Chapter 12 : Rebuilding
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She was so excited. She'd nearly completed piecing together the quilt from Fred's jumpers during her shift at the sewing store that afternoon. She couldn't wait to show it to George. In the background of the blanket, she was going to embroider the pretty hearts and scroll design from her and George's wedding rings. In the center was the letter "F" from the jumper she had held back. She no longer needed it to keep Fred close. She would always love his memory, but she had relegated him to the past.
Verity told her that George was in the back room, working. The Weasley's Household Helping Hands line had taken off like hotcakes. George had managed to enchant a set to do dishes, a set to scrub and clean, a set to help with the sewing, and a set to do laundry. All she had to do is put a dirty glass in the sink or a soiled piece of clothing in the washtub and they went right to work. She'd asked for a set of the massaging hands too, but George had insisted that that was his job.
Kira had become the subject of the advertising campaign. Posters and full page Daily Prophet ads were everywhere, featuring pictures of Kira in Muggle clothes saying, "Weasley's Household Helping Hands, So Easy, Even a Muggle Can Use Them."
She'd become quite famous in the Wizarding World due to the ad campaign. She had been interviewed by Witch Weekly Magazine. Her photo had been on the cover with the headline: Kira Weasley, Up Close & Personal: Making Mixed Marriage Manageable. She even had witches and wizards asking for her autograph. In the five weeks since their marriage, Kira had taken over all advertising for the business and sales were booming. She had decided to lend a veneer of exclusivity to the opening of the Hogsmeade store that weekend by making it by invitation only.
Early the next morning, the Hogwarts Express was making a special trip to transport everyone to Hogsmeade. Everyone who was anyone was scrambling for invitations. Even Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic, would be there, as would Harry, Hermione, the entire Weasley clan, and several high-profile Quidditch stars. Just that morning, a beautiful and graceful silver-gray owl had arrived from Celestina Warbeck with the message that she would make an appearance. Kira knew that her mother-in-law would be thrilled to meet the famous singer.
George had his back to her as he sat on a stool by his work table, fiddling with the Traveling Butt Kicker. Unfortunately for Ron, George had taken to using him to test it on until it was perfected. She crept up behind him and slipped her arms around him, nuzzling the back of his neck.
"Stop that before my wife walks in here, you silly girl," George joked. "She's due back any moment."
Kira jumped back, her eyes big and round in affected surprise. "Oh, George," she said innocently, "it's you? I thought you were someone else."
He swiveled around on his stool and pulled her to him. As they embraced and laughed over their silliness, he felt the twins move inside her. "Feels like we have a couple Quidditch players in there," he said.
They heard the sound of someone clearing his throat behind them. They turned to see Ron standing there, in the doorway. "Um...guys," he said. "Someone's here who wants to know if he can talk to you."
"If it's an irate customer, you handle it," said George. "I'm snogging my wife."
"No, it's..." He trailed off and moved aside to admit Percy.
"Hi," Percy said, coming closer.
"Percy," George said coldly. "What brings you here."
"I wanted to...I mean, I've been wanting to apologize for how I treated Kira. At the house on my birthday, I mean," he stammered.
"About time, don't you think?" asked George. "Well, here she is, so apologize."
"George, it's all ri..." Kira began.
George cut her off. "No, it isn't, Kira. Don't let him off easy. I'm more than a little sick of him acting like a mean, nasty prat and then showing up expectin' to be welcomed back. And what were you thinking, Percy, telling Andromeda about Kira and Fred?"
Percy turned to Kira. "I am sorry. I ran into Andromeda at St. Mungo's one day. Hell, she's practically family anyway, so I just sat down and started talking to her. I didn't tell anyone else. She told me I was being a prat too. But, I shouldn't have ever treated you like that, Kira. I don't even know why I did it. I'd been under so much stress since the Battle of Hogwarts. Every night, I relive Fred getting killed right in front of me, over and over. Then there's Penny."
"I didn't know you'd started seeing her again," said George.
"Well, she was arrested by Umbridge's people, for being a Muggle-born, and put in Azkaban. The Dementors honed in on her because she was so full of life and energy, you know. She just got out of St. Mungo's last week. She's living with me because her parents had been killed by Umbridge's hit squads for producing a witch. We're going to get married, quietly, as soon as we can. I guess, with everything that happened, I'd become so jaded and miserable, I stopped seeing anything good in the world. I really am sorry."
"You never said anything, Percy," said George, feeling guilty that he had been so wrapped up in his own pain he had not even recognized how angry and sad Percy had been.
"Everyone was so sad over Fred. What good would burdening everyone with my problems have done?"
"Well, that's incredibly stupid," said Ron. "But you always did have something wrong with your thinking process."
"Well," said Percy, "I was really afraid to come by until now. I figured I'd let too much time pass. But, when Kira sent me the invitations to the opening this weekend, and when I told Penny what I'd done, well, she nearly kicked me out of my own house. It was good to see her get so riled up, actually."
George looked at Kira. "You sent him an invitation?"
"Actually, I sent him two, in case he wanted to bring a guest," she said, "and I'm glad. I refuse to be the cause of this stupid rift. I figured once Percy saw how happy..." She was cut off by George standing up and kissing her.
"Penny is out in the store," said Percy. "She'd really like to see you guys again, and meet Kira, of course." He left, passing through the maroon curtain that separated the workroom from the store, and returned a few seconds later with Penny, who was in a wheelchair.
George tried to cover his shock. Penelope Clearwater had been two years ahead of him in school, so she was only Percy's age, twenty-two or twenty-three. But she looked so much older. She was gaunt, like a wraith. Her long, shining, curly auburn hair had been cut and was growing back in uneven tufts. Her face was pale and her eyes looked haunted by horrors too unimaginable to speak of. George would never have recognized her as the vibrant, fun-loving girl he'd known.
Kira stifled a gasp. Penny looked like the photographs that she had seen in her old school textbooks, the ones of the Holocaust survivors.
"George, Ron," she said. "It's so good to see you again. It's good to be out and seeing the world again too. I'd begun to think the Healers would never let me out of St. Mungos."
"Hello, Penny," said George. "This is my wife, Kira."
"Hi, Penny," Kira said. "It's so nice to meet you. Thanks for encouraging Percy to come."
Penny smiled weakly. "I'd been wondering why none of his family was visiting. I couldn't believe it, when he told me what he'd done. My first reaction was to grab him and give him a good shaking. I actually got up out of this chair and taken a couple steps before I realized it. This is only temporary, you know. I'm going to get better. It'll only take some time."
"Mrs. Weasley?" They all turned to see Verity at the curtain. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but your Healer is here for your appointment."
"Oh, I'd forgotten all about it," she said. "I'm sorry. I'd love to stay and chat, but I really need to go."
"I understand," Penny said, looking longingly at Kira's stomach, tears filling her eyes.
Percy handed her his handkerchief. "The Ministry went and fixed all the Muggle-borns in Azkaban so they won't ever be able to have any children," said Percy. "Penny and I have put our names down to adopt. There are plenty of orphans available now, after all."
"I'm so sorry, Penny," said Kira. "My God, I can't even imagine how people come up with the idea to do things like that to others." After giving Penny a gentle hug, Kira left to see Healer Whitney.
Healer Whitney came to see her nearly every week, giving her various potions to help assure that she pass on the right amount of vitamins and minerals to her twins. Now nearly five months along, the healer was sure that she was having twins.
Kira had been so busy she hadn't had time to see a Muggle doctor for the ultrasound. As she became increasingly immersed in the magical world, the Muggle one seemed to grow further and further distant. Her only Muggle contact, now, was the three afternoons a week she spent in the sewing store with Yvonne and the customers who came in for help and advice with their projects. If many wizards still held any animosity toward the idea of mixed marriage, they must be able to hide it well, because Kira felt she and George had been accepted completely.
Healer Whitney smiled at Kira as she came out of the back room. Empathetic to the point of being psychic, she noticed that Kira seemed upset. As they went upstairs to the flat, she asked, "Is everything all right?"
"Oh, I just met George's brother Percy's future wife, Penny. I feel so terrible about what has happened to her."
"Oh, yes, I was called to consult on her case while she was in St. Mungo's. So many of the people we liberated from Azkaban are in even worse shape. Most of the Muggles who had been married to witches and wizards had been given the Dementor's Kiss after their marriages had been dissolved. We've had to devote an entire floor so these poor, soulless shells can at least exist in comfort until their bodies ultimately give out."
"There's nothing that can be done, then?" Kira asked, shivering.
"No, once a Dementor takes a person's soul, it is lost forever," she said.
"Percy said that he and Penny have applied to adopt an orphaned child."
"Kingsley Shacklebolt has formed a Department of Child Welfare in the Ministry. An entire new wing has been added to St. Mungo's to care for all the orphans until they are adopted. The Ministry is using the Book of Names at Hogwarts, the one that magically detects whenever a magical child is born and records their names, to track down and make sure that no young witch or wizard is left orphaned or in the care of anyone unfit to be a parent, whether Wizard or Muggle.
"It amazes me that the Ministry had not done anything like this before now," said Kira.
"It was one of Harry Potter's ideas. He said that You-Know-Who would have never grown to become what he had if Tom Riddle had not been abandoned by Wizardkind as a child. From now on, all orphaned witches and wizards will be adopted by our own kind and we will make immediate contact with parents of Muggle-borns to make sure they understand that their child will be a witch or wizard. We are also informing them that they will be watched and their child removed from the home at the first sign of abuse. The Obliviators will be sent out to make sure that abusive Muggle parents won't even remember having a child."
"The Muggles have been removing kids from bad parents for decades. The system isn't perfect, but it is the government's job to protect those who cannot protect themselves," said Kira.
"I try not to think of the evil that may have been avoided if we had acted earlier," said Healer Whitney. "We certainly are busy at St. Mungos. Besides the injured, we have had to add dozens of counselors to deal with the people who have been psychologically damaged."
"We Muggles call that PTSD, for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A lot of soldiers coming home from wars suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, fears and depression. Survivors of natural disasters too."
"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That, actually, describes it perfectly."
After Kira's exam, Healer Whitney said, "You need to make sure to stay away from the Muggle processed foods and refined sugars. Eat only fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably not from the Muggle world either. They use so many poisons on their things. Also, I don't want you gaining too much weight in the last four months. It will make the delivery more difficult. Try to walk more for exercise, and to keep your muscle tone. That also helps with delivery and helps you regain your previous figure faster afterwards. Continue with the vitamin and energy potion I've already given you. In your sixth month, I'll be changing the formulation of it a bit to meet the changing needs of the babies. Their heartbeats are strong."
"I will, Healer Whitney," said Kira. "Thanks. Oh, would you mind starting the stove in the kitchen for me? I need to start dinner, and I don't want to bother George."
"Certainly, Kira," said the healer. "I'll see you next week."
Kira started dinner for George, Ron, Hermione, and herself. She was not worried about the Healer's warning. She'd stopped shopping for food at the Muggle stores a few weeks ago. It was just easier for her to stay in Diagon Alley now. Once the food was prepared and in the oven, she went and began packing for their trip to Hogsmeade.
She couldn't wait to see the progress that had been made on the house. She and George were having a home built for them at the edge of the village. It would be of white stone, having three floors with eight bedrooms and six bathrooms so there would be plenty of room when his...their family visited. The main floor was going to be impressive. A large kitchen would have a stove that even she could work, dining room, parlor, a library, a sewing room for her and a sunny playroom for the children. The best part was that they would be close to Hogwarts when the time came for their children to go to school. They were going to name their home 'The Burrow II.'
She had decided to leave all the household supplies she had bought for the flat here, for Ron and Hermione to use. None of this stuff would really go in the more traditional splendor of the new house. It was all too modern. The builders had promised that the house would be done by November. Kira was looking forward to another shopping trip. She had been pouring over dozens of catalogs from Muggle stores for the past few weeks. She so looked forward to making a beautiful yet happy home for her family.
Family. Kira was so grateful to George, and Fred too, for having given her that. Kira thought about her mother. The woman had taught her everything she knew about cooking and sewing, yet Kira had not seen her create anything of her own in years. It almost seemed like, in the teaching, she had transferred the knowledge, retaining none. Kira had slowly taken over everything. The sewing, the cleaning, even the cooking. Kira had checked cookbooks out of the library and experimented while her mother had retreated more and more, eventually turning into a silent, passive-resistant non-entity who simply took up space. A part of Kira wished that her mother would be interested in the babies, but Kira knew she probably would not care.
The only thing that continued to mystify her was the rings. Why had her mother bothered to make sure she had them? She looked down at her grandmother's wedding ring, her wedding ring now. George still wore her grandfather's. He had offered to get them their own rings, but Kira had wanted to keep using these. She had run from the Weasley home intending to use them to buy her way to a new life, and they ended up becoming the symbol of her new life.
Her grandmother's diamond engagement ring was carefully hidden away in her drawer, being kept for the daughter she hoped to have one day. George wanted to buy her an engagement ring, but Kira had thought it was rather silly, considering they had never been engaged. She told him to wait until the babies were born and to give her something made up of their birthstone, which might turn out to be either garnet or amethyst. Healer Whitney said that twins usually came early, so Kira was now looking at sometime during the last two weeks of January.
Kira had finished packing for the trip to Hogsmeade. She made a mental note to remind Ron to get packed. They needed to make that train in the morning. There was no way she would survive another trip on that bus. Dinner was nearly done, so she set the table and went downstairs to call them up to dinner. George had finally gotten two more kitchen chairs. Hermione was late, as usual. Her new job at the Ministry kept her busy. Kira kept her dinner warm while they ate. Hermione finally apparated into the flat while they were having dessert. While she ate, she spoke animatedly about her work for House-elf rights.
Later, Kira and George lay in bed, talking. Discussion turned to what Healer Whitney had said that day.
"Healer Whitney told me what happened to the Muggles who were married to witches and wizards," she said. "They were given the Dementor's Kiss."
He reached out and held her hand. "Don't think about it, Kira" he said softly. "Just try to get to sleep. You need your rest, and we have to be off early tomorrow to catch the Hogwarts Express.”
"But, if Fred had come and taken me away, if we had married, I'd have had that happen to me, right?"
"But it didn't happen to you. Fred knew better than to endanger you like that. He kept you safe by staying away, keeping you a secret."
"I can’t stop thinking about those poor people. It's such a horrifying thought, George. What if it ever happens again?"
"It won't happen again. It can't. Kingsley has had the Dementors rounded up and confined to a magical sphere deep within the Forbidden Forest. With no humans to feed upon, they are dying off quickly. And the war criminals are all in Azkaban, guarded by wizards. The Acromantula have been destroyed; the Giants are now segregated on separate reserves by sex, so no new generations can be born. The Ministry has changed, and is continuing to change. It is more accountable and responsive to real problems instead of being dedicated to its own self-preservation. You have nothing to worry about, Kira. There is nobody, anywhere, who can or will ever hurt you. I'd never allow it. I promise."
At that moment, nearly three hundred kilometers away, Nathan was stocking his Shelter with toiletries and soft, white towels to make Kira's life under his care more comfortable. He had taken a lot of care to buy her the perfect perfume. Obsession. It had been his mother’s favorite. He giggled madly as he imagined her using the towels on her beautiful body.
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