The neighbors and shopkeepers of Ottery St. Catchpole were long accustomed to the evil tempered owner of the butcher shop. Because he was surly and often drunk, they avoided Buford Benning. At gatherings, they often gossiped about the arguments and sounds of violence that could be heard coming from the apartment over the shop where Mr. Benning lived with his wife and daughter. Everyone thought it a shame that the poor woman allowed herself to be treated like that, and that she should be arrested for not protecting her child better. But, of course, nobody wanted to actually interfere in what went on in the privacy of the Benning home. So, Mrs. Benning's broken arms and little Kira's bruises were lamented and whispered about but never addressed or acted on.
So used to Mr. Benning's brutish tirades were they that very few people even turned their heads as Kira, now a young woman of eighteen, came flying out of the front door of her father's shop one morning, having obviously been pushed, landing on her hands and knees, crying. Her hosiery was torn, her knees bleeding from where they had scraped the concrete sidewalk, and blood leaked from her lip, which had split against her teeth when he had slapped her.
Mr. Benning soon came out after her, grabbing his daughter by the hair and pulling her to her feet. He poked his purple face down into hers and yelled, "I'll have none of it, ya' hear? None of it! I'll not be keeping a filthy tramp under my roof."
Then, still maintaining a firm grasp on the girl's long reddish-blond hair, he began dragging her up the street toward the western edge of the village.
Mrs. Benning, whose hair may have once held the shine of her daughter's, briefly came outside and looked up the street after them, wringing her hands nervously. She looked around, as if she hoped that someone had seen and would help. But Sam, the baker next door, merely avoided her gaze and resumed sweeping the walk in front of his shop. Mrs. Rose, the seamstress on the opposite side of the street, hurriedly jerked her curtains closed. Sobbing, she turned back into the butcher shop, defeated.
Mr. Benning and Kira had reached the edge of the village. He continued dragging her by the hair up the gently rising road toward their destination, showering her with his verbal filth as the dust of the road mixed with the tears that fell from her eyes, dirtying her pretty face. He was immune to her tears and pleading.
"Daddy, please, don't. There's no use to this. He's dead. His brother came and told me. His brother is the only one who knew about me. They're not going to care."
Kira was so accustomed to adults who either abused her or ignored her plight that she knew that his parents would turn their backs on her, just as her own parents were doing. She was going to have to endure this humiliation, and it would be for naught.
"I can't believe you let yourself get involved with that pack of weirdos. Nothing but trash, the whole lot of 'em. I told ya' that boy only wanted one thing from you when he came sniffin' round. Now yer in trouble and I ain't payin' ta feed yer brat."
Soon, the unkempt yard of The Burrow came into view as they rounded a curve in the road. Kira allowed herself a moment to remember how happy she had been, just a few short months ago. The Weasley twins had often come into town, taking time to stop in the shop if they saw her minding the counter. Their silly jokes and magic tricks took her mind of her troubles. Then, two Christmases ago, she'd been sent outside to shovel snow from the front of the shop, and Fred had come by. He had sent her inside, saying that he'd do the walk. Afterwards, he had asked her out. She'd had wait until her father had passed out from drinking to sneak out to meet him.
They'd often met in the park, or in woods near his home and had walked this road, hand-in-hand, together. But then, earlier this year, he seemed preoccupied, He could only tell her that terrible things were happening and that when it was over, he would come to take her away and she'd never need to see her parents again. He'd promised to marry her.
Then, at the beginning of June, nearly three months ago, George had come into the shop and told her that Fred had been killed in an accident. She looked into his face, seeing only Fred's, not even noticing the ear he'd lost in an accident the previous summer. She hadn't known, then, that she was pregnant. When she found out, she tried to keep it a secret, because she didn't know what to do. She knew her father would kill her. Her father had only figured it out this morning because once again she had gotten sick watching him grind up a side of beef. He'd screamed at her and beat her until she'd admitted the truth.
Finally, they were at the gate to the Weasley house. Fred had always met her in the village, and although she had seen his house, he had never taken her inside to meet his parents. He had said that he needed to explain a few things to her about them first. Kira had assumed that his parents were difficult too, like her own. But it did not matter; it was just one more thing they had in common. She had dreamed that together, they would create their own family one day, and create a home where their children would be raised with love.
He dragged her up to the front door and pounded on it with his large, meaty fist. Kira could hear the sound of voices suddenly stop and footsteps approaching the door. It opened and a young girl stood there, looking at them curiously. "Uh...yes...can I help you?" she asked.
Kira knew that this was Fred and George's little sister, Ginny. Now seventeen, she had grown into a pretty young woman.
"I'm wanting to speak to your parents," her father said rudely. "It's about my daughter and your brother."
Ginny blinked. "Which brother?" she asked.
"Who the hell knows. They all look alike. Just get your mother here," Mr. Benning growled.
Ginny did not step back from the door. Kira noticed her hand slip toward her back pocket as if she might have something there to defend herself with. But, she turned her head and called out, "Mom? Dad? You'd better come here."
Kira saw a rather plump red-haired woman come walking toward the door, wiping her hands on her apron. She was soon joined by Mr. Weasley, whom Kira recognized. He had often come into the village. A few times he had stopped in the butcher shop and marveled at the meat grinder and the large, walk-in freezer. He often stood, just watching the grinder operate, his face displaying wonder and awe. Once, he had even asked her if he could go sit inside the freezer for a few minutes. She had assumed he was a bit eccentric, but harmless. Maybe he was what Fred had thought he had to explain.
"Why, it's the little girl from the butcher shop," he said. "Hello. It's good to..." He broke off suddenly, as he noticed her tear-stained face and her other injuries. "My goodness. What happened to you? Molly, move aside. This child has been hurt."
As Mr. Weasley grabbed hold of Kira and began to help her into the Weasley kitchen, he looked at Mr. Benning. "Was she attacked by animals in the woods?"
Mr. Benning's face flushed an even deeper shade of purple as he realized that they were unknowingly calling him an animal. "No," he answered. "That's my daughter and she got the beating she deserved. I brought her here because your son got her in trouble."
Kira felt her face grow red. She looked around the kitchen and saw that their arrival had brought the entire family into the room to see what was going on. Besides Mr. & Mrs. Weasley and Ginny, George was standing in the doorway with his younger brother Ron and some dark-haired boy with glasses and a young teenage girl with bushy hair. Mr. Weasley gently lowered her onto a chair at the scarred but clean wooden table. Then he stood and faced her father. Mrs. Weasley had rushed to her sink where she was pouring a dark liquid onto a clean cloth.
"Now, Sir, could you tell us exactly what you are talking about? What do you mean by my son got your daughter in trouble?"
"Your son got my kid knocked up. And she's telling me that he's gone and gotten himself killed. Well, I'm not keeping her with me. She's your problem now, I want nothing to do with the little tramp." With that, he turned and stormed out of the Weasley house, leaving the family stunned into silence and his daughter too ashamed to lift her face to even look at them. When Mrs. Weasley touched her thin shoulder, Kira flinched as if expecting a blow.
Mrs. Weasley stooped to press a pair of clean cloths onto Kira's knees. Immediately, the bleeding stopped and she felt a cooling sensation as the scraped skin began to heal. "What's your name, child?" she asked.
"Kira. Kira Benning," said George from across the room. He walked around the table and squatted by Kira's side. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. "When I came to tell you about Fred being killed. You should've told me. Fred told me all about the two of you. And about how your father is."
"I didn't know then," she said. "And I figured that nobody would really care."
"So, this is true, then?" Mrs. Weasley said. "I knew Fred was going down to the village a lot, but he'd never said..." Then, she looked at Kira. "Is it true? You're carrying my Fred's child"
Kira was so miserable and frightened she was shaking. She couldn't even answer.
George spoke up. "I don't doubt it's Fred's baby, Mom. He'd been apparating down to the village for over two years to see her. He said he was going to marry her after the war was over."
It was clear that George was getting upset. Fred had asked him if he thought that their parents would accept that he'd fallen in love with a Muggle. George had told him that he was sure their parents would be thrilled if he found someone to make him happy. Since Fred's death, George felt as if half of himself had died. He'd lost his echo, his mirror image. He was so used to having Fred complete his sentences that he often forgot to finish them himself now.
Mrs. Weasley rose and walked around the table, sitting down across from Kira, sighing. Bill and Fleur had made an unexpected visit just a few days before and had announced that they were having a baby in about seven months. She looked at the miserable girl across from her. "What are we going to do with you?" she asked, more to herself than to Kira.
Kira nodded silently and wiped her eyes with her hands. She only succeeded in smearing the dirt on her face.
"I understand," she said. "I'll leave. I don't know what my father was thinking really, bringing me here. Fred told me that you might not approve of me for some reason. I don't expect anything from you." She began to get up from her chair to leave. She had no idea where she'd go, but she only knew she had to get out of there.
"Don't you dare get out of that chair," said Mrs. Weasley, her voice a warning. "I didn't mean it like that. If you think we're going to let you go back to that man, taking my grandchild with you, you've got another think coming."
Kira felt George's hand on her shoulder, pressing her back down into the chair. For the first time she lifted her face to look at Fred's mother, not knowing if she'd find condemnation or kindness in her eyes. What she saw was something akin to horror.
"My God, Arthur," she exclaimed, getting up. "Look at her face! That man beat her!" She could not believe it. It was impossible to determine if the girl was pretty or not. Her face was filthy, streaked with tears, blood, and filth. Her right cheek and lower lip were swollen from where her father had slapped her, splitting her lip.
"Ginny, Hermione, take...Kira, your name is, dear? Take Kira upstairs and get her out of these torn things and into the bath. Then get her set up in Percy's room. Ginny, dear, give her one of your night dresses. She needs rest. I'll make more Essence of Murtlap and bring it up to dress her wounds as soon as it's done. Ron, Harry, in the meantime, get Percy's room cleaned out and get clean sheets on the bed." All of them just stood there, staring at her. "Now!" she ordered in a tone of voice that sent them scurrying.
You must be logged in to post a review on this story.