hermione didn't raise any objections with that.
That done, Ron wrote something out with his wand.
What's this about crashing?
"It's about how fast you shed speed," Hermione explained. "We want you to get rid of most of it before you get down into the thick air, but not quite all of it because a lot of that speed is the same speed you want to use to actually get back to Hogwarts."
"Shouldn't you be aiming to go slightly past Hogwarts, then?" Harry said, having been thinking about it. "Then you can change as you get closer and aim to kind of drop straight down towards Hogwarts, I mean."
"That sounds better, actually," Dean decided. "I vote we do that this time, and next time we work on that new thing on the silver globe so that we can sort this out better."
Hermione considered, then nodded. "Okay, Ron, back in your seat and turn up the engine to… let's start with two and two, but we'll probably use a higher setting."
The predicted trajectory at same-acceleration immediately changed, going from Ron orbiting the Earth to Ron dropping down somewhere north of Skye.
"Actually, that looks like a pretty good start," Hermione decided. "Let's stay with that."
She looked at the mirror, and stifled a giggle.
Harry looked as well, and saw that the sudden resumption of the engine (and consequential sudden resumption of apparent gravity) had made quite a bit of water splash down onto Ron's tail.
Ron squeaked something that was probably profane, then his eyes widened as Fred grabbed Colin's camera off him and took a picture.
"That's going in the album," he said.
"Why think so small?" George replied. "I was thinking on the wall."
While Ron crossed the English Channel, moving gradually slower and lower as his engine burn neutralized his orbital speed a bit at a time, Hermione got out a bit of paper and started writing.
"That should do," she said, after a bit. "Okay, Ron, I need you to adjust your angle so the nose points up a bit more."
Ron duly did so, and the trajectory changed again.
"Oh, what's the idea there?" Mr. Weasley asked, watching as the course track rose further and made a sort of weird arc off into space. "Is he not coming down at all?"
"No, what we're going to do is have him slow down so he's about… twenty kilometres up, and not moving sideways at all," Hermione explained. "Then he'll drop into the atmosphere, using the engine to keep his speed down to about three hundred miles per hour, and use the broomstick charms to finish braking."
"Is that how Muggles do it?" Arthur said. "Apart from the broomstick charms, I mean, I suppose they could use a big parachute for those."
"Nose up a bit more," Hermione told Ron, her attention going between the silver globe and the mirror. "And no, they don't. This way of doing it takes a lot of fuel, and Muggle spaceships don't have the fuel to use fuel to slow down. Instead they sort of just… ram into the atmosphere, very fast, and use that to slow them down. But we don't have to do that, because we're cheating again."
She flicked the mode on the silver globe, and frowned. "Ron, I'll need you to turn the nose left… no, the nose left… that's better."
The predicted trajectory now looked very strange, basically forming what Harry remembered was called a hyperbola, and he was a little relieved when only a couple of minutes later Hermione told Ron to turn so the nose was facing towards London – then switched to no-acceleration mode on the silver globe, and waited until the predicted trajectory was dropping straight down onto Hogwarts before telling Ron to turn the engine off and rotate upright.
It seemed a bit like a video game, now, adjusting the direction and power of the engine so that the Ratatoskr fell slowly into the atmosphere, and when Harry looked up he realized he could actually see the ship now – initially just as a little white dot, but one which got bigger and bigger as it dropped.
It actually only took a few minutes to drop the last dozen or so miles, until Ron activated the broomstick charms and it slid to a halt in the air – still at least half a mile up – before then dropping silently and easily back to the ground.
"Touchdown," Hermione finished. "And watch out, the nozzle might be a bit hot."
The hatch opened, and Ron got out – complete with wand – before transforming back from being a squirrel, and stretched.
"That was…" he began, then seemed lost for words for a moment. "...um, it was amazing, and weird, and what I was expecting but full of surprises, and I still can't really believe we did it?"
"You're the one who actually went up there," Neville pointed out, prompting Ron to smile slightly. "I won't say we didn't help, but you were absolutely the one who went up there and that's really cool."
Mr. Weasley came over and gave Ron a hug, and then Percy approached as well to shake his hand, and for the next few minutes Ron was more-or-less overwhelmed by well-wishers.
"And, what's more, we've confirmed that magic works in space," Hermione said, in the lull while Luna went to go and get a dictaquill for an interview.
Ron gave her a look. "You what? Was it not working in space an option?"
"Well, technically, you don't know those things until you've tested them," Hermione replied. "But, technically, magic could just not work in Bognor. I mean, have you ever been to Bognor and tried to use magic there?"
"Well, no," Ron conceded, then looked over at the globe. "...wait, when we were testing that we looked at Mars. So obviously magic works in space, that thing gets its information by magic."
"He's got you there," Neville said.
Then Harry heard something that made Ron twitch.
"Does anyone have any idea why Ron has been travelling for over an hour?" Molly Weasley asked, coming up the road from Hogsmeade. "Arthur? Percy? What are you doing here – and what is that?"
It took quite a long time to satisfy Mrs. Weasley, after that.
At one point she said that this was the sort of thing she expected from Fred and George, not Ron, and that she'd thought Ron was more like Percy, which only led Percy to say that since Ron had been the first wizard ever to go to space – and had done all of the proper preparation and safety checking, as well – he'd be quite proud to be like Ron, really, all things considered. He also said that he was one of the people who'd been involved in making sure that the Ratatoskr was safe, and Mrs. Weasley didn't really seem to know what to say in response to that – at first, at least.
She asked a lot of questions about how safe it was, and why they'd done it, and whether it was a good idea or not. Then Ron asked about how he could possibly have been in Mortal Peril if the clock said he'd been Travelling, given that it had said Mortal Peril when all he was doing was hiding in the woods from rioters, and that led to Harry asking Ginny about the clock in question because he wasn't entirely clear on what they were talking about.
The answer (which was about a clock which showed the situation that everyone in the Weasley family was currently in) was interesting enough that Harry wondered what else you could do with weird divination magic like that, but that was just a distraction.
Eventually, after a long argument which didn't quite get to the point of being a family argument that was embarrassing to watch, Dumbldore stepped forwards to intercede. He said that he was most impressed with Ron, and that he felt that the actual safety of the Ratatoskr which Ron had built was such that it was certainly safer than playing Quidditch – but that, at the same time, the uncertainty involved with doing something which was so very new meant that Ron had shown the qualities of a true Gryffindor. Not just being brave, but being sensible as well.
That seemed to make Mrs. Weasley rethink, or think, or however you wanted to describe it, and Ron breathed a bit of a sigh of relief.
That afternoon, and quite firmly after Mrs. Weasley had left, they had a post-mortem meeting.
Nobody had actually died, so post-mortem might have sounded a bit scary to Ron's mother, but it was the word usually used and so they went ahead with it.
"All right, Ron," Hermione began. "Were there any things up there that you didn't have and you wanted to have?"
"Writing like that was really difficult," Ron answered. "I think we need to sort out some other way for me to say things. Maybe making the cabin bigger, or if I'd gone into that suitcase – but going into the suitcase means I can't see out, or use the controls."
Hermione nodded. "That's a good point… maybe what you need is a typewriter?"
Ron considered, visibly.
"That could work," he agreed. "I'd have to get good with one, though. And making the cabin bigger is still an option, too."
"A space suit would help," Dean said. "Or two space suits, one for Nutkin and one for Ron. It's always good to have more redundancy and that would let him go on a spacewalk."
"I think one of the biggest changes we need to make is in the plot projector," Hermione said, then. "At the moment it's got two settings, and that's okay, but if we can add more that would be great… I was thinking about having one for 'run at the current acceleration for a while and then stop', and one for 'run at the current acceleration for a while and then reverse.'"
"Can you make it be something about turning the engine on after a bit?" Ron said. "There was a lot of guesswork about how to do the de-orbit burn, right?"
"That's a bit harder to do," Hermione replied, regretfully. "It's because there's more than one engine setting."
"But you could give it just one engine setting to deal with, right?" Ron checked. "Like, two thirds power?"
"...still no, because of the direction problem," Hermione answered, though she did think about it. "Maybe if it assumes that the engine fires in the direction the nozzle is currently pointing… I'll have to think about it a bit more. Doing all of those things is going to take a while anyway."
"What was it like, having the engine on full power?" Harry asked. "Was the seat okay?"
"Yeah, it wasn't too bad," Ron shrugged. "I felt heavier than normal, like I was lifting weights whenever I moved, but it was okay because, you know…"
He paused. "Actually, now I think about it, you wouldn't. When your Animagus form is small, you feel like you're stronger relative to yourself, somehow. Like that thing where aunts can lift loads of stuff over their heads."
"Ants, Ron," Hermione corrected.
"You haven't met my aunt," Ron said. "Anyway, it wasn't actually all that bad, but I bet it'd be worse if I was in human form."
Neville raised his hand. "Actually, couldn't we have just had Ron go straight up until he was a hundred miles high, and then start going sideways? The thing about going up and along at the same time is about saving fuel, isn't it – but we don't care about that, and the faster we get Ron above the atmosphere the faster he can go faster…"
Hermione checked what she'd written down. "So that's… so far, we've got spacesuits, better communication, an improvement to the tracking system, and a better launch route."
"And we need to think about where I'm going, next time," Ron told her. "Because there is going to be a next time, that was an amazing experience, but if we go for the moon next time we need to think about what we'd need for that as well."
"You'll definitely need a spacesuit for that," Harry said. "Unless you want to go to the moon and not bother getting out…"
While it would have been easy to just be focused on the space stuff to the exclusion of all else, as Head Boy Harry felt it was his duty to remind his friends that they were, in fact, at school.
Ideas kept being swapped around, certainly, and Ron wasn't sure if he'd rather try and get the Ratatoskr to the moon (and focus on that one) or build something larger, maybe even as large as his bedroom, to go to the moon… but their lessons continued apace, as November got chillier and the bite in the air indicated that snow was soon on the way.
Harry was thinking about their morning's Defence lesson, one afternoon, drifting through the air over Hogwarts as he turned over their homework in his mind.
One of the sayings Aberforth had given them was 'We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to account unless we make use of local guides', which was one of those things where you could see what it meant for an army but it was a little trickier to see all the other implications of it. One of them was certainly that it was a lot easier to do something if someone who already knew the area was helping you, but there were probably others. And Harry tilted his wings to bank slightly, wondering if there was another one that was about how you could be the local guide, when he saw Professor Kettleburn out with a class quite close to the Forbidden Forest.
At first it looked like it was a class about dragons, because Nora was there and so was Hagrid, but as he dropped a bit closer Harry saw that Professor Kettleburn was standing well back – and that none of the students were actually looking at Nora, instead they were looking at a splash of white stood by Madam Grubbly-Plank.
Dropping and shedding most of his speed as far away as possible, so he didn't startle anyone or anything, Harry approached before flaring his wings and landing on the grass nearby. The sound made Nora look around, and she waved before turning her attention back to what was going on in front of her.
"This is an adult unicorn mare," Professor Kettleburn was informing them all. "They are quite skittish, so please be as calm and controlled as possible."
"Professor," Samantha said, turning to look at him – and sounding like she wasn't sure if she wanted to know the answer. "I heard that adult unicorns are more okay with girls than boys…?"
"I can't see any reason why this mare would have a problem with you, Samantha," the Care of Magical Creatures professor told her, tapping his forehead twice with his magical replacement arm. "You're a girl with just the sort of character that would get along fine with a unicorn."
Harry put two and two together, decided that if Samantha hadn't been sorted under that name it was none of his business, and instead asked Nora quietly how she was doing.
"I'm learning!" Nora told him, visibly remembering to be quiet between taking a breath to say something and actually saying it, and swept her tail across the ground in front of her before watching closely as Samantha approached the unicorn.
"That's right," Madam Grubbly-Plank said, her voice low and soothing. "Nothing's wrong, so you can just be calm and walk gently up…"
Nora tilted her head slightly, then scratched with her claw in the ground, in wobbly but recognizable letters. R-I-T-E.
"That's how it sounds," she said, looking at it. "But is that a word?"
"It's a word, but it's not the word you're thinking of," Harry told her. "They sound the same, but the word that she meant was R-I-G-H-T, which means right."
"Oh, I see," Nora brightened. "So she's, um, she's saying that it's okay?"
"Exactly," Harry agreed – amused by how both Nora and Empress were learning written English but in some ways from different directions, and how Nora's main focus was on understanding spoken English.
Maybe it was Nora's progress that had given him the idea, in that odd way it happened.
"People who go to Hogwarts need to do a lot of writing," Nora added. "I'm not very good at writing."
She looked over at Hagrid. "But Hagrid says that I'm not even six years old yet, so that's okay. He thinks it would be really great if I get to go to Hogwarts… I don't think I know yet if it would be good, but if Hagrid does then that's good enough for me for now so I'm trying to learn."
"I don't know if you'd be able to go to Hogwarts," Harry admitted. "But that's not because it's something I don't think should happen, because I think it's something you should be able to do."
Nora nodded, visibly thinking about that.
"I think I need to be really careful," she said. "I don't want to think about the idea too much in case I'm disappointed, but I don't want to not think about it and not be ready. I need to be careful how much thinking I do."
That sounded reasonable enough to Harry, and he looked up to see how Samantha was getting on.
The sight brought a smile. Samantha was stroking the unicorn's mane, the unicorn was nuzzling her hand ever so slightly, and Samantha was looking like she was hardly able to believe what was going on.
Most of all, though, she looked happy. And that was something Harry could agree with, any day.
"I think maybe what you should do is to learn some of what Muggles learn in school," Harry told Nora, then. "You're learning letters, and words, but you could also learn numbers and other things – at my school we learned about trees and woodland life, and things like that. Because that way you'd be as ready as a Muggleborn or Half-Blood if you actually did go to Hogwarts, and if you didn't then you'd still know things that are good to know."
Nora nodded, firmly, and Harry thought again about that phrase they'd been given for homework.
Sometimes, all you needed to do was to show someone the way, and they'd be able to do what had always been possible.
Squirrells… in… spaaaaace!
Well, one of them, but that'll do.
A part of the writing here now is that Harry is in Seventh Year, and while that does mean that he's a bit more mature it also means that he and his friends are good at magic.
Thus the silver globe.