Kira looked around at Fred's room. She decided to begin with the bureau and opened the top drawer. It was filled with...jumpers. Blue jumpers, in various sizes, with large yellow "F's" embroidered in the center, neatly folded.
Kira lifted one of them out of the drawer. She held it to her face and breathed it in. She could smell his scent on the wool. Fred had worn this one the previous spring, when they had met in their spot in the woods, the last time she'd seen him. He had taken it off and laid it over her shoulders so she would not become chilled. She recalled Fred telling her that his mum had made it for Christmas.
Kira opened the next drawer. More blue jumpers. Some were quite small, probably dating from when Fred had been a young boy. They all seemed like new, as if he'd given them very little wear. Kira piled them onto the bed and counted. There were fourteen of them. Fred had just turned twenty when he was killed. He must have kept nearly each and every jumper his mother had ever made him.
It was rather sweet, actually, and surprising. Fred had always laughed at sentimentality. She should have known it was a huge farce. Smiling, Kira pulled the jumper he had worn their last time together over her head. She closed her eyes and hugged herself, remembering how safe she felt with his arms around her. She opened her eyes and turned to the closet, which, again, was surprisingly neat and organized.
Coming back to the bureau, she began piling things she thought should be kept on the bed and things she thought should be discarded onto a pile on the floor.
Kira emptied her backpack and placed her few things into in the now-empty top drawer. She took off Fred's jumper and the lovely golden witch's gown she had been married in and carefully hung it in the closet, in the midst of Fred's things. She pondered, for a moment, on the intimacy that sharing a closet brought, the endless giving and taking of space, of how, over time, the scent of two mingled to one. She and Fred would never have that. Although it was still light outside, Kira felt exhausted. She slipped into her pajamas.
After a moment, she opened the bundle that carried the clothes she had worn into Madam Malkin's. The jeans and top she'd worn were full of the dust from the road. She must have looked a sight when she'd entered George's world. George had said that they didn't have electricity, so she figured she'd have to wash her things in the bathtub. And that stove she'd spied in the kitchen. She was a pretty decent cook, but she had no idea how to operate that monstrosity. Between no cooking and the separate bedrooms, George certainly had not gotten himself a bargain.
Kira stood on her tiptoes and began to empty the shelf in the closet. She grabbed hold of several hats and mufflers, again obviously hand made. Reaching back up, her hand detected something hard. She pulled it out, surprised to see she had a telescope in her hand. Smiling, she walked to the window, intent on using it to see how it worked.
Just as she was raising it to her eye, the door opened.
"Bloody, hell, don't!" George yelled. He dived across the room and grabbed the telescope from her hand. "It's a trick telescope," he said. "It would've given you a black eye."
"Nice, George," said Kira. "Anything else I need to be worried about?"
"I hope not," said George, looking around worriedly. He hadn't thought to Muggle-proof the place. He saw all Fred's jumpers on the bed. "I never could figure out why he saved them," he said. "I only have the last one my mum made."
"Well, he obviously cherished them because your mother had made them," she said.
"But he hardly ever wore them," said George. "That's why I only have the one. Mine all got worn out from use. Mum didn't make 'em to sit folded up in a drawer, you know."
"I saw him wearing them from time to time," said Kira.
"Right, when he had nothing else to wear," said George, "or when he was looking to butter Mum up for something."
"Is there anything of his that you want to keep?" she asked.
"That...would be redundant," he answered, picking up one of the jumpers and running his finger over the large letter on the front. "I already own everything on this bed. We always bought the same things. And even if I did go buy something else, Fred would go buy it the next day."
"Would you mind if I cut up all the jumpers and used them to make blankets for the baby? I could piece together a really nice quilt from them, using all the letters. I want to name the baby after him. I mean, if it's all right with you, of course."
"I think it's a great idea," he said. "Both using the jumpers and the name. But what if it's a girl?"
"I was thinking of Fredi, F-R-E-D-I."
Fredi Weasley. I like it. The reason I came in here is because I was just talking to my father."
"I thought you didn't have telephones," said Kira.
"We don't. I was talking to him in the fireplace in the parlor. Anyway, we have a problem."
"So soon? Wow, that honeymoon ended quickly," she said sarcastically, eliciting a laugh from George.
"My parents are coming day after tomorrow. They have to buy Ginny's school things. I think they also want to see if everything's all right between us."
"Oh. I can't say I blame them. That's not a problem. But, we need to go shopping tomorrow morning, and you need to show me how to work that stove. And not only that, but we need to get this place fixed up. There aren't even any curtains on the windows. I can make them myself too, but I'll need to stop into a store to buy material and needles and thread and scissors and stuff."
"I'll go up the street to Gringotts and exchange some Galleons for Muggle money. I want you to have whatever you want. If you want to buy curtains, go ahead. You don't have to make them. As to the stove, I have to start it with magic, but I'm a pretty lousy cook. Fred used to make our meals after we moved in here. After we moved in, it turned out he was quite the domestic diva. He was constantly on me about wiping my feet and leaving a mess. It almost got to feeling like I was living with mum."
"I like to sew. And seeing that there's no television or anything, It'll give me something to do. I wish I had a sewing machine. It would go a lot faster and I could at least get curtains up in the parlor before your parents came. I want to check the cupboards too, to see what you have in the way of dishes and stuff."
Kira walked out of the bedroom and down the hall to the kitchen. The cupboards were bare. George was the proud owner of two mugs, two plates, two forks, and two spoons. George had to fish one of the plates from under the sofa. The supply of household accouterments was rounded out by the presence of one pot, a filthy frying pan, and a knife. She also noticed a small, old fashioned icebox. Opening it, she saw that it, too, was empty, with a pool of water in the receptacle that should hold a large block of ice. She'd seen pictures of these things in her old schoolbooks and on the old shows her father watched on the telly.
"I can use my wand to freeze the water, and it'll keep things cold," George explained.
"George, we need dishes, silverware, cookware, everything. How did you and Fred manage without even the necessities of life?"
"Fred seemed to do okay. He did all the cooking. He made a lot of soup. We love soup. And we ate at the Leaky Cauldron a lot, or went home to Mum."
"Lovely," she said sarcastically. "Couldn't you have washed the frying pan the last time you used it?"
"That's left over from the last time Fred made something. I've been getting my meals at the Leaky Cauldron since...you know."
"What are we going to eat tonight? I'm tired. I can't go out anywhere tonight. I need to wash my clothes in the bathtub. They're filthy. I'm filthy. And I'm starving. We haven't eaten since breakfast this morning." Her voice was rising as she felt more and more overwhelmed.
George stared at her. When he spoke, it was in the tone of voice that one generally uses with a crazy person. "Listen, why don't you just go have a long soak in the tub? I promise, I'll figure something out."
Kira went into her bedroom to retrieve her backpack and then made her way into the bathroom. Once he heard the sound of the tub filling, George looked around at the flat. He really had let it go. The carpet in the parlor was filthy, dust covered everything, and it smelled musty. Although it was still daylight outside, you could barely tell from the film of filth on the windows.
Taking out his wand, he set the broom into movement sweeping the floor, pushing all the dirt and old newspapers into the bin. Then, George apparated back to the Leaky Cauldron, returning with dinner. When he got back, he noticed that the the rest of Kira's things had arrived from the Burrow.
He decided to move them into the bedroom. It was a mess. All Fred's jumpers were on the bed, as well as the other items Kira had thought it important to save. So, he packed it all away in Fred's old school trunk, making sure the jumpers were on top, and hoisted her bags onto the bed.
Then, he remembered she'd said she was tired, so he decided to put her things away so she could have her dinner in bed. He opened one of the bureau drawers and saw that she'd kept one of the jumpers. He felt a bolt of pure jealousy course through him. Then, he felt guilty. He was, after all, intent on having Fred's girlfriend for himself. No matter how much he tried to rationalize it by saying it was for the baby's sake, he knew the truth. He wanted her for himself and always had. George slowly closed the bureau drawer and left the room.
He stopped outside the bathroom door, noticing that she hadn't closed it all the way. For a moment, he felt the urge to push it open, just an inch, to look at her, but as he raised his hand to do so, he stopped himself. He left the flat and went down to the store to get some cleaning supplies.
Kira got out of the tub and reached for the towel on the rack. After drying off, she put her pajamas on and walked out of the bathroom to see the hall floor being washed. A bucket of steaming soapy water was sitting on the floor and a scrub brush, guided by invisible hands, was washing the floor. Every so often, a blue rag came out of the bucket, wrung itself out and began to pick up the excess water on the floor.
Kira had always gotten stuck scrubbing the butcher shop clean. She wished she had been able to do it like this. She walked through the parlor where a feather duster was busy cleaning away the cobwebs that were attached to the circular brass lighting fixture that hung from the ceiling. During her bath. she had begun to feel guilty over the way she had yelled at George.
She entered the kitchen and saw him standing near the table. It was set with his two dishes, mugs and flatware. The dishes were piled with roast beef, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots. "George," she said.
He turned around and saw her. Her hair was still wet from the bath. He smiled, bowed, and in a fake French accent, said, "Ah, mamzell, pleez be seated. Zee chef has prepared a feast for your gastronomic delight."
Kira allowed him to seat her. After he sat across from her, she just looked at him a moment and burst out crying.
"What's wrong? Don't you like roast beef? Maybe I should have asked for green beans? I'll go get you green beans." George was truly distressed. He'd tried to fix everything. Why was she still upset?
"No, it's just that I was so unfair before. I shouldn't have yelled at you. I don't know what's wrong with me. I was such a witch...er, I mean...um...sorry, no offense intended."
George couldn't help it. His mouth was twitching in the attempt to keep from laughing. "Actually, if you were a witch, you'd have probably hexed me into the next century. I remember when my mum was pregnant with Ginny. She could be rather...I don't know...changeable...too. And like you said, you're also tired. But you were right. This place is a pigsty. I am a bit of a slob. I'll try to do better. Now eat and then it's off to bed with you. You need to get a good night's sleep if we're going to go buy out all the Muggle stores tomorrow."
After eating, he walked her back to her room. "Right, I forgot," he said, "Dad got your things portkeyed here. I put them in here while you were in the bath." He cleared them off the bed where he'd left them and pulled down the covers on Fred's bed. "Here you go, get in." Once Kira had gotten into the bed, he pulled the cover up to her chin, then he bent and kissed her on the forehead. "Sleep well, Kira," he said. Then he turned and walked out of the room, closing the door firmly behind him.
Back in Ottery St. Catchpole, Nathan Lockslip watched as the last patron left the library. The janitor began emptying the trash cans while the two pages gathered the books and magazines left on the tables. The two middle-aged ladies that worked the circulation desk began shutting down the computers. Nate's crutches made the ever-present clicking sound on the floor as he crossed to the tall windows in the old building. He looked up the street to the butcher shop. It too was dark, having closed for the night.
"I'm going down to the cellar to catalogue the new books that came in today," he announced to his staff. "Please lock up and set the security system when you leave. I'll let myself out later."
Nate's private office was in the basement. Ten years ago, after acquiring the position of Librarian of the Ottery St. Catchpole Public Library, he had made an amazing discovery. He had discovered a set of blueprints that distinctly showed a hidden area of the basement. It had been bricked off during the the last World War, as a bomb shelter. The heavy metal fire door, in the interceding years, had been hidden behind a bookcase in the book storage area that swung out when a little lever was pushed on the side.
Instead of going to his office, he went, instead, to the shelter. Nathan liked calling it that. That, after all, is what it was. A shelter. He had been carefully preparing it for so many years. He switched on the light and admired his handiwork.
In the back part of the shelter was a storage room, perhaps nine by fifteen. A door at one end led to a storage closet with shelves which also opened out to the bathroom. This area, obviously had stored the rations the government had provided in case of national emergency. The storage area was separated from the main part of the shelter by a barred door. The old fashioned skeleton key had been hanging on a hook just outside the storage room.
Because he had to use crutches, people underestimated Nathan. The stereotypes surrounding librarians worked in his favor. They thought him a milquetoast, a weakling, a poor cripple. They had no idea of how hard he worked out, how strong he was in his upper body. He giggled insanely at their stupidity.
Nathan had been preparing the room for so long, sneaking things inside, using the van with hand controls the county had purchased for his use. Nobody came near the library after hours and on Sundays. The little room now had a bed and a dresser, a table and two chairs, a small refrigerator, a microwave, and an electric burner for cooking. A soft blue rug covered the cement floor. The effect was quite cozy. He had bricked up the door to the bathroom that led to main part of the shelter. He had hooked a hose up to one of the bathroom sinks. Combined with the drain in the floor, it would make do as a shower. She would have all the necessities of life.
On the walls hung the photographs he had taken over the years. Photographs he had processed himself, in his darkroom at home. They were all of one subject, Kira Benning. Nathan had watched her grow up since the age of eight, had seen the brutality she had suffered from her father, had noted the sadness in her eyes, the bruises on her face, just like his mother.
Nathan had been waiting all these years, waiting for her to come of age, waiting to provide her with the shelter she needed. Once she realized how hard he had worked for her, how carefully he had prepared her shelter, she would not be able to help but return his love.
Yes, he knew she had made a mistake with that red-haired boy from that odd family outside of town, that she was pregnant. But, he had been reading up on how to deliver a baby. Once he had her locked in her shelter, he could wait until the baby was born. Then, he could take it and abandon it at a safe place far, far away, a hospital or a church or something. It would be adopted. Then, Kira would belong to him alone. Forever.
But, he had to find out where she was, why she had not come into the library all week. She usually came in every few days to exchange her novels. He'd walked by the butcher shop each afternoon, on his lunch hour. She was not behind the counter. It was always her father, the beast, as Nathan liked to call him, or Kira's mother, the silent ghost, tending the store. Tomorrow, he was determined to stop in to inquire after her. He had to learn where she was so he could save her, so he could give her shelter.
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